Franklin County

A Community History



Franklin County was formed from Henry and Bedford Counties in 1785 and named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. It lies at the eastern base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the Southern part of the State, is 140 miles southeast of Richmond, 30 miles southeast of Roanoke, and 30 miles northwest of Danville. The county is 30 miles long and 20 miles wide, having an area of 690 square miles and a population of 26,000.

The surface of Franklin is rolling and, in some parts, mountainous. The chief products are wheat, corn, oats, rye, hay and tobacco, especially tobacco. In the western part fruit is the leading product, first prizes having been awarded the pippins at the Buffalo. St. Louis and Jamestown Expositions, and also in Paris. France. These prize apples were grown at Algoma Orchards, the home of Dr. Samuel S. Guerrant. Growing and canning tomatoes is an important industry. Grazing facilities are good. Live stock, poultry and dairying are being entered into along general lines of modern methods. A number of dairymen furnish milk directly to the Roanoke market. Forest products are the source of considerable revenue, and in the county are found such minerals as iron, asbestos, mica, granite and soapstone.

The Staunton River, the Pig River and Blackwater River with their tributaries afford ample drainage and excellent water power. Upon then are found many saw mills and flour mills, etc.

Transportation is furnished by the Franklin and Pittsylvania and the Norfolk and Western Railroads. A national highway from Atlanta to New York, passing through Franklin, is nearing completion. An auto bus line runs over this highway from Martinsville to Roanoke.

The county is proud of its many modern church and school buildings. There are 104 one-room and 26 two-room schools for white children, 25 one-room schools for colored children, nine consolidated schools for white and one for colored. Out of a public school population of 8,953 children, 7,021 are enrolled in the. schools.

Besides the public school system, there are three schools in the mountains doing a wonderful work. Ferrum Training School at Ferrum is under the direction and control of the Methodist Virginia Conference and leadership of the principal, Dr. B. M. Beckham. St. Peter’s and St. John’s Schools are under the control of the Episcopal Church. To Rev. W. T. Roberts is due a great deal of credit for the splendid work they are doing.

Rocky Mount, the county seat, is the only incorporated town. Ferrum and Boone Mill are thriving small towns, having well-equipped, modern churches, schools and banks.

The banks of the county are: First National Bank at Ferrum, Farmers and Merchants Bank at Boone Mill, People’s National and First National at Rocky Mount. The total resources of all these banks is about $3,000,000.

While agriculture is the biggest industry of the county, the manufacturing side is also important. The largest manufacturing plant is located at Rocky Mount. This is the Bald Knob Furniture Factory, which has about 200 people on its pay roll. The value of this plant is estimated at $1,000,000. The famous Black Prince overalls are manufactured at Rocky Mount. A local company has a franchise to bottle Coca-Cola at Rocky Mount. Another local factory is a flour and grist mill which manufactures “Franklin Favorite Flour.” The American Pin and Bracket Company for making insulator pins and cross-arms, has a plant at Boone Mill. All of these industries in the county are operated and financed by local men.

Rocky Mount is a tobacco market. At present there is one open warehouse and the Tobacco Co-operative Association has a receiving station.


During the war the superintendent of public instruction, R. A. Prillaman, being in service in France, the vacancy in that department was filled first by W. D. Rucker, then by H. D. Dillard, then by J. L. Wade. Superintendent R. A. Prillaman is back on the job now, and he is very conscientious in the discharge of his duties. The public school system under his management is making rapid strides in Franklin County.


The local Exemption Board of Franklin County was composed of Dr. W. T. Chitwood, Sheriff J. P. Hodges and W. A. Belcher. The Legal Advisory Board appointed by the local Exemption Board was composed of judge J. P. Lee, H. N. Dillard and A. H. Hopkins. J. O. Martin was recruiting officer for the Merchant Marine Corps. Many of the soldiers of Franklin County volunteered. Two specimens of real patriotism were afforded by Buford Angle and Greenwood Garrett. The former was under weight and the latter was under age. Both were turned down several times before they were finally accepted. Both boys got to France and were wounded in battle, but after the war reached home safe and sound.

Below are some clippings taken from the Franklin Chronicle:

“The citizens and ladies of Rocky Mount will give all the drafted soldiers, including those who go now and those who will go on October 1st, a patriotic celebration at Rocky Mount on September 21, 1917, at 1 o’clock P. M. Patriotic speeches will be made and the Roanoke Machine Works band will be on hand to render patriotic airs. The soldiers and all their friends are invited to be present, and the citizens of the county are invited. The Odd Fellows will give a banquet Friday night of the 21st to those who leave on the morning of the 22nd.”

Another clipping reads as follows:

“Franklin’s third allotment of men left here Tuesday for Camp Lee. William E. Jefferson, of Penhook, was in charge of the group, and all seemed in good spirits at the prospects of training to fight the ‘Fritzies.'”

Monday evening, from eight to ten, the boys were guests of Jubal Early Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy, at the Masonic Hall. After the rendition of the splendid program arranged for their pleasure, the young men were invited into the banquet hall, where bountiful refreshments were served by the young girls of the Chapter. The welcome was given by Mrs. J. W. Williams, Miss Myrtle Shoaf played a piano solo, and vocal solos were rendered by Miss Shoaf and Miss Lulie Simms. Patriotic songs were sung by a choir composed of Miss Frances Shearer, pianist Misses Myrtle Shoaf, Lulie Simms, Mary Dillard, Mary Robertson and Mesdames H. N. Dillard, H. D. Dillard, B. S. Robertson, G. C. Greer, I. N. Price and J. C. Shearer.

Franklin’s first quota left in charge of Elliot B. McGuffin, of Callaway. He was the first Franklin boy accepted by the local board of this county. He was one of the nineteen men selected by the War Department from Camp Lee to attend the Quartermasters’ Officers’ Training School at Jacksonville, Fla. He received the first commission given to a drafted man from his county.

The second quota left in charge of B. C. Harrison. He reached France and was wounded in battle, but came home safely after the war.

The fourth quota left in charge of J. Bradie Allman- He reached France and was “in the fight.” Below is an extract from his letter to Mr. and Mrs. Lindsay Mitchell clipped from the Franklin Chronicle:

“In confirmation of the telegram that has been sent you by the War Department, your son, Roy T. Mitchell, was killed in action in the ‘Verdun-Meuse’ offensive, September 27, 1918, by an enemy shell. In expression of my sympathy to you and to other bereaved relatives and friends, I voice the sentiments of every man from Franklin in the A. E. F., and particularly those who knew him best. Death found him at his post of duty. He led his platoon through the battle and gained the desired objective. The fact that he was permitted to live through the battle and until the approach of relief, makes the supreme sacrifice that he made for his country’s sake all the more illustrious.

“Sergeant Mitchell was an excellent soldier, his never-tiring obedience, his conduct as a man throughout his military career, his valor as a soldier in battle, was a grand inspiration to his comrades.”

Bradie came home after the war, and on January 1, 1926, he will go as Representative to the State Legislature from Franklin County.

It has been impossible to get an accurate list of the boys who served in the war. There were about 493 white soldiers from the county in service. Franklin County can boast of as many volunteers as any other county. Every Rocky Mount boy volunteered and many from the rural districts.

It does seem fitting that Franklin County should mention especially Colonel Willis Helms, who has been a member of the standing army for years, and trained the boys at Camp Meade. Colonel Helms still calls Franklin his home and still casts his vote in this county. Franklin is proud to own him as one of her distinguished sons.

The boys who were awarded citations of honor were: Private Charley N. Parcell, A. S. No. 1817718, Company D, 317 Infantry, Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action near Nantillois, France, October 5. 1918; French Croix de Guerre with Palm; Italian War Cross. Private Isaac F. Ingram, Company I, 116th Infantry, A. S. No. 128918, Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism in action near Samogneux, France. Private Posey Lee Webb, Eighteenth Company, Fifth Regiment, Second Division, awarded the Croix de Guerre for heroic service in action in battle of Belleau Woods. Walter M. Green student from University, volunteered and served in the Ambulance Corps in France. He was awarded the Croix de Guerre for special bravery.

The following is a partial list of the men from Franklin County who died in service: Lloyd Davis, Bunyan Davis, Harvey Leonard Holland, Charles Blankenship, Harold Brodie, George Patrick Washburne, Richard Wright, Crockett Wright, Cabell Allman, John Stanley Penn Holland, Jack Altice, Roy Mitchell, Edgar Ramsey, Raymond Mason, Richard Roberts, Seth Prillaman, Ben W. Foster, Graddfield Pasley, Grover Pasley, L. S. Nolen, Parker Thompson Willard, Jack Ames, two Underwood boys, Clarence Lumsden, Agie Mitchell, Jim Bowles, Herbert Hale. Keva Campbell, John Jameson, Willie McBride, L. O. Quarles and George Laprade have died since the war from injuries received while in service.

Some of those wounded, but still living, most of whom are in good health, are: Charley Parcell, Oat Hodges, B. C. Harrison, Posey Webb, Henry Foster, H. E. Painter, B. B. Angle, Greenwood B. Garrett, Hairston Brown, John Washburne, Harry C. Ingram, Dr. Hodges’ son, George Herman Gravely, Price Hodges, J. W. Bradner, E. S. Moore, C. L. Ross, J. A. Mullins, Willie Clement, R. E. McGhee, Beecher Jones.


Since Franklin is an inland county, the activities during the war were not as pronounced as in counties near the sea coast, or in counties having large cities. Of course, the county suffered greatly in having to give up men for service; the homes were saddened by the absence of loved ones. At every public gathering the young men were conspicuously absent. Self denial and sacrifice were practiced. Numbers of housewives pledged themselves not to buy veal, to have meat of any kind only once a day and to lessen their usual amount of sugar. They were loyal supporters of “Hoover.” Food values ran high. Below is a list of products with war prices and prices of 1925:

The loyalty of the citizens was further shown in the buying and selling of Liberty Bonds and War Savings Stamps, by the organization and support of a Red Cross Chapter, by daily prayer for soldiers and by special church services in honor of “our boys.” The women as well as the men were organized for the selling of Liberty Bonds. Mr. N. P. Angle was county chairman for the men’s work in every drive. The women organized for work in the second and third drives and in the Victory Loan. In the second and third drives Mrs. W. C. Menefee was county chairman for the women. The captains working with her were Mesdames E. W. Saunders, C. A. Johnson, W. L. Hopkins, George Mattox, R. L. McNeil and members of the teams were: Mesdames G. P. Holland, J. L. Perdue, W. A. Belcher, E. Y. Poole, N. P. Angle, Herbert Fields, G. C. Greer, H. D. Menefee, L. M. Menefee, Misses Frances Shearer, Mary Nelson Strayer, Mary Dillard, Myrtle Shoaf, Ruby Adams, Mamie Davis, Elizabeth Mitchell, Gladys Greer, Ann Joplin and Flora Greer. Miss Ann Joplin was chairman for the Victory Loan. Those who gave freely of their time and gasoline in travelling over the county and speaking at public places were: Judge E. W. Saunders, Judge J. P. Lee, Commonwealth’s Attorney A. H. Hopkins, Rev. B. T. Candler, Rev. W. T. Roberts, Rev. E. Y. Poole, Senator B. A. Davis, Dr. B. M. Beckham, Hon. H. D. Dillard, Hon. H. N. Dillard, W. R. Davis, cashier of First National Bank of Rocky Mount; C. J. Davis, cashier of People’s National Bank of Rocky Mount, and B. L. Fisher. The amount of bonds sold amounted to $750,000. War Savings Stamps sold amount to $70,000.The canned goods of Franklin were eaten by the soldiers “somewhere in France,” judging from a letter that appeared in the Franklin Chronicle during the war. The letter `vas from W. F. Mills to his wife at Boone Mill. It said that he had eaten a can of tomatoes packed by Mr. Jack Garst of Boone Mill, `’a. Edmund Roberts, of Rocky Mount, also wrote his parents that he had eaten a can of tomatoes packed by Mr. Garst. Gilbert Finke, of Salem, wrote his parents that he had eaten tomatoes canned by Mr. Garst. In proof of the fact, Mr. Finke tore off the label and sent it home to his parents. The label showed a beautiful picture of the Magodee Valley above Boone Mill, skirted by the Blue Ridge Mountains. Doubtless this scene from home was very interesting to the young soldiers. The War Savings and Thrift Savings committee for Franklin County was as follows: N. P. Angle, county director; District directors: Walter St. Clair, C. W. Dudley, J. H. Ferguson, Dr. B. M. Beckham, J. M. Emswiler, R. L. Kent, R. A. Barnhart, I. T. Cannady, J. B. Washburne, J. O. Abshire, George L. Bowman, W. D. Rucker, Professor J. S. McDonald, A. W. Robbins, Peter Saunders, W. E. Beverly and A. H. Hopkins. At noon every day, Bald Knob Furniture Factory blew a whistle as a signal for people to stop in their duties and to remember the soldiers in prayer. A touching thing happened one day when a little girl, playing in her own front yard with a little friend, heard the whistle, and said to her little friend, “Let us pray.” Down on their little knees in front of the steps they went and with bowed heads and closed eyes they said: “God bless our soldier men.” Such was the loyalty of even a little three-year-old child. Too much praise cannot be given the colored people of Franklin for the loyal way in which they responded to every call made upon them. They were able supporters of the war work in its every phase.


In November, 1916, a Red Cross first aid class was organized at Rocky Mount with a membership of twenty. Dr. G. W. Hooker was instructor, Mrs. George Greer, president; Miss Frances Shearer, secretary and treasurer. This class during the year 1917 did some soliciting for Red Cross funds and completed the first aid course. On October 22, 1917, a meeting of people interested in Red Cross work was held in the home of judge and Mrs. E. W. Saunders. Rev. B. T. Candler opened the meeting with prayer, and he was elected to preside for the afternoon. Judge Saunders was elected temporary- chairman until an organization could be perfected. On November 7, 1917, the Franklin County Red Cross Chapter was organized at the courthouse. Judge Saunders gave a clear presentation of the aims and workings of the Red Cross. The following officers were elected: Chairman, Hon. E. W. Saunders; vice-chairman, Rev. B. T. Candler, secretary, Mrs. W. C. Menefee; treasurer, A. W. Robbins. The following committees were appointed at a later meeting: Finance-Judge J. P. Lee, C. S. Greer, B. L. Angle, H. W. Peak, J. O. Martin, H. D. Dillard, W. A. Belcher, G. P. Holland, W. R. Davis, C. F. Hudson, Mrs. J. M. Williams, Mrs. C. S. Greer, Judge P. H. Dillard, W. H. Bowles, A. H. Hopkins, Mrs. C. J. Shoaf, T. W. Carper, B. L. Fisher, Mrs. N. B. Hutcherson. Membership committee-Mrs. G. C. Greer, Mrs. Z. Bernard, Mrs. T. W. Carper, Mrs. W. H. Bowles, Mrs. N. P. Angle, Mrs. B. S. Robertson, Mrs. B. L. Angle, Mrs. N. G. Carper, Mrs. J. R. Webb, Mrs. D. C. Grubb, Misses Josephine Menefee, Frances Shearer, Alice Saunders, Dr. J. M. Williams, V. E. Beverly, Dr. G. W. Hooker. At a still later meeting the following chairmen were appointed: Finance-Judge J. P. Lee; executive committee-Mrs. G. S. Greer; chairman of organization of auxiliaries, Mrs. E. W. Saunders; director of knitting units, Mrs. N. B. Hutcherson; director of comfort kits, Mrs. T. W. Carper; director of hospital garments and supplies, Mrs. D. C. Grubb. When Mrs. Hutcherson resigned as knitting director, the place was ably filled by Mrs. Z. Bernard. The home service department consisted of the following members: Rev. E. Y. Poole, chairman; Miss Pauline Hundley, secretary; Mrs. J. P. Lee, Mrs. R. L. McNeil and Mrs. H. D. Dillard. The tobacco market solicitors were under the direction of three chairmen, Mrs. J. C. Shearer, Mrs. C. A. Johnson and Mrs. H. D. Dillard. This was the chief resource for the raising of funds. Often the ladies were at the warehouses (Rocky Mount then had three warehouses) by 4 A. M. begging tobacco from the farmers as they unloaded. This tobacco was graded and sold for the Red Cross. The farmers were liberal in their contributions. Branches of the chapter were formed at Boone Mill, Callaway, Ferrum, Gills Creek, Snow Creek, Pleasant Hill and Penhook. Knitting clubs and sewing circles were organized all over the county. It would be impossible to give the names of all the people in the county who “did their bit,” but below is a partial list of those in the rural districts who superintended and aided in every way possible to carry on the Red Cross work: Dr. and Mrs. Samuel Guerrant, Dr. W. P. Reese, Mr. and Mrs. F. A. Turner, Mr. and Mrs. Harris Ferguson, Prices, Cobbs, Lovelaces, Mr. and Mrs. Emmett Turner, C. C. Stone, Mr. and Mrs. Muncey Mitchell, Mr. and Mrs. Peyton Gravely, Miss Christine Dickenson, G. F. Fralin, Mr. and Mrs. G. M. Law, Mr. and Mrs. B. T. Turner, W. J. Sutherland. Mr. and Mrs. W. F. Mills, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Emswiler, Mr. and Mrs. R. A. Barnhart, Rev. and Mrs. J. W. Bouldin, Miss Hattie Reese, Mrs. George Helms, Mrs. S. C. Stone, Mrs. W. J. Haynes, Mrs. B. M. Beckham, G. C. Nickleson, Mrs. Booth, Miss Louise Poff, Miss Ora Harrison, Miss Ette Davis, Miss Mieme Dudley and many, many others. Miss Ora Harrison, a teacher at Endicott, and Miss Davis, at St. Peters, in the mountains, deserve special mention for the way they worked in establishing a friendly feeling toward the Red Cross among the mountain people, many of whom were prejudiced against Red Cross work. The Jubal Early Chapter of the Daughters of the Confederacy united with the Red Cross Chapter to do war work. Mrs. C. A. Johnson was chairman for the drive for used clothing, and Miss Ann Joplin chairman for the canteen contributions to the canteen headquarters at Roanoke. The Odd Fellows turned over their hall, free of charge, to be used as a Red Cross workroom and place for entertainment for the departing soldiers. The Masons also gave the use of their hall for entertainments given to departing soldiers. At the close of the war, when badges of honor were presented to women who worked a certain number of hours daily for the Red Cross, the women felt that it would be impossible to find out just how many hours had been given in service. They were afraid that in giving the names of some, many who deserved mention might be left out, so no names were sent in to Washington for special mention. Those who had done possibly more than others said: “We do not want any distinction of honor for what we have done. It was done willingly and cheerfully, and that is all the praise that we want. If we were mentioned especially, some who deserve as much mention as we might be overlooked. “Early in the spring of 1918 A. W. Robbins moved from the county, so W. E. Skinnell was elected treasurer of the county chapter and has been serving in this capacity ever since. The concrete results of the war work of the Red Cross Chapter are as follows: Money raised for material to be made up for the soldiers, $3,639.23 ; war fund drive, $5,000 ; canteen contributions, estimated at $500; number of sewed garments, 1,112 ; knit garments, 1,517 ; articles contributed to linen shower, 1,060.At the close of the war Red Cross membership dropped from 696 to far below 100. A few have kept the organization alive by the payment of annual dues. In September, 1924, a Red Cross nurse was obtained for Franklin County. The funds for the support of this nurse were furnished by the Red Cross, the County Board of Supervisors and the State Department of Health. At the end of the first quarter this nurse was called home because of a death in her family. Since then the Red Cross has been quiet again, but it hopes to soon have another nurse in the field. The officers and executive committee of the Red Cross Chapter are now: Chairman, N. P. Angle; vice-chairman, Rev. Kelly Hobbs; secretary, Mrs. W. C. Menefee; treasurer, W. E. Skinnell; N. B. Hutcherson, Judge J. P. Lee, B. L. Fisher, Rev. Starke Jett, R. A. Prillaman, Mrs. Z. Bernard and F. A. Turner. In the summer of 1918 the First National Bank of Rocky Mount paid the expenses of a home demonstration agent for Franklin County. Junior Red Cross Societies were organized in many of the county schools. The first school to organize was the Strayer Private School, taught by Miss Mary Nelson Strayer. It might be interesting to read the letter below:

Dear Juniors:

Mrs. Menefee thinks you would like to hear how we organized and what we are doing for the Red Cross.

We organized about March 5th. Our teacher called the roll and each member walked up and paid 25 cents and had a badge pinned on, then we sang “America.” The roll was called again and each one took the small Red Cross and pasted it on the flag. We sang the “Star-Spangled Banner” and the teacher pasted the flag in the window.

After the flag was put in the window we marched out in the yard to see how it looked. We were so pleased that we gave three cheers and sang “America” again.

Committees to plant small plots of vegetables to be sold were appointed. Knitting circles for both boys and girls were formed. We are knitting a bright wool quilt for the sick soldiers. If there are ladies in the county that would like to encourage us, they can knit a square for this quilt and send it to me. Cast on 34 stitches (on No. 5 Red Cross needles), and knit it seven inches square of any color yarn. We need 196, so we will appreciate help.

I forgot to say who our officers are. Of course our teacher is chairman. Secretary. Page Price; treasurer, Paul Bowles.

Hoping that all schools will form a junior Red Cross Auxiliary.


(Signed) PAGE PRICE, Secretary.


Rocky Mount

The Y.M.C.A. Council consisted of B. L. Fisher, chairman; district chairmen: C. R. Blount, B. T. Hodges, C. G. Noel, J. O. Abshire, J. M. Emswiler, Dr. B. M. Beckham, J. H. Ferguson, C. C. Brodie, C. C. Stone, G. P. Cooper, R. A. Barnhart, I. T. Cannady, N. P. Angle and C. J. Davis.

The Y. W. C. A. Council consisted of Mrs. C. J. Shoaf, county chairman; Mrs. J. C. Shearer, secretary and treasurer; Mesdames H. W. Peak, W. C. Menefee, C. J. Davis, W. D. Rucker, W. R. Davis, J. R. Robinson, C. A. Johnson, W. T. Chitwood, Z. Bernard, Miss Mattie Menefee. District chairmen: Mrs. R. E. Dudley, Mrs. B. M. Beckham, Miss Hattie Dickenson, Mrs. D. Ruff, Mrs. Marcus English and Miss Hattie Reese.

Below is a letter copied from the Franklin Chronicle, showing another line of work engaged in:

Mrs. J. P. Lee,
Rocky Mount, Va.

My dear Mrs. Lee

I have just received check for $50.00, the contribution to the War Library Fund raised by you and other ladies in Rocky Mount. I am very much obliged to you. If the other centers of population in the State do as well, Virginia’s allotment of $25,000 is assured.

Very truly yours,


State Director.


At the close of the war Mrs. W. L. Hopkins. and others assisting her tried by correspondence to get in touch with all the soldiers who had been wounded so that they might report at Roanoke for examination.

The American Legion was organized. Below is a clipping from the Franklin Chronicle:

“On last Saturday, November 15, 1919, the grand reunion given by the Daughters of the Confederacy and the Franklin Post of the American Legion to the Confederate Veterans and the soldiers, sailors and marines who served in the World War, was a great success and was enjoyed by all. The N. and W. Band from Roanoke furnished music for the occasion. At 10:30 the veterans of the World War assembled in the courthouse. The meeting was called to order by W. L. Hopkins, who had returned from Washington for this special occasion. Rev. W. T. Roberts opened the meeting with prayer. W. L. Hopkins then addressed the meeting in the interest of the American Legion. explaining the benefits to be derived therefrom. At 12 o’clock dinner was served at the Franklin warehouse by the U. D. C. At 2 o’clock the parade started from the courthouse and marched around town. The order of the parade was as follows: Band, old soldiers, World War veterans, sailors, marines, school children, Daughters of the Confederacy and members of the Red Cross. At the warehouse the large crowd was addressed by Senator B. A. Davis and Congressman E. W. Saunders.”

The American Legion and the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Legion have been assisting the soldiers in need in every way possible.

During the years that have intervened since the signing of the Armistice there has been marked improvement along all lines-better schools, better roads, more modern methods of farming. In many instances the young men who came back from war have been real educators along all lines of progress.