Editor's Letter

This issue of Lynch’s Ferry spotlights the work of three very different men whose careers made lasting impressions on the city and its surroundings.
In 1892, a twenty-two-year-old German immigrant named Bernhard Gutmann arrived in America to take a job at the Lynchburg Electrical Company. The move was part of a plan to pay debts, save money, and travel to New York City where he would join his brother in the printing business. Gutmann was an artist who had studied at the Düsseldorf Academy and at the Prussian Academy of Art. He was also a fun-loving foodie and beer drinker. In an effort to maintain those interests in Lynchburg, he opened a studio downtown and started a club called the Chafing Dish Society.
Gutmann’s arrival coincided with the opening of Randolph-Macon Woman’s College, and soon Professor Louise Jordan Smith and other area artists found themselves gathering at Gutmann’s studio, inspiring each other, and creating a genuine art scene. “By 1895,” says author Heidi James, “Gutmann was well known in local artistic and academic circles,” and he put his newfound celebrity to good use. He approached Superintendent E. C. Glass with the idea of starting an art program in the public schools.
Gutmann taught only until 1899, at which point he had saved enough to continue his journey north. However, thanks to the careful work of his successors, Gutmann’s legacy is on view at the high school today, providing ample illustrations for James’ article “The E. C. Glass Art Collection: A Community Treasure.”
Samuel Spencer’s tenure was also relatively short. In 1906, twelve years after he became the first president of the Southern Railway, the Georgia-born Confederate veteran and University of Virginia graduate died in a gruesome train accident near Lynchburg. By that time, however, his visionary plan to merge, modernize, and expand service throughout the South was showing itself in places like Monroe, Virginia, where “the railroad set the tone of the community, and time was kept to the tune of blowing whistles and horns.”
 The once state-of-the-art equipment in the Monroe Yard was long ago dismantled and sold for scrap, but author Tom Ledford does a great job of helping readers picture the place at a time when crews worked around the clock, and three men shared the same bed in shifts. The work demanded a brisk, steady pace; there were schedules to maintain. But welcome disruptions occasionally occurred, especially on days when circus trains stopped in Monroe to rotate personnel and let the animals out for a little exercise. During wartime, troop trains took a similar break, giving soldiers an opportunity to stretch their legs. “For thirty minutes on those days,” says Ledford, “the population of Monroe would double.”
There must have been moments when George Diuguid thought he’d lived too long and seen too much. Throughout the Civil War, the funeral director maintained the family business, an enterprise that began in 1817 and would continue into the twenty-first century. According to Lynchburg’s Old City Cemetery, in 1864, when the Confederate government attempted to draft Diuguid, citizens protested “and he was exempted as the only undertaker in Lynchburg.”
Drawing on Diuguid’s meticulous records among numerous other sources, well-known Lynchburg College professor Clifton Potter recreates conditions at the Lynchburg fairgrounds between April 1862 and April 1865. The makeshift prisoner-of-war camp located there was hastily established to hold as many as 500 Union captives. Two months later, thanks to “Stonewall” Jackson’s “brilliant campaign in the Shenandoah Valley,” between 3,000 and 3,500 POWs arrived, looking “jaded and dirty, whilst some of them were actually barefooted…”
In “A Forgotten Entrance to Hell,” Potter skillfully shares “one of the best kept secrets among local historians” and clues readers in on a discussion that’s been taking place since the 1930s. Though scant physical reminders of the camp remain, readers can follow up by visiting the Old City Cemetery on April 29 or June 21 when archeologists excavating “Yankee Square” will be on hand to discuss their findings.      

^ Top
Previous page: Monroe, Virginia One Hundred Years on the Old Southern Railway by Thomas G. Ledford
Next page: History in brief
Site Map