Looking Back: Bogart House leveled for shopping center

Published 9:32 am Friday, August 24, 2012

EDITOR’S NOTE: Looking Back features past articles from The Tidewater News with commentary by local historian Clyde Parker.

by Clyde Parker

THE TIDEWATER NEWS — Aug. 24, 1962

The historic Bogart House, “River Lawn,” at the south end of Main Street next to the Blackwater River was torn down last week — some 115 years after it was built.

Erected by William Murfree, after whom Murfreesboro, N.C., is thought to have been named, the house stood on the site that is considered to be the first permanent settlement in what is now Franklin.

During the Civil War, Yankee gunboats anchored in the nearby river shelled the house several times. The mark of one shell was visible on a back door.

Although Murfree built the home, Alexander Wilson and his family first occupied it. Wilson, a Civil War veteran, was the grandfather of present day Franklin residents John C. Parker, Mary V. Parker and the Rev. Norfleet Gardner of Henderson, N.C.

The Wilsons occupied the home until about 1880 when the Seaboard and Roanoke Railroad Co. purchased it. About a year later, Capt. John H. Bogart and his family moved in.

Among direct descendants of Bogart living in Franklin today are R.A. Pretlow Jr., Mrs. Marion Whitfield, Mrs. G.E. Pillow and Mrs. Lee Davis. Many other descendants of Bogart and Wilson live in the area.

The last residents of the home were Mrs. William O. Bogart and Ruth Owens, who moved out about three years ago when it was purchased by a local group of businessmen who sold the property to Be-Lo. The property will become a shopping center.

John C. Parker was among those who looked on with nostalgia as the old home was leveled. In the ruins, he found a deep old cistern apparently used as a water supply many years ago, and some massive, 2-foot square beams.

(NOTE: In 1962 and into 1963, the proposed shopping center was developed with Be-Lo supermarket and Thornton-Livesay furniture store as the primary tenants. WYSR Radio operated from the shopping center for many years. And, there was a dry cleaning establishment and various other small businesses. It became a thriving part of the Franklin business community.

In September 1999, as a result of Hurricane Floyd, the Blackwater River flooded downtown Franklin, including the shopping center. The buildings in the shopping center had 8 to 12 feet of water and were torn down.

The site remains a vacant field. R.W. Tyler and Associates own the property.



Southampton County Bar Association Chairman George H. Parker Jr. has appointed Franklin Attorney R. Baird Cabell chairman of a committee that will recommend the appointment of Courtland attorney Bert Pulley to Judge of Virginia’s 2nd Judicial Circuit.

Judge John Hutton will retire on Sept. 10.

Gov. Albertis Harrison will make the appointment, but will be guided by recommendations from jurisdictions within the 2nd Circuit, which is made up of Suffolk and Franklin and the counties of Nansemond and Southampton.

“I cannot remember when a Southampton County resident was ever a judge of the 2nd Circuit unless you want to count the late Judge James McLemore, a Southampton County native, who was a resident of Suffolk at the time of his appointment,” Cabell said.

He was the uncle to present day Clerk of Court Harvey Burton McLemore Jr.



Otis Smith of Franklin drove his high-powered motorboat to victory Sunday during the 10th annual Washington, D.C., regatta. His finishing speed was 74 miles per hour.

Smith won recognition from the American Power Boat Association as the leading racer in the eastern division, which includes Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.

CLYDE PARKER is a retired human resources manager for the former Franklin Equipment Co. and a member of the Southampton County Historical Society. His email address is ParkerC@seva-redcross.org.