The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

The History Of Ferrum

By Edith McGhee Sigmon © 1984

Issue: January, 1984

An Excerpt from ‘The Sigmons and Their Kin’

ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Edith McGhee Sigmon has been very interested in family background for a long time. When she discovered her husband, Gail E. Sigmon’s family tree had not been researched, she started gathering information. The information gathering started about three years ago. In August, 1983, she published a book, “THE SIGMON AND THEIR KIN” and still the research continues. Her research led her to libraries, old family Bibles, and interviews with older people, old cemeteries, court houses, and hired researchers. 1737 is the earliest documented birth record in her book, but undocumented accounts go back to 1600. At present, she has hired a researcher in Germany to continue going backward in time, tracing the family’s path to America.

There is also included in this book old stories and the following history of Ferrum, Franklin County, Virginia:

The village of Ferrum is located on the Norfolk and Western Railway in the southern portion of Franklin County near the edge of the western third of the county thirty-seven miles south of Roanoke and ninety-six miles north of Winston-Salem. The Village as such was begun in 1889 following construction of the Southern Railway Company, which was purchased by the Norfolk and Western Railway Company in 1896. It became the Winston-Salem Division of that system and was dubbed by old timers as the “Punken Vine,” because of its winding route.

Situated in a valley surrounded by spectacular mountains, somewhat broken by hills, the elevation of Ferrum is 1,235 feet and occupies about a square mile of territory with a population of approximately 600 people, excluding the students of Ferrum College. The early engineers of the Southern Railway Company were interested in the source of iron ore of the area and opened a mine south of Ferrum, just beyond the Summit Cut, where the ore was worked during the earlier days of the railway. The first president of the Southern Railway Company was a Colonel Houston, who was general manager of the Crozier Iron Works of Roanoke.

Although prior to the building of the railway through the valley, there existed a post office known as Sophronia, located on the headwaters of Story Creek and housed in the store of George Turner, the naming of the railway depot in about 1892 was in response to a suggestion made by the Reverend Mr. Thomas P. Duke.

The valley, although the home of honest and hard-working people where poverty in the past was not unknown but respected, created an impression of a country long lived in by generations of people, who were descendants of the early settlers of the West Piedmont Plateau where nature often spoke with “quiet and healing tones”.

While the Norfolk and Western Railway was opened through the valley in 1892, public roads leading to Ferrum were few and unimproved. There were several of these roads, three of which connected with the Blue Ridge Mountains fifteen miles to the west. One road entered the Valley by way of Pernello and Republican Church section three miles west of Ferrum and led eastwards towards Rocky Mount. A second reached the Valley from the Long Branch and Endicott vicinity, passing through the Cross Roads and Elkenny Keys Estate sections and following Story Creek along the base of Cook’s Knob to Waidsboro and Rocky Mount. Another road, which scanned the cove between Saul’s Knob and Jamison Mountain, connected the Valley with the farming communities of Turner’s Creek, Bleak Hill on the headwaters of Pigg River, and Calloway on the Black Water River. These roads are known at the present time as routes 623, 40, and 602, respectively and are paved and marked to accommodate the traffic which moves over them.

Soon after the completion of the Norfolk and Western Railway, Ferrum became the largest shipping point on this railway of logs, crossties, barrel staves, tanbark, manufactured lumber products and oak and locust pins and brackets for telephone and telegraphic industries.

Ferrum is the home of Ferrum College. Having been chartered as Ferrum Training School in 1913, the school became a junior college in 1936. The tradition has remained that a church-related institution like Ferrum was justified only as it gave evidence of its witness to the principles of faith which founded it. During the past, Ferrum has made a deliberated and conscious effort to reflect this faith in many facets of its growth from an academy to one of the larger junior colleges with a diversified program of liberal arts and service oriented studies. The significant advantage of the institution has resulted from its uniqueness of “making Christian education possible when all other sources failed.” The nature and purpose of its founding and development have fostered indomitable traits in the character of several generations of students and the people of the area in which it is located.

Although Ferrum is a small village with a large outlying hinterland in Western Franklin County, progress has not been unmindful of its cultural and economic development.

Our Ferrum Village had business establishments as early as 1892, now we have a First National Bank, Simon Wade’s Grocery, Sigmon’s Barber Shop, several beauty shops, Mama K’s Kitchen, the 77 Restaurant, the House Restaurant, Underwood’s Garage, Green’s Pharmacy, Family Physicians, Post Office, Leo Scott’s Cabinets, Inc., Bassett Walker Knitting Company, Frank Peter’s Food Fair and Hardware, Ferrum Craft Shop, a fire department and life saving crew services. In our area, we have, John DeHart Garage, other garages and service stations and grocery stores.

Thanks to Dr. Frank B. Hurt for most of this information.

(Dr. Hurt has written, “THE HERITAGE OF THE GERMAN PIONEERS IN FRANKLIN COUNTY” and is at present writing a book on the Scottish settlers in this area.)

(EDITORS NOTE: THE SIGMON AND THEIR KIN book not only contains a history of the Sigmon family but their ties with other families which include: Arthur, Bradley, Brumby, Cannaday, Crums, DeWease, Ferguson, Foster, Fralin, Gibson, Gillespie, Goad, Griffith, Guilliams, Hall, Halstead, Hale, Hill, Hodges, Huff, Hancock, Hudson, Ingram, Johnson, Janney, Jones, Keys, Kessler, Knowles, Lipscomb, Love, Martin, Meador, McGhee, Montgomery, Moore, Mullins, Naff, Nolen, Oakes, Peters, Potter, Powell, Price, Quinn, Radford, Rakes, Ramsey, Sink, Sloan, Smith, Thorton, Thomas, Tash, Turner, Trail, Thorp, Underwood, Via, Wade, Webb, West, Whorley, Willis, Wimmer, Wright and many others.

This book has many old war stories and many old pictures. The book has approximately 175 pages and has an index by chapter. It sells for $15.00. For more information write to: Edith McGhee Sigmon, Route 3, Box 304, Ferrum, VA. 24088 or call her at (703) 365-2297. She is an interesting person to talk with and continually searching for more information. If you have an interest in Franklin County of any of the families mentioned, you’ll enjoy her book.