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  • Writer's pictureOld Bone

The Reverend Nelson Durrett

While researching my book about the Battle of Waynesboro, I came across a number of interesting personalities from Waynesboro's past. The gentleman pictured here is one of those characters. As a sidebar, my hometown was recently named the best city in Virginia to live in by 24/7 Wall Street. Reverend Nelson Durrett was a familiar sight on the streets of Waynesboro in the early 20th century. Born before the Civil War, a July 1975 issue of the Waynesboro News-Virginian notes that Rev. Durrett could often be seen walking along the streets of Waynesboro preaching the gospel to anyone who would listen. He had a unique way of calling attention to his message, as noted by the newspaper article: “His trademark, as he moved along the streets of the city was a bugle, which he would blow with gusto as an attention-getter.” The article also noted that to supplement donations, Durrett “often sold chinkapins (sic), sassafras roots, huckleberries and other delicacies native to our area.” While preaching on the streets of Waynesboro, Reverend Durrett may very well have encountered and conversed with my great-grandfather, Charles Lockridge McGann. Both men shared a common Christian faith and both were originally from Nelson County, across the Blue Ridge from Waynesboro. An excerpt from McGann’s obituary appearing in the Waynesboro News-Virginian in March of 1953, gives some background and insight into what life was like after the war for some Waynesboro citizens.

Charles L. McGann

Waynesboro, March 4 [1953] -- Charles Lockridge McGann, 82, a resident of Waynesboro for 52 years, died at 4:10 am today at his home, 577 Locust Ave., after a long illness.

Mr. McGann was a familiar figure on Waynesboro streets, taking a daily walk downtown from his home. He retired from active farming and caretaking about four years ago, but continued to work around his home in the yard and garden. He was a lifelong member of the Main Street United Methodist Church and was a member of the church's Baraca Class when it was formed in 1913. He was treasurer of the group for 35 years.

Mr. McGann was born June 22, 1870, in Nelson County, son of the late J.W. McGann. He and his family moved to Waynesboro 52 years ago from their home in Nelson County.

The son of a Confederate soldier, Charles (or “Mr. Charlie” as he was known around Waynesboro) McGann is, in many ways, representative of some of the lower and lower middle class whites who, like ex-slaves, helped rebuild towns across the South after the Civil War. He and his family would slowly eke out a living by working for families who, despite the economic devastation the Civil War brought to the South, managed to hang on to more resources and begin rebuilding their lives and fortunes.

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