Friday, August 16, 2019

The Segregation Ordinance; Part I: Cleaning Up

The Segregation Ordinance
Part I
Cleaning Up

The town of Ashland, Virginia was a thriving community in 1911.  Randolph-Macon
College had established itself on the grounds of the old Slash resort over forty year earlier
and the school continued to grow.  The college was a main employer for the town, and a
center of activity: many local homes served as boarding houses for students and staff,
and businesses on both sides of the tracks served the students. Despite being a Methodist
institution, the college hosted many dances in the Henry Clay Inn, and welcomed young
women from the town to attend.  There had been a great fire twenty years earlier that had
destroyed many shops along the tracks, but those had been rebuilt and more businesses
had moved to town.
The Richmond, Fredericksburg, and Potomac railroad had added a second rail at the
turn of the century, and there was a continual stream of train traffic through the town.  
News traveled quickly by rail, along with the mail cars, and speed with which newspapers
could be printed and distributed accelerated the delivery of information. Ashland had a  
town newspaper, the Hanover Herald, but news from Ashland could also be found in larger
newspapers like the Richmond Dispatch and the Alexandria Gazette (two cities connected to
Ashland by rail).
In 1911, town leaders were mostly concerned with sanitation and controlling the spread
of disease.  The town of Ashland had tried to form a company to install underground pipes
to bring water and septic service to the town, but the company had suffered from poor
management and had declared bankruptcy.  Most town council meetings were spent trying
to find ways to revive the Ashland Water Company, and passing ordinances designed to
keep away diseases, such as typhoid fever, diphtheria, and tuberculosis.  Ever worried about
cleanliness, the town mandated that every house had to be inspected once a month by the
town health inspector, and that stables had to be cleaned out twice a month in the summer
and once a month in the winter.  
In early September of 1911, Mrs. Miriam Pierce returned to her father’s home across the
street from Randolph-Macon College (pictured above).  Her father, the Reverend J. B. Laurens
(affectionately known as “Uncle Larry”) had been an esteemed Methodist minister and
a professor at the college.  He was the founder of the Rosebud Missionary Society and a
popular writer of Methodist doctrine.  He died in 1894, and in 1903, the Rosebud Society
honored him with a large granite monument in the Ashland’s Woodland Cemetery.

On September 12th, 1911, the Tuesday evening edition of the Alexandria (VA) Gazette
newspaper carried a front page story with the headline, “Will Not Build a Negro College.”
 The two short paragraphs read:
Ashland, Va., Sept 12 - Fired by reports that Booker T. Washington,
the negro educator, was about to acquire land here on which to build
a negro college like Tuskegee Institute, the [Town] Council, in a hastily
called meeting today, passed an ordinance of segregation which will
effectually prevent the consummation of the plan.

Mrs. Dabney J. Pierce, daughter of the Rev. J. B. Laurens, announced
that she would sell the Laurens homestead, adjoining Randolph-Macon
College to Washington.  When the matter became known and Mrs. Pierce
admitted that Washington intended to build a negro educational institution
on the property, the city stood agast. The ordinance is sweeping in its
prohibitory terms.  
More details were revealed on an inside page of that same paper:
Residents of Ashland are up in arms over a report that the Laurens
homestead, one of the finest in Ashland, is to be converted into a branch
of the Tuskegee Institute for Negroes.  At the City Council’s session last
night, a segregative ordinance was framed. Mrs. Pierce a descendant of
the Laurens, who practically has abandoned the old homestead, returned
a few days ago and began cleaning up the place.  When asked what she
was going to do, the answer came promptly that she was contemplating
selling it to Booker T. Washington, who would establish a preparatory
branch of the negro college there. Meanwhile, Ashland, not knowing
where the report is true or not, continues to boil and rail.”

The Richmond Times-Dispatch also published a story about the Tuskegee rumor on that
same day, titled, “College Scheme Will Be Blocked.”
Segregation Ordinance Introduced in Ashland- Will Be Adopted Today
(Special to the Times-Dispatch)
Ashland, Va., September 11th- At a meeting of the City Council of
Ashland held to-night, a segregation ordinance was introduced that
will be formally adopted at a special meeting to be held tomorrow
The ordinance, with modifications to meet local conditions, is based
on the Richmond ordinance, and in general terms it follows along the
lines of that measure.  
It is believed that the prime cause for the introduction of the ordinance
at this time, is the report recently in circulation that the Laurens
homestead, a desirable location in the center of town, and near the
campus of Randolph-Macon College, was to be purchased and converted
into a branch of the Tuskegee Institute for Negroes.  On the Laurens
grounds at present is a small-two story frame building and the entire
property is valued at about $1,000. It is not considered at all probable
that any attempt is to be made to establish any such institution here,
but the Council decided to take prompt action in case there was anything
to the rumor, and the ordinance will successfully block the scheme.”

If Miriam Pierce was the frustrated owner of a dilapidated property that she wished to sell,
the fear tactics that she used were familiar to Southerners and resonated loudly within
the small town.  The story of the school rumor was also carried in black newspapers,
such as The Appeal, a Midwestern African- American publication with offices in
Chicago and Minneapolis. New Yorkers would have also read about it in the Sun
newspaper on September 12th, which quoted a town resident saying, “We will never
allow a negro boarding school to be established in this town…”

The news of the rumor and the hastily passed segregation ordinance was traveled far enough to
reach Booker T. Washington, who wrote a letter to the editor of the Richmond Times-Dispatch
that was published seven days after the news broke.

From Booker Washington
To the Editor of the Times-Dispatch
Sir- My attention has been called to what seems to be considerate excitement
around in Ashland, Va., because of the fact that it is reported that I am planning
to place a colored school within the corporate limits of the Ashland Community.
I also see by a newspaper clipping that the City Council has met and passed
resolutions with the object of preventing such a school from being built within
the corporate limits.
Taking for granted that the newspaper reports are true, it is past my understanding
how people can become excited over the reports without stopping to take the
time to inquire as to whether or not such reports are based upon any facts. Many
of the lynchings in the United States occur because a rumor begins to fly through
the community, and it is passed from one lip to the other without anyone taking
the time to find out upon what facts the rumor is based.
In regard to the reports that I am to establish a negro school in Ashland,
I would state that I have never discussed such a matter with any human being,
black or white. I have never heard of any propositions to establish a school in
Ashland until I received a telegram from Major Moton of Hampton Institute
asking if there was any truth to the rumor.  I will state further, that all of my
time and strength is occupied in carrying on the work of the Tuskegee Institute,
and I have neither time, strength, nor money to use in becoming responsible for
another institution.
Booker T. Washington
Tuskegee, September 15

Regardless of Miriam Pierce’s motives for spreading the rumor, the town leaders in Ashland
acted swiftly and did not wait to hear from Mr. Washington.  1911 was a popular year for
residential zoning laws that restricted where people could live based on the color of their skin.
Baltimore had become the first city in the US to pass such a law in December of 1910 and
Richmond had followed close behind in April of 1911.  
The Ashland Town Council elections in June of 1910 found nine white men serving in
leadership roles for the community: H.A. Ellett, Town Sergeant, C.W. Crew, Mayor;
Callom B. Jones, III, Mayor Pro Tempore, D.B. Cox, W.S. Brown, S.J. Doswell,
G.F. Delarue, W.L. Foy, and E.W. Newman. Ashland would elect their first woman
member of Town Council in 1946, and the first black person in 1977.
The Ashland segregation ordinance was very similar to the ordinance that had been
passed in Richmond a few months earlier.  It prohibited whites and blacks from living
on a block where they would have been in the minority. If a block had mostly white people
living on it, then a black person could not reside there.  Those who passed the ordinance could
claim that they were being fair because the prohibited housing law applied equally to both
blacks and whites. It did make exceptions for people living in homes as servants, and it did
not prevent people from purchasing a property- they just couldn’t live in the house that they
Unfortunately, the climate in Ashland that feared a black college had been established years
earlier following the destruction caused by the Civil War. Because of its location just north of
Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, and along the main supply lines of the railroad,
Ashland played a vital role during the war.  The small town was used as a staging ground for
troops, a depot for supplies, and as a refugee settlement for people fleeing the fighting in
Richmond, and north in Fredericksburg. Many homes along the railroad tracks were used as
makeshift hospitals, and there were over 400 unnamed Confederate soldiers buried in the
town cemetery.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Coming Soon!

Coming Soon!  An investigative journey by Meriwether Gilmore into the history of segregation in Ashland and the story of John Coleman, the black man who fought against it.  Watch for this story to be published in four segments in the Ashland Hawk Newspaper: in stores and online. 

Friday, September 28, 2018

9/27/2018 Classic COTU Weekend: Parties, Music, Food, & Old Friends

It seems too good to be true.

The weather report for this Saturday doesn't seem normal considering all the clouds and rain that we have had for 2018, BUT the forecast calls for sunshine, clear skies, and a high of 76.  It will be a beautiful day for all things Ashland, which means being out and socializing.

A big happy birthday to the place that has raised so many Ashland kids!  Kiddie Kingdom will be throwing a big birthday party this Saturday, Sept. 29th, from 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM.  There will be carnival games, music, food, and lots of fun seeing familiar faces.  Bring your kids by to visit the classrooms and teachers that they loved!

It should be a wonderful afternoon on the front lawn of the Arts and Activities Center!  This Craft Beer Festival has become so popular in the past few years, and it is easy to see why!  Live music will be provided from the Mike Lucci Band, the HD Band, and The Bush League.  Visitors will have many breweries to choose from, including Ardent Ales, Hardywood, COTU, Bold Rock Hard Cider, and Devil's Backbone.  Yours truly will be pouring at the Legends tent from 3:00 to 5:00, so please stop by and say hi!  Tickets are $15 at the door and include a commemorative pint glass.

The Ashland Farmer's Market is a lovely place to visit as fall fruits and vegetables arrive.  Make it a part of your weekend routine!

The Hanover County School Board announced that it will combine Henry Clay and John M. Gandy Elementary Schools into one sometimes within the next 3 to 4 years.  We hope that they can find a way to keep these school children at a school that is connected to the town by sidewalks.  We always enjoyed walking to school when scheduled allowed it.  Those minutes were filled with good conversation and frequent stops along the way when the honeysuckle was in bloom. 

Keep the Ashland elementary school within the town limits; it's why people move here. 

 Enjoy this beautiful weekend, Ashlanders!  Stay up late with the windows open; you live in a beautiful place.

Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5320,

Friday, September 14, 2018

9/14/2018 The Storm that Wasn't, Craft Beer on the Lawn, Small Town Friday Nights

Murphy's Law # 327:  
The amount of effort one puts into hurricane preparations is inversely 
reflected in the strength of said storm on the prepare-er.  

This past Tuesday, we tied the trampoline to a tree, ya'll.

In light of the non-weather event this weekend that cancelled all of our plans, I propose multiple post-hurricane parties where we use up all of these supplies we purchased.  

Have you gotten your tickets to the Off the Rails Craft Beer Festival on the 29th?  This is such a fun event for the Arts and Activities Center, and a perfect evening in our wonderful little town.  Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the Caboose, at the gate, or online here.  The Randolph-Macon football team will be playing away at Washington & Lee that Saturday, so there should be no conflict of interest this year!

Your Ashland Coffee and Tea has just undergone some intense renovations, so plan an evening to come listen to some music and see the changes!  On October 5th, Carl Waterford & Three Bars Down will lend their Chicago blues to ACT's Blues and Burgers night.  Visit the website for more information!

This coming Friday, September 21st, your Patrick Henry football team will take on Henrico High School at home, under the lights, at 7:00 PM.  Come cheer on the patriots and partake in a great, small-town evening.  

Nest Saturday, the 22nd, is National Free Museum Day and you can download two free tickets to lots of museums in our area.  I bet there is at least one participating museum that you haven't been to yet; Scotchtown is on the list!  Visit to get your free ticket.

Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5320,  There is so much happening in this Center of the Universe...why would you ever want to leave?

Thursday, August 23, 2018

8/23/2018 Late Summer Storms, Yellow Jackets return, Open-Air Film Festival

Like a hurricane always makes that turn to the north along the east coast, so does summer always turn towards fall. I have hurricanes on my mind because it is that time of year.  I was working in my yard last Friday around 6:00 PM, and I noticed how quiet it was- the cicadas had stopped their constant singing and the air was still.  "Oh," I immediately thought, "its hurricane weather." 

Our Atlantic has let the Pacific take center stage this week as Hurricane Lane moves towards Hawaii, and let that remind us to check our supply of batteries and candles.

The Patrick Henry Half this weekend, so be prepared for some detours if you are headed west out of town on Saturday morning. Come out and cheer if you live along the route!

It's always nice to see the students coming back to town- they add a youthful spirit to our town that we all enjoy.  The first home football game for the Randolph-Macon Yellow Jackets will be Saturday, September 8th at 6:00 PM against Averett College. 

Who doesn't love watching movies under the stars?  Whether by the pool or by the Library, Ashland has a long history of showing film outdoors.  The opportunity arises once again with the Randolph-Macon Open-Air Film Festival this September.  The first film will be "Alone in Berlin," staring Emma Thompson and Brenden Gleeson (in English with German accents) on Friday, September 7th. The film begins at 7:30, but there will be a light reception before at 7:00 PM.  Bring your lawn chair or blanket and enjoy this event which is free and open to the public!

You can learn more about the RMC Open-Air Film Festival by visiting their events calendar here.

Fall is a lovely time in the Center of the Universe, and we have so much to look forward to: cooler evenings on the porch, the return of sweaters, and Halloween planning.  Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5320,  Have a lovely weekend!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

8/16/2018 Summer Stretched Thin, Patrick Henry Half, September Schedule

It's mid-August.  College kids are packing to leave, and grade-schoolers are eyeing school supplies.  Carter Park pool is quiet most afternoons, and most of us are focused on September instead of August.  These last weeks can be a blur; what did we not accomplish this summer?

It reminds me of how fast the days in Ashland have flown by.  Our summers used to be filled with the activities of kids, pool trips, camps, sleep-overs with friends.  I can see this era ending as we now have two college kids in our house and a middle-schooler left at home.  They don't need me to manage their days any more, which was a goal that I dreamed about ten years ago.  Like many things that we think we need, the actual thing that we are longing for fails to live up to our expectations.  

The Ashland Farmer’s Market is larger than ever, and there are more customers that ever- so get there early this Saturday to stock up on wonderful late-summer vegetables, flowers for your kitchen table, home-baked breads, free-range eggs, and anything else to make your kitchen resemble a Southern Living photo-shoot.  

The Patrick Henry Half Marathon is about to run it’s twelfth year through the streets of Ashland on Saturday, August 25th at 7:00 AM.  Come rain or come shine (or hurricane) the runners will loop from Randolph-Macon, up and down Blunt’s Bridge Road, and through the town to reach 13.2 miles.  Come out to cheer them on!  You can learn more at the Richmond Road Runners website:

Congratulations to the new Wawa for putting up framing that shows us that they actually do plan on constructing an actual building!  

In an effort to help with your planning, here are a few upcoming events that you can add to your calendar:

August 18th  Ashland Library End of Summer Celebration
September 3rd  Last Whistle of Ashland Pool
September 4th  First Day of School
September 15th  Last Street Party of the Summer
September 20th  Car Maintenance for Teens @ Ashland Library
September 22nd  Free Museum Day
September 29th  Kiddie Kingdom 50th Anniversary Celebration
                    Also  Off the Rails Craft Beer Festival

There are a few weeks of summer left, kids.  Do you know that most schools around the country have already opened?  If I was you, I’d spend every last day at the Ashland pool.  Stay up late, sleep in, and eat popsicles for breakfast.  That’s what I’d do if I didn’t have to be an adult.  

Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5320,  Have a lazy, lazy week.  

Thursday, August 2, 2018

8/02/2018 Empty Lots, Swimmers End Season, Main Street Welcome New Director, 32 Days Left

We are very tempted to hang out own signs on the chain-link fence that surrounds the empty lot on the corner of Rt. 1 and England Street.  "Coming soon- more PVP pipes sticking out of the ground!"  "Coming soon- better pop-up tents!"  "Watch up dig up dirt so we can smooth it out again!" 

Although the Ashland Barracudas took a small group to the Championship meet, they succeeded in cleaning up quite well!  Grace Gordon took home two gold medals in the 50 meter free-style and the 50 meter butterfly.  Andrew Datovech was awarded one of the GRAL scholarships, and the team took home first place for their video.  Christine Datovech won first place in the Virginia State Championship for the 50 free-style. 

If you have school-aged kids, the Ashland Barracudas is a wonderful summer activity.  It's great cross-training for other sports, and it gives them a very important life-skill.  Visit the or find them on Facebook for more info.

The next Ashland Street Party is Saturday, August 18th.  Bring your lawn chairs and your dancing shoes, and meet up behind the library from 6:30 to 11:00 PM.  Buy your tickets ahead of time and save $10.  You can purchase tickets online here.

The Ashland Main Street Association recently held a mixer to introduce their new director, Maggie Longest, and several new board members, including Lorie Foley, Bob Brown,Bill Gateway, Kelly Thomasson, and Paul Davies from RMC.  This organization has been intregal in promoting Ashland and working to preserve and protect our wonderful downtown area. 

Are you recieveing the "Get Centered" newsletter?  Visit here to sign up for your copy!

OK, Ashland, there are 32 days left before those big yellow school buses start rolling.  Ignore all those back-to-school sales and spend some time being lazy!

Call or email me with your Ashland news: 310-5320,  Have a wonderful weekend!

The Segregation Ordinance; Part I: Cleaning Up

The Segregation Ordinance Part I Cleaning Up The town of Ashland, Virginia was a thriving community in 1911.  Randolph-Macon...