Hometown Roots: An In-depth Look at Hillsville, VA- Chelsea Bolt

92620024As I am writing this post, this year marks the ninth year that I have lived in the lowcountry of South Carolina. It blows my mind because it feels just like yesterday that I was packing up that U-Haul with my family in Carroll County and headed off to start my middle school career in a mysterious land where no one knew of an infamous member of the Bolt family. Geographically, it wasn’t a grand relocation, but to that eleven year old me, it felt like I had been completely transported to a new galaxy. Bluffton, South Carolina was certainly not comparable to my hometown of Hillsville, Virginia.

For a frame of reference, Bluffton can be best described as, “the town you drive through to get to Hilton Head Island.”  The highway to the Island is jammed tight with tourists on and off season, outlet malls provide for weekend entertainment, marshes and grand live oaks dripping with Spanish moss cover most of the terrain, elite celebrities frequently visit the area in private, and Savannah is less than 30 miles down the road. This picturesque place is a land that I am blessed to live in, every day in the Lowcountry is a gorgeous one. Bluffton is a beautiful town and I am grateful for those who welcomed me with their true Southern hospitality, but that’s not my hometown.

My hometown is Hillsville, Virginia. I struggled for years after I moved to say that to people. When meeting new folks, they usually insist that I tell them where I am from, because of my heavy Appalachian accent. Nobody knows where Hillsville is. Nobody knows where Carroll County is. Some people would laugh at the name, others would smile and I would have to explain its location between Virginia Tech and Mount Airy, North Carolina. Who would know of a town that’s claim to fame is a courthouse shooting that occurred around the same time as the sinking of the Titanic? Maybe the folks that are a part of the reenactment every year, but not many more. Although, a few more people may know Hillsville for its gigantic flea market held every Labor Day weekend. That’s the only time of year you’ll run into traffic in town. Ever.  The fried Oreos are great too, bad for your heart, but delicious.

Recently, I have discovered that it doesn’t matter how many people know where Hillsville is. I know where it is and what it means to me. Hillsville is my home. I have a twang, I have caught lightning bugs in the summertime, I have toured the Carroll County Courthouse on a 5th grade field trip, I have played on a soccer team sponsored by the Hillsville Diner on Main Street, I have been on the front page of the local newspaper, and I love my hometown. It is a part of me and my own history.

Chelsea Bolt is a Second Wind author of the young adult novel Moonshine. For more information check out these sites: 





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6 responses to “Hometown Roots: An In-depth Look at Hillsville, VA- Chelsea Bolt

  1. I first saw lightning bugs a couple of years ago. Didn’t catch any though. Would love to have lived near them

  2. Wanda Mullins

    I am from Hillsville and love our small town also. It is a clean little town in Southwestern Virginia. Love my Home Town!!! WM

  3. Ron Hall

    It may interest you to know a bit more about your home town. Hillsville was named for a Quaker family who lived north of the town; the family of James Hill. He died here in 1817, but some of his descendants stayed on. Prior to being called Hillsville, it was known as Cranberry Plains for the wild cranberries that grew along what is now route 58 both east and west of town. When Carroll county was formed from Grayson in 1842, Hillsville was renamed Carrollton, but the name never stuck, so it reverted to Hillsville and became the county seat. The limiting factor to its growth was due in part to the fact that the railroad never came. (Sylvatus was as close as it ever got.) One of the other factors was that a few families had business interests in the county and prevented other companies from moving in and raising the wage base after WWII. Of course, it’s remoteness and poor roads early in the twentieth century were also main factors.

    • Very interesting. I don’t know very much about Hillsville before the turn to the 20th century. That area is fascinating with its rich culture and how differently it developed when compared to the rest of the state of Virginia.

  4. Chelsea, I love this story! I would love to post it on my blog, http://www.realsouthernwomen.com. Please take a look and let me know if you’re interested. As examples, there are stories by Marla Cantrell, Sally Whitney, and Patricia Neeley -Dorsey.

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