Local author explores Martinsville, Henry County history through a new lens

Author and photographer Stephen H. Provost examines the history of Martinsville, Virginia, a town with a larger-than-life story, in his latest release, Martinsville Memories.

Martinsville has been the plug tobacco capital of the world and the sweatshirt capital of the world. A town of fewer than 15,000 people, it hosts two stock-car races each year at a speedway that holds four times that many people — the oldest on the NASCAR circuit.

It’s a place of verdant beauty and blue skies a few miles north of the North Carolina state line, in the Goldilocks zone: seldom too hot in summer or too cold in winter. It has thrived as the town with the nation’s most millionaires per capita and struggled through factory closures during the era of globalization.

Packed with some 300 historical and modern images, Martinsville Memories is a look a diverse town built on tobacco, textiles and furniture that occupies a unique place in the nation’s fabric and history. From the town’s historic beginnings through its 20th century heyday, this volume offers a nostalgic trek through time, with stops at drive-ins, old hotels and iconic storefronts along the way. Chapters on the city center, its heritage, industry, leisure activities, community pursuits and transportation fill more than 200 pages.

Martinsville Memories doesn’t stop at the city limits, but gives the reader a tour of surrounding communities such as Collinsville, Ridgeway, Bassett, Axton, and Spencer as well.

Martinsville Memories captures the triumphs and struggles of a city at the heart of the South and the soul of America.

The book features a foreword by native son Stephen Mark Rainey, acclaimed author of the novels Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (with Elizabeth Massie), Lair of the Mothman, The Dragon of Lake Superior and many others.

About the author-

A former veteran editor, reporter and columnist with more than 30 years of experience at daily newspapers, Stephen H. Provost moved to the Martinsville area to write novels and nonfiction full time. He is the author of more than 20 books.

His works of historical nonfiction include A Whole Different League, The Legend of Molly Bolin, Fresno Growing Up, The Great American Shopping Experience (forthcoming in 2020) and histories of Highway 99 and Highway 101 in California. Fictional releases include Memortality and its sequel, Paralucidity; Identity Break; The Only Dragon and a short-story collection, Nightmare’s Eve. Other works explore the realms of mythology, fable and ancient history.

Public signings

The author will be available to sign copies of his book at the following events:

40th Annual Martinsville Uptown Oktoberfest, on the south side of Church Street, just west of Broad Street, Oct. 5 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

2019 Dragon Festival at the Virginia Museum of Natural History, 21 Starling Avenue, Martinsville, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Bassett Band Fall Craft Show at Bassett High School, Nov. 23 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Nov. 24 from 1 to 5 p.m.

more recommended stories