Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements

Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life

By: Ethelene Dyer Jones

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Virgil Marion Waldroop, lawyer and merchant

A citizen who was wellrespected in Union County during the last quarter of the 19th and the early part of the 20th century was Virgil Marion Waldroop, lawyer and merchant. His tombstone at the Shady Grove Methodist Church Cemetery shows his birth date as October 28, 1849 and his death date as October 31, 1933. He lived to be 84 years of age.

The surname Waldroop (spelled in various ways-Waldroup, Waldrop, Waldrip) is said to have originated in England and was given to "the keeper of the Royal Wardrobe." The earliest indication of the name was in 1210 in England. There Thomas De La Wardrobe was in charge of the royal dress for the court, but also kept watch over furniture not in use and saw to proper storage of imported confections such as spices and sugar. In Scotland, as well, the keeper of the King's Wardrobe was a royal trade name. The name evolved from Wardrobe to Waldroop and other spellings of the surname.

Virgil Marion Waldroop was a son of Thomas and Mary White Waldroop. At age 16, he joined the North Carolina 69th Infantry, a unit of the Army of Northern Virginia. His father, Thomas, also served in the Civil War.

Virgil learned the trade of tintype photography, and left North Carolina (Macon County) in 1880, following the Cherokee Trail from Asheville to Augusta, Ga., and then to Cleveland, Ga., where he married his first wife, Harriet West. They moved on across the mountain and settled in Union County. To Virgil and Mary were born four children, Arlie Knox, Vasco, Naomi and Nell.

Virgil and Harriet Waldroop made their home in North Choestoe about where "Booger Holler" road leads off from Highway 129. There Virgil established one of several stores, building his reputation as a merchant. Other general stores owned and operated by him were at Coosa near the gold mines, in Gum Log, at Blairsville, the county seat, and at Young Harris (in the Jacksonville community). Harriet died, leaving her husband and four young children.

Virgil Marion Waldroop married, second, Mary Jackson, daughter of Richard LaFayette and Sarah J. Prater Jackson. Mary was born December 22, 1869 and died December 6, 1946. To Virgil and Mary were born five children, Edgar, Ulma, Rouss, Brabson and Jura. Mary was a young bride, being only 13 when she married Virgil Waldroop who was 33 at the time, 20 years her senior.

In addition to his five general stores, Virgil Marion Waldroop found time to study law. He read law under the tutelage of Judge Carl J. Wellborn Sr. and passed the Georgia Bar. Twice he was elected representative from Union County to the Georgia Legislature, first in 1882 and again in 1931. His terms were 50 years apart. Many changes had come in state government between his first and second times at the state capitol.

He was able to get a $60,000 bond issue passed to build a road from Blairsville to Neal Gap. However, the amount was not enough to complete the road the whole distance. Money ran out when road building reached the Waldroop Store at Choestoe. That stretch of road was called "Waldroop's Road." He did live long enough to see the road completed over Neal Gap in 1925. He served for several terms as ordinary of Union County.

One of the famous trials on which Virgil Marion Waldroop served as a lawyer was the murder trial of the Rev. John H. Lance in May 1890. Joined with Lawyer William E. "Buck" Candler, they represented the Lance family against the two Swain brothers, Frank and Newt, indicted for the crime of murdering Rev. Lance on February 17, 1890 and leaving his almost-decapitated body on the bank of Wolf Creek. Frank Swain was found guilty and spent 19 years incarcerated in the Georgia Penitentiary before an appeal gained his release and he went West never to return to Choestoe. Charles E. Hill, author of "Blood Mountain Covenant," (2003, Ivy House Publishers) captures the spirit and compassion of Virgil Waldroop as he traces Jim Lance's determination to gain justice for his father's murderers.

Entrepreneur, lawyer, civil servant, philanthropist, Virgil Marion Waldroop left behind a legacy of good works in Union County and beyond.

c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published May 25, 2006 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

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