50 Years Ago-The Move to Powhatan

Fifty years ago on Monday, May 20, 1968, was the official big move of the Hertzlers to Powhatan from Denbigh (Newport News), Virginia. The city was encroaching on the farmers there forcing them to search elsewhere for affordable farm land.  Gene remembers packing his 1957 blue Ford pickup with his personal belongings and heading west on Route 60, winding through Shockhoe Bottom in Richmond, and on to the farm to arrive ahead of the trucks hauling the thirty dairy cows.

When the cattle trucks arrived, they unloaded the cows behind the barn into a lot with a watering trough and a bunk full of haylage that had been cut that morning from the farm in Newport News so that the cows had no adjustment in their feed ration.  His brother drove a flatbed truck loaded with a wagon full of silage.

Months, weeks and days before, the farm here in Powhatan was prepared for the move. Spring crops were ready to green chop and corn was already growing in the fields. The Surge dealer had installed a pipeline and milking equipment in the cinderblock stanchion barn and milking house. Each work trip to the farm brought equipment, tools, and other needed supplies from Denbigh. And at the last came the three Border Collie dogs; Checkers, Pudgy, and Snickers.

Gene was eighteen when he and his older brother, Oliver, moved to Powhatan to run the farm.  Gene doesn’t remember much about the move. Gene and Oliver lived in the upstairs apartment of the house as the main part of the house was rented to another couple. There was no air conditioning in the house and Gene remembers leaving the windows open for air circulation and hearing the whippoorwills calling from the trees.

There are still several things that dad Hertzler planted in the yard that I greatly treasure; a pecan tree (two have succumbed), a row of beautiful peonies, a lilac bush and hollyhocks. Dad Hertzler loved the land and had a knack for growing boxwood shrubs, pecan trees, peonies, irises, hollyhocks and other flowers which he enjoyed sharing with people.

Gene remembers his folks riding the roads of Powhatan, Amelia and Madison counties looking for a farm. He has no idea where all they looked or traveled. He does remember his sister, sitting in the back seat of the car one day as they wandered the back roads of Amelia County, singing, “Did he ever return, no he never returned, and his fate is still unlearned,  He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston,  He’s the man who never returned” from “Charley on the M.T.A”. (written by Jacqueline Steiner and Bess Lamax Hawes and sung by The Kingston Trio). They ended up finding this farm, it was for sale, but for some reason they did not come the day of the farm auction.  Hugh Ownby bought the farm and was going to turn it into one of Ownby’s cattle sale farms. Several weeks or months later, the Hertzlers contacted the Ownbys and they agreed to sell the farm to them. The rest is history.

Powhatan was so different in those days. There were numerous grade A dairies in the county with names such as; Bowlin, Burkholder, Cosby, Harris, Hatcher, Hertzler, Layman, McGee, Moyer, Osborne, Ranck, Schaefer, Stratton, Timberlake, Tucker, Walker, Wills and Willis. Powhatan was truly agriculturally rural. Route 60 was still single lane into Midlothian and Interstate 64 between Richmond and Newport News only had sections completed.  The route from Newport News would wind through Richmond on Route 60 through Shockhoe  Bottom and under the train trestles.  Let me tell you, this was not through the good section of town.

The intersection of 653 (our road) and Route 60 the summer of 1969 as they were working on putting in dual lanes.

Another picture of Route 60 before it was dual laned. The truck is sitting where Hunters Mill road now is.

Law and order and traffic control was maintained under the watchful eye of one sheriff (Floyd Simpson), one part-time deputy (Nelson Batterson), and two state troopers (Shirley Reynolds and M.C. Arrington).  These guys were fair but they were tough!

Grocery stores: Maxey’s (in the village where Four Seasons Restaurant is now), Nichols Store at Macon, a very small store at the corner of Route 60 and Academy Rd. and the largest was Mays Grocery at Flatrock.

Medical: Dr. Bradley was a one-man office with nurse Betty and two examining rooms. He knew us all by name and made house calls.  I remember office visits costing $12. The office was heated (or at least partially heated) by a pot-belly wood stove. When Dr. Bradley was ready to see you, you were first invited to visit with him in his office. He sat behind a large wooden desk and you sat in a wood chair at the side. If you had a sinus infection, he would open his desk drawer, take out a flashlight and invited you to step into a dark closet in the room with him so that he could shine the light on your sinuses.  Bloxton’s Pharmacy was in the white-pillared building next to Four Seasons Restaurant. I worked at Bloxton’s for awhile after we were married. Dr. Bradley had evening hours once or twice a week and Bloxtons would stay open those evenings just in case his patients needed a prescription. Dr. Bradley would call and let them know when he had seen his last patient for the day so they could close.

Car Dealers: Yates Ford was in the village, and Brown’s Chevrolet and Brauer Pontiac were on Route 60.

Farm Equipment: Davis Merchant was an International tractor dealer and there was a Ford dealership on Route 13 in the village where Mabel’s Cafe is now located.

Other:  Goodwyn’s Lumber, United Auto Parts, Yates Oil, and Powhatan Farm Supply, a Southern States franchise near the village, were all thriving family-owned businesses. The only bank, Bank of Powhatan, and the post office were also located in the village.

There was nothing and I mean almost nothing but open land between Powhatan and the Boulevard (160) which is several miles east of Chippenham Parkway; just a few buildings in the village of Midlothian, Watkins Nursery, and a few scattered homes and  businesses at Buford Road.  If we wanted to go shopping, we either went to Southside Plaza on the Boulevard or Broad Street in downtown Richmond.  The year we were married, 1972, they were excavating for the massive, state of the art, Cloverleaf Mall.  That section of land at the intersection of 150 and Route 60, was a dairy farm but times were changing and now was giving way to new development.

According to records posted online, there were less than 8,000 people in Powhatan in 1970.  Stores were closed on Sunday, you knew and visited with your neighbors, the elementary and high schools were in the village, your address was routes and box numbers instead of street names, the closest hospital was St. Mary’s, and there was a one-lane, steel-trestle bridge across the James River on 522 at Maidens.  If you approached the bridge and someone was already coming across, you had to wait or meet them in the center where there was a place wide enough to pass. The new state of the art concrete bridge was completed in early 1972.


This picture came from Elwood Yates Jr. and is the old bridge at Maidens.

The new bridge had only been open a few months when Hurricane Agnes dropped record amounts of water on central Virginia in June 1972 causing massive flooding at levels not seen before. The James River at Maidens came within inches of the bottom side of the roadway on the bridge, washing out the approaches.  To come to our wedding on June 24, Gene had to travel west on Route 60 to Buena Vista to find an open bridge to cross the river.

The new concrete bridge.

By the time we were married, the farm was established and Oliver Jr. was married. Route 60 was dual-laned and Powhatan was beginning to change. Gene gladly handed the reins of homemaking over to me.  He had bachelored for four years and was ready for a wife!

Oh the changes that have happened on the farm over the years:  two 20’X60′ concrete stave silos were built, a double-four herringbone parlor replaced the stanchion barn, and a free-stall barn was built. These are now all relics from the past and integrated into warehouse space supporting our farm supply store which we started in 1983. Additional land was cleared for more cropland, the house was remodeled with a full upstairs added, trees were planted, new fences built, the dairy gave way to beef cattle and lots and lots of love and energy has gone into making the farm a beloved homestead.

Now…..the homestead changes, and yes it is the same house.

Fifty years have flown by and our roots have grown deep in the soil of Powhatan County. This is truly home and we love our homestead.  In many ways we have shared our farm with the community through our farm supply store (started in October 1983) and other numerous events we have hosted through the years; Live Nativity, Evening on the Lawn, Fun Day on the Farm and the many bus loads of school children that visited through the years.

Today there is only one dairy left in the county, the old has given way to new, and family businesses are being replaced with chain stores. Change happens, time never stands still, but oh the memories of days gone by.

For more of our story, read the following blog post “Once Upon A Time“.  “Hometown USA” is a commentary about change in Powhatan.  “Down A Country Lane” is a reflection on the beauty and a lament of the change in rural Powhatan. “A Mulberry Tree” is a fascinating tale as told to me by Jack May about a tree here on our farm.

If there are any corrections or additions, please let me know. I would love to have a picture of Hatcher’s Restaurant, May’s Grocery,  Store, Bloxton’s Pharmacy and Dr. Bradley’s Office.   Did I miss any dairy farmers? You can email me at pathertzler@gmail.com or use the comment section on the blog.

Contributed pictures:

Nicholls Store by Sheryl Nicholls

Maxeys Grocery Store by Elwood Yates

Yates Ford, 1938-1977 by Elwood Yates

Powhatan Emergency Crew,1970 by Elwood Yates

Bank of Powhatan, 1955 by Elwood Yates

Brauer Pontiac and Oil Company, 1961 by Elwood Yates

Powhatan High School in the village, 1960 by Elwood Yates


  1. Elmore Cook Said:

    Where was Laymans dairy located? You didn’t mention Timberlake’s dairy.

    • Pat Said:

      Layman’s were on Schroeder Rd, the big farm on the left across from where Melvin Moore lived. They moved to Cumberland around 1970-71.

      • Pat Said:

        Thanks, I added the Timberlakes.

  2. Amy Said:

    I would have loved to live in Powhatan in those days! I fear deeply that what little we have remaining of the “old days” will be gone in a blink of an eye! Our County BOS do not give a hoot about what we want. All they care about is their own selfish interests and they are doing quite well selling off Powhatan’s history for their own gain. I am quite disgusted by every one of them! Thank you for sharing your memories and beautiful farm! I truly enjoy visiting on my Saturday morning trips and I love y’all!!

  3. John D Williams Jr Said:

    Loved the Article. I grew up in Powhatan, moved in 1980. We lived on Schroeder Rd basically surrounded by The Lipscomb, Walker and Layman Farms. I used to help Mr Lipscomb and Walker from time to time. My Grandfather Condrey had a little 50 Acre Farm with boundaries touching Lipscomb and Walker Land.
    I knew Gene a little through Church Softball.

    • John D Williams Jr Said:

      Correction,I moved away in 1980 but Co workers still call me the Man from Powhatan.

  4. Totsy Walker Said:

    Love this!! And I still remember the recipe for homemade donuts you gave me!!! Those truly were the good old days!! Thanks for this trip down memory lane !!! Totsy

    • Pat Said:

      Hi, Totsy. Haven’t heard from you in a lonnnnnnnnnnnng time. Hope you are doing well.

      • Totsy Said:

        Just great, thanks!! Two eldest girls now have homes on either side of their dad…

      • Pat Said:

        That is amazing and you could be right.

  5. Barnard Grier Said:

    Fond memories of Powhatan Courthouse and the many historic homes. Built our home in the new Magnolia Plantation. Sons John and Tim attended the local schools.
    They have been successful and gained a lot from the rural atmosphere the area.
    Love my memories of the area.

    Barney Grier, 86 and living well In Lake Mary, Florida

  6. Rick Hening Said:

    Neil B. Hening Dairy was still operating until 1967 before Mr. Hening got out of the business and bought and sold cows at different auctions throughtout Central Virginia.Clark M. Hening’s family lived in in Powhatan from 1962-1969 when they moved to Fredericksburg, Va. Clark and Georgia Hening returned to the county when Clark retired. The homestead known as Carlisle is located at the intersection of US 522 and what is now Cosby Road approximately 1 mile South of 711 and 522 at Jefferson. Clark and Georgia’s children attended Powhatan Elementary and their oldest son was iat Powhatan HS when they moved in 1969. During their time in Powhatan, Georgia wrote articles for The Richmond News Leader covering different events taking place in the county. Richard would send Sports’ write-ups to The Farmville Hearld covering Powhatan HS athletic events. Tom Hening resides in the county on the property. Neil B. Hening, his wife Bessie M. Hening, his son Clark M. Hening, daughter-in law Gerogia E. Hening and granddaughter Patti H. Wood are buried in the family cemetary on the property. A lot of fond memories of Powhatan from living there.

  7. Thomas Adkins Said:

    my name is Tommy Adkins and have been dairy farming at the Cosbys since 2004. On May 6th 2019 we will be closing the last dairy in the county and moving the cows to Cumberland.

    • Pat Said:

      That is so sad to see the last dairy go. Best of everything to you.

  8. joann pearman Said:

    This was an excellent article. John and I (with 2 little ones) moved here in Spring of 1982. I remember everything you spoke of. Bought my dog food from you.
    Thank you for caring and writing about Powhatan’s history. All history must be remembered.
    We’ve moved on to Cartersville to continue to have the easy going country life.

    • Pat Said:

      Hi Joann. I sure do remember you and it is so good to hear from you. Thanks for the note.

  9. Herbert Webb Said:

    What a wonderful article. btw spelling is Nicholls. two L,s. I was born and raised in Powhatan. Born just east of Village and moved to intersection of rt. 60 and 522 in 1935 My Grand Father ran a business there Powhatan Motor Co. his name was Herbert Nicholls. My Name is Herbert H, Webb or
    H. H. my father was Slim Webb

    • Pat Said:

      Years ago we farmed your dad’s land. I remember one time Gene got the tractor stuck so bad it took a wrecker to get him out. Gene was plowing-I think- and the bottom just fell out of the land. He sunk deep and was stuck fast! We loved listening to your dad’s tales of “old” Powhatan and the illegal bootlegging days! I wish I could remember all his stories.

      • Pat Said:

        Thanks, I corrected the spelling.

  10. Chuck Angier Said:

    I spent my childhood with my family at Dorset house then moved away and back to live with my sisters family in Clayville. While in Dorset (early 1960’s) there was Graceland dairy, which was owned by a Mr. Gravatt who also had a dairy on Rt. 60 west of Midlothian. I think it became Watkins Nursery.

    Thanks for the stroll down memory lane!

  11. Sharon Patterson Nicholas Said:

    The good old days. Graduated HS in 1972. Lots to do in the village. Very homey. Such wonderful memories. Thank you. Remember the Lipscomb farm.

  12. Sharon Burke Said:

    Love this trip down memory lane! Thank you!

  13. Joan Corbitt Said:

    Pat thank you for all the memories. I lived in Powhatan from 1949 until 2009 when we moved across the river to Amelia. Powhatan is still my home.

  14. Jerry Yospin Said:

    Great article. However, I believe Dr Bradley only charged $2 in 1972 when we moved out to Amelia and eventually went up to $5.
    I remember because i’m From NJ and I was bragging to my mother about how cheap it was down here in Va.
    Jerry Yospin

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