By Bob Heafner © 2015
Online: November, 2015
As you read this be sure to follow the links to better understand how a 116 year old postcard weaves its way through the fabric of a mountain community.
The date was September 11, 1899 and Mayberry, Virginia was a prosperous little mountain community moving toward a new century with hope and optimism. The local center of commerce was Samuel Cephas "Ceph" Scott's store. The store was built only seven years before, in 1892, to replace the old store. The store was also the Mayberry, Virginia Post Office.
Ceph's brother Simon operated a tannery and brick yard just up the road from the store. Heffinger's Mill was the community grist mill. If things weren't booming in Mayberry, they were certainly going well.
1899 was decades before the chestnut blight wiped-out all the magnificent chestnut trees that played such a vital role in the local economy. Mountain farms with their fields of buckwheat and corn were scattered throughout the hills and hollows of Mayberry. Orchards were an important part of most family farms, just as rose bushes and other flowers decorated the yards of even the most humble cabins.
A new "nicely painted and finished up" school house had just been built for the Pinnacle View School. Elisha P. Barnard was looking for "a first class teacher" to serve at this new school.
Fast forward now to September 11, 2006 when I received an email from Ms. Jean Evansmore saying that she had purchased an old postcard at a Goodwill store years ago. The one cent postcard was from Elisha P. Barnard of Mayberry, Virginia to John Gates of Ararat, Virginia and postmarked at Mayberry on September 11, 1899.
Ms. Evansmore and I corresponded back and forth several times in 2006 and Ms. Evansmore told me, "This card will be yours someday."
Now fast forward to March 5, 2015 when another email arrived from Ms. Evansmore, who is President of the DuBois On Main Museum in Mount Hope, West Virginia, asking if I would be interested in having this card. I replied that, "We would treasure this postcard and will assure you that it will be preserved in our archive." The card arrived in our daily mail on March 11, 2015. There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to Ms. Jean Evansmore for preserving this wonderful piece of Mayberry history.
The 1¢ postcard is a treasured piece of Mayberry history, but it generates more questions than it answers. Who was John Gates? Did he take the job? If he didn't who did? Although I have written about the Gates family of Ararat, Virginia, I didn't know of a John during this time period.
Elisha P. Barnard's family is a well-respected Mayberry family and has been since the earliest days of the community. Jehu Barnard was the first Post Master of Mayberry Creek Post Office in 1872. Samuel C. "Ceph" Scott became Post Master in 1895 and the name was shortened to Mayberry Post Office. This postcard was almost certainly hand stamped by Ceph Scott.
John R. Barnard who was instrumental in the City of Danville building the two dams located in the Dan River Gorge. John R. Barnard was also an early supporter of the Appalachian Trail through this area. The original Trail went through his property and he was the person who built the beautiful rock arrowhead trail marker at a spring on his property. In the early days of the Appalachian Trail he helped keep the trail marked and maintained over the Pinnacles of Dan and across the rugged Dan River Gorge.Elisha P. Barnard's son was
There were two John Gates in Ararat at the time; John Wesley Gates and John Cable Gates. John Wesley Gates had taught school at the "Gates School" for a short time and at "Hunters Chapel School," both in the Ararat area. He was 23 years old in 1899. John Cable Gates had married and moved to Rocky Mount, Virginia around this time. He was 20 years old in 1899.
Despite numerous attempts, false leads and much help, I have been unable to determine if either of the John Gates' accepted the teaching position at Pinnacle View School. So that part of this story will remain a mystery; for now...
Thanks again to Ms. Jean Evansmore for preserving this part of Mayberry, Virginia history.