Recent Town Manager Form Of Government Brings Many Advantages To County Community
From the 1938 centennial edition of The Times-Register
The history of Vinton as a settlement probably begins with the establishment of Gish’s Mills but the Glade Creek vicinity was one of the most thickly settled sections of this area at the time of the Revolutionary War. As the main road leading to the Carolinas was close to Glade Creek the lands about the creek were among the first in this county to be taken up by the pioneers.
Mark Evans had settled at Big Lick in about the year of 1742 and he was one of the first if not the first settler in the county. His mill on the Roanoke was the first grist mill to be established any place in this vicinity.
The history of the Gish’s is closely associated with the history of Vinton, but the record is not clear as to the first Gish who settled in that vicinity. In 1797 a permit was issued to Christian Gish to operate a grist mill on Tinker’s Creek and this mill was probably not a great distance from Vinton.
Gish’s Were Prominent
When this county was formed in 1838 the Gish’s were prominent in the Vinton section as the court records show a number of transactions involving this family. Some of these early records are interesting and are as follows:
David Gish, Sr., had three tracts of land of 185 acres, 39 acres and 61 acres and 120 poles. The first two tracts are listed as being on Glade Creek and the last one on Roanoke River. This was the only description given of his land. His tax on this land was $2.92.
John Gish had 87 acres, 52 acres, 71 acres and 59 acres and 29 poles, all on Roanoke River which the tax was $1.81.
David Gish, Jr., had 200 acres, 44 acres, 54 acres and 24 acres and 18 poles, all on Glade Creek for which the tax was $3.47.
Taxable property was listed for John Gish as being one slave who had reached the age of 16 years, two slaves under the age of 16 years and six horses. The tax on these was listed as $1.38.
David H. Gish had listed as personal property only one horse on which the tax was eight cents.
David Gish, Sr., had two adult slaves, two slaves under the age of sixteen and seven horses for which the tax was $1.76.
On June 22, 1838, the court records show that David Gish was appointed surveyor of the road from the turnpike near David Gish’s to the Botetourt County line and that he with the other tithables be requested to put the road in shape and keep it in repair.
Long before the name of Vinton was adopted the place was successively known as Gish’s Mills, Gish’s Mill, and Gish’s. The Gishes operated a mill on Glade Creek and one on Wolf Creek. David and John Gish were the owners of the mills.
Some years later I. W. Vinyard became the owner of Gish’s Mill at Vinton, but the place was still known as Gish’s when it was made a flag stop on the Atlantic, Mississippi and Ohio Railroad. Before the Civil War William Gish operated a store near the flag stop where a box car served as a depot.
Just after the surrender of Lee at Appomattox the box car depot was burned during a raid made by Stoneman’s calvary in this vicinity.
Depot Is Erected
Captain Gish was engaged in the mercantile business here after the war and he was most active in building up the town. He donated land for a depot and induced the railroad company to erect a depot. In 1878 the original town site was laid out into lots and sold to the highest bidder. A number of houses were built and soon there was a thriving community at that place. One of the first enterprises was a tannery which was operated by John W. and Edward M. Jones. Not only were boots and shoes made here but harness was made for the farmers in the immediate section.
At a mass meeting held there in 1884 it was decided to incorporate the place and to change the name. The name of Vinton was decided upon, and this name was agreeable to all. The first syllable of the name was derived from the name of I. W. Vinyard who had long been a prominent resident of the place, and the last syllable was taken from the last syllable of the name Preston.
On March 17, 1884, the General Assembly passed an act which established Vinton as a town and the act was entitled “An act to change the name of the town of Gish’s, in the county of Roanoke and to incorporate the same.”
Under the act which established the incorporated town the following officials were named: Samuel H. Pollard, mayor, with B. A. Jones, R. S. Funk, I.W. Vinyard, Geo. T. Walker, John Mcfalls and P. B. Stevens as councilmen.
This act read as follows:
- Be it enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia, That the Town of Gosh’s, in the county of Roanoke, as the same heretofore has been or may hereafter be laid off into lots, streets, alleys, shall be made a town corporate by the name of the town of Vinton, and by that name shall have and exercise the power conferred upon towns by the fifty-fourth chapter of the Code of Virginia of 1873, and of all laws now in force or that hereafter may be enacted for the government of towns of less than five thousand inhabitants.
- The boundaries of the said town shall be: Commencing at the crossing of First Street and Washington Street, in said town, and extending therefrom one-half mile north, south, east and west, and embracing the area contained therein.
- All lands contained in this area, and used strictly for farming purposes, shall not be liable to taxation under this corporate law.
- Samuel H. Pollard is hereby appointed Mayor of said town, and B. A. Jones, R. S. Fund, I. W. Vinyard, Geo. T. Walker, John McFalls, and P.B. Stevens are hereby appointed councilmen thereof-any three of whom shall constitute a quorum, for the transaction of business. The said Mayor and Council shall have power to levy such taxes as they deem necessary for the purpose of said corporation, as is allowed by existing laws; provided that no tax upon the real land personal property in said corporation shall exceed ten cents on the $100 value thereof, except that on petition of three-fourths of the freeholder in the corporation the council may levy a tax not to exceed the amount named in the said petition, and they shall have power to appoint a Sergeant, and such other officers as may be necessary and fix their salaries.
- The said Mayor and Councilmen above named and appointed in this act shall remain in office until the first day of July 1885, and thereafter until their successors shall be elected and qualified according to law-the term of which shall be two years, and no person shall be eligible to be a member of this council except that he be a freeholder.
- This act shall be in force from its passage.
Others who have served as mayor of Vinton are in the order in which they served: G. T. Walker, Henry Franklin, Giles Gunn, W. S. Pollard, J. E. Saunders, H.H. Walker, J.H. Scott, A. O. Stone, J.H. Scott, J.H. Saunders, J. W. Reynolds, H.H. Dowdy, J. W. Reynolds and J. H. Moseley, the last named being the present mayor of the town.
Now Vinton is an important school center and the William Byrd high school in that town is one of the finest institutions of its kind in this section of the state. In the Vinton schools the total enrollment is 1,664 this year which the distribution is as follows: elementary school, 670; junior high school, 251; senior high school, 593; colored school, 150.
Vinton is an excellent residential town and many of those who work in Roanoke live in this suburb. It is a section where there are not many people very rich and few that are destitute as the majority of Vintonites belong to the great middle class. Many of the people there own their own homes and for that reason take an interest in the welfare of the town.
Vinton boasts of the fact that crime in the town has always been very low and that not a murder has ever been committed by a Vinton man in that section since the town was organized in 1884.
This town has some fine churches which are well attended, the denominations being represented are the Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian and Lutheran churches. Strong lodges are maintained there by the Masons and the Old Fellows.
One of the most significant actions taken by the people of the Town of Vinton since its establishment more than a half a century ago was the institution of the town manager form of government which went into effect September 1, 1936.
A survey made of the work during the past two-year period shows that Vinton is rapidly progressing as a community and great strides are expected during the near future.
The Fire Department is rendering the most efficient service, and except for one fire where the alarm was late in being sent in, the losses were small during the past year. The department is composed entirely of volunteers who give their time freely. One man sleeps in the station house so that some one is available at all times to receive alarms and go with the fire equipment when needed.
When the present Council took office, seven notes, totaling $10,630, were outstanding. These were consolidated, a lower rate of interest secured, and the main note has been reduced to approximately $10,000. Other outstanding obligations of $3,000 have also been paid.
The total bonded indebtedness of the town on September 1, 1936, was $135,000 in two issues, one of $50,000 made January 1, 1914, due in 1946, and bearing 6 per cent interest. This has been reduced to $48,000. The other issue of 1935 in the sum of $100,000 bearing 5 per cent interest and due January 1, 1955. This issue has been reduced to $84,000 through the purchase of $16,000.
In order to retire bonds when due a sinking fund has been set up, and 25 cents of every dollar collected in taxes goes into this fund, which now amounts to $28,177.
For the fiscal year of September 1, 1935, and ending August 31, 1937, the total income from the water department was 9,531.29, and expenses $11,882.60, divided as follows: operating expense, $5,709; interest on bonds, $1,680; meters, $1,289; extensions, $1,350; depreciation, $2,445.
For the six months since August 31, 1937, total income has been $6,663 with an expense of $6,624.
One hundred and forty-seven meters have been installed with the result that the average cost of water the past six months is approximately $80 a month less than the average cost in 1935-36.
In other ways a number of improvements have been made. Curb and gutter and sidewalk already started was completed on Sycamore and Washington Streets, a total of 2,100 feet of curb and gutter and 1,200 feet of sidewalk. Since this work, 4,000 additional feet of sidewalk has been completed, and as much more is scheduled to go in. Approximately 3,000 lineal feet of 8-inch, and 1,000 feet of 6-inch sanitary sewer with service connections and manholes have been installed.
Nearly 4,000 lineal feet of water mains have been laid, and several dead ends connected. A total of 86 street signs have been installed. In the past year, 6,000 tons of trash were collected and disposed of.
A considerable amount of work has been done on the streets. 260 tons of patching material has been used, and 1,200 square yards of dirt next to pavement has been built up with crushed rock and sand and oiled with road oil.
The town has also had installed 696 lineal feet of storm drain, 12 catch basins and nearly 2 miles of ditches.
Here are some other improvements made recently:
Remodeling and painting of the municipal building, installation of folding seats in the courtroom; enlarging the treasurer’s office.
In the building line, three new residences have been constructed, 24 homes have been remodeled, one office building has been erected and two additions made to existing plants. Town officials point to a great need for four and five-room houses and a large apartment in the town.
The town has also participated in a community garden project, has established a community center and has sponsored a supervised playground at Leggett field. A supervisor and staff for the field were furnished by the National Youth Administration. Average daily attendance at the playground is 175.
Proud now of the transportation service in the town are the town officials. With express bus service to Roanoke and new streetcars on the line, it is possible to leave the town at ten-minute intervals for Roanoke, where a large portion of the Vinton residents are employed. From the center of Vinton to the center of Roanoke takes 15 minutes by bus or street car.
-Prepared by Lisa King