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The Beal Family and Their Valley Street Store

The Beal Family and their Valley Street Store, ca. 1900

Name:  The Beal Family and Their Valley Street Store

Date:  ca. 1900

Image Number:  B416cdB28

Comments:  In about 1850, Joseph Russell Beal (1816-1891) arrived in Scottsville from Richmond, where his family was in the mercantile business.  He purchased a canal freight boat and two Scottsville lots on the James River to transport goods from Richmond to his Scottsville mercantile business.  In association with James W. Mason and the Moon brothers of Scottsville, Joseph acquired a 60-year lease of a part of Lot #148 in front of the Scottsville Presbyterian Church.  This lot extended from Valley Street along Bird Street to Harrison Street and was donated by Peyton Harrison to the Presbyterian Church in 1841.  The Church had already been built on this lot in 1832.  Some time between 1841 and 1850, a large brick building with slate roof was built in front of the church.  This building housed many Beal businesses throughout the years and became known as the Beal Building.

Old Hall, 1973

In 1856 Joseph Beal bought Old Hall on Harrison Street from James Mason, his business partner.  This Scottsville home would remain in the Beal family for 101 years.  Joseph and Mary Elizabeth (Flannagan) Beal raised a large family at Old Hall, which included John D. Beal (1841- ), Isabella Beal (1843-1925), William Samuel (Billy) Beal (1846-1931), Joseph Russell Beal (1847-1914), Robert C. Beal (1846-1882), James Beal (1849- ), Mary E. Beal (1849- ), Charles P. Beal (1853-1855), Russell Beal (1855-1860), Ella Beal (1858- ), and Jackson Beal, Sr. (1861-1942).

Joseph Beal’s mercantile business succeeded until the Civil War.  On March 6, 1865, Union General Sheridan entered Scottsville with thousands of troops to destroy the canal and any supplies that the Confederate Army could use.  Brigadier General Wesley Merritt made his headquarters at Old Hall and ordered the Beal family to the basement.  He told the mistress of the house, “Old lady, we’ve come to starve you to death.”  Mrs. Beal answered with spirit, “Then you’ll have to pull up every sprig of cress salad in Gantt’s low grounds.  It’s spring!”  When Brig. Gen. Merritt left the house, he threw a stolen ham into a washtub for the Beals to eat.  Although financially ruined, Mary Elizabeth and Joseph Russell Beal remained at Old Hall until their deaths on 1888 (Mary) and 1891 (Joseph), respectively.

Joseph Russell Beal was esteemed in the town of Scottsville and viewed as a 'landmark' as noted in the following article in an unidentified Scottsville newspaper a few days after his death on 3 October 1891:


Another Landmark Gone

Our town was much astonished and excited on last Saturday afternoon when it was announced on the streets that Capt. Joseph R. Beal was dead.  Just one week before that day (Saturday), he was out on the street in front of his residence with his little grand children of whom he was devotedly fond, talking to his friends who chanced to pass that way, but was taken violently sick that night with an attack of the "grip."  Toward the latter part of the week, he rallied and seemed considerably better, even up to Friday noon, but a change came over him at that time and his condition was critical; but up to that time, he had strength and could get out of bed without aid.  Very soon he began rapidly to fail until at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 3rd 1861, he gently passed away.

Capt. Beal had been identified with this town longer than any other man in it - about 54 years.  He was the son of S. H. Beal.  His father moved from the Valley of Virginia to Richmond, and Capt. Beal was born there, Sept. 27th, 1816, making him just 75 years old the Sunday before he died.  He had 4 brothers, John, Harold, Wingfield S., and Thomas O., of whom Thomas is the only one now living.  He had two sisters both of whom are dead.  He had 6 sons, John, Charles, Joseph R., Jr., Robert, William S., and Jackson, 3 of whom are dead; and two daughters, Belle (Mrs. Nicholas) and Miss Nellie, both living.

Capt. Beal, after he arrived at the age of 15, engaged actively in business, and during the rest of his life was one of the most active men and took as much interest in all the material interests of the place, as any man who ever lived here.  During life, he was actively engaged in a variety of business.  He was several years a merchant, during the war had charge of Mason and Lewis's large mill at this place, and was for several years engaged with J.R. Mason in constructing the C & O Railroad and after that until the close of his active life, keeping a hotel in this place.  He did not become religious until late in life, but lived a consistent member of the Methodist church, and died in the full assurance of faith in Christ.

His funeral was the largest and most imposing one which has taken place here since that of Dr. Reuben Lindsay.  He was a mason in good standing, and was buried with Masonic honors.


William 'Billy' S. Beal When the Beals’ sons, William S. (“Billy”) and Jackson, reached maturity, they conducted business under the name “Beal Brothers” with some of their business housed in the Beal Building.  Billy also served as Town Policeman and ran the whiskey dispensary in the old Brady Building, which once stood at the corner of Main and Valley Streets.  He lived in a house called “The Palace,” across Valley Street from the Columbia Hotel.  Like all the Beals, Billy loved to tell stories.  On warm summer evenings he sat on a bench in front of The Palace and entertained the local boys, including the young Raymon Thacker, with his tales.  Billy once was enamored of Miss Etta Harris, who lived across Valley Street above her mother’s store.  Miss Etta apparently tired of his attentions and took a shot at Billy one night, thus ending their romance.

Scottsville Town Council, 1909. Jackson Beal is in back row, second from right. Active in civic affairs and politics, Jackson Beal, Sr., served as Mayor of Scottsville for over 20 years.  Jackson is shown in this photo of the Scottsville Town Council in 1909; he stands in the back row, second man from the right.  Jackson played a key role in acquiring an iron fence around the Confederate Cemetery and dedicating the cemetery and monument to the Confederate soldiers, who died in Scottsville.  He also served as Justice of the Peace, holding court on the second floor of the Beal Building.  A lifelong Democrat, Jackson served as Secretary-Treasurer of the Albemarle Democratic Executive Committee.  The family almost broke up in 1928, when Emma, his wife, supported Herbert Hoover.  She never voted Republican again.

Jackson, Sr., married Mary Emma Bledsoe of Fluvanna County in 1886, and the couple held their reception at Old Hall.  The Bledsoes were a prominent family with roots going back to the Indian Chief Powhatan.  Jackson and Emma had eight children, all born at Old Hall.  One boy, about the age of four, fell from the porch roof of Old Hall and was fatally injured.  There were four other brothers—John, Wiley Powhatan, Jackson, Jr., and William—and three girls: Rachel, Mae, and Louise.  The Beal children all received high school educations and some business training. Wiley Powhatan, Jackson, Jr., William, and Louise Beal lived most of their lives in Scottsville.

The family of  Jackson Beal, Sr., on the lawn at Old Hall, Scottsville

The family of Jackson Beal, Sr., on the lawn at Old Hall in Scottsville ca. 1903.
Front row (L to R): Rachel Clara Beal, Mae Belvin Beal, Louise Fannie Beal, Isabella (Belle) Beal Nicholas (sister of Jackson Beal, Sr.), William Samuel Beal, and Wiley Powhatan Beal. 
Second Row (L to R): Jackson Beal, Jr., John Bledsoe Beal, Mary Emma Bledsoe Beal (mother), Jackson Beal,Sr. (father), and Nellie Beal Jarmon (sister of Jackson Beal, Sr.).

Wiley Powhatan ran a variety store in the Beal Building. He married Violet Walls from Delmar, Delaware, and lived on Valley Street next to Dr. Stinson’s house.  In 1957, Violet’s brother, Robert Walls, bought Old Hall from Mary Emma and Louise Beal.  Wiley, like all of the Beals, was a staunch supporter of the Democratic Party.

Louise Beal, known as “Miss Lou,” spent most of her life in Scottsville.  During World War I, Louise worked as a temporary secretary in Washington, D.C.  After the war, Louise returned to Scottsville where she took over her father’s insurance business and looked after her mother at Old Hall.  Louise was a well-known character in the town, famed for her witty remarks and support of the Democratic Party.  On Election Day she marched up and down the streets, ringing her election bell and shouting things like, “Don’t vote for tricky Dick!”  One Election Day, Louise worked so hard that she had to be carried home by her fellow Democrats.

The youngest brother, William, married Ethel Faulkner, a local beauty, and they had two children, Ann and Billy.  William was a construction worker, but during the Depression, he had a hard time finding work, sometimes riding the rails.  Some of William’s jobs were on high steel beams, catching red-hot rivets and inserting them into holes in the steel beams to be bucked into place.  Between jobs he returned to Scottsville with many interesting tales to tell.  During an unfortunate accident in Richmond, William fell from a hotel window and was fatally injured.

Agnes Payne Beal's Wedding Photo, 1911

Jackson “Jack” Beal, Jr., was born at Old Hall in 1890 and, at the age of 21, married Agnes Payne of Buckingham (shown at left in her 1911 wedding photo).  Agnes was a pretty girl from a large family, who lived nearby in Buckingham County, VA.  Jack obtained employment as a timekeeper with the Lane Construction Company.  For a while he and Agnes lived at Niagara, Canada, while the Lane Construction Company worked on the Welland Ship Canal around the Falls.  They returned to Scottsville and lived on Valley Street until about 1928, when they bought their house at the corner of Bird and Harrison Streets, across from the St. John’s Episcopal Church.

Jack and Agnes had two children, Jacqueline and Helen. In 1918, Jackson worked in Tacoa, Georgia, where the Lane Construction Company was building a large dam.  As Jacqueline’s birth drew near, Agnes went to the home of her older sister, Mary, in Shores, VA, for the birth.  Agnes and baby daughter returned to Scottsville where the Beals’ daughter, Helen, was born in 1926.

Jack returned from Georgia and opened a furniture store in the Beal Building.  Among other things, he sold caskets.  Homer Thacker worked for Jack in the furniture store and made deliveries, sometimes taking Jacqueline along.  Scottsville had no undertaker at the time and imported one from Charlottesville or Fork Union when funerals needed to take place.  When Raymon Thacker was old enough, he also started to work for Jack and saw the need for a local undertaker.  He took an undertaking course, and in the early 1930’s, Raymon and Homer established the Thacker Brothers Funeral Home.

The Beal’s furniture store eventually closed, and in 1933, Jack and Agnes opened the James River Market across Bird Street from the Beal Building.  The Market sold produce, canned goods, household supplies, eggs, and meats.  Live chickens were displayed in a coop on the Market’s front sidewalk, and customers chose their own chicken for Sunday dinner.  The chicken could be taken home alive or dressed at the store.  The Market struggled to make ends meet during the Depression and occasional floods but prospered when World War II began.  The store stayed open on Saturday nights until after Victory Theater closed.  Customers would order their supplies before the show began and pick them up after it was over.

Agnes Beal on closing day at James River Market, 1957
Agnes Beal with her granddaughters, Rebecca and Sallie,
at the James River Market, 1957.

Agnes Beal had many faithful employees at the James River Market, including Margie Epperson and Granny Ward, Scott Ward’s grandmother.  Scott was born above the Market with Dr. Percy Harris attending.  Virginia Lumpkin worked at the store for a while when she was a young girl.  Virginia Moore sent her son, Johnny Untermeyer, with his nanny down to the store to pick out groceries to be delivered to their “Cliffside” home.  Jack discovered Johnny had a pet rabbit and saved leftover greens for the boy to take home for his rabbit.  One week Johnny did not appear, and the next time Jack saw Johnny, he asked him about the rabbit.  Johnny said, “The rabbit died.”  Jack asked him what the rabbit died of, and Johnny, about five years of age, replied, “The rabbit died of malnutrition.”

Agnes was an angel, much beloved by everyone.  She took amazing care of her family and eagerly helped anyone in need.  Agnes was well known for her hospitality and her fried chicken.  Visitors came often to the Beals’ home, and when Agnes saw them on her doorstep, she ran to her kitchen and started frying chicken.  She specialized in small fryers, which she cooked fast in the hottest grease she could muster.  In the summertime, the temperature in that small kitchen must have exceeded 120 degrees, but the chicken was great!

Jackson Beal, Jr., ca. 1957 During World War II, Jack worked at a Yorktown torpedo factory and later was employed at the Manhattan Project in Oakridge, Tennessee.  On returning from the war, Jack decided to open a laundromat on Valley Street.  Everything went well until one day Jack allowed a customer from Buckingham to wash a bucket of chitterlings in one of the machines.  They got stuck in the machine and created such a stink that the laundromat had to close.  Jack then helped Agnes at the Market and, among other things, cut meat to order on a big chopping block in the back of the store.  Later on, Jack was appointed Justice of the Peace for Scottsville.  He tried minor misdemeanors and imposed fines.  Always a friend of the common man, he sometimes allowed the fines to be paid on an installment plan of $2 per week.  Jack (shown at right in 1957) performed the duties of Justice of the Peace until the system was abolished in favor of the Magistrate system.

Jack also served as Chief Election Official in Scottsville.  Ballots were marked on a table and then dropped into the box.  One time Mrs. Barnes, who had just moved to the Scottsville area from Maryland, objected to this open method of voting.  “Well, Mr. Beal, you can’t have this going on.  This country was founded on the secret ballot, and here these people are marking their ballots right in front of everyone.”  Mr. Beal replied, “Oh, that’s all right – everyone in Scottsville knows how one another is voting because we’re all Democrats.  We don’t need to hide it from anyone.”  However, when Mrs. Barnes appeared at the next election, Jack met her at the poll’s door and said, “Honey, we have something special for you.  See that booth over in the corner?  If you want to vote Republican and are ashamed of it, just go right in the booth and close the curtain!”

Jacqueline Beal with friends, Jane Bruce (left) and Shirle Bruce (right), 1928 The Beals’ daughter, Jacqueline, enjoyed growing up in Scottsville.  She was vivacious, funny, and had many friends, especially the Bruce children, who lived just up the hill. (Jacqueline is shown in this photo with friends, Jane Bruce (left) and Shirley Bruce (right), 1928.)  In 1935, Jacqueline graduated from Scottsville High School and enrolled at Farmville State Teachers College.  She graduated from Longwood in 1939 and then taught school for a year at St. Stephen’s Church in King and Queen County.

While attending a dance at VPI during her senior year in college, Jacqueline met Cadet Jesse B. Grove, Jr.  After a year of courtship, they married at the Scottsville Methodist Church in September 1940 with a wedding reception at Old Hall.  The Groves moved to Richmond and lived there until 1944 when Jesse joined the Navy and was stationed in New York.  The Groves moved to Brooklyn with their son, Barry, and when a daughter, Sally, was about to be born, Jacqueline came home to Old Hall to avoid having “Brooklyn” on her birth certificate.  Sally Grove was born in the UVA hospital.  After the war, Jacqueline and children moved back to northern Virginia, where Jesse practiced patent law with a Washington, DC, law firm.
Jesse Grove on his famous Scottsville porch, 2005

The Groves returned to Scottsville whenever they could to visit Mother Agnes until her death in 1974.  In 1978 they bought the Annie Nicholas house, across the street from where Jacqueline grew up and across Harrison Street from Old Hall, her ancestral home.  When Jesse retired from his law firm in 1983, the Groves moved permanently to Scottsville.  Jacqueline immediately entered into civic affairs and served on the Town Council for several terms.  She enjoyed Scottsville life with her old and new friends.  Jacqueline died on November 6, 2001; she was the last of the Beals in Scottsville.

Helen Bledsoe Beal Kelso, the youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jackson Beal, Jr., still resides in Richmond, VA.  Helen graduated from Scottsville High School and attended Mary Washington College.  After WWII, she married Blake Kelso of Fluvanna County, and they resided first on the Kelso family farm and then in northern Virginia.  They had two children—Rebecca Kelso Jessee and Emily Kelso Hunt.  After Blake’s death, Helen worked for the Virginia Department of Taxation until retirement.

Many of this Beal family are buried at Scottsville Cemetery located at the corner of James River Road and Hardware Street in Scottsville.  Following are photographs of some Beal gravestones in this cemetery:
Some Beal Family Gravestones at Scottsville Cemetery

This narrative about Scottsville's Beal family was written by Jesse B. Grove, Jr.  The photos of the Jackson Beal Family at Old Hall, Agnes Payne Beal, Agnes Beal with her granddaughters, and Jackson Beal, Jr. come from the Jesse Grove collection.nbsp; Jesse resides in Scottsville, VA.

The photos of the Beal Building (1900), Old Hall (1969), and the Scottsville Town Council (1909) come from the Burgess collection.

The photo of William S. Beal comes from the Scottsville Masonic Lodge collection.

The photo of Jacqueline Beal with Jane and Shirley Bruce comes from the Shirley Dorrier collection; Shirley resides in Scottsville, VA.

The photo of Jesse Grove (2005) comes from the Scottsville Monthly collection.  Its photographer was Laurel Greene of Scottsville, VA.

Copyright © 2005 by Scottsville Museum

Top Image Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, CDB28
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1973 Image of Old Hall Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, CDB25
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Image of William 'Billy' S. Beal Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, CDML01
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1909 Image of Scottville's Town Council Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, CDB01
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1903 Image of the Family of Jackson Beal, Sr., Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, CDJG01
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1911 Image of Agnes Payne Beal Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, CDJG04
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1957 Image of Agnes Beal at James River Market Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, CDJG04
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1957 Image of Jackson Beal, Jr., Located On:  Capturing Our Heritage, CDJG01
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1928 Image of Jacqueline Beal with Jane and Shirley Bruce Located On:  
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