Walters man fascinated by history of War Between the States

Published 11:15 am Saturday, January 4, 2014

Photo by Merle Monahan.

Jon Pyle. Photo by Merle Monahan.

By Merle Monahan


Jon David Pyle joined the U.S. Navy to see the world, but said he never set foot on a ship.

“That’s right,” the Oklahoma native said with a grin. “I spent the better part of four and a half years at the Naval Air Station in Norfolk. Never went to sea.

“I did get to see something in Norfolk that you don’t see much of in Oklahoma, however,” he said. “Plenty of water.”

Pyle said he liked the Virginia area so much that he settled here in 1971 shortly after he was discharged from the navy. He moved his family to the Walters area in 1991 and has been there ever since.

Although not a regular “home-grown” Southerner, he has had a deep interest in Southern history and the War Between the States since he was about 12, he admitted, and that was another reason he moved closer to the Courtland/Franklin area.

“I kept reading about the Urquhart-Gillette Camp of the Sons of Confederate Veterans in The Tidewater News and was fascinated. So I found someone who could tell me how I could join the camp and I was hooked.

“I joined as soon as they would let me,” Pyle added.

The avid historian had found his niche, he continued. “Learning the facts about so many of the stories I’d heard was so very interesting. And getting involved in the lives of our ancestors, their hardships, as well as their joys, intrigues me.”

Pyle became so deeply involved that he had been a member of the camp for only five months when he was elected commander. He will step down in January after four years at the post.

“It has been a wonderful experience,” he said. “Of course I will continue to take part in the camp activities.”

He noted that the camp now owns the Mahone Tavern. “We worked hard to pay for it,” he said, “had fund raisers and accepted donations, any way we could to raise money. It was worth it, though. Now we know the tavern will be preserved.”

Pyle said he takes issue with the people who say the camp is trying to keep the Civil War alive.

“That is so untrue. Organized in the late 1800s, the Urquhart-Gillette SCV’s purpose is to carry on the truths and beliefs that the original Confederate soldiers fought and died for,” he said.

“We strive to honor our family members who fought for what they believed in and try to ensure that the truth is known.

“We are not affiliated with any political or religious group. We are just proud of our ancestors and don’t want them to be forgotten.”

SCV meetings are held monthly at Mahone’s Tavern where Confederate General William Mahone grew up, Pyle continued. He said the camp will be celebrating its 26th anniversary at its annual Lee-Jackson banquet on Saturday, Jan. 18, at which time a new commander will take over.