Letters to The Editor – September 19th, 2018

Published 4:14 pm Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Wombwell verdict is in

Editor, Smithfield Times
The verdict appears to be in on the future of the historic Wombwell House. Our new Town Manager has informed that the house will be demolished very shortly, so as to remove a potential hazard to visitors to the adjacent Luter Sports Complex. He has stated further that he enjoys the full support of Council in making this decision.
In fairness, the die was cast some time ago when efforts to relocate the Wombwell House proved unsuccessful. Our preservation group had requested a “stay” in late June, so that we could explore viable options and secure cost-estimates. Inspection of the house revealed that much remained structurally intact (despite the Fire Department’s recent training activities that knocked out windows and pierced holes in the roof).
Unfortunately, the location offered by a well-intended county resident did not work out. Potential discussions with the county to place the house in Riverview Park would require more time than was offered. Nor was there assurance that we could raise the funds required to relocate the house or even to preserve the wooden planks, mantels and brickwork that could aid future preservation efforts at Pierceville.
We are reminded that town residents opined overwhelmingly in 2009 that our historic structures and properties needed to be preserved — even if funding from the town is required. Let’s hope that the same emphasis remains as our Comprehensive Plan Update is accomplished next year, and that our current town leadership shows the resolve to do the right thing by those who elected and appointed them.
Mark Gay
Executive Director
Preserve Smithfield

Destroying town history

Editor, Smithfield Times
As a lifetime resident of Smithfield and charter member of Preserve Smithfield, I cannot believe how insensitive this town is at preserving its history. There are only two historic properties — the Wombwell House and the Pierceville property — left in the historic district that need preserving. Other than Windsor Castle, these are the most historically significant properties. How can a town that calls itself “historic” expect to have people come to visit only one historic property? The fact that the town cannot wait to destroy the Wombwell house, when Preserve Smithfield was told we would have at least through December to make decisions, certainly raises questions.
Why the hurry? Don’t say it is because the house is dangerous. That house was closed up tight until the fire department broke windows and put a hole in the roof. There was no way anyone was going to get into the house. It was at Bill Riddick’s insistence that we asked Russell Hill to get prices for moving the Wombwell house. From what I understand, we are still waiting for Russell to get back to us with a price.
The Wombwell house was the home of the first doctor in the area. It was built about 1840 and is the only Tidewater Cottage that I am aware of in the area. I have been inside the house, it is constructed very well. Until the fire department damaged it, the house did not have many problems.

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It is my belief that the town manager is not listing to what the people in the historic area want, but is listing to a few of the town council that for some reason do not want to preserve our history. Why are a few who do not listen to the people in office? When our history is gone, what is going to make people want to come to Smithfield? I talk to people in the shop all the time who are very interested in history. I tell them that this town wants to destroy our history. They do not understand why and, for that matter, neither do I.
Destruction of the Wombwell House is a wrong move and the town manager should not let it happen.
Betty Clark

Story corrected

Editor, Smithfield Times Excellent decision by the 1750 Courthouse Board to transfer the beautiful golden eagle figure from the “Olde Courthouse” to the Isle of Wight County Museum.
This local war trophy was rescued by Confederate Home Guard Sergeant Joseph Norsworthy from atop the pilot house of the disabled Yankee gunboat Smith Briggs on Feb. 1, 1864, moments before she was “blown all to pieces” according to witness Richard Sidney Thomas.
This wonderful eagle remains the single most dramatic reminder of the event that donor Herbert Southgate called “the most exiting and memorable in the whole of our town’s history”
Two small corrections please to your story last week:
1. The US Army Gunboat Smith Briggs, a recently built Hudson River towboat converted for military use, was not the boat that dropped off that infamous Northern landing party put ashore on 31 Jan 1864 at the place where Smithfield Station is today. The 90 or so “vile Yankee invaders” actually debarked from aboard the US Army transport Long Branch. USGB Smith Briggs was deployed for an emergency rescue of the Union force trapped in Smithfield by the Confederates.
2. Confederate Sergeant Norsworthy was an honorary “Captain” only in the United Confederate Veterans (UCV) and did not hold that rank during the Civil War. The UCV was organized after the war and thrived until the last of these brave patriots passed away in 1951. The UCV was succeeded by the current and active Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) who meet monthly in the Carrollton Ruritan Club. The full Battle of Smithfield story is available in a booklet of that title available for purchase in the Museum
Despite these minor historical transgressions, the Times article was well-done and very appropriate to highlight the move of this most elegant local “Trophy of War.” Close examination of the eagle reveals what I believe to be a bullet wound in his (her?) right wing probably made by an enthusiastic gray-clad sharpshooter who wanted to wreak vengeance on this most prominent and sacred symbol of the United States that had just dared to invade his homeland!
In any case, please stop by the Museum and visit our eagle once it is put on display.  Albert Burckard

Thanks to supporters

Editor, Smithfield Times
On Saturday Sept. 8, Smithfield and Surry teamed up with American Diabetes Association to hold a Victory Over Diabetes event at The Smithfield Center. We would like to thank the many people and groups who helped make the event a success as the public had access to numerous educational exhibits and discussions as well as a fun time gathering all in an effort to a positive outcome for people living with diabetes.
Sponsors of the event included Smithfield Foods, Subway, Birdsong Peanuts, Family Medical Care of Smithfield, Hallwood, Walls Insurance Agency, Home Sweet Home Care, Sona Bank and The Christmas Store.
Exhibitors and screeners included 1 Foot 2 Foot, Foodbank of SE Virginia and Eastern Shore, Isle of Wight Rescue Squad, Smithfield Volunteer Fire Dept., Optimal Weight and Nutritional Solutions, Riverside Health Systems, Senior Services of SE Virginia, Va. Eye Consultants, Virginia Cooperative Extension, Western Tidewater Health District, Eastern Virginia Medical School, Dave’s Service Center, Medical Transport’s ADA Branded Ambulance, Walgreens and Walmart.
Individuals who played a key part in the event were Donna C. Smith, Heather Bauman, Dr. Mack Bonner, Holly Hicks, Dr. Sharon Holleman, Dr. Jessica Schiffbauer, Marvin Echols, Mike Smith, Matthew B. Rogers and the Smithfield Police Dept., DJ Frank Liekefet, Judy Lyttle, the IWA Key Club, Anthony and Sheila Wilson and all who attended.
We would also like to thank The Cockeyed Rooster for their special post-event fundraiser. The counties came together and a cure is getting closer.
Elaine Abicht
Event Chairman

Another view of Charlottesville

Editor, Smithfield Times
Today’s news media continues to report on their perceived value in keeping America safe. Yet I contend they place the desire to be first with a story, especially if it fits their underlying beliefs, rather than gathering all of the facts and let the story tell itself. Charlottesville 2017 is a perfect example.
A hate group plans a National rally in Charlottesville to protest the removal of a statute of Robert E. Lee. They applied for and were granted a permit to march.
The news media gets a hold of this a couple of weeks before the planned “National” march and starts doing stories to rile up the potential Anti-hate group; going so far as to report on calls for hotels, B&B’s, restaurants and other establishments to ban these hate groups or risk the economic wrath of the Anti-hate group.
That fateful Saturday the hate groups “National” rally only drew about 600 (12 per state is not very significant for a “National” event). The Anti-hate group was estimated in the thousands. The Anti-hate group brought baseball bats and other weapons. Just as the hate group is about to begin their permitted march in the park, former governor Terry McAuliffe rescinds the permit (in the interest of public safety), orders the State Police to clear the park and then stand down. The demonstrators were surrounded and forced into the counter protestors, and there was violence. The police stood by. A woman and two State Troopers died.
Had the Governor shown leadership and truly wanted to deescalate the situation there are numerous ways that could have been achieved. For example, take 10 buses to the park, order the hate group on the buses and take them away for their own safety. Or cancel the march hours earlier, before the anti-hate group arrives.
Instead the former Governor got exactly what he wanted. He wanted to link the violent protests to Republicans, and eventually to President Trump. While at the same time his party is portrayed as the Anti-hate group, loving everyone.
If you want to keep putting yourselves on this high pedestal of protecting America, start doing some heavy lifting and bring us the facts surrounding an event. Perhaps for starters, you could report on the events from Charlottesville 2017 with open eyes. We just might surprise you and be able to make up our own minds.
David Longfield