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What’s Suffolk’s oldest business? November 30, 2005

I was having a discussion recently with John Harrell of Suffolk Iron Works. I had asked John about his business because, frankly, I didn’t know anything about it. I was amazed to hear the extent of the work they do through the Mid-Atlantic region on cell phone towers and the like. I had no idea.

Anyway, during the course of the conversation we started talking about Suffolk’s oldest business. It had always been Jos. P. Hall Drug Store, which traced its history back to the 1840s.

Since Jos. P. Hall is no more, there seems to be some question about which is the oldest business in town.

John said he had paperwork on his company that dated to before the turn of the century and thought that maybe it was proof that Suffolk Iron Works was the town’s oldest business. But he said Robert Baker of Baker Funeral Home is laying claim to the title.

I don’t know what the founding date of Baker Funeral Home is, and I have not called Robert to find out, because I’m really not that interested. Nonetheless,

I think the Suffolk News-Herald could lay claim to being the oldest business as well.

We trace our ancestry back to 1873, at least that’s what we’ve always had on the paper. I had no evidence here to support the claim, but last week Fred Taylor, who writes a column for the newspaper on history, sent me the following he uncovered

from a Jan. 4, 1873 issue of the Progress-Index in Petersburg:

&uot;The Suffolk Herald is the name of a new weekly paper just started at Suffolk, Nansemond County, by T.E. Cropper, editor and proprietor. It is a neat 28 column sheet filled with entertaining matter.&uot;

There was another newspaper that sprang in Suffolk sometime between 1873 and the 1920s called the Suffolk News, a daily paper. At some point after 1925, the two papers combined to create the Suffolk News-Herald.

Anyway, that’s the basis of our claim to being Suffolk’s oldest business. I don’t know how valid it is, or even if it matters (I tend to think it does not). We will probably pursue a story to answer the question once and for all. If anyone reading this has any information that would be pertinent, I’d appreciate hearing about it at 757.934.9611 or at andy.Prutsok@suffolknewsherald.com.