The site of Isaiah Giles's Blacksmith Shop of the “original Tightsqueeze” may have been near the building shown here on the southeast side of the intersection of Samuel Harris Lane and Tightsqueeze Road.
It is likely that Preston Moses rightly told the tale of how Tightsqueeze originally got its name. His well-researched version from The Pittsylvania Packet, Pittsylvania Historical Society, Chatham, Virginia, Spring 1995, is found on-line, and describes the narrow spot in the road between Colbert's Store and Giles's Blacksmith Shop, near the present-day intersection of Samuel Harris Lane and Tightsqueeze Road.
But local residents know that the little crossroads south of Chatham has its further Tightsqueeze stories, as well.
Travelers on horse and buggy around 1900 supposedly had a difficult turn in the road after they exited the old covered bridge across Cherrystone Creek, and began the ascent to Tightsqueeze.
The first Tightsqueeze tale I heard as a child was from Curtis C. Finch of Danville, then president of the Danville Fair Association. Mr. Finch recalled from his youth a tricky turn in the road just south of the covered bridge which once spanned Cherrystone Creek. As he told it to me, the turn as the narrow road headed up the hill was hard for a horse and buggy to negotiate, especially in wet weather, thus the “tight squeeze” of the community's name. The same story is also recalled by Cecil Johnson (Mrs. Bill) Jones of Tightsqueeze, who adds that only one conveyance at a time could negotiate that steep and difficult passage. One should note that these accounts date from around the turn of the century, a generation later than the time when Colbert and Giles are said to have constricted the road at the top of the hill.
The configuration of the road at this point has been significantly changed twice: first when U. S. 29 was straightened (and Cherrystone Road left as a local lane), and again later when U. S. 29 was made into a dual-lane highway.
Loaded tobacco wagons in the 1920's had difficulty negotiating the sharp curve in the road (now the intersection of Cherrystone Road and Samuel Harris Lane) because of a perpetually wet and marshy spot at the left of this picture. The wagons often slid into the ditch.
My second Tightsqueeze tale came from Howard Watlington, who grew up in the 1920's and early 1930's living in a farmhouse, now demolished, in the field across from Chatham High School. A short distance from the rear of the house was a crook in the road which almost always had a nasty wet spot which he described as a little spring. He said that in the fall, when the loaded tobacco wagons were headed toward Danville, it was a frequent occurrence for them to mire up in the ditch, the road being slanted and only a narrow portion of it solid. “It was quite a tight squeeze,” he recalled, and he was certain that must have been the origin of the community name. However, it is evident now that a half century had already passed since the name of the community was in public use.
Richmond television producer Kaye Jackson Elliott, a Tightsqueeze native herself, recalls hearing that back in the old days, “young men told their young ladies in the buggies to move a lot closer 'cause it was a tight squeeze” as they passed through the neighborhood.
And then there was supposedly a storekeeper who charged for more than a gallon of kerosene (or was that molasses? or whiskey?) he had just put in a customer's gallon jug. When scolded for the overcharge, the merchant lamely replied, “It was a tight squeeze.”
The old Tunstall quarterpath was site of many a close horse race.
One other possibility for the origin of the name “Tightsqueeze” involves the old quarter-mile race track established by the Tunstall family around 1800 on the western side of their Belle Grove Plantation, near its boundaries with the Jones family's Mountain View and the Carter family's Oakland. The track still exists as a section of Cherrystone Road (see “Thunder on the Tunstall Quarterpath”). It can be speculated that some hotly contested race on the Tunstall quarterpath was won “by a tight squeeze.” Admittedly, there is no local oral tradition to confirm such a speculation.
This website is sponsored by Mitchells Publications and the Sims-Mitchell House B&B, Chatham, Virginia.
Copyright © 2002–2004 Patricia B. Mitchell.