Looking Back: Franklin officially a city

Published 8:53 am Friday, December 30, 2011

EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking Back features past articles from The Tidewater News with commentary by local history buff Clyde Parker. The series commemorates the 50th anniversary of Franklin becoming an independent city.


Monday, Dec. 25, 1961


It has happened. It is official. Franklin is a city.

On Friday, Dec. 22, Franklin Town Attorney J. Edward Moyler Jr. delivered a petition for city status to Circuit Court Judge John K. Hutton of Suffolk, who declared Franklin a city.

Friday afternoon, Mayor Dr. Darden W. Jones called a special meeting of the Franklin City Council to celebrate, set goals and develop a plan of action.

The new City Council is composed of former Town Councilmen J. Floyd Briggs, John C. Parker, Dr. Burton J. Ray and G. Carl Steinhardt. All were present.

Former Town Manager Harold Atkinson will be city manager. Moyler will be city attorney. And, Chief of Police Willie L. Burrow will continue.

A three-man school board must be appointed. City schools will continue under the jurisdiction of the Southampton County School Board until July 1, 1962.

It was also recommended that Samuel Bradshaw be appointed city treasurer and that Franklin Edwards be appointed commissioner of the revenue, both for three-year terms beginning Jan. 1, 1962.

Copies of a proposed city charter were distributed for preliminary study. After discussion, it was decided to call a meeting of the Council on Thursday, Dec. 28, to discuss and finalize said charter.

Next, the charter must be advertised in The Tidewater News with notice that a public hearing will be held at City Hall on Jan. 22, 1962. After that, the charter will be forwarded to the Virginia General Assembly for approval.



The old Lee’s Mill in Isle of Wight County on Lee’s Mill Road, two miles from Franklin, will close Dec. 31 after 160 years of continuous operation.

Owned by sisters Dorothy V. Williams and Mary Lee Bryant, the mill has been under ownership of the descendants of the Lee family since it was built in 1801.

S. V. Butler will continue to operate the mill until its final day. Powered by water from the pond behind the building, the mill turns what some people say is “the best corn meal around.”

Years ago, there was also a brickyard near the mill, and the area’s first cotton gin was established nearby.



Plans for the new 26-room Airway Motor Lodge on Route 58 in Isle of Wight County went out for bids on Tuesday. Construction will start as soon as possible.

Spokesman Robert C. Ray, president of the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, said S.W. Rawls Sr. and S.W. Rawls Jr. are the primary backers of the motel. John T. Claud of Drewryville will be the manager.

The two-story motel will be east of Franklin behind the Airport Restaurant, to which the motel will be connected by a walkway. Plans call for expansion of the restaurant, which will continue under the operation of Louis Thompson.



T. P. Hylton, 72, who became owner of the Stonewall Hotel in 1934, was recognized for his contribution to the economy. Despite two heart attacks, a hurricane and a flood, he has kept the Stonewall open and has not missed serving a meal — three per day, including all holidays — since he became the owner.

Things have changed a bit since Hylton, in 1910, started in the hotel business as a clerk at the famed Monticello Hotel in Norfolk. When the Depression hit in 1929, he was working at the venerable Jefferson Hotel in Richmond.

Meal business dropped from $1,000 to $375 per day. He began to look elsewhere. So, in 1934 he came to Franklin with his savings and purchased the Stonewall from C.C. Vaughan III.

The Stonewall Hotel, built in the early 1900s and called the Stonewall Inn, literally with stone outer walls, is a nationally known Franklin landmark. It is the home of the Franklin Chamber of Commerce, Franklin Rotary Club, Franklin Lions Club, Franklin Woman’s Club and is a favorite gathering place for many other civic and community groups.

Travelers from far and wide, coming through the town along U.S. routes 58 and 258, plan and time their trips so they can spend the night at the hotel.