Sunday, January 31, 2010

Watch Your Step in "Little" Washington

The town of Washington, in Beaufort County, North Carolina, published Ordinances of the town of Washington, North Carolina in 1903. The emphasis has shifted in the past 100+ years. These ordinances come from a simpler time. The fines for breaking on of these rules ranged from $1 to $10 with possible jail time of 10 days.

Below are a few that are interesting:

1. Every occupant of a lot on any street shall keep the footway clean and the gutter open and free from obstructions as far as such lot extends. If any rubbish, dirt, filth or other thing be placed or left without lawful authority on such footway or in such gutter, the occupant of the lot shall remove the same. If five hours elapse after notice by the chief of police, by the mayor or by one of the policemen without removal, the occupant shall upon proof of the same be fined three dollars.

2. If any person shall throw filth or rubbish of any kind into the public wells, or in any manner injure the public pumps, he shall be fined five dollars or imprisoned ten days.

3. No person shall fasten a horse or other animal to the street trees of the town or any fence enclosing public grounds, or grounds of public institutions. For a violation of this section persons upon conviction shall be fined one dollar.

4. No person shall ride or drive a horse or other animal or vehicle on any street faster than at the rate of eight miles per hour, nor break any horse or other animal in any street. For each offense the person convicted shall pay a fine of five dollars.

5. No person shall put or allow tubs or barrels to stand or do the cleaning thereof at the public pumps. Neither shall any one wash articles, nor water, nor wash animals about the public pumps. The offender against the foregoing part of this section shall be fined two dollars upon conviction. …

6. No offal, garbage, rubbish or other refuse matter of any kind whatever shall be thrown into the dock at the foot of Market street, or into any other slip or dock in or about the town, and if any one be guilty of a violation of this section he or she shall be subject to a fine upon conviction of five dollars. The shells of oysters and clams opened at or on the wharves or in the town docks, whether by boatmen or others, shall be deposited for the use of the town on the wharves where opened, as a compensation for wharfage; any person violating this section shall be fined one dollar.

7. It shall be unlawful for any person to throw or place any grapes or grape skins, orange or banana peels upon any of the sidewalks of the town. Anyone violating this ordinance shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and subject to a fine of ten dollars or ten days imprisonment.

8. That it shall be unlawful for any person or persons to carry or convey through the public streets or passways of the town, any slops or garbage, if the same be contained in an uncovered receptacle. Any person violating this ordinance shall be subject to a penalty of five dollars for each and every offense.

9. That no person or persons shall be allowed to use any of the sidewalks of the town for bicycle riding. The use of said sidewalks as above specified shall subject the offender to a fine of five dollars for each offense. [Same rule applies today!]

10. No mule, horse or cattle shall be watered within twenty feet of any pump in the town, nor shall any clothes, meat, fish, vegetables or ice be washed or rinced [sic] within forty feet of any pump in the town, nor shall any person drink from the spout of any pump, nor shall any person sit or lounge on or around any pump. Any person violating this ordinance shall be fined $5.

11. All persons are prohibited from emptying or pouring fish or beef pickles, or placing other offensive matter in the streets or open lots of the town. Any person violating this ordinance shall be fined $5.

12. Any person who shall be found guilty of loud hallooing or screaming, or making any loud or extravagant noise, except in case of fire, in the town in the day or night time, shall be fined three dollars.

13. The shining of shoes on the streets or sidewalks of the town on the Sabbath day is forbidden. Any person violating this section shall be punished by a fine of five dollars for each offense.

The entire volume of Ordinances of the town of Washington, North Carolina is published on East Carolina University's Digital Library at

Aunt Maria

Rocky Mount Figure of the Early 1890s

"Aunt Maria" Simms is said to have lived to have been 110 years old. She lived in a one room log hut daubed with mud and a mud chimney. The hut was situated in a large field about where the 600 block of Western Avenue, Rocky Mount, Nash County, NC is now. There were probably half a dozen houses between Church Street and the River back then.

Aunt Maria used to sell fried chicken and big brown biscuits down at the depot, which was located, at that time, at the intersection of Marigold and South Main Streets. Passengers and railroad employees loved them when we had such trains as No. 23 and 28. And woe unto anybody who asked Aunt Maria if she wanted to buy cabbage. As you can see from the picture, she was about as big around as she was tall and always carried a hickory stick. If you were in reach of that stick and said "cabbage," she would flail you as hard as she could. Of course, no one ever got mad—everybody took it in fun.

After she left the depot Aunt Maria would always waddle up Main St. to Mr. Hammond's Grocery Store, which was the center of activity in Rocky Mount then. Someone would give her a chair out on the edge of the sidewalk and she would peddle what chicken she had left; or if she got in a few good licks on some of the boys, that was a show and she would get a few tips from the crowd. There was always a crowd around her—much like the days when the monkey man came around. It was the delight of young men like Mr. Henry Cuthrell, Mr. J. C. Braswell, and John Arrington to get some rookie traveling salesman to ask Aunt Maria if she had any cabbage. Boy! How she would go after him with that stick. Sometimes she would miss him, but he had to be might nimble to avoid it.

I was a lad about ten years old then. Aunt Maria, I am sure, was between eighty and ninety. She must have had a wonderful constitution, for never have I heard of her being sick and she always lived by herself after Ned, her oldest son, died. Ned was a half-wit. At the time I remember him he must have been seventy. He would carry her basket to the depot and then strike a dog trot back home, hat in hand, always looking back, expecting a dog to attack him. Some of the boys who played pranks on Ned will have a hard time getting by Saint Peter. Dallas Simms, her younger son, worked for Thorpe & Ricks Tobacco Co. for years and years and he was held in high esteem by the people of Rocky Mount.

[SOURCE: "Yesteryear Around Here," Rocky Mount Evening Telegram, 10/21/1942. The writer is unknown. In the early 1940s, the Telegram published a series of old photographs in the series "Yesteryear Around Here." This blog will include others from the series at a later date. The Story Keeper]

This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Fall 2007 issue.

Cedar Rock Graduated Six in 1924

Maurice Jefferson Stokes was Valedictorian of the 1924 graduating class of Cedar Rock High School in Franklin County, North Carolina. Stokes's message, entitled "History of Cedar Rock Senior Class, '24," was written on a single long sheet of paper which was rolled into a tight scroll and almost forgotten for 75 years. (The Cedar Rock High School was about 2 to 2 ½ miles west of Castalia on Hwy. 56, on the right. The Cedar Rock Baptist Church is in front of it. The picture of the church was taken from

The address contained several references to the assassination of William McKinley, who was shot in Buffalo, NY in 1901. The class chose as its colors red, "the color of courageous blood," and white, for the white of the sky "which was to be a symbol of purity." The class flower was the carnation. "Since this tragic crisis (death of McKinley) in our national history, the carnation has seemed to stand for all the principles embodied in the Character of this splendid man."

After naming those of the original 14 classmates that had dropped by the wayside, Stokes makes the following observation: " Broad is the gate and wide is the way that leadeth to the high school, and many there be that go in thereat, but straight is the gate, and narrow is the way that leadeth to graduation, and few there be that find it."

The six graduates were:
1. Maurice Jefferson Stokes
2. Hiawatha Hedgepeth
3. Spurgeon Tharrington
4. Mary Gardner
5. Inez Sykes
6. Lena Wester

This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Summer 1997 issue.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Louisburg Native Taught Lindbergh to Fly


It was May, 1927, and Charles Augustus Lindbergh (1902-1974) had just completed his historic flight from New York to Paris in the "Spirit of St. Louis." In the back room of a Greek wiener stand in Wendell, Wake Co., NC, a group of men sat around a checkerboard. One of the checker players was William "Bill" A. Winston who had just lost his job because his company had gone under.

A reporter entered the room and asked for Winston. "I've been told you taught Lindbergh to fly," he said. "Anything to it?"

"Well, I did have a pupil by that name and he was a good one, back in 1924, it was, at Brooks Field in San Antonio, Texas, while I was an Army flying instructor," replied Bill Winston. And thus it was that Lindbergh's instructor rose into fame on the wings of a pupil who had been recorded as "satisfactory."

Charles Lindbergh

What led to Charles Lindbergh's remarkable feat? He saw his first airplane in 1910, and it was love at first sight. In 1922, he quit college to take flying lessons at the Nebraska Aircraft Co. He joined forces with E. G. Bahl, a barnstormer, in 1922, and learned to wing-walk and parachute from planes. In 1923, Lindbergh bought his first plane, a Curtiss JN4, at a government auction of "Jennies," World War I training planes. He paid $500 for it. He spent the next year barnstorming across the country.

In his autobiography, WE, Lindbergh recalled: "I had always wanted to fly modern and powerful planes. … The Army offered the only opportunity." He applied to the army and reported to Brooks Field in March 1924 where he joined a class of 104 cadets.

Actual flying began on April 1. Each instructor had 6 students. Lindbergh was assigned to Sgt. Wm. "Bill" Winston. Winston recalled that he was aware that Lindbergh could already fly small planes. On the first flight, after 55 minutes, Winston turned the controls over to Lindbergh.

Lindbergh said of Winston: "I had been particularly fortunate in my assignment of an instructor. Sergeant Winston held the record for flying time in the army with about 3, 300 hours. He was an excellent pilot and knew how to instruct if he wanted to. When my turn came he asked me how much flying time I had had and after I told him about 325 hours he turned the controls over to me with orders to take the ship around and land it. I had some difficulty in flying with my right hand. The wartime ships … were built to be flown with the left, but … it was decided to change the throttle over to the other side on the theory that the right hand was the natural one to fly with. After three landings, however, Sergeant Winston got me out of the cockpit and told me to fly around for thirty minutes and try to get used to right handed piloting." Lindbergh later described Winston as "one of the finest pilots on Brooks Field."

William "Bill" Avera Winston

How did Bill Winston end up at Brooks field in 1924, prepared to teach Lindbergh to fly? He was born in 1896 in Louisburg, Franklin County, NC where his father, John Preston Winston, son of Randall Sidney and Julia Winston, was a merchant and the owner of the Winston House Hotel in Louisburg. His mother was Lizzie Avera, daughter of Dr. Thomas H. Avera of Wake County, NC.

Bill Winston grew up in Louisburg and attended Louisburg Graded School. In 1912, the Franklin Times reported that William Winston had received the Orren R. Smith Medal for the best essay by a high school pupil on the topic of "The Stars and Bgars." He graduated in 1913.

Winston's childhood reflected his many-faceted personality. He loved to read, but he also played sports. The wide open spaces of Franklin Co. offered plenty of fishing and hunting. On hot summer afternoons, he could be found at the old swimming hole. He was musically talented as well. A newspaper article in 1906, describing his piano recital, said he "showed remarkable taent in music." His teachers went so far as to advise him to make piano playing his profession.

Winston's interest in aviation probably developed as a result of the Wright brothers' flight on the North Carolina coast in 1903 when he was about 7 years old, but a series of articles in St. Nicholas Magazine when he was 13 showed pictures and designs of aeroplanes.

"They fascinated him," said his mother. "He soon made a glider and had me out in the garden to see it fly."

In 1914, the Winston family moved to Eagle Rock near Wendell in Wake County, NC, the home of Bill's mother. By that time, the young man was enrolled at Wake Forest College. He later transferred to the University of North Carolina to study medicine.

At thje outbreak of World War I in 1917, Winston decided to become a pilot. He planned to enlist in the Navy Flying Corps. However, the naval recruiting officers in Raleigh, NC informed him that he would never make a flyer—and there was no use for the Navy to waste its precious time on him. He received the same treatment at the Army Recruiting Office. He was determined, however, and applied at the Greensboro, NC office and was accepted in the Army Signal Corps. He trained as a cadet at Caruthers Field, Texas, but he never went overseas. Instead, he became a trainer for other aspiring pilots, including Charles A. Lindbergh.

Brooks Field officials felt that Lindbergh would be a difficult pupil. He had first to un-learn many things before he could start learning up-to-date Army flying technique. However, Bill Winston found him to be a satisfactory student.
After the Army

During the Sesquicentennials Exposition at Philadelphia, PA in 1025, the Philadelphia Transit Co. decided there would be big business in transporting visitors from Norfolk, Washington and other areas to the big show. Bill Winston gave up the army and became a pilot for the company. It was not a good choice. The company went broke. Bill Winston was out of a job, and ne ended up playing checkers in Wendell.

Winston's notoriety followed Lindbergh's, on a lesser scale. The Curtiss Flying Service made him National Director of Flying. The company had hundreds of flying fields and was engaged in passenger and express transportation as well as teaching aspiring pilots to fly.

In 1933, Winston joined Pan American Airways as a pilot. He remained with the company for 15 years. During that time, he logged more than 3,000,000 miles and was one of the first pilots to cross the Atlantic 100 times, all without incident. He also flew over the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, as well as throughout Central and South America. Winston was the pilot who flew the bodies of Will Rogers and Wiley Post back to the U.S. after their crash in Alaska in 1935.

Bill Winston married his first wife, Kathryn Cosby, about 1925. They had two daughters, Elizabeth and Helyn Merrell "Merrie." He later married Elizabeth Riebel of Columbus, Ohio. Winston died in Miami, FL in 1948 at th3 age of 52.

1. News and Observer, Raleigh, NC; Aug. 26, 1948
2. The Franklin Times, Louisburg, NC; Jan. 1899.
3. The Heritage of Wake County.
4. Spirit of St. Louis, by Charles Lindbergh.

This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Summer 2004 issue.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Nash County Man Makes Shoes in Ohio

ONES WILLIAM FRANCIS, Boot and Shoemaker, was born, August 12th, 1824, in Nash County, North Carolina, of American parentage. When but five years of age he was indentured to learn the trade of a shoemaker, and worked until he attained his majority. He then commenced business for himself, his cash capital being fifty cents, and his tools consisting only of a hammer, a pair of pinchers, a peg awl, a sewing awl, and a knife. From this small beginning he has prospered and gained a comfortable livelihood, beside having laid by a sore for a "rainy day." in 1858 he removed to Cleveland [Ohio] where he has ever since resided. During the war of the rebellion he served one year and was honorably discharged. He has always been a Republican in political feeling, but has never held a public office of any kind. In religious belief he is a Methodist. He was converted at the age of twenty-four, and up to that time had never heard a sermon preached. Soon after his arrival in Cleveland he engaged earnestly in the cause of religion, and was a zealous laborer in the field before him, insomuch that the church asked for his promotion. He was accordingly ordained a Deacon by the Annual Conference, at Columbus [Ohio]. April 30th, 1868. He was married May 22d, 1847, to Malindia Mayo, of North Carolina.

NOTE: The name Jones appears 7 times in Nash County in the 1820 census: Allen, Charles, Francis, Henry, Jeremiah, John, and Vilet. William Francis may have been the son of one of these.

This article was taken from The Biographical encyclopaedia of Ohio of the nineteenth century, 1876. It was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Spring 2004 issue.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Don't Leave Your Shoes At Home!

This interesting tidbit came from the Google book, The Hamrick generations: being a genealogy of the Hamrick family, by Stephen Collis Jones. It was published in 1920.

"… The first General Assembly ever held in North Carolina—so authentic history states—was in Pasquotank County, North Carolina, near Nixonton, under a giant .oak tree, on the left hand side of the road. It is interesting to note that one of the by-laws of that Assembly admonished that "all members should wear shoes, if not stockings, during the sessions of the body, and they must refrain from throwing chicken and other bones under the tree."



This story is taken from the Google book, Norfolk, the Marine Metropolis of Virginia and the Sound and River Cities of North Carolina, by Geo. L. Nowitzky, which was published in 1888. It is a fascinating snapshot of Elizabeth City, Pasquotank Co., NC at that time. The businesses listed at the end of the article provide a treasure for genealogists interested in this area.

England's virgin queen, the petted, petulant and piquant Elizabeth, never, in the very zenith of her remarkably prosperous reign, looked prouder upon her throne than does the active little city so well situated upon the Pasquotank river which bears her name; and the subjects of the stern queen never, even in the dark hours when the white sails of the Spanish armada were found hovering near the sunken rocks of Edystone, were more ready to defend her possessions than the sons and daughters of " Sweet Bessie," as the citizens fondly call their favored city, are to defend the good name of the queen of the Pasquotank.

It is alleged that about the time Tom Moore threw his slurs at Norfolk


concluded to seek rest for his body, and probably from his creditors, and selected this little city for his haven. The people, thinking him a gentleman of culture and refinement, extended him many courtesies and he was a welcome guest everywhere, but he abused their hospitality and the citizens soon found it out; for a magazine published in London found its way to Elizabeth City containing an article from the pen of this gentleman upon American Civilization, and claiming that that of the white American was not much, if any, in advance of the red. This changed their attitude towards him; their former generous hospitality gave way to a stiff reserve; in fact, Elizabeth City can actually lay claim to a "boycott" years before Mr. Boycott of Ireland furnished name for this process of getting rid of an objectionable person. They had so little to do with him that they literally froze him out, and so thoroughly convinced him that he was not wanted that when a brigantine dropped down the Pasquotank and upon her departure took with her (to the great delight of all the citizens) this unfortunate man from "perfidious Albion" the following oft-quoted lines, which proclaim to the world the marvelous jumping power of Pasquotank bull-frogs, were, it is said, first brought forth to reinforce the epigrammatic literature of the world:

" He came to the banks
Of the Pasquotank, Where the bull-frogs jump
From bank to bank."
Full of conceit
And pernicious ire, A scoundrel at heart,
An unmitigated liar.
When he left, the frogs
On both the banks Croaked themselves hoarse
In chanting their thanks.

For fear that some of my readers may think that I am manufacturing history, I wish to state that I have heard several versions as to the origin of the first verse appertaining to the frogs, which has become literally a household rhyme throughout the North State.

My authority for the others, as well as the distinguished and extinguished visitor from England, is based upon the following, which I consider reliable information: While in conversation with a number of planters in Elizabeth City one of them, the oldest in the party, quoted this well-known rhyme, and upon my asking him if he could possibly tell when he first heard it he answered in the negative, at the same time inviting me to take a seat in his buggy, and, as an inducement to take a ride, assured me that he would bring me to the house of a lady who knew all about its history. I could scarcely repress a smile at the idea of making a trip in quest of such information, and told him that I hardly thought its history of sufficient consequence to make such a special effort to find. But the old gentleman insisted and held out more inducements. He informed me that the old lady was a relative of his; that she was the possessor of a number of old relics, pictures and so on, some of them belonging to the Colonial period, and that she wanted some expert to judge their value, as she wished to dispose of them.

All philosophers agree, at least those who have agreed to give the subject any thought, that we are all more or less vain, and I presume I am no exception to this philosophic ruling. To be called an expert was very agreeable, and I evidently thought that the compliment should be rewarded for I took a seat in the buggy and in a short time after was introduced to a lady whose head was whitened by the frosts of seventy winters; from her I gleamed sufficient information to justify what I have said about the Englishman's visit to the Pasquotank; and as to the rhyme she informed me that when a child she had heard it often, and although she retained the first two lines she could only recall that one of the others in the next couplet wound up with the rather uncomplimentary but expressive word—liar, while the concluding lines insisted that even the bullfrogs held a jubilee at the unfortunate's departure. With this to guide me, I wrote the lines as printed above, and after repeating them to her she said that they were nearly the same as the original. I then bade her good-bye, first, however, informing her where I thought she could sell her relics, and faithfully promising her that should I get into a controversy appertaining to jumping frogs and sarcastic Englishmen I would not mention her name, as she said she was too old to engage in a newspaper war.

This shows that the citizens of Elizabeth City have inherited this love of town and home, and whenever occasion demands it this innate love comes to the front. The last time that they felt as if they had sufficient grievance for general resentment was during the stirring days known by the citizens as the


The facts, as near as I can recall them, were as follows: When the Norfolk Southern Railroad was constructed only as far as Elizabeth City it bore the following modest title: The Norfolk and Elizabeth City Railroad; but after leaving the metropolis of the east side as a terminus, by continuing to Edenton, and thus finding herself increased in mileage and the two appendages which naturally follow—greater power and more usefulness—they concluded that they should be known by a stronger sounding name, the one selected being the present, which makes no mention of Elizabeth City. This provoked her citizens, and among them (far in the lead) was that stalwart champion of the sounds, or, as his friends fondly term him, "the great Democratic War-horse of Eastern Carolina"—Colonel Creecy, the editor of the Economist. So gallantly did he fight them in his excellent journal, and so thoroughly did the people appreciate his efforts, that they not only presented him with a gold-headed cane, but also gave his name to the prettiest park in the great North State.

The war is now happily over, for the railroad company, by furnishing a most excellent service and improving its magnificent water-front, has redeemed itself and once again has gone into favor with the Colonel and the other citizens.

The city is divided into two parts which appear as distinct and unlike as if there was a hundred miles of space between them. This difference may not be as perceptible to the citizen, but is so marked that it is noticed by nearly every traveler. The lower is known as


for the reason that it borders upon the river. Its leading streets are Water, Fearing and the lower end of Main. Water Street is the shortest of the three, but it contains the heaviest mercantile establishments and most durable business buildings in the city.


begins at the river front, and any one viewing the Pasquotank from its wharf, I care not how much he has traveled, unless he has well studied and mapped in his mind the geographical features of the city and its spacious water approach, is apt to think that he is overlooking some bay having immediate connection with an ocean instead of standing on the banks of a river. The street is a pretty blending of business houses and residences; it is broad and well shaded by lofty elms. From the river front for two blocks it is lined with solid, well constructed brick business houses, then the elms begin and the street loses its city-like appearance, looking more like the main thoroughfare of the staid seat of a wealthy agricultural county. The effect is very pleasing as the visitor walks under the shade of the monster trees past the stately court-house, magnificent residences surrounded with green lawns, and the hospitable looking hotel. This handsome avenue, as I have before noted, has many changes in its great length, but there are two things it does not lose: its generous width and gracious shade.

The older or upper part of the city gives every evidence of having once been the most important, and


its main thoroughfare, in spite of a number of dilapidated buildings, still looks substantial, and is also a pleasant street to walk through and reflect upon the "ups and downs" in the history of a city's streets, for this thoroughfare, judging by the appearance of its buildings, must have been the centre of trade before Water street, with its many handsome store-houses, was thought of. The greatest relic left to show its former grandeur is


built in the ante-bellum days, its somber Tuscan colonnade supporting two platforms, one serving as a veranda for the .second and the other for the attic story, which is faced by a huge fire-wall evidently made to take the place of the missing pediment. The building has a very peculiar, lonesome appearance, and if situated in California would readily be taken for a Jesuit Mission church.

A ramble through the streets of the city convinced me that the Pasquotank beauty will compare favorably, in the appearance and substantial nature of her buildings, with any city in North Carolina. The business houses are nearly all of brick, with well-designed fronts. The residences, it is true, are mainly of more perishable material, but there are two of brick which deserve special mention. One of them is on Main street, nearly opposite the court-house, and is owned by the


I am satisfied a smile expressing incredibility will play on the visage of any journalist that may read this, and I do not know that it will entirely disappear when I say that this gentleman is also a successful practicing attorney; but I am quite sure that it will vanish like feathers before a cyclone when I say that he owns a valuable ferry franchise, which enables outside Pasquotankers to come to Elizabeth City without following the example set by the frogs and jumping across the river.

The other is a more modern study and is owned by a prominent member of the North Carolina Bar, who is also one of the gentlemen who comprise the shell-fish commission of the bivalve-margined coast of the great North State.

The churches are all neat and well-cared-for, but I am sorry to say that there are only two that are built of enduring material: one belongs to the Episcopal and the other to the Methodist denomination. A neat tower, finished with battlements, is the special feature of the former and a Doric porch of the latter.

By far the handsomest structure in the city is


It stands in the centre of a beautiful lawn which occupies a large square and is well enclosed with a neat iron railing. The building is the leading architectural feature of both town and judicial district. In fact, in exterior effect and surroundings it can well be classed as the finest judicial building in the Commonwealth, and in interior embellishments it is only surpassed by one (New Bern). It is built of brick, heavily trimmed with granite. Four rustic, stone-faced piers stand out in full relief from the first story of the building and hold a substantial granite platform, from which spring four columns, which, unfortunately, are the great defect of the building, on account of being severely plain when they should be fluted to correspond with the capitals, which are Corinthian, thus giving the impression that the building committee had exhausted their funds before the edifice was completed. These columns support the pediment, which contains a large granite slab with the date of construction (1882), and from the roof rises a well-designed and substantial cupola, which contains a fine clock and bell, towering above all surroundings.
The Albemarle Hotel ranks among the largest hotel buildings in the State. Its imposing brick fronts, pierced by many windows, add much to the appearance of both Main and Broad streets.
Among the many attractions that Elizabeth City affords I found


which are well situated as well as very accessible, the main or grand entrance being a few feet from an improvised depot of the Norfolk Southern road. It has good buildings for exhibition purposes and ample stabling facilities, but its chief feature is its speeding track, which is rolled to such a nicety and kept in such perfect condition that it is criticized as being one of the "fastest" on the South Atlantic seaboard.
During a late visit to the city I concluded to take a drive to far-famed


which I found contains about thirty acres of land and water, which nature has done a great deal for, and its primary attractions are being continually added to by well planned scenic, landscape and floral additions. It is well situated upon the banks of the majestic Pasquotank, which forms a most attractive and well sheltered harbor, and being a tidal stream it naturally affords every advantage for the location of bath-houses. A good depth of water a few feet out, reached by a well constructed wharf, gives superb facilities for the transportation of passengers brought by steam-boats and other craft.

Its present attractions are a great diversity in physical features with which nature first adorned it, and which consist of valley, glade and hill covered with an abundance of luxuriant grasses and shaded by thirty-two species of trees, and a remarkably well stocked fish-pond dotted with picturesque islands and bounded by cozy nooks and neat projecting headlands, while water-lilies dance on its mirrored surface, and rush and reed waft lazily with the breeze. Many birds, as if aware of the safety extended them by the land being posted, make the undergrowth their home and their cheery chirping, combined with the sighing of the trees and murmur of the waters, form a blending of pleasing sounds which it would be hard to duplicate.
Eizabeth City, in spite of the fact that the shores of the river do not abound in bluffs and other elevations, affords some beautiful scenery, and there is no better place to get a view of


as it sweeps past its water-front than the doorway of the Falcon office. Being on the second floor, it has the proper elevation and the door acts as a frame, making it look like a magnificent painting by Raphael; that is, if Raphael had made the specialty of his life marine painting, and could imitate nature in her endless variety of color, the perpetual motion of the water and the glistening diamonds caused by the sun's reflection or the dimmer sparks for which the moon is responsible.

The deep basin of the ample harbor I could entirely overlook. To the left as well as the immediate front the shipping, although limited to steam-boats, schooners and sloops, was interesting, while to the right I could see busy factories and residences embowered in trees. A powerful marine glass, kindly lent me by a gentleman connected with the Falcon, reduced the ten miles of water to the fraction of one and showed me plainly the lonesome looking banks of the opposite shore, and revealed, to my surprise, a number of mills with large sweeping arms, taking advantage of the same wind that was propelling the many sail-boats through the intervening waters and forcing the smoke of an incoming revenue cutter to make a desperate endeavor to reach the sky.


Present population, nearly 4,000; railroad, Norfolk Southern; steamboat lines, Norfolk Southern and Old Dominion; manufacturing, lumber, cotton seed oil, twine, carriages, brick, etc. Other interests, cotton and fish.
The following is a list of the majority of the leading and reliable business houses of Elizabeth City on January 1st, 1888:

Commission, Cotton, Produce, &c.
K. R. Newbold.
Drugs, Seeds, Cigars, &c.
Dr. W. W. Griggs.
Dry Goods, Clothing, &c.
Jacob Salomonsky.
Furniture (Wholesale and Retail)
.C. W. Overman.
Groceries ( Wholesale and Retail)
.D. B. Bradford & Co. J. B. Flora.
Harrison & Nash, cor. Water and Fearing streets. J. P. Hughes, 29 and 30 Main street.
Groceries and Confectioneries.
C. W. Stevens, Main street, near Water.
C. A. Jackson, cor. Road and Fearing streets.
Hardware, Furniture, Windows and Doors.
John L. Sawyer.
George M. Scott.
. Louis Selig, Water street.
F. M. Cook.
. W. C. Glover, Fearing street.
Liquor (Wholesale and Retail)
. J. B. Brocket.
Livery and Sale Stables.
A. L. Jones. (See advertisement).
C. C. Allen, Press, Re-press and Fancy Cornice Bricks.
Fowler's Net and Twine Factory.
J. F. Sanders, Carriages, Buggies, Road Carts. (See advertisement).
Joseph Salomonsky, Ginger Ale, Soda and Mineral Waters. (See advertisement).
G. W. Bell, Gun and Locksmith, Dealer in Sporting Goods.
Currier, Burroughs & Co., Sails, Awnings and Flags.
H. O. Hill, Tinware, Roofing and Guttering. Fearing street.
R. Madrin, Cabinet Maker and Undertaker. J. W. T. Smith. Rubber Stamps and Painter.
Merchant Tailors.
Edward G. Schirmon, Fearing street. Maurice Wescott, Main street.
Milk and Dairy Products. C. B. Brothers, Road street.
H. Murphy, Road street
Sewing Machines.
C. M. Alderson, Fearing street.
John H. Ziegler. (See advertisement).

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

How Old Is That Horse?

A HORSE'S AGE.—The following is said to be a sure test of a horse's age. After a horse is nine years old, a wrinkle comes over the eyelid, at the upper corner of the lower lid and every year thereafter he has one well defined wrinkle for each year of his life over nine.

If for instance, a horse has three wrinkles, he is twelve. Add the number of wrinkles to nine, and you will always get his age.

[Franklin Courier, February 7, 1873]
This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Fall 2003 issue.

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Dancing Teacher

Sometime between 1866 and 1870, my father, Dr. James Jones Phillips of Edgecombe County, North Carolina, engaged a dancing teacher for his children. Mr. Duggan was a spry, dapper little dark eyed man, a typical dancing master, whose most distinctive feature was the circular little curlicue of hair which stood up so exactly in the middle of the hair line just above his forehead. He came to Mt. Moriah to live while giving dancing lessons, bringing with him his own fiddler, a silent, rather sullen looking man named Argo. My mother, Harriet Amanda Burt Phillips, considered him an excellent violinist whose touch had more expression and sweetness than any other she had ever heard.

The dancing lessons were given at Solitaire, the old school house near the dwelling. The first lesson was a drill in the five rudimentary steps in dancing. Having learned these, we were taught how to go through the figures of the "square dances," which were the "Quadrille" and the "Lancers." We were then taught the round dances, five of them—the waltz, the polka, Schottische, Mazurka, and the Volsooviana (?).

Other neighborhood girls and boys came to the dancing school, among them a little daughter of Mr. Archelas Braswell. She and I were the youngest of the dancing pupils and the teacher would make us dance the Schottische together. It was an ordeal to me, the feeling that I was conspicuous when dancing with a little girl of my own size was embarrassing. I did not feel this embarrassment at all when dancing with the older, nearly grown up girls, and I delighted to go through the figures of the Quadrille.

From that time on through all my boyhood, the summer time dancing picnics were the chief happy diversion of the young people of our neighborhood. These were held sometimes at Tuckahoe on Tar River, but more often at Solitaire. A barbecue would generally be prepared for the occasion and this, supplemented by fried chicken, pies, cakes and pickles, would be spread at dinner time on a rude plank table supported by forked saplings cut in the woods nearby. There was always a barrel or big tub full of iced lemonade around which invariably stood several small boys of apparently unquenchable thirst.

This story was taken from The Memoirs of Walter E. Phillips Mr. Phillips (1860-1939) grew up in Edgecombe County, NC and wrote wonderful stories of his childhood.

This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Winter 2001 issue.

Revolutionary War Fire Lit in Franklin County

The Origin of "Lynching"

Most fires start from small sparks. The Chicago fire, for instance, probably started with Mrs. Leary's cow kicked over a lantern. And so it is with other great disasters. The people of Franklin County, North Carolina will tell you that the first spark of the Revolutionary War was ignited in their county.

This is the story told by Bill Sharpe in A New Geography of North Carolina, Vol. 4, page 1857, published in 1965:

"Franklin [County's] colonial history is closely linked with that of Warren [County], as both of them were then united under the name of Bute [County]. Their attitude towards the British government was particularly hostile. The first man to write in opposition to English tax measures was George Simms, who tended the ferry at Louisburg [Franklin Co.]. When Governor Tryon drew up plans for his elaborate palace at Newbern, he levied a tax to pay for it. The farmers way off in Bute weren't interested in building Tryon's mansion, and refused to pay up. Whereupon the equally determined governor sent a British officer, Major Lynch, to collect the tax personally. The unfortunate go-between was met three miles west of Louisburg by a citizens' committee, declared an 'enemy of the county,' and strung up on the spot."

According to Sharpe, the War of the Regulators was a result of this incident. Locals also claimed that the term "lynching" for "impromptu necktie parties" came from the hanging of Major Lynch. [Others attribute the term "lynching" to Capt. William Lynch of VA, author of he Lynch Law.]

In addition a nearby creek was named Lynch Creek.

This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Winter 1999 issue.

Nash County Horse Race Dispute

Horse racing was a popular sport in the early days of northeastern North Carolina. This is the story of a horse race that took place in 1805.

The horse race was planned. They would run at Douther's path, on the Monday before next Christmas, for $200. Mathew Culpepper was to run a filly called Dolly Washington, a sorrel which he had gotten from Abner Foster. Francis Ward was to run a sorrel also, called Golden -Rod, which was got by DonGalo and raised by Mr. William Avent. Both horses were 2-year olds.

They were to run 1/4 mile, to start at the end towards the old house, and to run out towards the road. Te lowest nag was to carry 136 pounds; the other was to carry 14 pounds for the first inch, and 7 for every inch over, or in proportion for parts, etc. The two parties agreed that either two of the judges, on the day of the race, should measure the ground, and whatever they said was a quarter of a mile should be binding on both parties.

Culpepper and Ward signed the agreement spelling out the terms of the race and it was witnessed by Abner H. Hines.

Confident of his horse's prowess, Martin Culpepper made a side bet with Peter Arrington, signing the following agreement, also witnessed by Abner H. Hines: "If Francis Ward wins the race that he and myself made this day, I promise to pay to Peter Arrington the just sum of $1,000, on or before 25December next, as witness my hand and seal, this 30 November, 1805."

Culpepper's bond was delivered to a third person, as a stakeholder, to be turned over to Arrington in case Culpepper lost the race.

The race between Ward and Culpepper was run agreeable to the articles, and Ward was declared to be the winner. Afterwards, and on the same day, the stakeholder was directed by Culpepper to deliver over the obligation to Arrington, saying "he would have won the race if his rider had rode agreeably to his directions," and the stakeholder delivered the $1,000 bond accordingly.

Case closed. Right?


Culpepper refused to make good on his bond, arguing that the agreement that he and Arrington had signed did not specify and make clear exactly what race they were betting on, and therefore, he was under no obligation to pay. It seems that, in 1800, an act was passed requiring that a wager on a horse race must be written, as this one was, and that no testimony would be allowed to explain the terms of the bet.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, as the case may be, the agreement between Culpepper and Arrington merely refers to a "race made" without making clear that there was only one race arranged for that day. Culpepper might say that he and Ward made another race on the day referred to and then it would be a matter of controversy between Culpepper and Arrington as to which race was intended in the agreement.

The Legislature did not intend that horse-racing contracts should depend on that kind of testimony, and it would not have been necessary had either party recited the terms of the race or referred to it with sufficient certainty in the agreement. The writing by Ward and Culpepper was not signed by Arrington and Culpepper. The court argued that, as Arrington won, he was willing to admit that the agreement between Ward and Culpepper was the one referred to in the side bet and he felt Culpepper should be compelled to do the same; however, if Arrington had lost, he would not deem this reasoning applicable.

Even the fact that Culpepper directed the stakeholder to deliver the obligation to Arrington, after losing the race, did not make Culpepper responsible for the debt.

The Supreme Court, in its July 1809 term, ruled in favor of Culpepper and against Arrington. Culpepper did not have to pay!
This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Spring 2001 issue.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

James Adams Floating Theatre

The James Adams Floating Theatre, later known as "The Original Show Boat," first saw the light of day in Washington, Beaufort County, NC in 1914. It began when James and Gertie Adams, circus trapeze performers turned carnival operators, went broke and were stranded in Washington in 1912. Adams, having observed the lumber barges moving up and down the Tar-Pamlico River, came up with the idea of turning one of these floating plaforms into a threatre. With the help of Mr. George Leach, President of the Eureka Lumber Co., who furnished the materials, and work done by Farrow-Chauncey Shipyard, the conversion was completed in 1913 at a cost of $8,941.92.

With clean quarters and plenty of good food, the James Adams was home for is self-sufficient performers and support staff. The theatre itself was 122 x 34 feet and could seat 700. Towed from place to place by the small gasoline-powered tug, Trouper, the converted b arge spent the winters docked in Elizabeth City, Pasquotank County, NC where rehearsals for the new season began each February. Beginning in March, the theatre traveled up and down the rivers of northeastern NC, stopp0ing at each waterside town for about a week. After convering the NC route, it journed to Virginia via the Dismal Swamp Canal and into the Chesapeake Bay area, finally ending its 37-week season at Onancock, VA on the eastern shore in November.

Although Elizabeth City church members called it "a hell-hole of iniquity…", the theatre was a huge success from the beginning. Wherever it went, its arrival was a high point of social activity for people starved for entertainment. The plays presented ranged from comedy to melodrama to tragedy, with the audience always actively involved, hissing the villains and applauding the hero—who usually prevailed at the last moment. Some well-knownplays presented were East Lynne, Trail of the Lonesome Pine, Saint Elmo, Tempest and Sunshine, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and Thorn and Orange Blossoms. Each performance ended with a vaudevillian concert.

As the James Adams was passing through the Dismal Swamp Canal in November 1929, it struck a stump which ripped a hole in her holl. She immediately sank into the dark muddy water. After two weeks, the Elizabeth City Iron Works managed to raise her. Dring the interval, one performer remained at his post, as documented by the following newspaper account: "Pop Neel, veteran trouper who has spent 60 of his 71 years in show business and has made his home on the James Adams for the past 14 years, set foot ashore last night for the first time in nearly two weeks. Pop stuck by the ship during its stay on the canal bottom and refused to take a pessamistic view of its future even when the situation seemed most discouraging. Last season had been the best in the showboat's history and 'Pop' expects to see many more."

Joseph O. Green, III, author of "Showboating in the Albemarle," which appeared in The State Magazine, Feb . 15, 1972, spoke with Mr. Leslie D. "Strut" Waldorf of Elizabeth City, then 80 years old, who was one of the original performers on the James Adams. He was paid $8 per week plus room and board to play trombone and piano in the showboat's orchestra from 1914 to 1917. Wilma Wynns also wrote in the Feb. 15, 1979 State Magazine of the showboat's visits to Colerain on the Chowan River in Bertie County.

This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Spring 2001 issue.

Edna Ferber and Beaufort County, NC

Research for Show Boat

"I heard of a show boat that was headed for a little village in North Carolina. The James Adams Floating Palace Theater, it was called. … I dashed down to Carolina, arrived at a town called Washington and engaged a colored boy with a Ford to drive me the thirty miles out to the little landing where the boat lay. …I'll never forget that Ford. Its original structure probably derived from the well-known brand after which it was named. But its owner had, perforce, supplemented it with bits and pieces of old metal, wire, canvas and wood, held together, seemingly by chewing , spit and faith. Every bolt, joint, hinge and curtain shook, rattled, squeaked and flapped. I, in the back seat, was busy trying to hold he thing together. As a door swung spectrally open and I sprang to shut it a curtain would strain and threaten to tear loose from the cotton thread that held it to the body of the car."

Edna Ferber had determined to write a novel about show boats when a friend mentioned such a boat, describing it as "… a floating theater. … They'd come downstream, calliope tooting, and stop at the town landing to give their show. The actors lived and slept and ate and worked right there on the boat. The country people for miles around would hear the calliope screeching and they'd know the show boat folks were in town." Ferber spent the next year happily researching show boats. When she heard of the James Adams Floating Palace Theater, she dashed down to Washington, Beaufort County, NC where she met Charles Hunter and his wife, Beulah Adams who was the sister of James Adams. But, unfortunately, the theater season was over. She had come too late. She arranged to join the boat the following April—1925, at Bath, Beaufort County, NC— their first stop.

When April came I went as eagerly as a lover to meet the show boat. …Bath, North Carolina, turned out to be a lovely decayed hamlet on the broad Pamlico River. In the days of the Colonies Bath had been the governor's seat. Elms and live oaks arched over the deserted streets. Ancient houses, built by men who knew dignity of architectural design and purity of line, were now moldering into the dust from which they had come. The one hotel or boarding house in the town was a fine old brick mansion which had been the home of the governor of the North Carolina colony in the days before 1776. Its rooms were large, gracious and beautifully proportioned. In the main room was a fireplace so huge that a room was built inside it. A message awaited me from the Hunters. The show boat had been delayed and would be a day or two late. I could expect them at the landing next day, or the day after.

My heart sank as I ascended the broken stairway behind my large and puffing landlady. In the heel of each stocking, above the open back flat slippers, was a hole the size of a silver dollar. She opened the door of my room. In contrast with the fresh April air outside the room smelled of mice, mold and mankind. My eye leaped to the bed. Then, boldly, I crossed to it and turned down the dingy covers. My worst fears realized, I turned an accusing glare upon my landlady.

"What's the matter?" she demanded.

"The sheets."

"D'ye mean you want them changed?" she asked, with that touch of irritation one might show if a guest were to demand why her own monogram did not appear on the hotel bed linen.

"I do," I replied with dignity and finality. "It is, I believe, customary."

Grudgingly she began to strip the bed under my stern eye. She muttered as she worked. "Only been slept in by my own daughter, and she only used 'em once. She teaches school and comes home, sometimes, Saturdays. Only slept in 'em last Saturday night, fresh."

"Nevertheless—" I said, firmly.

That night I slept practically suspended in midair, defying the law of gravity. … Little icy-footed mice skipped back and forth and chattered vixenishly in the wainscotings. I was up, haggard, to greet the April dawn. Breakfast was a grisly meal. A slab of indefinable blue meat floated in a platter of greenish grease. The black liquid mud in my cup was flanked by a tin can labeled Klim. My dulled senses finally conveyed to me the realization that the word was really milk spelled backwards. Leaving this lethal collation virgin as it had been set before me I wandered off to the little crossroads store a quarter of a mile distant that I had noted on my arrival. The musty little shop, as its doorbell dingled, assailed your nostrils with the mingled odors of kerosene, mice, broom straw, tobacco juice and dampness. But I bought a slab of milk chocolate, well covered, a box of dampish crackers and a bag of last winter's apples. I surveyed the cheese and decided quickly against it. Fortified with this provender I made out very well for that day and part of the next.

And next morning the James Adams Floating Palace Theater came floating majestically down the Pamlico and tied up alongside the rickety dock. Here began, for me, four of the most enchanting days I've ever known.

There, on the lower deck near the ticket window, stood Charles Hunter, his eyeglasses glittering, his kind face beaming, and there stood Beulah Adams Hunter, the Mary Pickford of the rivers, with her fresh gingham dress and her tight little curls and her good and guileless face, for all the world like a little girl in a clean pinafore. Show folks. My heart leaped toward them; like Tiny Tim I loved them every one, from Jo, the colored cook, to the pilot of the tugboat. …

I lived, played, worked, rehearsed, ate with the company. I sold tickets at the little box-office window, I watched the Carolina countryside straggle in, white and colored. …

Charles and Beulah Hunter gave me their own bedroom, … a large square bright room, with four windows looking out upon the placid river and the green shores. Crisp dimity curtains flared their pert ruffles. There was a big square wooden bed, a washbowl and pitcher, a low rocking chair, a little shining black iron wood stove. …

The playing company numbered ten, including the Hunters. …It seemed to me a lovely life as we floated down the river. Sometimes, the Hunters said, they played a new town every night; sometimes, if the countryside was a populous one and the crops good, they stayed a week.

They rehearsed in the daytime, they played at night. …I sold tickets at the box office; I watched rehearsals and performances; I played a walk-on; I chatted with the audience. Sometimes, after the show, they pulled anchor and went down river that night; sometimes they waited until early morning. …

The audiences' ancestors lay now in the little North Carolina Church yards, with beautiful English names engraved dimly on the tombstones and the vaults inside the crumbling churches. I had wandered through the churchyard at Bath. The old, old inscriptions were in Early English script … . All the hardships and tears and hopes and fears of the struggling American Colonies could be pieced together from the reading of those weather-worn annals. …

Many of these towns were twenty, thirty, thirty-five miles from a railroad. As I watched the audiences I saw, in the dim-lighted auditorium, faces that might have stepped out of a portrait two hundred years old. …

It was early on the morning of my fourth day that Charles Hunter and I settled down in the quiet sunny corner bedroom, he with a pack of cigarettes, I with a chunk of yellow copy paper and a pencil. He began to talk. It was a stream of pure gold. I sat with my eyes on him and my pencil racing across the paper, and wrote and wrote and wrote. Incidents, characters, absurdities, drama, tragedies, river lore, theatrical wisdom poured forth in that quiet flexible voice. He looked, really, more like a small-town college professor lecturing to a backward student than like a show-boat actor.

By the time he had finished I had a treasure-trove of show-boat material, human, touching, true. I was (and am) in his everlasting debt.

The result of this research by Edna Ferber was her famous novel, Show Boat, which was also made into a musical play featuring the unforgettable Jerome Kern songs, "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man," "Ol' Man River," "Make Believe," and "Why Do I Love You?"

This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Genealogical Society in the Spring 2001 issue. It was taken from Edna Ferber's autobiography, A Peculiar Treasure, 1939.

Friday, January 22, 2010



…"motor vehicles"… construed to mean all vehicles propelled by any power other than muscular power, except traction engines, road rollers, fire wagons, engines, police patrol wagons, ambulances, and such vehicles as run only upon rails or tracks. …

On each motor vehicle having a rating of twenty-five horse power, or less, a registration fee of five dollars. On each motor vehicle having a rating of more than twenty -five horsepower and not more than forty horse-power, a registration fee of seven dollars and fifty cents. … On each motorcycle, a registration fee of two dollars.

[Raleigh Times, August 29, 1916]
This article was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Winter 2005 issue.

Turkey Story

The following story was taken from the Tarboro, North Carolina newspaper, The Daily Southerner, June 16, 1905.

There are turkey stories as well as fish stories, if anyone should ask you, and N. P. Bullock (Dock) tells the following and vows that it is true:

A few days ago he was not far from Doehead, near the old race track back of Sessum field, when he saw ahead of him two wild turkey gobblers fighting. Mr. Bullock stepped out into the bushes and crept along till he was opposite the fighting fowls. So intent were they in their contest that he was not heard. With a stealthy step he advanced till he was almost upon them and then he made a spring and caught the two by the neck, one in each hand.

Then ensued a battle between man and bird. With wings and feet the latter fought, scratching Mr. Bullock's arms and tearing his clothing. With much difficulty one bird was carried to the ground, where its head was crushed by the man's foot, while the other maintained its desperate scratching with feet and striking with wing. The first one disposed of the other soon fell an easy victim.

Mr. Bullock says that he had no idea how strong a turkey was before. The two turkeys were grown gobblers with beards nearly three inches long.


NOTE: "Dock" Bullock was listed in the 1900 census as a 53 year old male living in the North Whitakers township of Nash County, NC.

Doehead was a small community in Edgecombe County, NC. It had a post office that was started in 1888 and discontinued in 1902. The first postmaster was Thaddeus B. Barlow.

This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Winter 2005 issue.

Reminder of Home

NC Pine Trees Thrive in Tennessee

It must have been an adventuresome spirit that carried the 70+ year old Samuel R. Smith and his wife from Granville County, North Carolina to Montgomery County, Tennessee in 1833-34. It was a 500 mile trek through the Cumberland Gap to the untamed country in middle Tennessee. [Do you know anyone in his early 70s? Can you imagine him starting out on a 500 mile walk through wilderness?] There were about three hundred and fifty people in the group making its way to the new land. Their belongings were carried on ox-carts and many of the settlers walked most of the way. Before they reached Montgomery Co, TN, Smith's party was detained for a week by the birth of his granddaughter, so we know that some of his family traveled with him.

The Smiths settled on Piney Fork near what is now Ft. Campbell, KY. Samuel knew he would never return to NC so he carried a piece of North Carolina with him in his saddlebag—seven tiny pine seedlings. One of the first things he did when he reached his new home was to plant the fragile trees.

Samuel Smith was a generous man. He gave land to establish a church near his new home—Asbury Church. It was built of logs and served as both a church and a school. The building was later destroyed by lightning but the Asbury Church survived.

Smith died at his new home on January 16, 1837 just a few years after his arrival. He was buried at a site selected by him near one of his North Carolina pines— still small at the time of his death.

Bicentennial Celebration

By 1976, when this country celebrated its bicentennial, the pine tree near Samuel Smith's grave was well over 100 feet tall. Its needles blanketed the little cemetery where Samuel and five of his relatives were buried. But the graves were covered with undergrowth—overgrown and forgotten. As part of the 200th birthday celebration, the Girl Scouts of America and the 20th Engineer Battalion at Ft. Campbell cleared the grave site and reseated the granite headstones

On August 13, 1976, when the project of clearing the cemetery was completed, a ceremony was held and the spot was dedicated as Samuel Smith Memorial Park. A speaker noted, "The undergrowth has been cleared, and Samuel Smith's headstone feels the sun."

There is a bronze plaque at the entrance to the cemetery.

Why Did Smith Go to Tennessee?

What made Samuel R. Smith leave his home in North Carolina and travel to Tennessee in his old age? His service to his country during the Revolution provides the answer to that question. On August 8, 1833, he applied for a Revolutionary War pension in Granville County, NC.

In his pension application application, Smith stated that he enlisted in the patriot forces in Warren County, NC in 1778 as a substitute for someone whose name he could not remember. He served three months during which time his company marched from Oxford to Wilmington, NC. "Our duty was principally to guard that town and the Country round about from the incursions and ravages of the Enemy consisting principally of Tories. Our service was occasionally to march on expeditions in various parts of the country round about that town; but the most of the time we were on duty in the camp in the suburbs of it."

Smith re-enlisted in late 1778 or early 1779 in Oxford, Granville County, NC as a substitute for William Dodson. [He later married a Miss Dodson!] The company first marched to Hillsboro in Orange Co., NC and then south to Augusta, GA. Smith's pension application states, "We were marched through Salisbury in North Carolina to South Carolina and through many little towns in that State the names of which he cannot recollect and joined the American Army then stationed there for Augusta on the Savannah River." Smith also recalled, "… the men had to march near or quite four hundred miles to the scene of duty [Georgia]."

On February 13 or 14, John Ashe's men, including Samuel Smith, joined South Carolina General Andrew Williamson's troops on the east bank of the Savannah River opposite Augusta. Lieutenant Colonel Archibald Campbell, observing the large number of Patriots across the river, marched his Loyalist troops out of Augusta, moving south along the river. Ashe's troops trailing after them as far as Brier Creek where they set up camp. Smith said, "I was of the detachment that was commanded by Generals Ashe and Bryant who were sent to take post at Briar Creek. … "

The Battle of Brier Creek

Ashe had been ordered to cross the Savannah River and continue after Campbell, but when they reached Brier Creek, they found that Campbell had burned the bridge. The American force moved its camp further up the creek for security. Smith recalled, "[We] were not there stationed but a few days … before the fatal and ever to be regretted attack on us by the British, … ."

Campbell had turned his troops over to Col. Mark Prevost who decided to attack the American force from the rear. While Ashe was engaged in conferring with other American leaders, Prevost moved his troops up the west side of Brier Creek, built a bridge across it, and moved his men onto the east side behind Ashe's men.

The historical marker at the site describes the ensuing rout this way: "Confusion and hysteria reigned among the American soldiers as their officers vainly tried to keep them in line while ammunition was being distributed. …The British opened on the American center with cannon. . … With dead and wounded falling on every side, the center broke and retreated in riot. The British poured through the hole in the American center and within a few minutes, the right … broke and ran into the swamps of the Savannah. …."

In Smith's words, "… our entire defeat and dispersion. [I] with eight others after skulking about and under the banks of Brier Creek, effected our Escape to Savannah River, across which River we obtained a conveyance by paying three dollars a piece to a Boatman." The nine patriots eventually were able to rejoin the American Army.

John Ashe was eventually court martialed for his lack of preparation for the British attack.


Based on his pension application, Samuel Smith was granted 1000 acres in Tennessee for his service during the war.


Samuel R. Smith was married first to Miss Sallie Williams and then to a Miss Dobson. To the first union were born four sons and one daughter: Harry, Elizabeth (Betsy), Charles, John and Wiley. By his second marriage, there were three children: Mary, Samuel R., Jr., and Sarah Long.


[Samuel Smith]
[Transcription by Will Graves of Samuel Smith's Revolutionary War Pension Application]
[Battle of Brier's Creek];; and many others
[Court martial of Gen. John Ashe]

This story was published in The Connector, newsletter of the Tar River Connections Genealogical Society in the Winter 2005 issue.