The story of James A. Long, also known as Dee Long, is almost a history of Roxboro.
In 1841, Long was born on his parents’ farm in the Stories Creek area. His parents, Molly Walters Long and Ratliff Long, were among the first to settle in Person County. He was one of eight children and had little education. He was probably destined to be a farmer.
But in 1862 Long enlisted in Company E of 35th NC Regiment. He served three years in armies of the Confederate States, first in Eastern Carolina, and later around Richmond, where he attained the rank of Captain. At the close of the war he was captured and imprisoned for three months.
Long returned home in 1865 and found that his father and grandfather had recently died, and the family farm where his mother and seven younger children lived was fully mortgaged.
He took a job that year as clerk in the crossroads store of George W. Norwood at 50 cents per day. Within two years, he was a partner and helping manage the store.
By 1877 he owned and operated J.A.Long General store in Roxboro, had paid off the farm mortgage and had purchased a tract of land.
One of his major accomplishments was as a catalyst to bring what became the Norfolk and Western Railroad through Person County. Between the late 1850s and 1899 no less than 26 futile attempts were made to obtain a direct connection of the railroad through Roxboro, but Long finally won the battle. Roxboro’s branch of the Durham to Lynchburg line was completed in May 1890, and by August of that year, Long had built the Pioneer Warehouse, in time to start the Roxboro Tobacco Market. This was the beginning of the phenomenal growth of Roxboro between 1883 and 1893, during which time the population and economy almost tripled.
The following are some of the businesses Mr. Long established or was a partner or major investor in:
1880 Roxboro Academy
1884 J.A. Long Tobacco Factory
1888 J. A. Long and Son company (store)
1890 Pioneer Warehouse, J.A. Long Liver y Stable and J.A. Long Tinware
1891 Peoples Bank
1892 W. J. Johnson and J.A. Long Grocery (later Sergeant & Clayton)
1892 J.A. Long Prize House (for tobacco drying)
1893 J.A. Long Stemmery
1894 Noell Brothers Pants Factory
1895 Lukin and Long Hardware (in 1899 it became Long and Woody Hardware and in 1905 was renamed Long Bradsher Hardware.)
1899 Roxboro Cotton Mill
1908 Longhurst Cotton Mill
1908 Benefactor that led to building the brick Methodist Church. It was named Edgar Long Memorial in memory of J.A. Long’s son. It kept that name until 1939. Long also moved the Cool Springs Church to Longhurst where it is now known as Longhurst United Methodist Church.
Long was also involved in the political life of Person County.
In 1882 he served as a town commissioner. He was later elected to serve as a State Representative. He served two years in the House and 10 years in the Senate.
Long died in 1915. He had four children:
With his first wife Mary Elizabeth (Betty) Winstead Long he had a son, Robert Edgar Long, who in 1903 died in early manhood leaving no heirs, and a daughter, Margaret, who married Dr. R. J. Teague.
With his second wife Laura Thompson Long, he had two sons, James A. Long, Jr. who took over many of his father’s business concerns; and Matthew Ransom Long, who was an entrepreneur as was his father and started several businesses of his own.
Editor’s note: Person County Museum of History director Kathy Young writes a monthly column about historical figures and events in Person County. It will appear the fourth Saturday of each month.