Virginia author to visits Mount Airy


First Posted: 3/24/2009

The author of a recent book on one of Virginias most-storied highways will make a stop at a Mount Airy bookstore next week.
Joe Tennis of Bristol, Va., the author of Beach to Bluegrass, which explores the colorful history of U.S. 58, is scheduled to sign copies of the book at Pages, 235 N. Main St., on April 3 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
The book, subtitled Places to Brake on Virginias Longest Road, explores the colorful history of a highway that stretches from the coast to the far west.
In all, the 58 tales featured in the book take the reader on a 500-mile journey from Virginia Beach to Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, including material highlighting neighboring Carroll and Patrick counties
While U.S. 58s closest point to Surry County is in Hillsville, Va., about 20 miles away, Beach to Bluegrass does explore items of interest to a Mount Airy readership, including asking the question, Where is the real Mayberry?
Tennis makes comparisons to Mount Airy through Mabry Mill and the Mayberry Trading Post two stopovers along the Blue Ridge Parkway located near U.S. 58.
There’s a story told that one of Andy Griffiths grandfathers used to sell ginseng roots at the Mayberry Trading Post, said Tennis, 40, a features writer for the Bristol Herald Courier.
So there may be some truth in that the Mayberry of television fame took its name from Mayberry a little Virginia hamlet in Patrick County. In turn, this place has ties to the famous Mabry Mill.
More tales in Beach to Bluegrass come from Civil War hero Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown J.E.B. Stuart, a Patrick County native born in Ararat. Stuarts family had close ties to Mount Airy, Tennis said.
A chapter called A Boy Named James explores the early life of the Confederate cavalryman, including stories of his birthplace, just above the North Carolina border. U.S. 58 runs through Stuart, the Patrick County seat, which was named after the general.
Highway 58 runs right along the southern border of Virginia, Tennis said. So many of the stories come from ties to North Carolina.
Another chapter, Tragedy on Tobacco Road, explores the early family life of Winston-Salems R.J. Reynolds at Critz, Va., on the Reynolds Plantation, not far from U.S. 58.
More stories related to North Carolina in Beach to Bluegrass include one on how the New River once was slated for a lake in the 1970s along the state line at Ashe County and how the John H. Kerr Reservoir was built on the Roanoke River near Lake Gaston.
Also, there is Glorious Paradise, a chapter on the Great Dismal Swamp with ties to George Washington and Col. William Byrd II. Here, the author recounts tales of a hotel built on the state line, where visitors might have weddings in North Carolina or fight duels and run across state lines to avoid punishment.
Featuring more than 100 photos plus road directions, Beach to Bluegrass also explores the history and folklore of Mr. Peanuts origins in Suffolk, Va.; the birthplace of Brunswick stew; Johnny Cash and June Carters connections to Virginia; the Hillsville courthouse shootout of 1912; Galaxs Old Fiddlers Convention; the Virginia Creeper Trail; how snakes and turtles were once traded at The Barter Theatre; Nat Turners slave rebellion in 1831; the Wreck of the Old 97 at Danville; the wild ponies of Mount Rogers; and ghost tales at hotels in South Boston, Abingdon and Virginia Beach.
More information is available from Pages at 789-3363.

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