Taylor: first woman to hold the gavel
by Larry S. Chowning
For the first 242 years the Town of Urbanna existed, women did not have the right to vote—much less hold public office.
Last May, Beatrice Taylor made history by being elected the first woman mayor of Urbanna. Taylor was vice mayor of the town for 10 years and has served on council for 11 years.
“When Ken Moore an-nounced he would not run for re-election as mayor, I was approached by several town citizens about running for mayor,” said Taylor. “I thought about it long and hard and then decided to give it a try.
“I honestly did not know I was the first woman to be mayor,” she said. “I know we have had some good male mayors over the years and I hope I’m as successful as some of them.”
Taylor’s ancestors moved to Urbanna from Tangier Island. Her grandparents left Tangier right after the August Storm of 1933 and moved into the house on Howard Street that she lives in now with her husband Dale. Beatrice was born in the house.
After the 1933 storm that flooded Tangier, 13 families and over 30 people from the island moved to Urbanna. “I guess my family figured if we had to deal with a hurricane again, we wanted to be on high ground,” said Taylor.
Taylor’s father, Avery Payne, worked for Boyd Hurley when the Hurleys ran a seafood business and restaurant at the foot of Virginia Street. She was her father’s right hand girl. “When I was a child, I’d go along the shore and dip up soft crabs and sell them to Daddy or to Mr. Hurley,” she said. “Sometimes I’d catch two soft crabs and get 10 cents and sometimes I’d catch one for 5 cents.”
“I’d take my money into Mr. Hurley’s store and I’d buy a 10-cent French pastry,” she said.
Taylor went to Urbanna School through sixth grade and graduated from Middlesex High School in 1960. She and her first husband, Temple Lipscomb, were the last couple to get married in the old Urbanna Methodist Church that was located on the corner of Prince George and Cross streets and later torn down to make room for the old Bank of Middlesex.
Taylor and her first husband lived in Mechanicsville after they were married. They had a daughter, Paula Lipscomb. Paula married Peter Dove and the couple has two daughters and live in Richmond. “I’m very proud of my granddaughters,” said Taylor.
When her first husband died in 1969, she and her daughter began coming home more in the summers and helping her father Avery fish peeler pots.
When Mr. Payne died of a heart attack in his boat in 1977, Taylor moved home to the house she was born in, and she and her sister, Catherine Via, took over Payne’s Crab House at the foot of Virginia Street. The two sisters continue to operate the crab house today and have been featured in several publications and films.
Paula graduated as valedictorian from her Middlesex High School class and went on to graduate from James Madison University.
“Hanover had great schools but when Daddy died, I just felt we needed to be home,” said Taylor.
Beatrice married Dale Taylor in 1980 and they have continued to live in Urbanna.
“When I was growing up, who was taking care of this town and making sure everything worked didn’t dawn on me,” she said. “I just took it for granted. We had the Marshall and Richardson families and Dr. A.L. VanName, Atwell Taylor and Bob Bristow, who were all leaders in our community. I didn’t worry about the town because I just knew they were going to look after things.
“Growing up, I would have never thought I would have been on town council and certainly never thought I’d be mayor,” she said. “I wonder what Dr. VanName would say about this?” She noted that Barbara Robins was “probably” the first woman on council back in the 1970s. “I doubt there were any women on council before Barbara because it was a man’s place before that time,” she said.
“I hope that I can do as much for the town as all those others have done,” said Taylor. “What’s going to keep this town going in the right direction is if the people continue to be the kind of people we have always had here—kind people, caring people, people who help one another. As long as we can keep smiling and being friendly, nothing will take this town down.”
Taylor praised the new council members who she said have a real understanding of what makes Urbanna special.
“What makes Urbanna special is our quaintness and being different from other communities,” she said. “If we have the same look and same feel as other communities around, then we will have lost our charm.”
Taylor said that historically this may not be the best time to be taking over the helm of a small town, but she’s looking forward to the challenge. “My objective is to do the best I can for the town,” she said. “It’s a bad situation right now with the economy and the price of gas. I know the businesses have felt it. We are going to try to work on things to get things going a little better.
“We’ve got some real hard issues to overcome right now, but with teamwork I think we can overcome them,” she said.