Clark Royster House & Clarksville
*National Register of Historic Places
300 Rose Hill Ave, Clarksville, VA 23927

Private, not open to the public

Fees: not open to the public
In September 1792 William Royster deeded his son, Clark, 376 acres in two tracts for "love and affection" and five shillings. [MCDB 8:161] On portions of this property Clark made his home, built several businesses and established the Town of Clarksville.

The rear of the Clark Royster House is the earliest portion of the house, having been constructed around 1793. The front part of the home was added prior to his death in 1848 and retains much of the fine original interior woodwork. When Clark Royster died, his widow, Lucy, was given life tenancy of the dwelling where they resided together and the 22 acres on which it stood, as well as all its furnishings, five slaves of her choosing from his estate and "as many horses, cattle, hogs and sheep as she may desire." [MCWB16:373] She remained in the house until her death. The "dower of Mrs. Lucy Royster" was deeded to Thomas Fletcher Humphreys and his wife, Liza Chapman Boyd Humphreys, on March 16, 1863 [MCDB 36:575]. It remained in the Humphreys family until 1962, when Fred and Mary Anne Boyd Oettinger, Jr., purchased the home and one acre of land from 22 heirs.

In 1818, Clark Royster divided a one-hundred-acre tract into 22 lots and petitioned the Virginia General Assembly to establish a town, named "Clarksville." The post office was established in 1819. Royster also operated one of two tobacco warehouses in the town and the Royster Ferry.

The town grew rapidly, fueled by thriving manufacturing facilities centered on tobacco and enhanced in 1820s by the construction of the Roanoke River Navigation Company's canal and lock system on the river, which opened routes to eastern markets. The town's population increased from two hundred in 1834 to one thousand in 1845, surpassing Boydton to become the largest town in the county. While Clarksville continued to grow, the canal was becoming obsolete by the 1850s, with the arrival of the railroads to Southern Virginia.

Clarksville played a vital role in the Confederate war effort. It was practically perfect as a location for a number of wartime support services: a thriving town situated between Richmond and Raleigh, on the Roanoke Valley Railroad that connected the town with the Raleigh & Gaston Railroad, and within easy distance of the Richmond & Danville Railroad depot at Keysville, Virginia, on a river navigable to Gaston, North Carolina, and removed from the theater of war, The primary support organizations for any military force are commissary (food), ordnance (arms) and quartermaster (supply distribution). Clarksville was the location of an ordnance and a quartermaster depot.

The Confederate Quartermaster Department was organized by Act of Congress February 26, 1861. The first Quartermaster General, Col. Abraham C. Myers, established his headquarters in Richmond, and regional depots to support Confederate forces throughout the South. Clarksville served as one of the regional depots; and, supplies flowed in and out of town by land, rail, and river.

In 1862 the chief of ordnance, Col. Josiah Gorgas, chose Clarksville as the location for an Ordnance Harness Shop. On June 14, 1862, the Clarksville Ordnance Depot, also known as the "Clarksville Harness Shop," started operation. Capt. Henry Pride, a saddler from Fairmont, Virginia (now West Virginia), was placed in command. The Ordnance Depot production facility consisted of a leather department, knapsack department, blacksmith shop, carpenter shop, and storehouse. The blacksmith shop also had a plating department for the brass components of the harnesses. The Harness Shop occupied a number of Clarksville's buildings--tobacco warehouses and factories. For example, James Williamson leased his tobacco warehouse for the harness shop, and William Townes was paid by the Quartermaster to rent his "factory" for "storage" in 1863.

A primary manufacturer for leather equipage for the Confederacy's infantry, cavalry and artillery, the shops produced equipment for noted officers such as Col. G.W. "Custis" Lee and Generals Fitzhugh Lee, Winder, Johnson and Hoke, as well as President Jefferson Davis and General Robert E. Lee. During their operation in Clarksville the shops employed 80 to 147 "mostly skilled white, free black or slave workers, and administration personnel."

According to Ken R. Knopp's study of saddle makers, Made in the "C.S.A," the Depot was highly important to the Confederate war effort, remaining "in operation until the very end of the war when chronic shortages of important resources, manpower and finally transportation and communication failures broke down their ability to maintain production." Col. Jonathan McGee Heck of the Raleigh [NC] Bayonet Factory, a subcontractor to the shops, wrote a letter of frustration to the superintendent of armories in Richmond on October 12, 1863, concerning his inability to fulfill his contract--probably the contract for 25,000 bayonets dated June 11, 1863--due to the Department of Armories' inability to supply coal:

... I think that Col. Gorgas refusal to endorse my application for an order for coal has done me great injustice, and may compel me to give up the contract. The case is simply this, the Government gives a man a contract-he spends One Hundred Thousand Dollars in ... machinery to execute the contract, then the Government comes along in her majesty and takes from him, his only chance and his usual means, of getting supplies, to execute his contract.

All types of equipment and material were in short supply. In January 1863 Capt. James Williamson wrote to Major W.T. Downer, Superintendent of Armories, stating that he could not buy any horse collars "for love nor money." After Lee's surrender, the Clarksville Ordnance Harness Shops apparently dissolved.

The northern terminus of the Roanoke Valley Railroad was at Clarksville. The railroad was utilized by the Confederate government for the movement of troops, passengers, and freight. Passengers included individuals impressed for service--typically slaves as well as free blacks. Freight included impressed and purchased supplies and food from the Quartermaster, and saddles, harnesses, and other items produced at the ordnance, plus leather and materials to support production at the Clarksville Ordnance Shops.

The Confederate Army was constantly seeking to replenish horses and mules. Unlike the Federal Army that supplied its cavalry with horses, frequently the CSA relied on its cavalry to provide its own mounts. Many a local soldier received furloughs home to bring back horses to their company. Clarksville is said to have been a re-mount station, where the horses and mules were collected impressed, purchased, or possibly battle weary horses refreshed for service--for shipment out to an area of need.

Salt was an enormously important commodity prior to modern refrigeration capabilities. The Confederate government permitted only twenty pounds per household and consequently assigned disbursement to selected agents and locations. Clarksville was one of three official county salt disbursement sites designated in May 1862; the others were located at Boydton and Lombardy Grove.

Mecklenburg County's earliest banks were located in Clarksville. The first was a branch of the Exchange Bank of Virginia, which had its home office in Norfolk; other branches were in Richmond and Petersburg. The Clarksville branch began operation about 1838. As the word spread that the war's end was in sight the bank's trustees moved to protect its assets by a clandestine operation intended to move and hide the bank's money. Apparently the plan did not work. The Clarksville branch closed after the fall of the Confederacy in 1865.

In April 1865 Clarksville was Gen. Sheridan's intended target for crossing the Roanoke River on his way to engage CSA Gen. Johnston who had not yet surrendered in North Carolina. However upon arrival, the river was too high and fast and the army travelled upriver to Abbyville. There they found a bridge of ferry boats had been built the previous night by scouts. Sheridan, Merritt and their troops arrived at South Boston that night where they learned Johnston had surrendered.

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