Picks, Tracks and Bateaux: Industry in Pittsylvania County 1750-1950
by Herman Melton

Herman Melton's <cite>Picks, Tracks and Bateaux: Industry in Pittsylvania County 1750-1950</cite>

1993, published by the author. Index. 178pp. 6.2 x 9.3 inches. Cloth.


Unavailable; out of print.

Notes from the Dust Jacket

The Book

Gone from the Pittsylvania County, Virginia landscape are the sights and sounds of overshot waterwheels splashing noisily along county waterways. Gone, too, are the mournful wails of steam locomotive whistles and the whine of “peckerwood” sawmills. Missing from view are the bateaux and ferries on the Dan and Staunton Rivers and the lines of magneto hand-crank rural telephone systems. There are no more tanneries or blacksmith shops and neighborhood country stores are an “endangered species.” These treasures of Americana flourished in an age when life was simpler. Sadly, most of them left the scene before 1950 — the end of the time frame circumscribed within this work.

Whereas in 1750 practically every head of household in the county was engaged in some form of agriculture, today only two percent are on the farm vocationally. This work attempts to trace the evolution of the county from its agrarian age when its only industry was prototype, to postwar 1950 when the work force became an industrial one. It attempts to present an overview of each early unit.

The author argues that the importance of early industry must not be discounted. Its elements became the infrastructure undergirding the Industrial Revolution when it arrived late in the antebellum period. This force included the sawmills, fords, ferries, roads, turnpikes, navigation companies, tanneries, mines and distilleries. The Industrial Revolution ushered in the railroads, cotton mills, tobacco factories and energy companies.

Finally, it is startling to observe some Pittsylvania County factories today producing items not even invented by 1950.

Lest these early establishments, so vital in their time, be forgotten, their histories are submitted here.

The Author

Herman Melton

This volume is Herman Melton's third on the subject of early industry in Pittsylvania County, Virginia. His second book, Pittsylvania's Nineteenth-Century Grist Mills, was released in 1991. Much of the research for these three works was accomplished during two Residencies at the Virginia Center for the Humanities and Public Policy at Charlottesville, Va., and a stint at the Center for the History of Business, Technology and Society at The Hagley in Delaware.

Melton is a retired engineer who holds a Bachelor's Degree from the U. S. Merchant Marine Academy and a Master's Degree from the University of Virginia. He has been an active member of the Pittsylvania County Historical Society for many years and resides with his wife, Helen, a freelance writer, in Chatham, Va.

This website and its HermanMelton.com portal are sponsored by Mitchells Publications.