The extremes of wealth and poverty do not now exist and have never been existent in Tazewell. There are many comfortably wealthy men in the county; and, perhaps, half a dozen millionaires. But, with a population of 27,840 souls in the county, as shown by the census of 1920, there are only 53 paupers here.
The paupers are of a class that are unable to work on account of the infirmities of age, or other physical causes, and mental deficiency. Fifteen are entirely dependent and are maintained at the county farm, while thirty-eight are partially dependent and receive aid from the public funds.
The county owns a valuable farm, situated one and a half miles east of the county seat, its estimate value being seventy-five thousand dollars. During the fiscal year which ended the 1st of July, 1919, the products of the farm amounted to $4,890; and the live stock on hand at that date was valued at $8,760. The annual expense for conducting the farm and maintaining the paupers is, approximately $6,000.
As long as present conditions continue society here will be contented and prosperous; and, apparently, it will be best for the county to remain, as it always has been, primarily an agricultural community. Adherence to this system will give comfort and security to the energetic worker, and will not furnish asylum to the idler.
God forbid, that Tazewell shall ever have a system with paupers at the base and idle rich at the top of the social scale. May its social system never be like that of modern England, of which Matthew Arnold affirmed: “Our inequality materializes our upper class, vulgarizes our middle class, and brutalizes our lower class.”
Wealth, great wealth, is now collectively possessed by the people of Tazewell. What will they do with it? Under the spell of modern civilization, shall the rising generation be trained to place a negligible value upon the instrumentalities of civilization that were recognized and utilized by the pioneer fathers; and be taught that money, position, power, idleness, and luxury are the prime essentials of an advanced civilization? This is the gravest question the Christian world has to solve.
What part will the people of Tazewell enact in its solution? Shall civilization continue to advance here on definitely true lines, or retrograde into a refined barbarism? Shall we continue to teach but neglect to practice the great social and political truths of Thomas Jefferson, embodied in the Virginia Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence?
History of Tazewell county and southwest Virginia: 1748-1920, by William Cecil Pendleton, W.C. Hall Printing, Richmond VA, 1920