Becoming a genealogist makes you brave. In my quest to find one more connection I have made leaps, cold calls and “email friends” with a variety of individuals that I never would have before. One of the leaps I made was regarding a piece of land in Campbell County, Virginia. I was using Google to search a variety of things when I discovered a tract of land for sale. It was called the Sublett Tract. I was curious about this property, so I made an inquiry. When Gary replied, I think he thought he might have a buyer on the hook. I explained my situation via email about my genealogy quest. Gary not only provided me with the information about the property, he agreed to let me visit the property on an upcoming genealogy trip. He arranged for the gate to be open.
With nothing more than a vague idea and a topography map, my mother, sister and I decided to go find this property. My Aunt Carol and cousins Nashella and Larry in the second car. Larry had some recollection of where this was, but it had been years. aerial of sublett tract
In order to set the scene, you need to know we were in my mother’s new Toyota Highlander and we were going off-road. The second car in our two-car convoy aborted the mission. Mom, being brave, took to the pasture road that we thought the tract was on. It turned out it wasn’t it. We had to come back to the main road and try again. Mom was a trooper that day. When we finally found it, the road in was a dirt road, mud all around with that red, red, Virginia dirt. Mom took us down this path a bit, but we soon realized that we might not get the car back out. So, she dropped us off, and she went to find the rest of our convoy.
Kathy and I walked down this muddy dirt road, it was probably a quarter of a mile, but since we were trying to avoid the mud, we had to walk around the puddles. Oh, yes, I forgot, I had told everyone about wearing good shoes for our adventures, but nobody listened. So, if I recall, Kathy was in sandals.
We made it to a clearing. There were no structures, as this piece of land was farmed and not the actual homestead. It was beautiful though. I was so glad that we did it. To research an area where generations of my relatives farmed, to find it quite by happenstance online, and then to stand on that same property was rewarding.
Mom’s car was DIRTY. You know the kind of dirt that gets onto the under carriage and then sputters off clumps from time to time. I bet you, I could probably still find some of that Virginia clay on her car if I looked.
So, getting back to my conversation with Gary. I asked him what he knew about the property. They are selling it as a rural retreat with lots of pine trees. There is good hunting on the property and good fishing nearby. When I asked him about the land, he wrote that the following.
Tobacco. Bright tobacco, flue-cured tobacco, maybe some burley tobacco–that was the crop that drew people to this area when this section of the state was settled in the early 1700s. That was the big money crop that kept agriculture strong around here for the next 200 years–or up until about 1980, when the federal tobacco buyouts started & the federal subsidy programs were phased out. The red clay soil down in that part of the county would have produced pretty nice tobacco, I would expect. Everyone grew tobacco–small farmers & large–factory workers, even government workers that owned small acreages. The federal tobacco allotments ran with the land and could be rented for cash to other growers. Back in the 1950s & 60s, small tobacco growers would net about $1,000/acre with their tobacco. It was hard work & had some risks, but that was always true of farming. You may want to check with the Campbell County–the old ASCS office–Agriculture Stabilization & Conservation Service–it goes by a different name today…maybe Agriculture Resources Service or something similar. County seat is Rustburg, VA. ASCS administered all the government ag programs–so there maybe a record of your grandpa’s farm.
Besides tobacco, the Sublett farm would probably have produced corn & wheat, oats for the horses or mules–if they couldn’t afford a tractor–& many couldn’t before the war. There were a lot of grist mills along Falling River–so the basic grains would have been important. Beef cattle were not very important back then, but just about everyone had a milk cow or two, maybe more–and they needed hay for the cows & horses, esp. lespedeza hay for the horses. Everyone had chickens for eggs & meat–as well as hogs. Some people raised turkeys, too. They probably sold their tobacco in the Town of Brookneal–that was not far away & a big tobacco market about 100 years ago. Also may have sold eggs, cream & butter in Brookneal or the nearby cross-road hamlet called Hat Creek. Cow’s cream was also an important cash crop and mill trucks form Cloverleaf & other big-name dairies would make the morning pick-up in milk-cream cans at the road side entrance to farms. The cream was skimmed from the top of chilled milk and was worth much more than the milk itself. There was rail service in Brookneal–Norfolk & Western, as well as a little further north, at the little hamlet of Naruna. Rail was the key freight link back then–in the 1950s, I can remember going with my Daddy to the rail depot to pick-up a new black & tan coonhound puppy shipped from Kentucky–as well as a big box of baby chicks–New Hampshire Reds, that may have come from Sears & Roebuck in Greensboro, NC.
Your grandpa’s neighbor to the south would have been the Presbyterian church property that was known as Camp Hat Creek for many years. It was recently put up for sale by the Presbytery–not sure of its current status. Attached is a copy of the farm plat of 85.5 acres, dated June 18, 1920–recorded in Plat Book 2, Page 10 in the Clerk’s Office of Campbell County. “Plat of land containing 85.5 acres sold by Mrs. Louise W. Rosser to Charles S. Stevens on Little Falling River…” Sorry about the plat quality–must close; probably more info than you needed. But hope that helps a little.
Okay, I do not know about you, but WOW, what a generous man. He doesn’t know me and he took the time to write all of that information. Needless to say, you “meet” a lot of wonderful, big-hearted people doing genealogy. I sent him a thank you of course along with the below photo. Thanks again Gary!
This is why I do what I do. Until next time, I will be exploring backwards.