Following is a collection of photographs of current Chatham landmarks which have been associated with the Overbey family over the past century and a quarter. It is quite evident that much of the architectural character of historic Chatham can be attributed to this one large family, who have made Chatham their home through several generations, often purchasing and preserving older structures as they have lived and worked in the town.
The 1878 Gray's Map of Chatham shows this structure as having only its right and center portions, and labels it “W. I. Overby.” Upon close examination of the structure itself, it is evident that the matching left section of the house was constructed later. It is interesting that the resulting symmetrical design retains an early Victorian Swiss Gothic style, rather than having been "modernized" at the time of the later addition. One of the house's most charming features is a remarkable plaster ceiling medallion in the dining room. The old kitchen house still stands in the back yard.
William Irvine “Uncle Buck” Overbey, brother of Jesse I. Overbey, was the first of the family to move to Chatham from Meherrin (home of the Overbey brothers' parents Jeconias and Anne Irvine Overbey), and thus this house is probably the first Overbey house in town. Jesse Overbey moved to Chatham to join him. Around the turn of the century, “Uncle Buck” was elected county sheriff, a post his nephew Arch Overbey held a generation later.
William Irvine Overbey was married to Mattie Barksdale of Danville, and they had one son, Randolph Irvine Overbey. (Source: Sue Overbey Funderburk, quoting The Cabells and Their Kin, p. 405.)
Later, this was the home of “Uncle Bill” Tredway and his wife “Sa-Nellie”(Ellen Moore Tredway, sister of “Grandma Pat” Moore Overbey), and their children Lewis, John, Frank (“Sut”), Henry, and Elsie. “Uncle Bill” was an insurance salesman.
According to Allene Overbey Hunt (conversation of 1/2/2001), “Uncle Bill” was a very serious man who never thought anything was funny, although his wife and children privately took great amusement in what he had to say. One best-remembered anecdote is of a hot summer day on which he had one of his sons drive him out into the county (a standard pattern) in his green Model A Ford to collect insurance premiums. “Uncle Bill” had difficulty collecting during the Depression, but he always left open the possibility of atonement for delayed payment by means of food gifts. On the particular day of this anecdote, he was given a hen by a customer in arrears, and he popped the live chicken into the rumble seat and closed it. Upon arriving back at home in Chatham and opening the rumble seat, he was horrified to find the bird completely limp. He had “the boys” throw water on it for a good while, but the hen refused to revive, having apparently suffocated in the hot, confined space in the car. “I was there, watching it all!” says Mrs. Hunt. “Finally Uncle Bill said, ‘Well, it looks like we're just going to have to kill it.’“
After the Tredways, the house was owned by the family of Mr. and Mrs. W. I. Green. Their son Claude married Ran and Henson Overbey's daughter Sally Watson “Tee” Overbey, who lived across the street at 110 Whittle.
The pleasantly-situated Victorian home directly across the street at 110 Whittle was built during the 1890's by Henry Bolanz, who was involved in local Bolanz family enterprises including distilling and operation of an ice plant and a grocery store. The house was purchased around 1920 and the rear expansion of the house added by Jesse I. Overbey, in order to create an up-and-down duplex for his sons and their families. Arch and Sara Ogburn Overbey lived downstairs and Landon and Eloise Overbey lived upstairs. (Note: information from Allene Overbey Hunt, 11/9/2000. See further details.)
In the early 1930's, the 110 Whittle Street property became the home of Ran and Henson Overbey and their children Ran, Jr. (Buddy), Patsy Ann, Sally Watson (Tee), Mary Cabell, and a son who died in infancy. According to Buddy's daughter Terry (January 3 and 5, 2001), “…there was always a pot of grits on the stove. When the kids got home from school in the afternoon they would have grits for their afternoon snack. The kids on the street (including Kenneth Conner, Claude Green, Vernon Geyer, and Hunt and Virginia Kent Nenon) loved going there and Cabell would play the ‘Boogie Woogie’ (she was known for making a piano rock!) and entertain them when they weren't sitting on the porch.”
Ran Overbey lived at 110 Whittle Street until his death in 1946, and his widow Henson left the house not too long after. Then Landon Overbey lived in the house a second time, in the 1950's. He kept his sulky horses on the large lot in the back. In 1973, in accordance with the provisions of “Grandma Pat” Overbey's will (the house had remained in the ownership of Mrs. and Mrs. Jesse I. Overbey from around 1920 until her death), the property was sold at public auction. (Source: Buddy Overbey, 1/6/2001.) It was bought at the auction by the Woodson family. Subsequent owners have included Wilsons and Howertons.
These four originally-identical cottages on Whittle Street were apparently built in 1906 to house students from Chatham Episcopal Institute (now Chatham Hall) after the original CEI buildings burned and the institution moved to the Sims House at the end of Whittle Street. (Source: Chatham Hall archives.)
During the 1940's, Dr. Ernest Overbey owned all four cottages and used them as rental properties. (Source: Buddy Overbey 1/6/2001.)
This is one of two almost identical American Foursquare houses built facing each other around 1915 by Rev. Geyer, local Methodist minister. Later the house was the home of the Fletcher B. Watson, III, and family.
During the 1950's, Landon Overbey owned the property, and lived here with his second wife, Mary Coleman of Roanoke, until his death in November 1960. (Source: Buddy Overbey 1/6/2001.)
The house is currently the home of Mrs. Michael Lacks and family.
Dr. Ernest Overbey had this cottage placed here in 1955 as rental property. The cottage is a “Shanaberger House,” a locally-manufactured prefabricated structure.
Dr. Overbey's first renters were newlyweds Ervis Hall, Jr., and his wife Flo. They and Ervis' parents had been living next door in the old Sims House, and the younger couple moved into the new cottage when it was available.
Ervis and Flo's first child, Karen, was born in their car on the way from this address to the Danville Memorial Hospital. Little Karen was apparently showing her flair for drama, as she later became a very well-known writer and TV producer, a career also followed by her younger sister Barbara.
After passing through several hands over a 35-year period, since 1990 the cottage is now owned by Henry and Patricia Mitchell, who live next door in the Sims House.
The Sims House was built around 1875 by James Whittle for his daughter and son-in-law, Matoaka and William Sims.
The property was purchased in 1920 by Joshua Nunnally Walker, a Southern Railway engineer. According to Buddy Overbey (11/9/2000), “J. N. Walker told me that long before he purchased the house, he had steamed by at the controls of trains, looked up on the hill and said to himself, ‘Someday I'm going to own that house!’”
Buddy also relates how Walker lost the house: “Walker developed the pattern of a lunchtime poker game with my father (Ran V. Overbey, Sr.) on the front porch of his home (at 110 Whittle Street). Walker ran up his debts to the point that eventually he came by one day in 1944 and threw the deed to the Sims House on the table.”
Mr. Overbey was short of cash, too, so he took the deed uptown and shopped it around until he found John J. “Johnny” Coles willing to buy half interest for $2500 cash. They found the Sims house to be a good rental investment, but Mr. Overbey died soon after, leaving everything to his wife Henson, and the partnership between Coles and Mrs. Overbey became difficult. Mrs. Overbey admired the Sims house very much, and wanted to live in it herself, but she was not in a position to buy out Coles's interest.
Eventually, it was agreed that Buddy would auction the house, in June 1946. The Overbeys were surprised and pleased to find that the auction produced a sale price of $7000, bid by local Ford dealer Robert Grubb.
Mr. Grubb had extensive work done on the house, and continued to rent it as apartments. However, he died without a will in 1952, and the bank handling his estate was after awhile unable to keep it in good repair. The present owners, Henry and Patricia Mitchell, purchased it in 1975, and in 1985 began operation of the Sims-Mitchell House Bed and Breakfast, which continued until 2006.
The building at the right side of the older photograph was the location of Overbey Real Estate during the 1970's and 1980's. It was removed for an expansion and parking lot for the bank at left (now First Citizens).
This building was the location of Jesse I. Overbey and Sons Hardware.
According to family lore, Jesse Overbey did not have a middle initial until a traveling salesman visiting the hardware store insisted on a middle initial before he could accept the order Jesse had given him. Since he had been named for his maternal grandfather Jesse Irvine of Bedford County, he simply assumed his grandfather's surname as his own middle name.
Dr. John Anderson is shown on Pruden Avenue, near Main Street, with J. I. Overbey and Sons Hardware behind him, in a July 1946 photograph (provided by William F. “Bro” Overbey).
Built in the late 1890's, this was the home of Jesse I. Overbey and his wife “Pat” (Martha Chambliss Moore Overbey) and their family. They had ten children (seven boys and three girls): Jesse Irvine, Thomas Moore, William Irvine, Ran, Landon, Arch, Ernest, Edith Chambliss, Lucy Hale, and Adelaide Blanche. During the 1960's Blanche Overbey Crews returned to her childhood home with her family to make it their home as well.
“Grandma Pat Overbey was a great wit, a faithful Baptist, and sang alto in the choir,” relates Allene Overbey Hunt (1/2/2001). One characteristic account of her is that a passerby called to her as she stood outside her home, warning her, “Mrs. Overbey, look, some of your boys are on top of the house!” Mrs. Overbey seemed unconcerned, to which the passerby responded, "Aren't you afraid that they could fall and get hurt or killed?!" Mrs. Overbey replied, “Oh, it's all right. I have plenty more!” (There are multiple sources for this story.)
Mrs. Hunt further recalls that in “Grandma Pat's” later years, she kept herself quite busy, spending much of her time at a card table set up in her bedroom, talking on the telephone to many of her acquaintances around town to find the latest news, all the while knitting and crocheting “so I won't go mad!” Although not in the best of health, she lived into her 90's.
The house was actually built by “Uncle Bill” and “Aunt Sa-Nellie” Tredway. However, fire destroyed the home of Jesse and Pat Overbey at 237 South Main Street, behind the location of the Edwin Cooper home. (Source: Buddy Overbey, 1/6/2001.) Since the Overbey family was much larger than the Tredway family, it was decided that the Tredways would sell the 204 South Main Street to Jesse and Pat Overbey, and move to the smaller (formerly Buck Overbey) house at 103 Whittle Street. (Sources: “Bro” Overbey, 1/3/2001, and Buddy Overbey, 1/6/2001.)
Editors' note and question: There are a number of houses in Chatham and in the surrounding county which are quite similar in design and millwork to this house. About 40 years ago, the late Frank A. Terry, Sr., of Chatham related that when his father had an almost identical house built at Spring Garden in 1899, all the materials for the house were brought out on wagons from Chatham. The indication was that it was possibly a “kit” or prepackaged house, which was not uncommon at that time. If this was indeed the case, does anyone know the company in Chatham that may have been the source? Next door to the north of this home, the “1897 House” is very similar, although there is one extra gable and an overhanging wall. The Thompson-Brumfield house at Chestnut Level is almost identical except for a two-story bay added to the front.
This was the home of Thomas Moore Overbey, a World War I veteran who had been blinded and crippled by mustard gas in the Argonne, and confined to a wheelchair until his death on September 18, 1928.
According to “Bro” Overbey (1/3/2001), “Most people around the town and the county probably never knew my name was William…To everybody I was just ‘Bro,’ Tom Overbey's mischievous second son. I was delivered into this world (this was June of 1924 at 236 South Main Street) by a black lady named Sally McClaine who lived across the railroad tracks from the depot. She also did laundry.”
Later W. I. Overbey and family lived here. Between the two Overbey families, for a short while the house was home of the Sam White family. (Source: Buddy Overbey, 1/6/2001.) In recent years it has been owned by Mr. and Mrs. Wallace I. Dawson.
This home was built around 1906 by Sheriff Asa Hodnett in front of the site where the earlier Jesse Overbey home burned (which was formerly the Presbyterian manse), the lot for which included the present 301 South Main Street property. The present owners have found earthworks related to the manse at the edge of the woods to the rear of the present house. A large white oak tree on the southwest corner of the 301 South Main Street lot established the perimeter of the Presbyterian manse's lot; early barbed-wire fence remnants protruded from that tree trunk until its eventual demise as a result of a lightning strike in 2000. (Information from Mary Catherine Plaster, 7/11/06).
According to Buddy Overbey (1/6/2001), “The fire occurred when Arch was a little child. I recall his saying that after the fire there was nothing to put on him but a little girl's gown, and he was very upset over that.”
According to the late Mrs. Asa Hodnett, the original floor plan of the “new” 237 Soutn Main Street house was a mirror image of the house next door (301 South Main Street, below). Also, at 237 South Main Street, a turret decorates the porch on the northwest corner, whereas at 301 South Main Street, the turret feature appears over the living room bay on the southwest corner. (Information provided by Mary Catherine Plaster, 7/11/06).
The house is now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Edwin Cooper.
This was the home of Wyatt Whitehead and his wife Boston, who had a millinery business at 11 South Main Street. (Source: Buddy Overbey, 1/6/2001.) Tax records incidate that the house was constructed in 1903. The Whiteheads lost the property during the Great Depression, and the building was purchased by John Frank Sours in his wife Catherine's name. It was the residence of Catherine Motley Sours at the time she married Arch Overbey in 1959. A few years later, Catherine and Arch moved to Arch's home at 144 North Main. Catherine's daughter and son-in-law, Mary Catherine and Bob Plaster, in 1965 moved back from Winston-Salem, NC, to live in this house, at which time Bob purchased part ownership of Hunt Chevrolet (Jack Hunt was primary stockholder). Today the house is still the home of Mary Catherine Plaster, and thus it has had only two families as owners in its century-plus of existence. (Source: Mary Catherine Plaster 7/11/06.)
Ran and Henson Overbey and family lived in this house for a short period of time around 1931. The house had belonged to his cousin Randolph Irvine Overbey (son of "Uncle Buck" Overbey), who moved to Rustburg after the stock market crash, but it was under foreclosure and being held by the bank at the time that the Ran Overbey family lived there. Eventually the property was sold to Willie E. and Ada Yeatts Moore (see “Ada Moore's White Fruit Cake”, and remained in the family for many years, the ownership passing to Leland and Mary Grubb Moschler (Mr. Moschler was a nephew of Ada Moore). (Source: Buddy Overbey, 1/6/2001.) The house is now the home of the Michael and Kathleen Hurt O'Hare family.
This, in Chatham's Woodlawn section, was the home of “Cousin Lewis” Tredway (son of Uncle Bill and Aunt Ellen Tredway, of 103 Whittle Street, above) and his wife Nilla Bennett Tredway (source: Bro Overbey, 1/11/01).
The house was designed and built by Danville architects J. Bryant Heard and Aubrey Chesterman for $10,000 in 1921. (Source: John E. Wells and Robert E. Dalton, The Virginia Architects 1835-1955, New South Architectural Press, Richmond, 1997, p. 189; research assistance provided by Sarah E. Mitchell.)
The property owner who contracted for the design and construction was Alfred Douglas Bennett, who had managed the Hotel Bennett for his father George Richard Bennett. He and his wife Hettie and family moved from the hotel and lived on Lanier Avenue (third house from Main Street on the south side), and made further plans to move to Woodlawn, which was outside the town limits of Chatham. (Source, Mary Catherine Plaster, 7/14/06.)
A. D. Bennett died before the 610 South Main Street house was completed, leaving his wife, 10-year-old daughter Nilla, 28-year-old son Henry, and 26-year-old Burke. Subsequently, the elder son Henry G. Bennett was in charge of the business affairs of dealing with Heard and Chesterman regarding the building's completion (and his name appears on the above-referenced Heard and Chesterman record). Hettie Bennett and daughter Nilla moved in around 1920-21. Henry Bennett had the original house plans altered so that there was a kitchen upstairs as well as down. He did not think that his mother and young sister should live there by themselves, so he created an apartment which was rented to many Chatham couples over the ensuing years. The Tredway family still has some of the bills related to the construction of the house. One lists the millwork, which was from Kannapolis, North Carolina (source: Dickie Tredway Sloop, 3/1/2001.)
After Nilla Bennett married Lewis Tredway on June 10, 1933 (source: Mary Catherine Plaster, 7/14/06), Nilla bought out her brothers' interest in the house, and they lived at 610 South Main Street with her mother (source: Dickie Tredway Sloop, 3/1/2001).
During the mid-twentieth century, a motel cabin was moved (from its original position across the street behind the tea room which stood there) to the rear of the Tredway home, where it then served as a maid's quarters. (Source: Mary Catherine Plaster, 7/11/06).
The former Bennett-Tredway house is now the home of Winn and Janet Royster Bishop and family.
This is the present location of Overbey Real Estate.
“Buttercup Cottage” stands on land owned successively by Thomas Overbey and Jesse Overbey in the 1913-1915 era, just before the house was built in 1916 by Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Ragland. It is currently the home of Mrs. Joan Amos Thompson. (Source: Star-Tribune, November 13, 1996, provided by “Bro” Overbey.)
This lot was bought by William Thompson Hogg and his wife Marion Martin Hogg on October 3, 1935. (Mr. and Mrs. Hogg had much earlier moved from Anderson County, South Carolina, to Danville for him to work at Dan River Mills as a Master Mechanic. Their daughter Susan Eugenia “Jean” had been born and raised in Danville.)
The one-acre lot at 670 South Main Street was bought from Annie H. Viccellio (whose former home is in the next block south at 702 South Main Street) — as the deed states, “part of the lot conveyed to Annie Blair Viccellio by Robert H. Tredway by the heirs of Rebecca M. Martin.” Mr. and Mrs. Hogg had an English Cottage Revival house built on the lot for their daughter Jean and her husband Dr. Ernest Dugger Overbey, 9th child of Jesse Irvine Overbey and his wife Martha Chambliss Moore Overbey. (Dr. Overbey received his dental training at the Medical College of Virginia and practiced dentistry in Chatham and also Gretna. Dr. and Mrs. Overbey were married in Anderson, South Carolina, on August 8, 1935.)
The house was built by 1936. The Overbey's children Jesse William (Buck) and Martha Susan (Sue) were born in 1940 and 1945. Jean Hogg Overbey died April 19, 1946. William T. Hogg deeded the property to Dr. Overbey on July 10, 1946. Ernest Overbey married Hazel Finch Harper on January 3, 1947.
At first the houe was rather small: two bedrooms, one bath, kitchen, dining room, and living room. A side porch on the left of the house facing the road was enclosed to make a small bedroom, probably in the early 1940's. Ernest Overbey added an enclosed sun porch to the right side of the house in the early 1950's. He built that addition himself. Hazel Overbey often joked that each of the twelve windows on the porch was a different size and the screens had to be numbered so you knew which window each screen fit. With the leftover building materials, in the back yard Dr. Overbey built his daughter Sue a fair-sized playhouse complete with two windows and a front porch.
In the mid-1950's Glady Simpson, a Gretna contractor, added a two-story addition to the back of the house. This became a big master bedroom and bath on the main level and a recreation room on the ground level. Meetings of the Girls Auxiliary of Chatham Baptist Church were held in the recreation room when Hazel Overbey was GA leader, as well as Girl Scout meetings when she was Girl Scout leader. Sue Overbey was a member of both groups.
Behind the house and backyard, Ernest Overbey made a garden plot in which he grew corn, butter beans, potatoes, sting beans, and tomatoes. Dr. Overbey and next-door neighbor Henry Carter, Sr., would race every summer to see who could grow the first ripe tomato. After he had a heart attack, Dr. Overbey let Henry Carter, Sr., and his son Henry Carter, Jr., use his garden plot to grow vegetables for both the Carters and the Overbeys.
Ernest Overbey died in 1981. Hazel Overbey lived at 670 South Main until her death in 1995. The house was sold to Daniel and Margaret Klimmek on June 11, 1996.
(The above information was provided by Sue Overbey Funderburk, 2/13/13.)
Arch Overbey purchased this "American Foursquare" house and moved his family from 110 Whittle Street in the 1930's during the Depression, having bought the house for $6000 from its builder, Sandy White, who operated a wagon store where Chatham Furniture is today. (Source: Jack and Allene Hunt, May 2000.) It is still the home of Arch Overbey's second wife, Catherine Motley Sours Overbey.
Mollie Hunt Holmes reports (1/21/01), “This is the home in which my mother (Allene Overbey Hunt) grew up, two church doors down from the home of the suitor (John Pride ‘Jack’ Hunt, III) whom she married. My sister, Sara Elizabeth Hunt was born in this house. My brother, John Pride Hunt, IV (who was killed in an automobile accident in 1962), was brought up in this home until he was seven years old. My parents moved out of this home into their new home at 108 Military Drive in March 1950 and I was born in May 1950.”
This home was built around 1878 by Dr. S. J. Turner, who was a local pharmacist. It is now the residence of Buddy and Alice Overbey, who purchased it in 1954.
“The Oaks” was built around 1832 by Dr. Robert Coles (see further details). William F. “Bro” Overbey comments (1/8/2001), “After my mother's remarriage [Tom Overbey died in 1928] during the middle 1930's to W. L. Woods, we lived in the old Reid house [215 Gilmer Terrace] for awhile.”
Later, in the late 1950's and early 1960's, Ran V. Overbey, Sr.'s widow, Henson, lived here, and also their daughter Patsy Ann. Terry Overbey Stafford (1/22/01) recalls that during this period the house's owner, Ray Harris, had an apartment in the English basement, and was the first (and for awhile the only) person in Chatham to own a color TV set. Terry reports, “He would let Bobby [Thompson], Estes [Thompson], and me watch ‘Mickey Mouse Club’ in color every day at 5 p.m.”
Many townspeople also recall that Ray Harris, along with Ernest Overbey and Buddy Overbey and a number of others, successfully promoted the establishment of the Cedars Country Club at Whittles, north of Chatham. Harris developed the east side of his property as a small golf course, and there provided a location for golf lessons for those who were interested, as part of the promotional effort.
This was the home of Dr. Ryland Sanford, early president of Hargrave Military Academy, and then later the residence of Haile Fitzgerald and family.
“Bro” Overbey (1/8/01) states that after his family lived at 215 Gilmer (see above), they lived in this house.
After that, it was the home of Embry “Skinny” and Elizabeth Friend, and later, Judge Robert Vines.
This is the home of Jack and Allene Overbey Hunt, completed in March 1950. It was built by contractor Lemuel Carter (source: Jack Hunt, May 2000), with a significant amount of the work done by Jack Hunt himself (source: Mollie Hunt Holmes, 1/21/2001).
During the summer of 1949, when the basement concrete was to be poured, the area was suffering through a tremendous heat wave. It was determined that the work would have to be done at night, so lights were rigged, and when night came and the concrete-pouring crew went to work, just about the whole town showed up for the spectacle, resulting in an impromptu all-night gathering on the premises. (Source: Jack Hunt, May 2000.)
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Copyright © 2000–2013 Patricia B. Mitchell.