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History of Troutdale, Virginia

by Charles Greer – 1953

Troutdale was incorporated as a town near the beginning of 1906. There had been a small settlement since 1870–a stopping point on the covered wagon route from Marion or Seven Mile Ford to the farms and stores in Grayson County, Virginia and Ashe and Alleghany Counties in North Carolina. James Washington Greear–Known as “Wash” had a general store, where the shag of a huge white pine now stands just west of the ruins of Hunter Long’s Store. “Wash” Greear’s log two story house, weather boarded more than 50 years ago, is still standing down-hill from the pine tree. Both the house and store were built in the 1870’s but the store was torn down about 1930. There was a log school near the present school building.

Around 1900 a railroad was built from Marion to an iron ore mine in Currin Valley, about six miles from Marion. By 1903 this road had extended to Sugar Grove and up Cressey’s Creek a mile or so to the other mines. This was the Marion and Rye Valley Railroad. The Virginia Southern Railroad was chartered from Sugar Grove to Fairwood, and this road was completed to Troutdale in October 1904, the line being completed in Fairwood shortly afterward. The United States Spruce Lumber Company built a large band-mill at Fox Bottoms and the new sawmill town of Fairwood mushroomed quickly into being near the mill. Meanwhile, Troutdale was on its way to becoming a “boom town.”

Troutdale Trading Company was established in a long, rough building, beside the railroad right of way, that soon also served as passenger and freight station when the rails reached Troutdale. The trading company dealt, wholesale, in coffee, sugar, sale, fertilizer, furniture, farm machinery, and many manufactured goods that the farms and merchants of the three counties had formerly had to transport over the mountains by wagon from Marion. The Trading Company took farm produce in exchange for goods or cash. Thus cutting down the former long haul to market. It was not uncommon to see 30 or 40 covered wagons camped on the station grounds overnight. Neither was it a rare thing to see one of these wagons careening up Troutdale’s main street next day at break-neck speed, the horses having bolted in fright at their first experience with the sight, sound and smell of a locomotive. Later, the owners of wagons would bring whole families for long distances for their first glimpse of a railroad train. The Trading Company and original station was opposite the present home of Herbert Barker, lying between the present road to Konnarock and Route 16. A new station was built about 1908 and continued in use until about 1933. The first station was used as a warehouse until it was burned in 1911.

Soon after the railroad reached Troutdale, many people arrived to build homes and start business ventures. Mr. I. L. Pasely came from North Carolina and established a large general merchandise store, later called a departments store. This store boasted a separate ladies department with a lady milliner and buyer in charge who regularly visited New York and Baltimore markets bringing back the latest styles in hats and clothes to her local customers. Back in the present site of Phipps’ restaurant and had a separate ice house where the Post Office now stands. The ice house was filled, when Fox Creek froze, with ice for use and for sale throughout the year. Pasely’s store expanded to include an “Ice Cream Parlor” and at one time had a five and ten cent store annex, run by younger sons of the owner. I. L. Pasley was soon followed by his brother J. Monroe Pasley, who built a large general store on the North side of Main Street astride the creek running past the present school. Within a few years Monroe Pasley built a large new store next to Midway Hotel and continued business there for several years. This building is now owned by Mr. Wiley Mitchell.

Several others stores were soon established. O. G. And Eli Reedy; as “Reedy Brothers” built and operated a grocery and dry-goods store and Eli Reedy built and operated Reedy’s Hotel adjoining it on the eastern side. The hotel covered with metal imitation brick siding, is still standing. Over many years it was operated as a hotel by various people: Reedy, Bennett, Love, Weaver, Hash, Boone and Mrs. Lane. In the early days Reedy’s Hotel and the Ford House were well filled with traveling salesmen, called “drummers” and other travelers, as well as new comers who would later buy, rent or build a more permanent home. Midway Hotel was built later but shared in this trade. The Ford Hotel was nex door to Monroe Pasley’s first store. Another early storekeeper was A. N. (Lon) Greear who moved his stock from Grant about 1905, occupying the same building as the first bank and the Post Office. This building was used as a store by Hunter Long when it burned about 1949.

In 1908 Robert F. Young and Wilkes Hudler opened a Hardware Store in the building where Roop’s store is now located. Young and Hudler quickly became wholesale, as well as retail, building a large warehouse, on the opposite side of the street, where it occupied the site of the present filling station and extended almost to the Baptist Church. They bought stoves by the carloads; carloads of roofing, fencing, plows, wagons, crockery, nails and other supplies. Their storage space was still not enough and plows, wagons, wire fence, iron pots, and other goods were stacked outside. By 1912 Young and Hudler built a larger store just east of their first one. The upper floor of the new building was furnished as a home for the Masonic Lodge, complete with lodge hall, kitchen, and large dining room.

In addition to Young and Hudler there was another hardware store operated by R. C. Barr. Bob Barr also sold sawmills and lumbering machinery and traction engines and also had a “pin mill” in the bottom near Herbert Barker’s present home. This mill made thousands of locust insulator pins for use on telephone, telegraph, and electric poles. It was Troutdale’s first factory.

H. E. (Hard) Parsons and Glenn Wyatt were also in the hardware business. They specialized in farm machinery and sold mowers, reapers, plows, and threshing machines, carrying a large supply of parts for these machines. They were also large dealers in farm seeds and fertilizers and about 1918 they became representatives for Clover Creamery Company and tested and bought cream from farmers in the western part of Grayson County.

But older than these stores was the Bank of Troutdale. In 1906 John F. Greear was completing a term as State Senator from our district. He, with F. M. (Fields) Young, Hilmore Hoffman and others organized the Bank of Troutdale and it was first located in the building also housing the Post Office and Lon Greear’s general store. This was the Hunter Long Store which burned about 1949 and today you can still see the concrete block that was the foundation for the bank vault. A corner of this building is the center of the corporation line of Troutdale. Swing a mile radius about this point and you have described Troutdale’s peculiar circular corporate boundary.

The Bank of Troutdale was prosperous and encouraged the prosperity of the new town and its trading area. By 1912, it had outgrown its first quarters and the concrete building now occupied by the Post Office and Mrs. F. J. Pasley’s house was built as a new home for the bank. The Post Office moved to this building also in 1912, and the rooms upstairs were offices for a doctor, a dentist, and a lawyer.

Three large wholesale produce houses were operating in Troutdale; O. G. Reedy, F. J. Pasley, and Charles T. Forrester each had thriving business in buying, processing and shipping poultry, butter, eggs, hams, and similar farm products. Forrester also bought hides, beeswax, roots, and herbs. Payment for these products was by cash, a large part of which left with Troutdale’s merchants. A few weeks before Thanksgiving each year, Troutdale could have been called “Turkeydale” or “Gobbler’s Knob.” Thousands of turkeys were brought, in coops by the wagon load or in droves of as many as three thousand, to the produce dealers. A large number of these were killed and dressed, packed in barrel, of ice and shipped to Norfolk, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York markets by the carload. Thousands more, alive, were herded into three and four deck cattle cars for shipment to the large cities. A stock-pen was built by the railroad and shipment of cattle, sheep, and hogs was steady throughout several years. Live chickens in coops were, a large part of the daily shipments from Troutdale the year round.

Large stands of virgin timber abounded, in addition to the thousands of acres being cut by U.S. Spruce Lumber Company. Troutdale was the nearest railroad point to this timber, as the railroads to Galax and to West Jefferson, North Carolina had not been completed. Carter and Hughes from Baltimore, started a lumber business in 1906, buying and storing lumber for later shipment in carloads. R. L. (Lee) Greear also started buying lumber at this time, in addition to operating a sawmill and planning mill alongside the tracks opposite the large home he had built on the hill. Charles P. Greear was another pioneer lumberman. Beginning with a water-power mill on Fox Creek he sawed a large stand of hemlock, white pine, oak and chestnut trees from his own land, and the land of adjoining neighbors. He later converted the mill to a planing mill where finished lumber, such as flooring, siding and molding were manufactured and door and window frames were produced. In 1914 this water power was converted to still another use–that of producing electric power for distribution to Troutdale’s homes and business.

About 1907 a chair factory was established in a large frame building opposite the present school. Wade Hash and Thomas E. Pasley and others were the organizers and Wade Hash was superintendent. They made only two kinds of chairs, “rockers” and “straight.” The frames, made of maple, were fitted together. Then “bottoming” was accomplished on a piece-work basis. Whole families would carry the frames to their homes with enough “splits” for weaving in the bottoms. The “splits” were long strips of cane or bamboo from China or India and were woven in a sort of herringbone pattern. Bottoming chairs was a source of income for many people, mostly women. Often a farmer from some distance would be seen with a hay wagon load of chairs and splits, to be finished by his and neighboring families. The completed chairs were returned to the factory and the fixed price per chair was paid to the “bottomer.” Many people were expert “bottomers” and made it a full time job. To others it was a means of supplementing income from farm to timber work during bad weather. The factory finished the completed chairs with a light colored varnish and they were ready for market. Although there was a brisk local demand for these chairs, the principal outlet was in sales by the carload requiring cheap seating. Thousands of these plain chairs were shipped to all parts of the United States and to foreign countries.

About 1911 a Furniture Factory was built in the western part of town on the side of the railroad and opposite the home of R. L. Greear. Among the organizers of the Troutdale Furniture Manufacturing Company were R. L. Greear, F. L. Greear, and W. A. Null. This factory procuded oak bedroom furniture and its product was shipped and marketed in a manner similar to the chairs produced by the chair factory. In a short time the chair factory moved to a new building across the tracks from the furniture factory, where cahirs could be loaded directly into freight cars. Both factories afforded work for a large number of local men and also attracted skilled cabinet workers from other towns. Many local young men became skilled wood-carvers, machinists and furniture finishers and have migrated to other furniture manufacturing centers to follow their chosen work.

By 1914 the furniture factory had enlarged its line to include library tables and many homes in the area can point to a combination table and desk as being originated and “Made in Troutdale.” By 1917 another item was produced at the Furniture Factory. This was a cabinet phonograph, called the “Musicaola” and this line was produced for nearly two years.

During 1917 and 1918 both factories were operating at capacity and women for the first time were employed at the factory’s machines, as many of the men employees had gone to fight in World War I.

By 1919 the railroad was operating 2 trains each way on week-dys and one on Sunday, from Marion to Troutdale. The additional train continued operating into 1920.

Little improvement to the original covered-wagon trails was made before the present route 16 was taken over in 1923 by the State Road Commission. The roads were narrow, crooked and steep–deep with dust in summer and with mud in winter. Troutdale’s Main Street, in winter or during rains, was mud, hub-deep on the wagons and buggies, and could be crossed only at places were wood-block stepping stones had been placed. Wooden sidewalks extended from the railroad station to the Forrester Produce house at the beginning of the Laurel Creek road. As the planks wore out and broke, walking the streets was unsafe by day and a positive hazard at night. Travelers at night depended upon oil lanterns unless the moon was out. About 1911 a few oil- burring street lamps were installed along main street. In this same year the present school building was completed and the old one room school building was moved across the street from the center of the school grounds to the former location of the chair factory, where J. W. Boone’s store now stands. The following spring Troutdale had an all day “Good Roads Rally” in the new school with speeches by prominent local citizens and by road-improvement leaders from other counties. The speeches were punctuated by music from a brass band, imported from Marion and a large crowd was treated to free coffee and barbecue sandwiches in the old school building. Everyone was in favor of good roads, and the speeches almost led one to hope that mud and dust were done with forever, then and there. But there was still a long time to wait.

But the automobile would not wait for good roads. In 1909 Wade Hash bought the first “horseless carriage” ever seen in Troutdale. It was a high-wheeled affair with solid rubber tires, looked like a buggy without its shafts, and ran once in a while. No gasoline was available and this auto-called a Breeze–used benzine from the chair factory varnish room. It made a lot of noise and smoke and was the cause of a few accidents from run-away horses. A few cars were seen in Troutdale following the advent of the Breeze, but it was not until 1913 that a practical, dependable automobile was to be owned by a Troutdale citizen. That summer J. F. (Fonso) McGrady bought a Model T Ford and in the same week Dr. T. E. Caudill, the dentist, also bought a Model T and Arthur Pasley bought a high-wheeled, hard-tired International Truck. This truck, chain driven by a 2 cylinder engine was the granddaddy of today’s station wagon. It had two extra detachable seats that converted into a passenger car and was busy every fair evening and Sunday as an excursion vehicle. It had no top, but when it rained the truck’s hard-rubber tires were useless anyway in the mud. Mr. McGrady’s Model T was popular with everyone and he was, willy nilly, forced to become the proprietor of Troutdale’s first taxi; by the close of summer 1913, Bob Barr, John Wells, Wilkes Hudler, and several others owned autos and several had been brought to nearby Fairwood. But, with winter, the new toys had to be put away.

A thriving business since the town’s beginning, were the livery stables operated by McGrady Brothers, W. H. Pugh and others. In addition to an assortment of buggies and surries, the states owned a number of two-horse “hacks.” The hacks were rented to salesmen for carrying heavy trunks of samples to display to various merchants in the country. On Saturday and Sundays the hacks, with added seats, were for hire to the public as pleasure vehicles. Saddle horses and heavy work teams and the livery stables provided overnight stabling and feeding for their horses as well as for those of other travelers.

Hardware, produce and general merchandise were not all of Troutdale’s business. There were many and varied kinds of enterprises that budded in Troutdale and boomed for varying lengths of time.

Snavely’s Photograph Gallery was operating in 1908-1909 just east of the old livery stable; the Snavely’s were followed by C. A. (Cal) Seagraves, a full-time photographer and jeweler who remained prosperous in this business in Troutdale for about 10 years.

J. M. (Jim) Greear and T. E. (Tom) Pasley opened Troutdale’s first moving picture theatre about 1909 in a part of the Parsons-Wyatt building, operating by Ed Gill and C. T. Forrester in a building where Phipps’ Restaurant now stands. This was started in 1914 and ran several years. Popular players shown in those early movies were Pearl White, Dustin Farnum, William S. Hart, and “Ham & Bud Comedies.” The telephone exchange also managed by Mr. Gill, was upstairs over the movie theatre. The third move theatre was built, and operated by Jim Greear, just west of the old Reedy Hotel Building. This operated from about 1920 through 1923.

Then there was the old “pop factory” just east of Midway Hotel. Here, from 1908 until about 1917 Grover Pasley made and bottled soft drinks; strawberry soda, lemonsour, and other drinks that sold well until the later nationally advertised drinks put the small bottlers out of business. There was a small theatre over the pop theatre where for two seasons, a group called the “Round Dozen Club” produced plays with local young people as the actors and actresses.

Every summer a road show traveling in special railway cars, would set up its large tent near the station and give nightly variety performances, for two weeks or longer. These shows, and various-tented “medicine shows” provided a popular summer entertainment. For several years the IXL Rand Wild West Shows made regular appearances and the Street Parade and afternoon and night performances brought large crowds to Troutdale. For weeks afterwards, flour sack tents were erected by small bowes and wild-west shows were re-enacted over and over in imitation of the IXL.

In 1917 came the climax of traveling entertainment in Troutdale. That year the “Mighty Haag Circus,” complete with elephants, lions and tigers came to Troutdale in May, just after the roads had dried enough to support their trucks. But, as if the Circus was not enough, next came the Great Redpath Chautauqua, put up its tents on the school lot, and gave to all of West Grayson County five days and nights of varied and cultured entertainment-everything from Swiss Bell Ringers to a Speech by a real live congressman!

A small but important part of Troutdale life was the “Troutdale News.” This paper was established about 1907 by Thomas E. Pasley and Camet Parks. The newspaper was bought in 1910 by Mr. H. G. Booth who continued to publish the Troutdale News until 1918. The News was followed in 1919 by the “Grayson Enterprise,” edited in Troutdale by Miss Virginia Goss, but printed in Marion. The newspaper lasted less than 2 years. The Troutdale News, a small but widespread weekly paper and Mr. Booth was a persistent booster of the town. Old copies of this paper are very interesting even today.

The Methodist Church was completed in 1917 and the Baptist was competed in 1911. However, the Baptists were organized before 1907 and used the old school building until the present church was completed. The Primitive Baptist Church at the east edge of the school lot, is older than the other two churches. [This church was organized in 1889 as Laurel Creek Primitive Baptist Church].

These three churches have a longer unbroken history than any other Troutdale institution, except the school. High school subjects were taught in Troutdale as early as 1906, but the first high school graduating class was in 1916, composed of 2 boys; Steven Pasley and Blair Greear, both of whom entered college at VPI the following fall. The last year students were actually graduated from high school at Troutdale was 1942. Since then Troutdale’s high school students have attended at Sugar Grove, Oak Hill Academy, Grassy Creek or Independence.

We have told a little part of Troutdale’s history, enough to bring you to its hay-day of about 1920. In that year it contained near 1800 population with[in] the corporation boundary. Its factories had large orders for furniture, nearly a ship load to be shipped to Cuba. Employment was high and furniture was being produced and stored for shipment at one time. The Bank of Troutdale was furnishing money to both factories for meeting payrolls, and supply bills, expecting to be repaid in profits from the furniture when it was sold.

A serious sugar crop failure occurred in Cuba and the orders for furniture were cancelled. The factories had carloads of furniture, but no place to sell it and they could not sell it and they could not pay the bank. A run on the bank forced it to close in March 1921, and bank, chair factory, and furniture company ceased operation and went into the hands of a receiver.

Within 18 months a new bank, the First National, was established with J. Cam Fields as president and W. F. Wright as cashier. The old Bank’s receiver soon closed its affairs, finally paying off about 70 to 80% to the former depositors.

The supply of suitable wood for furniture had dwindled, freight at Marion was high; these and other economic reasons decided against buildings the factories.

The lumber mill at Fairwood had completed sawing its timber in 1920 and the mill and most of the houses were dismantled and moved away. The rails from Troutdale were taken up. Industry was gone but Troutdale remained a trading center and a railroad shipping point.

However, roads were improving and autos and trucks were improving even faster. The wagons or trucks from North Carolina were finding supplies at new, nearer railroad points, and the motorized farmers in west Grayson County were passing up Troutdale in favor of larger towns. Messenger and freight traffic on the Virginia Southern and Marion and Rye Valley Railroads shrank to the point of no profits and the tracks were removed in 1934 after several hard years.

When the railroad departed, so did the First National Bank-being merged with a bank at Independence. Thus Troutdale, having once boasted a population of 2,500 to 2,800 shrank to its present estate.

But there has been improvement in the years since. Streets have been paved and improved. Better homes have been built and the older homes have been improved. Troutdale is a prettier town than it was during its highest propriety and is a good place to live. Its peaceful and economical way of life has led many to make it their home even though their jobs are in other towns.

The reasons for Troutdale’s beginning and growth have been given here. Some of the reasons for its decline are also apparent in this story. Fire has been one of its enemies, and the early installation of a water system might have changed its history. Water, sewers, good streets and lighting in its earlier years might have attracted and held other industries. And, too, the loss of its factories might have been prevented by that same water system.

The boys and girls now going to school may well find their life opportunity at home rather than in other towns. The area has many resources that should attract new small industries and new people. A study of what Troutdale can offer or could offer is a challenge to both children and parents concerned with their future.