Data and arguments used in establishing claims about the Cantrell Avenue name:

The explanation best supported by evidence is that the name Cantrell Avenue was a modification of what had been Central Avenue. Wisman first called it 'the new street I recently opened.' When he built a house there, he called it South Street. When he sold a lot, it turned out he had registered his lots as 'New Street' which changed to South Street. South Street then began to be called Central Avenue. South and Central matched names on a matching segment of, at the time, southernmost street in front of the Haas home. After the name Central appeared, its spelling started to change, switching back and forth, until it settled on Cantrell Avenue whose spelling continued to vary a small amount until the present.

The change from Central may have been an accident that stuck. It may have been intentional. For example, T. N. Haas, who had the future Grace street surveyed may have wanted Central to be reserved for that street as a continuation of the street in front of his home. Others may have wanted to distance themselves from a seemingly presumptuous name associated with Haas. Whatever the case, it was not a point of consensus. While mysteries lingered until January 4th, 2014, new evidence paints a clear picture. There is no evidence of a definitive naming for a person. We can't exclude people having grown to associate the name with William Clarke Quantrill.

Deeds and table showing name confusion at a glance: raw data

The summary of the main points that won the case: Old South High
(includes section for comments, including the possible decisive moment for the renaming vote).

Report of findings: report.

The Origin of Cantrell

The story of Cantrell Avenue draws in a whole cast of interesting characters from the start of the 20th century in Harrisonburg. The most prominent figure is T. N. Haas, one of the most influential members of a family of lawyers who owned the land along the southern edge of what was to be the first Cantrell Avenue. While in the course of this research Haas had diminished as a someone likely to have been relevant in naming, following him is most illuminating with regard to the times.
  1. C. F. Haas, father of T. N. Haas, owned the property along the southern edge of the Cantrell site in 1885. It was sold to an investor, possibly a pastor from the Church of the Brethren, and to Wisman who was the first to subdivide and develop the lots.
  2. On November 2, 1900, Wisman placed an add that ran at least until November 16 advertising lots. At this time he called the street 'the new street I have opened.'
  3. On February 14, 1903 Wisman built a house, and the street was called South street.
  4. On March 14, 1903, Wisman advertised four eastern lots for sale.
  5. On May 2, he sold his first lot to Daisy R. Dull, showing that New Street had been the name under which he registered the lots.
  6. By 1913 much was owned by Dr. Harris. Harris 1913
    J. C. Staples was another owner and developer important in locating activity on Cantrell: Parsonage, width, J. C. Staples
  7. May 12, 1903 T. N. Haas ordered the surveying of Mason extension and what would become Grace Street.
  8. Bassford confirms the location
    The home of Judge Geo. G. Grattan was on the corner of South Main and
    Grattan streets. Across the street was the Yancey home of the
    grandfather and father of Dr. Burbridge Yancey. Farther out was the
    home of Jas. B. Stevenson, which sat in the center of a large
    lawn. Next was the home of “Ben” Patterson, another lawyer and
    prominent in political affairs. The site of Madison College was part
    of the Moffett Newman farm.
    Sketches of Harrisonburg
    By Kirby S. “Tommy” Bassford
    Copyright Eric Thornton & Tim Bassford
    This location is present day Grace Street, which did not appear to be developed as of 1912.
  9. On May 26, 1903, Reverend C. C. Jones was recorded as having performed a wedding at his residence on South Main street.
    Where did C. C. Jones live? Not in the Episcopal Rectory at 660 S. Main.
  10. J. M. Morton served as Rector of Emanuele Episcopal Church and must have lived at the rectory from July 1900 to August 1902. The church held no services for more than 9 months except for a 1 week mission by Robert U. Brookings who became rector starting June 1903. p. 24
    C. C. Jones was already in Harrisonburg by June of 1902.

    Robert Brookings requested that a sewerage system be installed in the rectory, that the chicken yard be fenced, and that a hot water heater be put in. The church conceded to the first two.

  11. June 2, 1903 Street Committee reports on survey.
  12. June 9, T. N. Haas moves that only the city can open streets.
  13. Development starts, and accusations are made that the new roads were opened to help the developers. City council denies the accusations.
  14. July 7, T. N. Haas moves to open the roads.
  15. November 3, Plat of Mason edited and filed with recorder.
  16. November 6, 1903, a deed shows Cantrell already existed and had been New Street, and South Street. .

    The house mentioned is probably the house built by Wisman. Taken together with Rockingham Record story, Harris appears to have bought lots 1,2 and 3 adjoining S. Main, the eastern most, 3, being undeveloped.
  17. December 29, 1903: The street is called Central. (Jan 3, 2014 update).

  18. The street remained South until at least a deed dated March 14, 1904, Harrisonburg Town Deed Book 72, p. 356 [note the errors, preserved].
    THIS DEED, made this 14th day of March 1904, by and betweenDaisy Rebecca Dull , and
    G. M. Dull her husband of the first part and Elizabeth Ott Taliaferro, of the second part,
    all of the town of Harrisonburg,Virginia, WITNESSETH:- that for and in consideration of
    the sum of two hundred and ninety dollars ($290.00) cash in hand paid,the receipt of which
    is hereby acknowledged,,have granted,bargained,and sold,and by these presents do grant,bar
    gain,sell and convey,with general warranty of title unto the party of the second part all
    of that certain lot lying on South or New Street,in the town of Harrisonburg,virginia,
    beginning at a stake on the south side of said street,565 feet from corner of Wh/isman's lot
    on South Main Street,and running in a southerly direction with Wisman's line 134 feet to an 
    alley,thence along with said alley in an easterly direction 48 feet 3 inches, thence in a
    northly direction ot said south or New Steet,thence in a westerly direction 48 feet 3 inches
    to the beginning, and being the same lot conveyed to Daisy Rebecca Dull by D.H.Wisman and
    wife by deed bearing date the first day of April,1903,and recorded in the Clerk's Office of 
    Rockingham County,D. B. 70 page 179 to which reference may be had.
       Witness our hands and seals the day and year first above written.

    State of Virginia,County of Rockingham,to-wit;
       I, D.H.Lee Martz,a Notary Public for the County aforesaid,in the State of Virginia,do
    certify that Daisy R.DUll & George M.Dull her husband, whose names are signed to the writing
    hereto annexed,bearing date on the 14th day of March 1904,acknowledged the same before me
    in my County aforesaid. Given under my hand this 15th day of March 1904.
    Is Martz the same person who kept the city minutes in 1904?
  19. While collaborating on research for coverage of this site, Andrew Jenner at Old South High Blog found the first mention of Cantrell Avenue in the society section of the Rockingham Register, March 25, 1904. It recorded a visit to a "Rev. and Mr. C. C. Jones". At the time, the Episcopalian rectory was occupied by Robert Brookings. T. N. Haas was a Protestant Episcopalian though it is not clear if he was a member of the Emanuel congregation. John T. Harris, the major property owner across the street was on the vestry. However, to this day the Emanuel Episcopal Church has an address on 660 South Main street, despite all its doors and mail delivery opening onto Martin Luther King, Jr. Way. The historical reason for this anomaly is that the parsonage that stood on the site opened onto South Main, and had that address.
    The entry contains an error, it should read 'Mrs.' because C. C. Jones was married to the daughter of a Virginia physician. They must have lived in the single building east of the rectory, which stands today as an apartment building listed as having been built, or had major renovations, in the 1920's. A real estate advertisement by Garber at a later data appearing to refer to an 'old Methodist Church' on Cantrell actually refers to two properties: a flat across the street from the C. C. Jones home, and one of the Methodist Church locations, probably on West Market and Liberty.
  20. In addition to the above accusations of corruption, T. N. Haas had recently been in an election in which he and Keezle erroneously accused John Roller of corruption.
  21. While following the example of Paul, Grattan, and Ott and naming the new street Haas would have made sense, doing so would have been very inappropriate politically. The street in front of the Haas home was called Central. It made sense to extend that name up and over to the new street. The street in front of the Haas home had also, apparently earlier, been called South Street and we have evidence that this 'up and over' reasoning was used.
  22. May 3, Oct 4, 1904. Cantral appears in council minutes.

  23. The Rockingham Register renders the same word Cantrell.
  24. The Rockingham Register appears to have prepared their coverage of City Council from draft minutes.
  25. 'Cantrell' was a word with which the editors were familiar as the name of a judge at the center of political controversy they were following.
  26. This controversy involved Judge James E. Cantrell.

Compiled Deed Data

Leaflet distributed at Council meeting showing deed with owner, street names, and plots. Click for slide show:

Full Data as Tiles

Key Maps

1885 Rockingham County

Defaced 1912 Sanborn Insurance map, Massanutten Public Library

1918 Sanborn map showing that Central had been called South. Click to see that Grace was not yet developed.

The Meaning of Cantrell

  1. When Haas saw 'Cantrell' in the Rockingham register, it would have reminded him of his counterpart in Kentucky, of which he should have approved. When ordinary people saw 'Cantrell' the oral historians may well be right that they thought of Quantrill (more frequently spelled Quantrell in contemporary news accounts).
  2. Cantrell was a minor Confederate officer before becoming prominent. One of his men, Jerome Clark, aka Sue Mundy, left to become a raider.
    "He made his way to John Morgan's command and joined James
    E. Cantrell's regiment and Judge Cantrell often said that Jerome
    Clark was one of his bravest and most trusted scouts."
    P. 189
    Famous Kentucky Tragedies and Trials: A collection of
    Important and interesting tragedies and criminal trials which have
    taken place in Kentucky.
    Lewis Franklin Johnson
    The Baldwin Law Book Company
    Louisville KY
    William Clarke Quantrell, in the mean time, was at his low point after his Lawrence raid when his arch rival was mysteriously shot, reviving his hopes. His arch rival was mysteriously shot by a sniper from a quarter mile to the west, apparently from a property there called the Staples farm. This boost sent Quantrell racing to Kentucky on his way to surrender with Lee's army after a last 'glorious' blow to the Union.

    In Kentucky, he teamed up with Cantrell's man, Sue Mundy, and they celebrated Lincoln's assassination before Quantrell's death, just as Quantrell had celebrated John Brown's hanging at the start of his career.

  3. Judge Cantrell soon became involved in electoral issues.
  4. He was a resolute Democrat whose rulings reached the Supreme Court on issues Haas would have been following.
  5. Voting issues were in the air as Cantrell Avenue was opened.
    Rockingham Register
    May 1, 1903
    Supreme Court Virtually Upholds 
    Their Disfranchisement
  6. Haas also had a stand on states' rights and voting rights. In the Richmond Dispatch April 26 1902, Haas prefers proclamation (imposition without a vote) of the disfranchisement constitution, but adheres to submission of the constitution to Black and White electorate because the Democrats pledged to do so. J. C. Staples apparently had no need to mince words. He was 'outspoken' in favor of imposing the constitution without a vote.
  7. Haas was touted as a moderate by the Democrats.
  8. The debate notes of his Republican challenger show constitutional and racial equality issues came up in the debate.
  9. While busy keeping the state running, Judge Cantrell was no friend of African Americans and was grouped by contemporary dissidents with Jim Crow politicians and enemies of working people.
    The Clinton Street First Baptist Church trustees were determined to
    erect a new building. A temporary injunction was obtained to stop the
    city from interfereing with the construction of a house of worship. in
    1903 Judge James E. Cantrell dissolved the injunction by declaring "a
    Negro church is a 'nuisance' per se." The church trustees then took
    the case to the Court of Appeal where , in 1904, the decision was
    reversed and a perpetual injunction was granted. Emina Jett Darnell in
    her colorful account on Frankfort, Filling the Chinks, writes: "Old
    Judge White routed the opponents completely, saying that it was the
    first time in this life that he had heard the Church of God denounced
    as a nuisance." 
    [The church was 'too close' to the Governor's mansion]
    p. 106
    A Walking Tour of Historic Frankfort
    by Russell Hatter

Effective Re-naming of Cantrell Avenue and the elimination of 'place'

Discussion in terms of 'place' tends to legitimize empty claims of re-naming opponents. The Harrisonburg re-naming case is a pure case. The name was a place holder, at best given by accident. The residential street was torn out to make way for a street of a completely different geographic character. Already by the time the John Wayne film Dark Command came out in 1940, young people must have started to associate the name of the villain with the name of their street. Would they have kept the intricacies of Jim Crow constitutional law in mind and remembered the Judge? When the street was made to match Mosby, named for the father of Confederate guerrilla warfare, the association was fixed, as the oral history attested at the start of this episode. The name is empty at best or an embarrassment at worst. There is little of the usual positive sense of place associated with this street. The appropriate sense of place is the sense of exclusion: the feeling that Dr. King does not belong in the neighborhood. This is the feeling that should be plumbed and healed.

There is no issue of cost, even to the trivial level of a few street signs at about $100 a piece before labor for installation. GPS, pharmacies, stationary, USPS, all are false arguments. Even Harrisonburg's own forgettable re-naming of Founder's Way demonstrates that and the much larger country 911 conversion demonstrate that [update: the city has sign making truck, similar to seamless gutter trucks, so the marginal cost of signage was even smaller than we believed].

If auxiliary signs are made, they should be put on the single corner that actually was historic. They should there reflect the history: historic South, New, East South, Central, Cantral, Cantrel, Judge James E. Cantrell, and William Clarke Cantrell Avenues.

Unlikely Associations

The most popular candidate for the story behind Cantrell at the time of the vote was Private Charles P. Cantrell. The following persuaded the original source that the story was highly unlikely:

A Haas family member had been in the Spanish American War with a private named Cantrell. While being in the same war hardly makes people likely to have gotten to know each other, the social distance between a Haas family member and the Private is so great as to make it unbelievable short of evidence like a diary entry or a letter.

Private Charles P. Cantrell only shows up in computer searches in connection with his medal of honor and genealogy.

He was part of a group of 5 men, possibly 13, who were all heroically saving wounded in the same sentence in an article listing many other awardees. 27 soldiers, most on July 1, 1898, were commended for the same thing, some with additional details noted. He was 24 and returned to the town in which he was born to raise his half dozen kids in a tiny village in Tennessee. They all died in nearby Nashville or parts unknown. He does not seem to be of a social class that would have been associating with judges and officers.
Cantrell Family

Haas first observed action from the deck of the Texas on July 3 1898. He was back in Harrisonburg showing off silverware from the opposing captains table by the first week of August. Prior to joining the Navy, Haas's education did not take him anywhere near Tennessee, the society columns list no visits by Cantrells, and Cantrell would not have emerged a private if he had attended VMI with Haas. There is no indication that Haas had the chance to meet, let alone get to know, the young private. It does not seem likely that Lieutenant Haas, in a private moment shared with his brother and with much on his mind, would have been casting his thoughts back to an obscure private from Tennessee in an earlier war.

A new contributor to this site further points out: Since the Haas family had means and influence, it seems unbelievable that they would have pushed the honoring of Cantrell without both making some public notice of their "honorable" request and, more unbelievable, that they would not have contacted Pvt. Cantrell and his family directly to make them aware of the honoring. There would certainly have been some documentation of contacting Cantrell (since he was still well and alive). For a family like the Haas', it does not seem credible that they would win a naming right under the "honoring Pvt. Cantrell" scenario and then make it completely confidential and quiet - so that no one knows who Cantrell was. That would be completely contradictory to the theory of honoring. After 100 years, it's also not believable that no one in the Cantrell family has bothered to visit the city that named a street for them.

The Haas family was important enough that they could have had an influence on street names. But by the time the future Cantrell was subdivided, they were twice removed in the succession of developers. Wisman, J. C. Staples, Dr. Harris, Taliaferro, and even those who only held single plots for a short time would have had more stake in the name as active developers and investors (in about that order, with Staples coming to dominate as Wisman sold out). The Haas family's greatest leverage in naming would have been over the western side of the street where their home was the main developed property. That was only named South and Central, and much later Grace. The private lives of the Haas family are irrelevant to the naming of the street, which in turn is irrelevant to renaming for Dr. King. We have reached beyond what we needed to know and should not probe further into private lives that are none of our business.

C. C. Jones

The Jones residence must have been the present Chew apartments which had appeared by 1918, but were not present in 1885.

The links to the Episcopalians-- Haas, the Church, and the Cantrells they could have sustained-- are gone.

Jones was ordained into the Christian Church in 1901. He left Harrisonburg after a fatal car accident with a pedestrian in Nov 1909. Nov 1909 to Nov 1910 (execution of Pink Barbour) was a bad, bad, year for people living at the locations under or across from JMU Commuter lot 12.
View Larger Map

Episcopal Church

One player has remained silent in the din, except for the present day clear voice of the Rector of The Emanuel Episcopal Church, which was there before any of the contending parties entered the scene. Inspection of the very rare memoir of the church from its earliest roots reveals the following:

"Oscar S. Bunting accepted the call of the vestry to become rector on October 14, 1881. Two years later he moved into the new rectory that has been built on the corner of South Main Street and Cantrell Avenue on the site now occupied by the church."

The lot cost $380 and the frame building $3,500.
p. 21

Through the turn of the 20th century, the church had no regular rectors. J. M. Morton served from July 1900 to August 1902. The church held no services for more than 9 months except for 1 week mission by Robert U. Brookings who became rector starting June 1903.
p. 24

Robert Brookings requested that a sewerage system be installed in the rectory, that the chicken yard be fenced, and that a hot water heater be put in. The church conceded to the first two.

In 1905, Mrs. John T. Harris directed the choir.
p. 27

John T. Harris was on the vestry. He bought about half the property across the street, on the South side of Cantrell.

Mr. Brooking resigned because of poor health in October 1908.

Source: To walk in the light: the history of Emmanuel Episcopal Church Rockingham Parish. Harrisonburg, 1987 compiled by Arthur Hall.

There is no evidence of a Cantrell connection, though tracing this lead brought up the source of one of the early speculations that has since been abandoned. That source explained how an Arkansas street probably came to be named Cantrell: an important early parishioner probably made substantial donations to a church and school on that street. While in Harrisonburg important contributors are noted, especially in those lean times, there is no trace of a Cantrell connection.

Jan 3, 2014 Update

The Emanuel Episcopal Church which sits on the site of the old Episcopal Parsonage has an address on South Main Street: 660 South Main Street. This was mentioned in passing by its current Rector, Father Daniel Robayo during a New Year's Eve celebration of the new signs hosted by the church.

This means the only structure on that side of the street with a Cantrell Avenue address around the time the street was established was the structure to the East of the parsonage which did not appear on the 1885 map but did appear by 1918, prior to the date listed as the construction date for the current Chew Apartments at that location, having the same footprint as the 1918 building.

Cantrell Naming History
Martin Luther King Way Naming History
The Significance of Renaming