Waynesboro Heritage Museum | 420 W. Main St., Waynesboro, Virginia 22980 | Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. | Phone: (540) 943-3943

Merger? Consolidation? Annexation? Confusion Waynesboro and Basic City

Approval of Consolidation

On August 7, 1923, the voters of both Waynesboro and Basic City approved the merger. Basic City at the time had a population of 2,700 while Waynesboro’s population was 1,750. In those days, only male landowners had the right to vote, and there were more registered voters in Waynesboro. The vote in Waynesboro was 259 for consolidation and 92 against it. For Basic City, the majority vote was 157 for and 93 against it. It was made clear that the two councils would work together as one unit (12 members) until September 1924 when a new council would be elected, three from each of the former towns.

Mayor Hudgins of Waynesboro said he had been a long-term mayor and with his duties at Fishburne Military School he could not serve the consolidated towns and handed in his resignation. Mayor Maxwell of Basic City also handed in his resignation but was persuaded to reconsider after the council said they would have him back.

In January 1924, a group headed by Mr. Jordan and Mr. Brannaman said that the name Waynesboro-Basic was too cumbersome and wanted to drop “Basic.” The appeared before the Legislative Committee of Counties, Cities, and Towns to plead their case. Another group headed by Mr. Baumgardner and Mr. Maxwell said that the name was voted on by the citizens and should stay as granted. The members of the Legislative Committee made the decision, took it to the Legislators who approved that the newly consolidated community was to be named Waynesboro.

What Happened Next?

As you can guess, the citizens of Basic City were incensed. Rev. J.B. John was unanimously chosen by the people of Basic to be their spokesperson as 85% of the population in Basic opposed dropping the Basic from the consolidation. He gathered 30 members to attend the Senate in Richmond, protesting the name change. Senator Layman did what he could for the people of Basic, but Senator East was against it. Only a subcommittee reviewed the issue instead of a full committee, and Basic lost its appeal. Rev. John made plans to take the issue to the Virginia Supreme Court, but it was useless.

Waynesboro again had control of Baker Spring with a loss of revenue for Basic. The Basic high school students were now required to attend Waynesboro’s high school, and to pay for the new Waynesboro high school which carried a $20,000.00 bond, they had to pay tuition. The former Basic High School is the current Wenonah Elementary School.

When it came down to realization about what the consolidation meant, Basic felt they had been hoodwinked. Their version of consolidation meant a merger or a union to strengthen and solidify. Their new feeling was that they were annexed instead. Annexation meant to add on or attach or to take or appropriate, especially without asking. And you will see why they felt that way with the letters to the editor of the Shenandoah Valley News.

One angry person said, “The Plunderer already has his hands on the loot he has had his eye on it for years. First, it was Baker Spring, then the high school, then the name of the town. The town of Basic is to be devasted, and it will be only a matter of time before the post office is gone and rural delivery will be given to the few settlements on this side of the river.”

Another expressed himself this way:

What Basic Had Before Consolidation

  1. A spring worth $100,000.
  2. $30,000 in taxes spent in her town.
  3. The best high school in the two towns.
  4. A firetruck.
  5. Six councilmen and a mayor whose united will could not be trampled on.

What Basic Has Now

  1. A Fire Truck.

The Basic Firemen declared they would not give their fire truck to the consolidated town. They issued this statement.

“They have given away our high school and taxed us for the support of theirs. They have appropriated our spring without paying a cent for it and now they have taken away our name and we understand that it will only be a few weeks before they will take away our fire truck. We wish to state, however, that before the gentlemen come after our fire truck they had better provide themselves with sheet iron uniforms and the latest model machine guns for they will not take our fire truck away except over our dead bodies.”

Signed, Basic City Fire Department.

Another expression:

What “Waynesboro” Stands for

W-e

A-bolish

Y-our

N-ame

E-ntirely

S-o

B-asic

O-ught

R-elingish

O-wnership

The change of the name was probably the last blow to what was supposed to be a friendly consolidation. Now, it appears to them as if the “powers that be” were waiting for the spoils and Waynesboro had never wanted consolidation with Basic but annexation.

Is Separation the Answer?

Then came the call for separation from the consolidation and to become independent again. Basic City began boycotting merchants in Waynesboro. The newspaper in Basic began losing ads from Waynesboro merchants but the editor, Hugh Russell Frazer, plunged on with his campaign to “Buy Basic” and “Boost Basic.” Newspaper in Richmond, Staunton, Roanoke, Baltimore, and Lynchburg carried the news of the “raw deal” Basic was getting. The Richmond News Leader on March 1, 1924, urged arbitration between the two towns. In April 1924, the Basic Board of Trade formed to “unite for action from ever interest in the town.” One citizen in Waynesboro declared, “If Basic isn’t satisfied with conditions as they are, she ought to be allowed to withdraw.” Another said that if she wants to withdraw, nothing should be put in her way. In one of his editorials, Frazer stated: “If we are so utterly ignorant and poor as they say, why don’t they let us separate from them if they don’t like us?”

On the brighter side, a few merchants in Harrisonburg began placing ads in Basic’s Shenandoah Valley News. Some residents in Waynesboro were sympathetic with the plight of Basic and in the spots where there used to be Waynesboro ads they placed personal insights and concerns. The newspaper ceased publishing in 1925.

Things settle down after a while, but the hurt lasted a long time. It has been over 100 years since the first talks of consolidation began, and the differences between the two towns are still evident.

Images from a scrapbook (2019.0007.0001) containing news clippings and other information connected to the 1923-1924 consolidation of Waynesboro and Basic City. This scrapbook was compiled by Benjamin J. Craig.

Written by Judy Walden

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