1820s Before &
After -A Town’s Beginnings
The roots of Hillsville are obvious from the rolling fields of
cattle, cabbage, and other produce. Also the Farmer’s Market
is a good sign of things from the past. Hillsville began as a
trading post along a stagecoach road and exported agricultural
products including rye, wheat, and corn.
1820s - A Town By Any Other Name
The area that is now known as Hillsville at one time was called
Cranberry Plains. In the late 1820s or early 1830s the town was
renamed Hillsville in honor of the Hill Family. After the town
was designated as the county seat in 1842 it was briefly called
Carrollton in honor of John Carroll, the state legislator who
pushed for the creation of Carroll County. However, the name Hillsville
was stuck with the residents and Carrollton soon became Hillsville
1845 - Construction of the Hale-Wilkinson-Carter
In 1845 Fielden Hale constructed a Federal-style brick home. The
two-story home and 16 acres belong to Hale until 1880, when he
decided to sell the home and land to James Wilkinson. It is believed
that Wilkinson, an entrepreneur, operated a store out of the right
side of the basement and a post office out of the left side. In
the store a young man, George Carter, worked at his first job.
Carter grew up and became a railroad and coal magnate. He also
became the husband of Wilkinson’s daughter. Carter and his
wife spent over $250,000 in 1906 adding a 3rd floor to the home,
a two-story wraparound porch, and stucco. For many years the Hale-Wilkinson-Carter
home was known only by the last name of the most recent owner,
and many people still call it the Carter House to this day.
March 14, 1912 – Hillsville Massacre
Hillsville’s history has a bit of a dark spot within it;
the dark spot is known as the 1912 Courthouse Tragedy which was
rivaled in the news only by the devastation known as the Titanic.
On March 14, 1912 a gunfight broke out in the courthouse during
the trial of Floyd Allen, he was being charged with interfering
with deputies and assault and battery following an altercation
he had with the law while trying to free his nephews who were
being arrested for disrupting a religious service and fighting.
The gunfight that took place in the courthouse that day left five
people dead and seven wounded. Floyd and many of his family members
who had come to his “aide” managed to escape. A massive
manhunt led by the Baldwin Felts Detective Agency soon followed
the tragedy. After his capture, Floyd Allen was sentenced to death
1920s - Carter Hydraulic Ram
George Carter did more than live in and add onto the Hale-Wilkinson-Carter
House, he also constructed Hillsville’s hydraulic ram in
order to supply water to his home and other nearby residences
and establishments within the town of Hillsville. His system was
so innovative that five other Virginia communities adopted the
design. Hillsville’s water supply system. Today you can
find the Carter Hydraulic Ram in the Carter Pines near Beaverdam
January 28, 1931 – Hillsville Fire
Just before the Hillsville Fire of 1931, the brand new Hillsville
High School was destroyed in a series of fires in 1930. Then the
fire that nearly devastated the town took place on January 28,
1931. A large portion of the Downtown Business District was destroyed
in this fire including The Thorton Hotel (aka Texas House), a
building owned by Dr. Tipton, The Childress Hotel, Guynn Building,
Hillsville Hotel, Masonic Lodge Building, 2 barber shops, Walter
G. Howlett furniture store, Busy Bee Restaurant, Nuckoll’s
Drug Company, Hillsville Hardware, and Dr. Glen Cox’s office.
The 1872 Courthouse, along with some other business suffered some
damage, but were able to be saved. At the time Hillsville did
not have a fire department of its own and crews from Galax, VA
and Mt. Airy, NC responded to try to fight the fire that nearly
took Hillsville with it. In August of the year that tragedy struck
Hillsville in the form of a fiery blaze, the town established
the Hillsville Volunteer Fire Department.
March 1946 - Dinwiddie Presbyterian Church
There are many people who have heard the story of Robert Childress,
or at least read the book about his work, The Man Who Moved A
Mountain by Richard C. Davids. Childress came across the people
of Cook Community who had their church in a pine grove on benches
under the trees. Childress helped to complete a total of 8 stone
churches, Dinwiddie being one of those. This beautiful building
was completed in 1953 and is still used as a church to this day.
For more on the rich history of the stone churches that Robert
Childress put into motion, read Richard C. Davids’ book.
1946 - Streetcar Diner comes to Hillsville
The Hillsville Diner was brought to Hillsville in 1946 from Mount
Airy, NC. The classic streetcar-style diner is said to be the
oldest diner in Virginia. The diner is a 1920s Jerry O’Mahony
model diner. Legend states that while the diner was residing in
Mount Airy, NC that Andy Griffith frequently went there.
1967 – Origin of the Labor Day Flea
Market & Gun Show
The original Gun Show of Hillsville, VA began out of necessity.
The Grover King Post 1115, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post home
had collapsed due to a heavy load of snow and ice from the winter
before, funds were already short and the VFW needed a way to bring
in some extra funds to cover monthly expenses and the construction
of a new building. The idea for the Gun Show originated with Pierce
Webb, a Laurel Fork native. Webb had been living in Florida and
had seen the popularity of these types of shows/markets throughout
the south. It was a new concept to this area that Glenn Jackson,
Gene Park, and Dennis Quesenberry thought would be a good way
to generate interest among people to come out and help the VFW
raise funds for their needs.
Jackson enlisted the help from the news media in generating ads
and articles about the upcoming Labor Day Gun Show. Amazingly
enough, the first year attracted around 100 exhibitors from as
far away as Florida, New York, Ohio, and Texas. The crowd that
was expected was around 2,000, however, the turnout happened to
be nearly double that and a scramble had to be made to get enough
food and drink to satisfy this large crowd.
Today, the VFW Labor Day Show is the biggest event that is held
in Carroll County. It sees nearly 500,000 people each year and
the town of Hillsville practically comes to a halt due to the
traffic, vendors, and tourists. Locals enjoy meeting the interesting
people from all over the world who come to this event to find
collectibles, knick knacks, clothing, and more.
2000s - section coming soon.
Help us out or send us your hillsville history stories here.