Friday, March 6, 2009

Day 75/365 Our Town

Spent this afternoon with DD at the local historical society and picked up these nifty postcards of Rocky Mount, taken in the 1900-1920's. While the postcards don't document it, this would be during Prohibition, when our county was the "wettest county in the world" with an estimated 9 out of 10 citizens were either manufacturing, transporting or consuming homemade illicit liquor. More about that in another post, but meanwhile, let these bucolic scenes set the stage.

The postcard above was a promotional flyer sent out, tolling the virtues of Rocky Mount, including "Paved streets and Sidewalks" (but ot roads), "Ample Banking Facilities" and "Adequate Fire Protection" (it wasn't until the 1950's and 1960's that historic buildings starting burning down), and "Five Religious Denominations".

This is Main Street, looking north in 1912. Note the dirt street, with the big stepping stones as a cross walk. If you notice on the right-hand side, about half way up the street, there is a bright white sliver visible. This is the obligatory Courthouse statue of a Confederate soldier, facing south as installed by the United Daughters of the Confederacy.

Many newbie residents think it's a statue of General Jubal Early (most famous Franklin County Confederate son), but it isn't - it's one of several stock composite Confederate soldiers created in the early 1900s to commemorate the Civil War veterans in the South. ***Another interesting historical note: supposedly Booker T. Washington, another Franklin County native actually contributed and raised funds for the Confederate statue. That's a whole 'nother post in itself -one I need to research -since I cannot help wondering why any Black American, never mind Booker T. Washington, would raise funds to honor soldiers that fought to maintain the status quo for himself and his family, i.e. slavery. I'll get back to you on that one.***

If you go up the street to the statue and turn right, our house sits about two blocks down on the left, and in 1912 it was already 54 years old. The fireplaces were still its only source of heat, there was no indoor plumbing, the kitchen was still a separate building in the backyard, and in the back corner of the yard, there was still a barn with wagons, horses and livestock.

Now we're looking south on the same street, but from the Courthouse corner. The Confederate statue is just out of sight on our left. The first telephone company sits to the right (and is responsible for that spiffy new telephone pole). Another stepping-stone crosswalk is laid here (these must have played havoc with wagon wheels). Most of these buildings are still here in 2009, albeit with bricked over facades, or missing balconies, but the trees are all long-gone.

This street has changed the most. In the early 1900s, Rocky Mount had not one, but two railroad depots. This one is the Franklin & Pittsylvania RR Station on the left. The Norfolk & Western is about a quarter mile further away, also on the left. Those little hoodlums hanging around at the right are outside the Soda Fountain shop.

In 2009, all of it is gone:

The railroad right-of-way lies behind the brick storefronts on the left, but it's now a walking greenway. The depot is long gone (and the N&W Depot is now a visitors center). On the right
is another block of brick commercial buildings, formerly banks and stores, but within the last four years made into a brand-new library.

Oh - and the Confederate Soldier at the Courthouse is gone too - run over and demolished a couple years ago by an out-of-control truck. It is due to be replaced, although it's a matter of discussion among the local citizens.

However, it'll still be a composite Confederate soldier, not General Jubal Early.

1 comment:

  1. Good post, as always, Carole. That's interesting about Booker T. Washington. If it is true, perhaps he supported it as a 'let's get beyond this gesture' or perhaps it was because he knew that the people who were fighting in the south were fighting for other things besides to keep slavery and he felt he could honor that. I'll be interested to see what you dig up.