By DENISE MEMBRENO
Jubal Early was one of the Civil War’s more notable generals and a resident of Franklin County. His home can be found along Virginia 116 between Burnt Chimney and Roanoke on a road bearing his name. The property, once near demolition a few years ago, has been renovated and is now the site of numerous reenactments and a bluegrass festival.
Volunteers at the Jubal A. Early Homeplace are hoping visitors will stop in for one or more of their special monthly historical presentations.
Gerald Via, president of the Jubal A. Early Preservation Trust, has been involved with the homeplace since the renovation of the home began in 1994. Part of his goal is to get the word out about the history of Early and his life in Franklin County.
“He’s a big part of Confederate Civil War history and he lived basically in our back yard,” said Sam Winkler, a local reenactor. “He was such a colorful character. Robert E. Lee called him ‘his bad old man’ because he was rough around the edges. He was never married. He fathered four children with a woman in Rocky Mount.”
Early served in the Second Seminole War and the Mexican American War. He entered the Civil War as a colonel and participated in nearly all the major battles of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. In 1863, he was promoted to general.
Despite his distinguished service, he was not initially in favor of leaving the Union. “Jubal Early’s vote was to stay in the Union, and he gave quite a speech about that at the first succession meeting,” Via said.
Since 1994, there have been $400,000 in renovations done to restore the homeplace with countless hours of volunteer labor. Fundraising efforts continue to help with the needed upkeep and to provide programs.
For the next six months, programs will be held the third Sunday of each month at the homeplace, with the goal of bringing more awareness and visitors to the historical site, including the first one Jan. 19 at 2 p.m.
“This month the title of our program is ‘Drug Smuggling in Virginia,’ which will deal with the way medicine was brought into Virginia during the Civil War,” Winkler said.
The program follows a widow who travels to Baltimore under the guise of seeing her family. There, they sewed a medicine, known as quinine, into her petticoat so she could bring it back to the south.
“They did morphine the same way,” Winkler said. “The majority of the manufactured medicines were made in the north, so when the war started, they weren’t going to give us the medicine, plus the blockade, which prevented the south from getting it anywhere else. We have a woman playing a widow, because let’s face it, if you see a woman dressed in black mourning, the chances of you having her raise her skirt is slim to none because you are going to be respectful whether you are a Yankee or Confederate.”
Other upcoming programs include “A Day with President Davis,” “Jubal Comes Home” and “The Great Escape,” which depicts Early, who came back to the homeplace to avoid capture, disguising himself to escape Union soldiers.
The Jubal A. Early Preservation Trust is working to make the homeplace a destination for history lovers by providing the monthly programs to draw attention and visitors to the homeplace.
To learn more, visit www.jubalearly.org.