Our Place in History

A 21st century traveler gazing eastward from atop a high point in what was Appomattox Court House can easily imagine our rural county as it was in the early 1800s. Automobiles have replaced horse-drawn carriages and blacktop covers what was formerly a narrow, often muddy and uneven road. The very important Richmond – Lynchburg Stage Road is still a major east to west thoroughfare and ribbons over the scenic rolling land of Appomattox County.

Formerly named Clover Hill and preserved by the National Park Service, the tiny village has changed little since the mid-nineteenth century. Undergoing many political and economic changes, the population of the county has not risen appreciably, and the area is still mostly rural as old tin roofed barns and farmhouses hide among the growth of forest in the peaceful landscape.

Still called the “Surrender Grounds,” by many locals, the restored village is where General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Army to General Ulysses S. Grant in what was the “beginning of the end” of the Civil War. Families whose ancestors were here before the Civil War live here still, owning businesses or farms. Appomattox folks can still relate family histories three or more generations back of their relatives who may have volunteered for one of the several companies formed in the county, including the Appomattox Invincibles which became Company A of the 44th Regiment of the Virginia Infantry.

Prior to 1845, Clover Hill consisted of a tavern built in 1819 with a separate kitchen building, guest quarters, a smokehouse and barns near the headwaters of the Appomattox River. The brick used to make the buildings has withstood the test of time having been formed and molded out of the heavy red clay soil behind the former kitchen. By 1819, stagecoaches with mail and other goods ran six days a week. Travel by horse-drawn transportation to Prince Edward County for court days and business grew time-consuming for the growing population, and the tavern’s important role as a respite for weary drivers, horses and their customers helped to establish the need to petition the Virginia legislature to create a new county with its own courthouse.

Created with acreage from its four surrounding counties — Buckingham, Campbell, Prince Edward and Charlotte, Clover Hill was renamed Appomattox Court House in 1845, using the name of the river or perhaps a form of the name of the local Indian tribe called Appamattuck.

As plans were being made to construct a jail and two other log houses in what was to become the new county seat, Clover Hill property owner Hugh Raine saw an opportunity in the growing town. In May 1845, he sold the property, now divided into 40 one-half to four acre lots, to Samuel McDearmon. McDearmon advertised it as “one of the handsomest locations in Virginia, in the midst of a fine and healthy country, noted for its intelligence and moral standing, on the great thoroughfare between Lynchburg and Richmond and Farmville, and within a few miles of the James River Canal, for a long series of years free from the visitation of fevers and other malignant diseases, which have ravaged other sections of the country.”

Unfortunately, Raine, McDearmon and other citizens had trouble selling their land. Thousands of Virginians in the mid-1840s were moving west to Missouri and Texas. The country was on the verge of industrialization, and corn, wheat and tobacco were more inexpensively grown and transported from further south. A long known way of life was slowly changing.

In 1860 just prior to the Civil War, the county was populated by 4,118 whites and 4,700 blacks, of which 171 were freed, working as tradesmen such as blacksmiths, coopers, wheel rights, farmers or laborers. Most of the local black population was born into slavery, their status changing only by the outcome of the War. They were considered as personal property of their owners, their value taxed as part of the “personal estate.”

According to accounts of Appomattox slaves, their biggest fear was to be sold to plantation owners in the deep South to pick cotton as times became tough for their Virginia owners. This business decision broke up families with young children.

Paid white laborers in the county in 1860 earned, with board, $10/month, their daily wage 50 cents. The census that year showed only one convicted criminal in the county, up from zero the previous year! Agriculture continued to dominate the economy although industrial outlets like grain and lumber mills and a few machine shops for farm implements were necessary, began rising in number from 17 in 1860 to 53 in 1870.

One of the most influential changes to our country’s history and Appomattox was the building of the railroads. Crisscrossing in every direction and powered by coal and steam the railroad made travel and shipping of commercial goods much more efficient and reliable.

By 1854, the South Side Railroad, which began at City Point on the James River, extended west for 132 miles through Petersburg through Appomattox Depot, three miles west of the county seat, and on to Lynchburg. The ease and reliability of the railroad soon replaced the stagecoach as the main method of travel as the population began shifting west from the village.

The railroad also played an important role in the outcome of the Civil War, transporting both Union and Confederate troops, and supplying both armies with food, supplies and forage for their mules and horses. For General Robert E. Lee, his dependence on the railroad to deliver much needed supplies for his hungry Army of Northern Virginia forced him to move west, rather than south as he was blocked by the Union Army at every turn. His final failed attempt to reach Appomattox Station (present day Appomattox), was thwarted when General George Custer captured much needed supplies following the Battles of Appomattox Station and Appomattox Court House. Lee felt surrender was his only option and met with General Grant on April 9 in the private home of Wilmer McLean in Appomattox Court House.” n By Barbara Luna

American Civil War Museum

The American Civil War Museum at Appomattox showcases artifacts, photographs and documents from one of the world’s most comprehensive collections related to the Confederate States of America. Of special interest are General Robert E. Lee’s sword and the frock coat he wore at the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant. Museum visitors get a glimpse of what life was like for people in Appomattox during the Civil War. Tours provide a chance to walk in the footsteps of those who took part in events, which had a profound effect on the United States.

When standing on the site of the American Civil War Museum at Appomattox, you can look northeast to Appomattox Court House: site of Lee’s surrender to Grant on April 9, 1865. From this intersection of Routes 24 and 460, to the south is the site of the Battle of Appomattox Station and just beyond that is the town of Appomattox, one of the most recognizable names in American history.

In addition to the Appomattox site, the American Civil War Museum is located at Historic Tredegar and the White House of the Confederacy; both are in Richmond, Virginia. At all sites, the American Civil War Museum tells the stories of our nation’s most pivotal conflict through perspectives of those who lived it: Soldiers and civilians, men, women and children, black and white, enslaved and free. n Information in this article was provided by the American Civil War Museum.

History and Theater Interwoven

History and Theater Interwoven

The Past Comes Alive
History and theater are working together in Appomattox to attract more visitors to the community and to engage more with current residents.

It’s a partnership chiefly between the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, site of the McLean House where Lee surrendered to Grant in April 1865, and Wolfbane Productions, a theater company based in Appomattox and New York City. The beneficiaries of this weaving together of factual events and the stage are many: the visitors who come to Appomattox, the businesses and the community as a whole who gain a deeper understanding of history.

“The Wolfbane staff members are not only theater nerds but history buffs as well. We also have a lot of hometown pride, so it only seemed natural to venture into a way of storytelling that combined both passions,” said Ken Arpino, Wolfbane’s executive director and an actor in many of the company’s productions. “It has made the process of developing new shows very enjoyable for us, while at the same time, it connects our audience to the stories. As an added benefit, we hope to connect residents to the community.”

Robin Snyder, superintendent of the historical park, said Wolfbane approached the park in 2016 about doing a play that would use the buildings and cultural landscape as a setting. The 1865 Foundation later joined the talks, and, from this, more discussions centered on producing Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with a Civil War twist.

“They understood we needed to see some sort of connection to the resource,” said Snyder, who liked the idea of bringing live theater to the park but was also sensitive to the type of production.

“Wolfbane’s Romeo and Juliet” is set in the village of Appomattox during the war years of 1861-65. Dustin Williams, who grew up in Appomattox, founded Wolfbane and is the artistic director, said the adaption gives many of Shakespeare’s characters last names of people who were prominent in the area at that time. The play adds some historical characters who lived in Appomattox during the Civil War.

Using local and New York City actors and actresses, “Wolfbane’s Romeo and Juliet” has been staged for two years.

Wolfbane, which started in 2008, has another production connecting history and the arts. “The Hannah Reynolds Story” depicts the last days of Hannah Reynolds, who was an enslaved resident of Appomattox and the only civilian casualty in the April 1865 fighting that took place there. The play is also staged on the park grounds.

“Wolfbane is honored to have partnered with the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park and American Civil War Museum-Appomattox to bring the story of this courageous woman to life,” Arpino said.

Snyder likes how Wolfbane has told the stories of Appomattox residents. That has added richness to the park’s portrayal of the ending of the Civil War.

“Their productions help to bring these people to life and tell their stories. That’s certainly a direction we want to go in the park, beyond the military story,” Snyder said.

Both productions have drawn large audiences. Snyder said 2,000 saw “Wolfbane’s Romeo and Juliet” during its run in June 2017. She said that included visitors to Appomattox but also residents of the town, county and surrounding area.

Obviously, with visitors coming to the community, Appomattox has seen the economic benefits of people spending money on food, lodging and gas.

For 2017, 76,000 people visited the historical park. Snyder said a typical visit lasts two or three hours. However, with the theater connection, Civil War museum and more places to stay and eat, there are more reasons for visitors to stay longer, maybe overnight.

“We really want this to be a destination,” Snyder said.

Snyder said the history-theater partnership has further allowed the park to engage more with the local community.

“This is their park in their own community where they can have their own experiences in history, the arts and recreation,” Snyder said. “We want to have our visitors be representative of the faces of America. Wolfbane is another way to do that.”

Whether “Wolfbane’s Romeo and Juliet” and “The Hannah Reynolds Story” become annual shows remains to be seen, but everyone agrees the weaving of history and theater in Appomattox is here to stay.

“I think that partnership will remain, and we will look creatively at what other opportunities we can offer to the public and the community,” Snyder said. She foresees the possibility of June being an annual arts month at the park.

Williams added, “We’re always excited by the prospect of new work. There’s something magical about telling a story on the grounds where it actually takes place, and I am certain that, with all of the rich history of our area, there will be more of these type of stories coming out of Wolfbane.” nBy Mark Thomas

Historical Venues
  • American Civil War Museum, Old Courthouse Road (SR 24) (see ad on page 5)
  • Appomattox County Historical Society’s Old Jail  Museum & Library, Courthouse Square, Court Street
    (see ad on page 18)
  • Appomattox Court House National Historical Park, Old Courthouse Rd. (SR 24)
  • Appomattox Station Battlefield, Route 101
  • Carver Price Legacy Museum, 102 Carver Ln.
  • Clover Hill Village, 5747 River Ridge Rd. (see ad on page 18)
  • High Bridge Trail State Park, Farmville (see ad on back cover)
  • Pamplin Pipe Factory. 2 E. Pamplin Rd., Pamplin
  • Red Hill Patrick Henry National Memorial, Brookneal
  • Steins Unlimited, 7b. Hwy. 600, Pamplin
  • Appomattox Visitors Center, Main Street

Entertainment, Arts and Culture

Entertainment, Arts & Culture

  • Bingo – Tuesday/Friday Nights, SpoutSpring Ruritan Club (see ad on page 18)
  • Fine Art – Myrick Frames & Fine Arts, Hwy 460
  • Karaoke – Bull Daddy’s (Wednesday), Granny Bee’s (Tuesday) (see ad on page 13), Moose Lodge (see ad on page 19), Rail Yard (Thursday/Saturday – see ad on page 12)
  • Live Music – Baines Books and Coffee, Bull Daddy’s, Moose Lodge (see ad on page 19), Rail Yard (see ad on page 12), Under the Oaks at the Evergreen Lavender Farm (see ad on page 17)
  • Theater – Appomattox Courthouse Theater, Courthouse Square, Court Street
  • Theater – Wolfbane Productions, warm weather months, (see ad on page 23)
  • World Tavern Poker – Rail Yard (Sunday – see ad on page 12)

Parks and Recreation

Parks & Recreation

  • Abbitt Park – stage, pavilion, picnic area
  • Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest – hiking, fishing, hunting
  • Appomattox Community Park – Frisbee disc golf course, soccer/ball fields, pavilion
  • Appomattox Town Park – Kiddie park
  • Courtland Festival Park – amphitheater, pavilions, picnic area
  • Falling River Country Club – golf, swimming, clubhouse (see ad on page 13)
  • High Bridge State Park – hiking, picnicking (see ad on back cover)
  • Holliday Lake State Park – camping, fishing, boating, picnicking, swimming, (see ad on back cover)
  • James River State Park – camping, canoeing, hiking (see ad on back cover)
  • Paradise Lake Family Campground – camping, swimming, hiking, picnicking
  • Parkview RV Park – mobile home and RV park
  • Appomattox Heritage Recreation Trail

Appomattox Events and Things to Do

Appomattox Events and Things to Do

There is always something of interest happening in and around Appomattox. Visit online calendars at historicappomattox.com and www.experienceappomattox.com for more information.

Annual events
  • Civil War Surrender Anniversary – Early April at the ACHNHP Ranger-led programs, Reenactments:
    Stacking of Arms, “The Hannah Reynolds Story,” Annual Luminary
  • Appomattox Oyster & Seafood Festival, Second Saturday in April, Clover Hill Village (see ad on page 18)
  • Appomattox Vintage & Artisans Market – Spring,Courtland Festival Park
  • Spring Golf Tournament, R E Lee Invitational, May at Falling River CC (see ad on page 13)
  • Naturalization Ceremony – May, Patrick Henry’s Red Hill
  • Appomattox Arts & Heritage Month – June (see ad on page 18)
  • Evergreen Lavender & Music Festival – Mid-June, Evergreen (see ad on page 17)
  • Independence Day – July 4, Patrick Henry’s Red Hill
  • Civil War Base Ball – July, hosted by the 1865 Foundation at the ACHNHP
  • Biker Night – August, music and beverages at Abbitt Park
  • Clover Hill Village Wine Festival – Third Saturday in August (see ad on page 18)
  • Joel Sweeney Banjo Festival – Early September, hosted by the 1865 Foundation at the ACHNHP
  • Appomattox Vintage & Artisans Market – Courtland Festival Park, late fall
  • Railroad Festival – Second full weekend in October, downtown area
  • James River State Park Fall Festival – Third Saturday in October (see ad on back cover)
  • Bluegrass Barbecue & Brew Festival – First Saturday in November, Patrick Henry’s Red Hill
  • Christmas Open House – First Sunday in December, Patrick Henry’s Red Hill
  • Experience the Holidays – Early December, downtown area
periodic and miscellaneous events
  • Barrel Racing – Clayton Bryant Arena, Oakville Road (SR 26)
  • Bingo – Tuesday/Friday Nights, Spout Spring Ruritan Club, (see ad on page 18)
  • Joel Sweeney Concert Series – Monthly, May- August, hosted by the 1865 Foundation at the ACHNHP
  • Lantern Tours – Hosted by the 1865 Foundation at the ACHNHP Summer Camps (1865 Foundation & American Civil War Museum)
  • Theater – Appomattox Courthouse Theater, Courthouse Square, Court Street
  • Theater – Wolfbane Productions, warm weather months, (see ad on page 23)
  • Under the Oaks – Evergreen Lavender Farm (see ad on page 17)

Where to Shop, Dine and Stay

  • Babcock House, fine dining, full bar, 250 Oakleigh Ave. (see ad on page 12)
  • Baines Books and Coffee, casual dining, varied menu, 205 Main St.
  • Bull Daddy’s, American cuisine, full bar, 7643 Richmond Hwy.
  • Domino’s Pizza, dine in and take-out, 1965 Confederate Blvd.
  • El Cazador, Mexican cuisine, full bar, 7799 Richmond Hwy.
  • The Fishin’ Pig, BBQ, catfish, etc., full bar, 5169 Farmville Rd., Farmville, VA
  • Golden China, Chinese buffet and ala carte, beer/wine, 7811 Richmond, Hwy.
  • Granny Bee’s, homestyle cooking, 179 Main St.
  • Krikelkay Brewing Company LLC. micro-brewery, 201 Old Courthouse Rd.
  • Mama Terezinha’s, NY style pizza, 1952 Court St.
  • Pino’s, Italian cuisine, full bar, 7809 Richmond Hwy.
  • Pizza Hut, dine in and take-out, beer/wine, 150 Oakville Rd.
  • Rail Yard, BBQ, homestyle cooking, full bar, 1957 Church St., (see ad on page 12)
  • Spring House, family style dining, full bar, 9789 Richmond Hwy., Lynchburg
  • Fast Food/Carry out – Dairy Queen, Hardees, McDonalds, Subway, Taco Bell, Wendy’s, Classic Sub Shop, Falling River CC, Family Fare, Kroger, Natours, Quik-E, Walmart
  • Appomattox Inn & Suites, 447 Old Courthouse Rd. (see ad on page 3)
  • Babcock House B&B, 250 Oakleigh Ave. (see ad on page 12)
  • Budget Inn, 1924 Confederate Blvd.
  • Holliday Lake State Park, camping, fishing, boating, picnicking, swimming, (see State Park’s ad)
  • James River State Park – camping, canoeing, hiking (see ad on back cover)
  • Longacre B&B, 1670 Church St.
  • Parkview RV Park, 174 Clover Ln.
  • Super 8 Motel, 7871 Richmond Hwy.
Retreat & Conference Centers
  • Appomattox Inn & Suites, 447 Old Courthouse Rd. (see ad on page 3)
  • Holiday Lake 4-H Center. Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest
  • Rock Cliff Farm Retreat and Lodge, 816 Walker’s Ford Rd., Concord

Convenient Day Trips

Appomattox Convenient Day Trips

Blackwater Creek Trail, Lynchburg
Blue Ridge Parkway
National D-Day Memorial, Bedford
Monticello, Charlottesville
Poplar Forest, Lynchburg
Natural Bridge
Sandusky, Lynchburg
Sailor’s Creek Battlefield
Red Hill, Brookneal
Peaks of Otter, Bedford