More on Farmville Lake’s golf history

Published 11:17 am Thursday, August 25, 2016

Second in a series

Dr. Ray A. Gaskins

Professor Emeritus

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In 1930, W.S. Elliott opened the Tiny Brook Golf Course at Third and South streets, advertising: “Someone on grounds to show you how to play if you do not know the game. Everyday except Sunday 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.” A year later, the Bonnie Wee Golf Course on Venable Street, owned by L.D. Whitaker and managed by Billy Shannon, opened. These miniature golf courses were lighted at night and wildly popular when they opened, but did not last long. For example, a tombstone company called Loving Memorials replaced Tiny Brook in 1933.

In 1933, Farmville Lake opened the season with major renovations in place. The diving tower was rebuilt and the bathhouse renovated, and the pavilion transformed into a mammoth cottage capable of accommodating 30 to 40 people. The life saving corps began free swimming and life saving instruction June 5. Walter Chinault, Fletcher Irby and Franklin Fallwell were the managers for the season.

In April 1934, the Farmville Gold Club elected Joseph E. Garland as president. Dr. Thomas G. Hardy and R.B. Jones were vice presidents, and R.T. Hubbard was secretary-treasurer. R.N. Hughes was employed as the caretaker. Membership was set at $15 for men, $5 for women and $10 for college students. The following year, this was changed to $20 for men, $5 for women and $3 for students.

The beginning of the end for Farmville Lake as an amusement park occurred in 1934. A girl scout from Appomattox became seriously ill a few days after attending summer camp at Farmville Lake. Rumors spread everywhere she had contracted typhoid fever from swimming in the lake. To combat the rumors, the Lake Association decided to chlorinate the water — much to the chagrin of the fish population — but the damage was done. Before July 1934, The Farmville Herald was full of announcements of group picnics at Farmville Lake — after the rumors started there were none. Instead these groups went to other area lakes: Holiday, Crystal, Bear Creek, Trice’s, Goodwin and Dillwyn.

By contrast, the worst thing to ever happen on the Farmville Lake golf course occurred Saturday, Jan. 15, 1938. Dr. Freeman H. Hart, history professor at Hampden-Sydney College, was injured when a chip shot made by his partner, Dean George L. Walker, struck him in the eye. Although this incident made the front-page of The Farmville Herald, Dr. Hart made a full recovery and it was soon forgotten.

Although we cannot give a precise date of when Farmville Lake went from an amusement resort to a private lake, we believe it began in 1934. Various things were tried along the way to stem the tide, such as the Kanoe Klub, which was started in 1935 by Dr. A.C. Fraser. Each year through 1940, Dr. Fraser announced the opening date for the Kanoe Klub in The Farmville Herald, and new members were invited to join, but with a warning “no lifeguards will be on duty this year” was always given. No Kanoe Klub announcement could be found in 1941.

By the end of 1940, the Farmville Golf Club had been “dissolved and the property and equipment sold.” On March 21, 1941, the following notice appeared in The Farmville Herald: “Golf enthusiasts are invited to attend a meeting in the Town Council chambers Thursday evening, March 27, 1941, at 7:30 o’clock, to discuss organizing a new golf club which will use the facilities at Longwood Golf Course.” M.B. Coyner was in charge of this meeting and out of it was born the Longwood Golf Club.

By the fall of 1941, war was raging in Europe and worry and despair had a hammerlock on Farmville. Although America had not yet declared war, the signs were everywhere: gasoline was being rationed and 3,500 soldiers were camped at the Farmville Municipal Airport. In an attempt to do something — anything — to help relieve the tension, all Farmville churches — white and black — held a joint meeting and came up with a plan. On Sunday, Sept. 2, they informed their congregations: “Beginning [tonight] at 9 o’clock and continuing each night thereafter indefinitely, the Buffalo Shook Factory whistle will blow as a call to everyone to pause, wherever they may be, for a time of prayer.” (The Buffalo Shook Factory, 1912-2013, was recently razed to make way for a planned baseball park.)

At the same time while this drama was playing itself out, something unique was happening at the Longwood Golf Course. In September 1941, in cooperation with the town of Farmville, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey (USC&GS) laid and marked a true North-South line on the golf course. The new Longwood meridian line consisted of two markers 600 feet apart. The South marker was to be used by the USC&GS. The North marker was to be used by surveyors to check their instruments as required by law.

Over the years, as Longwood College grew, more and more students began using the facilities at Longwood Estate and it became increasingly difficult for members of the Longwood Golf Club to fit in. For example, a foursome would be halfway through a round when all of a sudden a bus would show up and students would flood the course. Scheduling was only made more difficult in 1966 when the Longwood Golf Team was formed. Thus, the Longwood Golf Association began looking for an alternative.

In August 1966, Farmville Town Council approved the purchase of 100 acres of the Reuben Johns farm in Cumberland as the site for a new municipal airport. But Johns wanted to sell the whole farm, so the town needed a partner. That’s when the Longwood Golf Association approached the town about purchasing the excess 300 acres for a golf course. The town was delighted, especially since the building plans of the golfers met Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restrictions on what could be built next to an airport.

Rather than cast about for a new name, the Longwood Golf Association stuck with what they knew and incorporated under the name Longwood Country Club Inc. However, by August 1969, while construction was still going on, the association came to its senses and changed the operating name of the country club from Longwood to Wedgewood, but left the corporation name unchanged.

Plans were developed for the first 150 acres of Wedgewood’s 300-acre site — to build a clubhouse, swimming pool and an 18-hole golf course. Ground breaking for the golf course occurred in July 1968. By October 1969, the front nine holes were playable by members, but the clubhouse and pool were still under construction. The country club was finished in time for its first golf tournament — the 16th annual Thornton S. Baskervill Bowl Invitational — in June 1970. Thorton’s grandson, William N. “Billy” Baskervill Jr. won this tournament.

Meanwhile, work continued on the new Farmville Municipal Airport next door. Groundbreaking occurred in April 1967 and, although the FAA officially approved the runway on Monday, Jan. 22, 1968, there was still a lot of infrastructure to be completed, which ran well into 1969. The airport was finally dedicated on Sunday, June 21, 1970. 

The Longwood Golf Club, under the name Longwood Golf Association, ran the Longwood Golf Course from World War II until they left in 1969. One of their last official acts there was to conduct the 15th annual Baskervill Bowl on June 14-15, 1969. In an article on “Historic Longwood” in The Farmville Herald of November 11, 1969, it was stated: “The golf course, formerly operated by the Longwood Golf Association, will continue to be maintained by the college as a physical education facility and for recreational use by students, faculty, and staff.” The Association took the Baskervill Bowl with them to Wedgewood.

Somehow the back nine holes at Wedgewood were never finished, so it remained a nine-hole golf course. In 1993, Wedgewood was reorganized and changed its name to Landing View Golf and Country Club. In 1999, Stu and Nancy Raymond bought Landing View but did not change its name to Heartland Golf Club until 2001. In 2005, Gregory Scott Smith bought it from the Raymonds and changed the name to Brookleigh Country Club. In August 2008, the town of Farmville bought the 92-acre club from Smith and changed the name to Farmville Municipal Golf Club, but its address is still Wedgewood Drive.

NB: Thornton Sampson “Grandpa” Baskervill (1878-1954; H-SC 1897), the best golfer in the old Farmville Golf Club, lived on Route 15 at Worsham. On May 5, 1954, he was stricken while playing golf on the Longwood Golf Course and died the same day. In 1955, the Longwood Golf Association started the Baskervill Bowl Invitational Golf Tournament in his honor. All four of his sons followed in his footsteps at H-SC. His grandson, Charles Baskervill (H-SC 1975), was a first team All American golfer in 1975, was elected to the H-SC Hall of Fame in 1988 and won the Baskervill Bowl twice. Another grandson, Billy Baskervill (VT 1973), was a member of the Virginia Tech Golf Team and won the Baskervill Bowl once. The final Baskervill Bowl was the 47th in 2001. (Lewis “Skeeter” Fore, who literally grew up on the Longwood Golf Course, was the best golfer in the Longwood Golf Club. He won the Baskervill Bowl a record five times.)