Long before “Tweets”, “Twitter” or e-mail when you were in a hurry to send a message you sent a telegram. The arrival of one meant important, often bad, news. The first telegraphs in the Franklin Co. area belonged to the Franklin & Pittsylvania Railroad. They were installed about 1883 in the headquarters and depots along the line. For a time it was the only communication with the train once it left Rocky Mount. It also connected the citizens of the county with the outside world.
Recently Brenda Overholt of Rocky Mount was looking through some old family photos and memorabilia when she ran across what appeared to be a telegram from 1921 about a family member killed in WW1 whose body was being shipped home.
The telegraph message had been received at the Franklin & Pittsylvania RR office and forwarded to the family in Glade Hill. It seems the body of Harvey L. Holland had been sent home from France to a staging area in New Jersey and was being sent home for burial by way of the F&P Railroad.
Brenda had never heard of a railroad in Glade Hill but got the F&P name from the telegram letter head and did a search that led her to the F&P web page. After reading about the railroads history on line she realized that the cuts, fills and grades behind her grandparents’ house had been where the F&P ran between 1880 and 1932.
On Sunday, 11 January, Brenda and several members of her family gave us a tour of some remaining signs of where the railroad ran between Glade Hill and Redwood. The track bed curved in a serpentine path as it went through the rolling hills and crossed Rt. 40 near the Hodges garage. One family member said that was the place known as Lloyds which was a flag stop for the train although no depot was there.
Brenda, her husband and other family were excited to learn of the long extinct railroad and its connection to her family years ago. The day turned into a real family outing for everyone who were proud to be a part of Franklin Counties’ history.
It seems ironic that a document that brought much sadness to their family years ago finally gave some closure to the entire family. When the telegraph operator sent that message back in 1921 we’re sure he never imagined it would be found by relatives almost 100 years later who would be glad to learn about a long deceased family member.
The people and places that day were recorded by Lou Revelle who photographed the event and got GPS locations for use in mapping the route of the F&P on the web page and preservation of the Right of Way.