Preserving history

Published 9:53 am Saturday, April 11, 2009

COURTLAND—The Urquhart-Gillette Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy are planning a gigantic “silent and live cry” auction Saturday, April 18, to benefit their causes.

Aside from the obvious operating funds for both organizations, the SCV will use part of its proceeds to help preserve historic Mahone’s Tavern, which it purchased last fall. The camp is in the process of turning the home place of William Mahone, one of the county’s most famous Confederate Civil War generals, into a museum.

Auctioneer and SCV member Jay Bradshaw said almost 200 items have already been donated for the sale, “and things are still coming in.”

Bradshaw noted that the silent auction will benefit the UDC, while the “live cry” part of the sale will benefit the U-G Camp.

“We’re expecting this to be a big event,” he said, adding that it will be held rain or shine at the Courtland Ruritan Building, 26484 Old Plank Road, across from Southampton Academy.

Bradshaw revealed that there were numerous early items for auction, including a painting of the Rochelle-Prince House, a picture of the Confederate Monument at the Courthouse in Courtland and a Civil War re-enactor’s musket, in addition to a Virginian Railroad lock, an early print of a Confederate Infantry soldier and other old documents.

Local businesses, as well as individuals, have been very supportive, he added.

“Baggett Metal in Courtland gave us a hand-made iron flower cart and others have given us plants and even fruit trees,” Bradshaw said.

The auction will begin promptly at 10 a.m., he said, however, visitors will have a chance to preview the items at 9 a.m. “Everything will be held outside, if possible.”

According to U-G Camp member Russell Darden, the camp had been interested in preserving Mahone’s Tavern for years and feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to purchase it. Built in 1796, it stands across the street from the courthouse.

The history behind the structure is impressive. General Mahone’s father, Fielding, settled his family there in 1840 and this is where the general spent his teenage years. This is the home he left when he entered Virginia Military Institute at just past the age of 17.

The structure looks today much like it did when Mahone lived there. The white frame structure, built with two rooms up, two rooms down, an attic and a basement, doesn’t give a clue to its age.

It is hard to believe that nearly 170 years ago, stagecoaches used to stop right in front of the tavern door, so travelers could alight and enter the building to spend the night.

The hope is to eventually open the house to the public, according to the U-G Camp. At present, however, camp members hold their meetings and occasional other fundraisers at the tavern.

Bradshaw said in addition to food and beverages on sale day, Brunswick stew will be available after 2 p.m. Tickets are now on sale for the stew. Barbecue also will be for sale.

He suggests that people bring a lawn chair and spend the day.

For information, call Bradshaw at 899-2293.