River Road Driving Tour

Brooklyn Community

The origin of the name Brooklyn for this area has been lost. According to Mr. John Stillman the Brooklyn community began at Melrose Academy and went to Cedar View.

In 1834 Brooklyn had 12 houses, a population of sixty with one mercantile store and post office, a drug store, one tanyard, one boot and shoe factory, one coach and wagon maker, one tailor, two blacksmiths shops, one carpenter, one doctor and a population of sixty.

Today can still be seen Melrose Academy (Elmo Store), Tacrea, Arbor Baptist Church, Carter's Tavern, the Hodnett Home, Brooklyn Tobacco Factory, Deerfield, Brooklyn Mansion, the Brooklyn Store and Post Office, the Barnes Home and Oak Circle.

Thanks to John Stillman, owner of Oak Circle, part of the Brooklyn area of Dan River will keep the Brooklyn address.

Melrose Acadamy
(now Elmo Store)
6247 Birch-Elmo Road

Melrose Acadamy - Elmo Store Built before 1800 as a private boarding school for boys, the structure containing the store is the only remaining building of the school.

The academy was open for 75 years and attracted young men from as far away as Mississippi. The school closed during the Civil War and never reopened.

Sometime after the war the main building was occupied by the Brooklyn Lodge of Freemasons.

In 1883 the same building was purchased by Captain William Haymes who turned it into a store. A post office was active in the store from 1883 to 1910. It is said that Captain Haymes could not use the name of Melrose since there was already a post office in Virginia by that name. He made the name of Elmo out of some of the letters in Melrose and was successful in establishing a post office in that name.

The store is now closed, and was owned by Sam and Cheryl Morris. It was the hub of this small community. On most nights you could find local men there around the stove in winter and on the porch in summer discussing farming, weather, politics, and the like.

The house called Melrose stood just a short distance north, on a side road, of Melrose Academy. One John Garland Mills built the original four-room part of this house after purchasing the land in 1847, excepting a half-acre tract containing the Mercy Seat Presbyterian Church lot.

In 1877, the estate was sold by the Mills heirs to James M. Neal. In 1905, the house was bought by William A. Osborne and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Scales of Reidsville, N.C. Shortly thereafter its size was enlarged from a 4 room structure to a 20 room mansion. It was destroyed by fire in 1956.

The following article was written by Kenneth Cook,
writing for The Record-Advertiser - South Boston News, September 20-25, 1973

The village of Elmo may not look like much today, but in antebellum times it marked the easternmost edge of what was then the thriving community of Brooklyn. The heart of the community was a couple of miles away, to the west. At Elmo there were located three important structures-Melrose Academy, Melrose mansion and the Mercy Seat Presbyterian Church.

Melrose Academy, a private boarding school for boys, was one of the oldest schools in the county. Its history is so clouded by time that no one now living knows who started it, or when. Tradition holds that it opened as early as 1790. Francis Littleberry Royall, son of William B. Royall of Royall Hill, near Paces, was a student here in 1820, this being the earliest known date that can be proven.

The Academy was made up of several buildings, but all save one - the present Elmo store - are gone. As a school it must have enjoyed a wide and favorable reputation. Not only did local boys attend-some are said to have walked 20 miles- many came from as far away as Mississippi. It is thought that the Rev. John G. Mills, who lived at nearby Melrose, may have at one time been headmaster, though it cannot be said for certain. In the early sessional records of the Mercy Seat Church, which was located little more than a hundred yards away, there are several entries stating that the Session met at the Academy.

This, then, is all that can now be said regarding Melrose Academy. Closed during the period of the Civil War, it apparently never reopened. Sometime after the War the main building was occupied by the Brooklyn Lodge of Freemasons. Like the Academy, the history of the Lodge is dim. In the records of the Clerk's Office, there is only one reference to it.

On January 24, 1883, J.D. Hawkins, District Deputy Grand Master of Masons for the 6th. District of Virginia, sold to William Haymes, for $50, "all I rights to the claim and demand in a certain piece of land on the Brooklyn Road, near the Presbyterian Church, containing three-fourths (3-4) of an acre, upon which is a house formerly owned and used by the Brooklyn Lodge of Freemasons, now extinct, as their hall and lodge room..."

Under Capt. Haymes, the old Academy building was put to its third and present use, that of a store. Capt. Haymes knew that a post office usually was the hub of activity in any community. Folks would come to get their mail, catch up on local news and, if they were near a store, buy needed goods. This would be excellent for his new business, so he immediately applied to the post office department to have one established in his store.

Because of the history of the building, it is assumed, Capt. Haymes wanted to call his post office Melrose. There already was a Melrose in Virginia, so he had to select another name. The one he choose, Elmo, is said to be derived from Melrose; he was not to be completely out-done. Needless to say, there was not another Elmo in Virginia-or anywhere else-so that name was accepted. That post office was established effective September 10, 1883, and continued to operate until January 31, 1910. Capt. Haymes was the only postmaster.

It became a favorite pasttime of young ladies in the community to walk to the post office in the late afternoon to get their mail. If they just happened to meet up with any of the local boys on the way, it was of course purely accidental.

Capt. Haymes (he was captain in the Confederate army) died in 1912. In 1928 his heirs sold his lands, "868 acres on both sides of the River Road from South Boston to Danville ... owned by him at the time of his death," to W.W. Barksdale and J.R. Haymes for $15,000. Included was the old Mercy Seat Church building, purchased by Capt. Haymes in 1883.

W.W. Barksdale and J.H. Haymes lost the store and church in 1936. They mortgaged the two lots, containing an acre and a fourth (1 1/4), to Dr. C.D. Barksdale in 1929, and he sold them at public auction in 1936. Mrs. Nannie H. Barksdale purchased them for $900. She sold them to Early G. Tate in 1946, and he in turn sold them to Oscar B. Tate, the present owner, in 1951. In the Tate-to-Tate deed, the River Road was once again called the "Danville- Halifax Turnpike."

The old Academy building has been so drastically remodelled over the years that it is now impossible to say exactly how it originally appeared. During its 90 years of use as a store, there have been a number of merchants. After Capt. Haymes two of them were the Rev. W.T. Creath and Howard Putnam Anderson, father of State Senator Howard P. Anderson. Thomas Barksdale Johnson, one of the most notable tobacconists the county ever produced, began his career as a clerk in Elmo store.

Even without its historical associations, Elmo store would be a fascinating experience. It is a typical country store, the kind seen today mostly in movies and on t.v. The interior is lit by large windows across the front and by flourescent lights which somehow don't seen too out of place. Heat comes from a large stove. Most nights you will find the men of the conimunity there-around the stove in winter, on the porch in summer-discussing farming, the weather, politics and the like. Politics are particularly popular, since the genial proprietor, John Tate, is vicechairman of the Board of Supervisors. It is one of the few country stores left where an ice cream cone is still prepared on the spot.

The mansion called Melrose, best known as the home of the Stebbins family, stood a short distance behind the Academy. The original, four-room section, which was the front part of the mansion as it was last known, was built by John Garland Mills after he purchased the land in July of 1847 from George W. Purkins, trustee for William N. Cabaniss. In March before Mr. Cabaniss had given Mr. Purkins a deed of trust on the land, excepting the half-acre church lot belonging to Mercy Seat. Mr. Mills, referred to on his tombstone as "Elder," was minister at Arbor Baptist Church from 1824 to 1850. He was described as "an outstanding, all-round citizen..:a capable and popular leader in church and civic affairs." He is thought to have been headmaster of the Melrose Academy as well. Mr. Mills died in 1859 at age 55 and was buried in the cemetery at Melrose.

In 1872, by order of the court, commissioners assigned to Mrs. Martha W. Mills, widow of John G. Mills, as dower in his lands, 107.6 acres, "after deducting one-fourth acre for the Presbyterian Church and one acre for the Masonic Hall." Nathaniel T. Green, commissioner for the heirs of John G. Mills, sold the estate to James M. Neal, trustee for Mrs. Jeanette P. Neal and her children, in 1877.

Melrose was purchased me 1905 by Willaim A. Osborne and Mr. and Mrs. Robert Scales of Reidsville, North Carolina, for $1000, the place having been put up at public auction. Soon after their purchase they enlarged the mansion from four to 20 rooms. In 1956 the mansion was destroyed by fire. All that remains is a smoke-house and the Mills-Neal family cemetery.

One-fourth mile west of Elmo on the right is site of the Creath House.

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