Our Founders



Henry Austin Lilly   1877 - 1945

Source: Bluefield Daily Telegraph


Born April 14, 1877, Henry Austin Lilly was a son of John B. and Elizabeth Meador Lilly, pioneers of Mercer County.  On September 17, 1897, he married Miss Laura G. Akers, of Dunns, and to this union four children were born.


Mr. Lilly came to Bluefield, shortly after his marriage and went to work for the Flat Top Grocery company.  Leaving that firm he accepted a position with the Meador and Land Company, a pioneer establishment of this city [founded by his uncle, R. G. Meador, of Athens] and at the time the leading Mercantile store in this entire section. The firm erected its own building, which now stands at the corner of Princeton Avenue and Mercer Street, familiarly known as the old Cox corner. Mr. Lilly was with Meador and Land for about five years when he launched his own business career and owned the Henry A. Lilly company store on Princeton Avenue. For many years this was one of the leading mercantile establishments in Bluefield, He also operated several grocery stores. About 1915 he established a general store at Dunns.  He closed out his business here in the early 1930’s and returned to Dunns and continued the operation of his general store there until his-death.


During his residence In Bluefield, Mr. Lilly was active in the life of the community.  He was a staunch Republican and served as president of the Beaver Pond District Board of Education for sometime. When the present city charter was drawn, Mr. Lilly was elected as a member of the first city board of directors.  He had served on the city council prior to the adoption of the city manager form of government. 


Mr. Lilly was also a charter member of the Bluefield Rotary Club and served as president of the old Bluefield National bank. He was active In the Chamber of Commerce, and devoted much of his time to the development of the city. For twenty-three years, he was superintendent of Calvary Baptist Church Sunday School, and he helped organize the College Avenue Baptist church. He was one of those who had worked hard to secure the establishment of Bluefield College. Mr. Lilly was also a member of the Masonic fraternity.


Mr. Lilly died at his native Mercer County home at Dunns December 27, 1945 at the age of 68.  He had been in declining health for six years. He was buried in Walnut Grove Cemetery.


On a personal note, Henry Lilly was a first cousin of my grandmother Ward, and my mother and grandmother spoke of him often.  On the 1916 corner stone of the Fairview School building, his name was among those listed, because of his being on the School Board, I think. Though the obituary doesn't mention it, I imagine he was an early graduate of Concord. My grandmother and numerous others in that family attended college there. Henry's mother's brother was R. G. Meador of Athens, who lived 50 years or more in the brick Victorian house on Vermillion Street, beside today’s Post office, where Athens Mayor Bob Richardson has lived in recent years. I think R. G. Meador, who became financially successful for that day, was a primary mentor to many of his nieces and nephews. He was a strong early supporter of Concord, and later of Bluefield College. At his death in 1931 he left a substantial bequest to Bluefield College.   He and his wife raised my grandmother after her parents died at an early age.


Robert Perry

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