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South Boston News
At MacCallum More Gardens, the Grenada Fountain brought to the garden by Commander William Henry Hudgins / February 13, 2013
Chase City is appealing for public support to save its treasured MacCallum More Museum and Gardens. Decimated by the loss of over $14,000 — allegedly embezzled by a former employee, Amber Bradford — the historic landmark was forced to close its doors in early January.

“The museum does not have any endowment. It survives off donations from the public,” said Chase City Mayor Eddie Bratton. He added that losing over $14,000 meant that the museum “could no longer afford to pay its staff, and it can barely pay the electric bill.”

At this time, it appears that the embezzled funds are most likely unrecoverable. In response, the MMG Board of Directors is turning to the public for help.

On Tuesday, Feb. 19, all Mecklenburg citizens are urged to attend a meeting at the Estes Center at 316 North Main Street in Chase City at 7 p.m. The purpose of the meeting is to solicit public input on ways to secure the future of MacCallum More.

Board member Dr. Earle W. Moore and Bratton will talk about the significance and value of keeping MMMG open. In comments made to the members of Town Council on Monday night, Bratton described the value of the museum and gardens: “It is a known site that draws tourists. People have come from England and California just to see the museum and gardens.

“If we let the gardens close, they will be lost to us forever.”

The five-acre woodland garden known as MacCallum More is the legacy of Lucy M. Hudgins and her son, Commander William Henry Hudgins. The gardens, begun by Lucy Hudgins in 1926, showcase the many treasures collected by Commander Hudgins during his travels as personal aide to President Harry Truman and Admiral Robert Carney. Items include a Spanish Cloister, a 17th Century Samurai warrior, a 1st Century Roman Bust, and at least eight fountains.

The museum houses four permanent exhibits: one of the largest collections of Native American artifacts found on the East Coast; tributes to the Thyne Institute, an African-American boarding school established in Chase City in 1876; and an exhibit on the Mecklenburg Hotel, a hotel and spa established in Chase City in 1903, famous for its curative waters. The newest permanent exhibit details the founding of Estes Express Lines in Chase City, and the expansion of the company since its inception by W.W. Estes in the 1930s.

Listed on the Virginia Landmark Registry and the National Historic Register, MacCallum More features an arboretum with herb, wildflower, rose and theme gardens, as well as Hudgins’ imported works of art. The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries also recognizes MMMG as an official site on its birding and wildlife trail.

In short, it is considered a place where people of all backgrounds and ages can come for beauty, education and inspiration.

Board Member Dottie Bratton said, “It is the mission and desire of the Board of Directors to emphasize that MMMG is a gift from the Hudgins family to all the residents of Mecklenburg County and that its facilities are available for public use. We need citizens with diverse talents to help save this Southside Virginia landmark.”

Bradford, the employee accused of embezzling the funds from MMMG, was picked up last month in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and extradited to Mecklenburg County. The former office manager was charged with one count of embezzlement and three counts of obtaining money under false pretenses.

Chase City Police Chief Jay Jordan said, for now, she is being held, without bond, while awaiting her next court appearance currently set for February 19. He expects her case to be set for trial at that time.

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