FOLKLORE OF MY MATERNAL
by Linda Heath Edwards
Originally known as
Purvis, VA this small town once sat in the County of Nansemond. it is now
part of the large city of Suffolk, VA.
In it's earliest days farming
was it's major work force and economy. The town had a church, a two room
school house (heated by a coal stove), a blacksmith's shop, and three
general stores. These stores later began selling gasoline with the growth
of the automobile. The school closed in 1935.
Why a web page about
Buckhorn, VA? I barely know it's origins or history. It was once a main
stop for The Norfolk and Western Railway. There was once a small depot
with the letters PURVIS, VA printed on the side.
My main interest in this little town stems from my heritage. Many of my Mother's
people once lived and farmed there. Many are buried there in The Copeland Family
Cemetery. Such as William T. Copeland. He was my great uncle. Brother to my
great grandmother, Martha Jane Copeland Harrell. William fought in the War
Between the States 1861-1865. He was in the 59th Reg. Virginia Volunteers,
Company C, Private. He was discharged at Camp Lee. His first wife was Ann Marie
Holland. His second wife was Martha Turner. He was the son of James and Nancy
Butler Copeland and he is buried at the Copeland Family Cemetery...
Harry Miller Winborne's
The store sat in the
crossroads of the town. Buckhorn also once boasted a Saloon. Which is probably
when the trouble began. I say this "tongue in cheek" because of the stories told
to me through older family members. I understand "drinkin' and fightin'" were
the main entertainment at one time. This in turn gave Buckhorn a bad reputation.
The town consisted of folks who were steadfast in their God Fearing beliefs and
those who made trouble. The ironic part is many were related in some form or
another. By the 1950's, many kin did not claim kin. The town began to dry up and
many had moved away. And, Buckhorn's hold on a family community had lessened
it's grip. Outsiders began to move in.
Look to your left of the
photo and you'll see what once was a thriving little store owned and operated by
Lonnie McClenny, who's father was Mills Henry McClenny, half brother to my
grandfather, Hugh Sephas McClenny.
As with all small towns, Buckhorn had
it's tall tales and legends. Some say the "spirits" were of the liquid kind,
however. For example: late in the night screams could be heard in the nearby
wooded areas. Some say it was the cries of the fallen Confederate Soldiers of the
area. The Battle of Deserted House. A major Civil War Battle followed from the
Buckhorn area on to Myrtle, VA. They say..."you could not walk without stepping
on man or horse".
Then there are those who claim it's "The Buckhorn Monster"
who makes the cries!
Another story, as told to me by my Mother, Nannie
Virginia McClenny Heath, was one from her father, Hugh Sephas McClenny. It seems
that walking home from work one night from a local sawmill, Hugh encountered a
haunting experience. Tired and worn, he heard a horse and wagon coming down the
road (which is now known as Buckhorn Drive) Hugh stopped, hoping to get a ride.
But the horse and wagon took flight and flew over him and then disappeared.
Another tale of two men walking along this same road goes like this. Both
had shotguns and thought they heard a pack of wild dogs. They began shooting
into the woods and believing they had hit one or two of these dogs, came back
the next day to search for dead or wounded animals or traces of blood. All they
found was buckshot in the trees. No sign that there had been any dogs. Then
there are other stories of wagons dropping bolts of goods (material for sewing)
in the road. No one ever could find the bolts.
Model T's, Bootleg, and Good Ol' Country
Maybe the "hub" of Buckhorn did not
center around all the wagon wheels or Model T tires. And yes, there was a bit of
"lickerin' up" at times. But, the real heart of Buckhorn was it's fellowship and
kinship of music. Once called Barn Dances, the gatherings brought the people
together to blend with harmony in songs. The banjos, guitars, fiddles,
etc...played and the square dances called. Even my great grandfather, Mike
Harrell (husband to Martha Jane Copeland Harrell) was a fiddler and grandpa Hugh
plunked on the banjo a little. Music has always been a deep rooted trait in my
So, if you find you have the surnames Copeland, Harrell,
Holland, or McClenny in your linage, you can fairly bet one of your ancestors
either lived in or near Buckhorn, VA.
I am proud of my Buckhorn Heritage and
proud that the musical trait was passed down to me. Which is the reason for this
Got any stories to share?
I would love to hear from others...kin or not...who know any
more history or stories about Buckhorn, VA.
Please email me at:
Thanks and credit go to Carol Cooke (grand daughter of Lonnie McClenny)
for some of her info and photos.