Saturday, March 14, 2020

Role of the Historian

What is Historical?

Not all Caswell County history is pleasant. Do we ignore facts because some deem them offensive? What is the job of the historian? Should not all aspects of Caswell County's history be available for analysis, critique, and review? Is this not what historians do? Are not today's news events tomorrow's history? Where should the line be drawn? Who draws that line?

Shooting at Lucky's

Edward Lee said he had no sooner stepped out of the bathroom at Lucky's than he saw a man hitting a woman in the face. A regular patron of the bar — located just across the state line in Providence, North Carolina — Lee recognized many of the faces there. But not this pair.

"It was some people out of town," he said, pointing at the bar — a dark brown wooden structure with multiple doors and windows along 268 Gatewood Road — from a corner of its gravel parking lot Wednesday morning. "I told him he needed to leave."

The man then followed him across the bar. It was shortly before 1:30 a.m. and Lee had just walked past the bar and was near the kitchen when a pool cue smashed into his head. The man then grabbed a beer bottle and slammed it into Lee and several others. That's when the man's three friends jumped in, Lee said, and a brawl broke out.

Shots soon rang out, Lee said, with a bullet hitting him and others. At some point, Lee added, more shots rang out. He is unsure how much time passed between the two rounds of gunfire. But he does know the man he blamed for starting the fight dropped to the floor next to the pool tables.

The Caswell County Sheriff's Office has since charged Damon Dewayne Lee, 42, of Danville, with second-degree murder in relation to the Lucky's shooting incident. He is being held in the Caswell County Detention Center without bond.

The sheriff's office would not return repeated requests by the Register & Bee to confirm whether other people had been shot. Lee said said he and another man had also been shot, with the other man being flown by helicopter to Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital. "Look," Lee said, pulling up his shirt to show a bloody wound on his lower back. "He shot me!" By late Wednesday morning, Lucky's had reopened and an employee was clearing the floor of crime scene tape and glass shards from broken beer bottles. He did not want to be named for this story. "I've been here 20 years, this is the first time someone was shooting like this," he said.

Source: Go Dan River, 11 March 2020.

The north-central section of Caswell County just south of the North Carolina-Virginia state line has an interesting history -- some would say a shady one. The community is called Gatewood for the family that once owned substantial property there.

Bars and pool rooms have been in the area for decades. These include "Red Daniel's" (beer and pool; see photo), "The Skylark" (beer, food, and pool), "Still Cluckin" (beer and pool), the "White Elephant" (beer), and "Dowdy Town" (bootleg liquor and gambling). The "Skylark" now is "Lucky's."

The Gatewood Baptist Church first held services in the "White Elephant" building, which the church rented for $25 per month. Church history describes the "White Elephant" as a "beer joint." The site of this "beer joint" now serves as the church's parking lot.

In 1973 Yanceyville Baptist church leaders petitioned the Caswell County Board of Commissioners to adopt an ordinance that would ban topless dancing. The "Skylark" was cited as an example of the business the church leaders found objectionable. Here are excerpts from an article in The Bee (Danville, VA), March 6, 1973:

"The Caswell County Board of Commissioners yesterday discussed -- but took no action on -- a proposed ordinance which would prohibit 'topless' clubs in the county. The discussion was prompted by a letter from the pastor [Carroll Spivey] and board of deacons [Dorsey Bradner] of the First Baptist Church of Yanceyville, in which a formal protest was made of the 'topless shows and or topless waitresses which are being held at the 'Skylark' and possibly other places in our county. . . ."

As far back as the 1920s, Dowdytown (on what now is Dowdy Lane) had been a problem area. Here is an item from The Bee (Danville, Virginia), 18 August 1928:

"Dowdytown Is Raided Again: Brew Seized"

"Caswell Officers Have a Busy Day -- 13 Arrested in Two Raids"

Yanceyville, N.C. Aug 18 -- "Caswell county officers became conspicuously active yesterday making two raids during the course of the day during which time they arrested thirteen men for various violations, most of whom are now in jail here.

"One of the raids centered on Dowdytown -- one of several made recently by officers and it resulted in eleven men being taken into custody. Three officers made the descent, W. C. Taylor, deputy sheriff of this township, aided by Herman Smith, of Dan River, and J. Cullen Bryant, game warden and a physical giant with it. They made their way by circuitous route to a branch near Dowdytown and report surprising eight negroes who were engaged in rolling dice. None of them got away and were made secure.

"From there, the officers went to John Dowdy's place of business and reported capturing nearby an automobile in the rumble seat of which they found home brew on ice and about 7 gallons of liquor in the front seat. John Dowdy was arrested as were Peyton Lunsford, another white man whose condition was such that repeated questions of him for his name, the officers reported, drew little but a blank stare. With this load the officers returned to this place where Dowdy gave $300 bond for appearance Monday. He was already under another bond at the time. The others were put in jail."

In 1938, two bootleggers fleeing the Danville police collided with the pickup truck driven by James Yancey Chandler. Both Chandler and his passenger Joseph White Dabbs were killed.

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