The VARINA MERCANTILE BUILDING

The oldest brick building existing in town today seems to be that of the three part Varina Mercantile now known as Fellowship Bible Church and located across South Main Street from the Mineral Spring. It has been remodeled on the interior and the three-store front entirely changed by the church.

This picture circa 1916, the oldest known picture of the three-store building housing Varina Mercantile, shows how it would have appeared to spring visitors. J. D. and partners located the business in the postal area he called “Varina” for his wife, Virginia.

Affectionately known as “Mr. Joe’s Store” by all the persons who can actually remember the days of operation, the mercantile establishment opened circa 1899. J. D. “Squire” Ballentine had operated a store across the creek, in what is now the Mineral Springs Park today, at least as early as 1884. The Squire, his older brother, William, and William’s son, Joe were the three entrepreneurs of this new brick establishment.

The “Squire” appears to have been active as a Justice of the Peace, a post master, and a farmer, so he is not recalled as actually working in the store. William had married into the Jones family and was farming and living on Sunset Lake Road. Thus, the two brothers deferred to “Mr. Joe” as the merchant in residence.

William Joseph “Joe” Ballentine (1876-1956) is buried at Wake Chapel Cemetery. He was the son of William Marshall Ballentine & Rhoda Ann Jones Ballentine.

According to Jane Person, the north section of the building had piece goods, shoes, and ready to wear. The middle section sold school books, supplies, and groceries. The third section handled hardware and farm equipment. The drive way into the building is still visible here. A large coal stove heated the store on the ground floor. Connecting doors could be opened within the inside. This configuration remained when it was an antique shop for a time. This author remembers the auction closing McCauley’s antiques when the three areas of the store were still evident.

Dated 1985, when the building was sold to Mission Chapel Church, the three stores are clearly visible with the mortuary or funeral home added to the right.

Jane Person, who grew up in the Ballentine-Spence House, remembered that upstairs were apartments. Either one room or larger apartments were available for rent. A water faucet for running water was added when the town got running water in 1937. She recalled the one bathroom for the whole upstairs which would have come with running water.

Construction of three stores is visible on the back side and the mortuary addition. By 1985, the upstairs appears to have been unused.

“Miss Lizzie,” Joe’s wife ran a millinery shop, perhaps originally in the store but eventually next door in a separate building. Again Eleanor Howard can remember her mother buying hats from Miss Lizzie. Some say it was located in the little brown house beside the old hotel; Joe Starr says the Lane boys identified the building as one which was moved back behind the store.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Barham (1972-1959) was the daughter of Romulus Barham and Adrianna Margaret Williams Ballentine. She bore two daughters, Mary Elizabeth who died in her first year and her oldest, Margaret Joe Ballentine, who married S. Lloyd Lane.

In 1910, Mr. Joe was licensed to run a funeral home and the small addition to the south side of the three store front was added for that business. He purchased an ambulance which is shown in a 1926 picture. At first Ballentine only sold caskets, with families making all other provisions for a funeral. When his son-in-law, Lloyd Lane, became a licensed embalmer, the Ballentine’s Funeral Home expanded its services.

Shirley Hayes noted in an article for the Independent, “The first dead person I ever saw was in Mr. Joe Ballentine’s mortuary across the street from the spring. I was probably eight years old scouting about with neighborhood buddies on a summer evening. When we saw that no one was about, we sneaked up to the open door of the little wing on the south side of the building and peeped in to see a white-haired lady, beautifully coiffed, and dressed in a lavender gown, laid out in a coffin. The room was dimly lit. To us the scene was fascinating and a bit spooky as death is to children.”

Carolyn Blanchard and others remembered that Mr. Joe always gave children candy, a very generous serving when one only had a penny. Chester Holland remembered that his parents would only let them have candy at Christmas except when candy was offered from Mr. Joe. “Mr. Joe” was fondly remembered by all who were children of that era.

Chester’s father, J. C. Holland, and Mr. Joe were roommates at Elon College and the Hollands always traded with Mr. Joe. The museums have an 1904-1909 ledger donated by Bobby Barefoot which lists customers whose names are familiar in our area history. A valuable source of prices is available in this archived record.

Another record from a “faded” display listing which hung in the store details the extent of the merchandise. No author to this bit of rhyme was recorded.

Clothing for the naked,
Glasses for the blind;
Shoes for the barefooted,
Gloves that are lined.
Curtains for the windows,
Shoestrings and laces,
Lamps, wicks, and oil
To light the dark places.
Dried fruits, canned goods,
Everything to eat.
Caps for the head
And socks for the feet.
Woolen goods for dresses,
Ribbons for the old maids.
Tobacco for menfolk;
Hats for the ladies;
Toys for the children;
Bottles for the babies.
Queensware, glassware,
Pitchers and bowls;
Leather for harness
And leather for soles.
Straps and strings,
Buckles and screens;
The finest of silks,
And the coarsest of jeans.
Potatoes and apples,
Lard and meat;
Butter from the country,
Fresh and sweet,
Sugar and rice,
Beans and crackers,
Cheese and spice.
Oysters and salmon,
Flour and meal;
Mouse traps—and cats
To make the mice squeal.
Powder for hunters,
Axes for choppers,
And remedies for grunters.
Chewing gum, candy,
Corset and bustle;
The people come trading,
And how we do hustle.
Medicine to make you sick,
Medicine to make you well;
In fact, we have everything
That the best stores sell.

An old circular yellowed with age was the source of this piece furnished to the Independent in 1953 by Mr. Joe Ballentine.

Clyde Gilbert became a partner forming Ballentine Gilbert Funeral Home. The museums have calendars of 1949 advertising this establishment. Eventually Gilbert and Sugg purchased the Ballentine Funeral Home and moved the establishment to Academy Street. The museum has several calendars bearing names of this business. Mr. Joe retired shortly thereafter, circa 1949, and Varina Mercantile closed forever.

The building remained in the family and was home to several business renters. In 1985, it was sold to Mission Chapel Church. Needmore Bible Fellowship Church, Inc. took over the premises in 1991.

author: Shirley Simmons JAM

FUQUAY-VARINA’S DODD FAMILY CONNECTIONS (Part 3)

REV. EFF DAVID DODD 1884-1966 The Minister

The youngest son of John David Dodd was given the name Eff David when born on February 11, 1884 in Clayton, N.C. Educated in Johnston County and Wake County, he became a United Methodist Minister. His connection to Fuquay Springs is the final and surprising episode in the Dodd family here. Not everyone realized his connection to the
other Dodds.

E. D. Dodd

E. D. Dodd married Nora Finch the daughter of Joseph Ray and Elizabeth Greene Finch of Nash County on September 9, 1904. Methodist ministers served multiple charges and this couple was no exception. Daughter Christine Missouri was born on July 4th, 1907 at Spring Hope in Nash County. The couple served in Pitt County (Greenville) in 1910 where his father lived with them. On September 19, 1914, Eff David, Jr. was born. Rev. Dodd registered for the draft (1918) in World War I at Enfield, when he was serving as pastor there. A complete account of his service was not available for this article.

Minister E. D. Dodd is remembered fondly by many in the Fuquay-Varina Methodist Church family. His listing among the ministers here places his tenure as 1943-48. The church
had established a parsonage on the corner of Academy and Ennis Streets in 1925. Rev. E. D. Dodd and wife Nora lived there and took the option of moving into the retirement home established by the church for the remainder of their lives.

Early photo of Fuquay Springs United Methodist Church now the First United Methodist Church on Main Street. E. D. Dodd was minister here 1943-48. Photo: Senter Estate

An accomplished craftsman, Rev. Dodd’s work was recalled by Max Ashworth who grew up in this church. The minister designed and built the bannister for the church during a remodeling episode. At first Rev. Dodd worked within the parsonage but later built a workshop which became the basement of the Methodist minister’s retirement home located directly behind the parsonage on Ennis Street. Eleanor Howard recalls that her mother-in-law ordered a walnut chest from Mr. Dodd which the family still retains. Mark Howard, her son, on his way home from school often stopped by and visited Rev. Dodd in the workshop. Other individuals in Fuquay have recalled pieces of furniture made by Mr. Dodd. Fred Lee Hunt, Jr. remembered Rev. Dodd as his neighbor and friend during Fred’s youth on Academy Street.

Located at 518 E. Academy today, the FSUMC Parsonage 1925-51. E. D. Dodd lived here and in the house directly behind it on Ennis Street. Photo: Shirley Simmons

Rev Dodd was her pastor when Eleanor and J. E. Howard married. Eleanor’s intention was to join the Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church where the Howard Family were members. She
had been baptized by immersion in the Fuquay United Methodist Church at Johnson Pond and was hoping that the Baptist Church would receive her as a member without another baptism by their church. She laughingly recalls Rev. Dodd saying that he, “Hoped the Baptists would not take her.” The Baptist did! She holds today one of their longest membership records.

She also remembers that Rev. Dodd inquired regarding the circumstances surrounding the life of his father and “Miss Emma”. He appreciated this knowledge of Mary Aiken who had been their neighbor on the Mineral Spring hill.

According to the FVUMC History, the retirement home was eventually sold. The first parsonage was superseded by a new parsonage on Academy Street into which Rev. Lineberger moved in 1951. All three homes are privately owned today.

Located also on Academy Street, this the new Methodist Church parsonage was first the home of Rev. J. W. Lineberger, pastor from 1948-52. It has been privately owned since the Fuquay-Varina United Methodist Church moved to the Judd Parkway location.

Both the Dodds are listed as living in Fuquay-Varina on their death certificates and are buried in Wake Chapel Memorial Gardens. Rev Dodd died in Union Memorial Hospital on October 13, 1966 and Nora Dodd died in the same hospital on December 9, 1967. Their son, Eff David, Jr. lived in Monroe and appears to have cared for them in their last years. David, Jr. died in Monroe in 1991 as did his son Eff David, III in 2020. Daughter Christine married Cauvin Johnson, lived in Southern Pines, and was buried there in 1996. The children were not residents of Fuquay Springs at any point but were known to visit here.

The story of the Dodd Family has been an interesting one to research. Credits goes to Shirley Hayes, Eleanor Howard, Max Ashworth, and Ann Pegram for their interviews. The Independent, Smithfield Herald, Town Minutes, FVUMC History, ancestry.com and record sources have been utilized as well as cementery records. The author also read Larson’s non-fiction work on the family of the Ambassador. Eventually, the museums may be able to acquire further pictures of the gentlemen, the family and the Dodd house.

It was unique to attempt to trace the lives of the three men. Both the tragedy and honor of the first two are noteworthy connections to our town. That the beloved pastor came to live in Fuquay Springs after both the others were deceased was remarkable. We hope our retelling of their lives will be worth archiving. ( Shirley Simmons, author)

FUQUAY-VARINA’S DODD FAMILY CONNECTIONS (Part 2)

DR. WILLIAM EDWARD DODD 1869-1940 The Ambassador

The eldest son of John David Dodd, was named William Edward Dodd when born in Clayton, NC. on October 27, 1869. His early education was in Johnston and Wake Counties and the Oak Ridge Institute. Quite the scholar, he received a B. S. in 1895 and a M.S. in 1897 from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and a PhD in 1900 from the University of Leipzig. He taught at Randolph Macon College and the University of Chicago. He was regarded as an authority on Southern History and wrote biographies of Davis, Lincoln, Lee, and Wilson.

His wife, Martha Ida “Mattie” Johns was born March 10, 1876 in Auburn, NC (Wake County). She was one of ten children born to Thomas Jefferson Johns and Martha Ida Eccles Johns. Married in 1901, the couple had two children, Willian E. Dodd and Martha Eccles Dodd.

The Smithfield Herald touted the hometown man upon his appointment as Ambassador. “He had made frequent trips back to his home state and on a recent occasion was the chief speaker at a meeting of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association.” Noted as relatives were Charles W. Horne, Miss Melba McCullers and Dr. Herman Harrell Horne.

W. E. Dodd family: This is a newspaper photo, source unknown. Said to be taken in Germany 1933, from the left: Martha (daughter) W. E. Jr, Ambassador Dodd and wife, Martha.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose William Edward Dodd to fill the role of Ambassador to Germany in 1933. When Dodd arrived in the country which he had known as a student for three years his appointment offered no experience in diplomacy. At first he was encouraged by his welcome from then-President Paul Von-Hindenburg but during his first six months in Berlin numerous cases arose when American citizens refused the Nazi salute. After four frustrating years of open criticism of the Nazis, the diplomatic corps, and suggestion of anti-Semite views, he resigned in 1937. He was never able to shake the political aftermath of this untimely departure.

The assignment was frought with innocent mistakes he made, criticism of his austere, no-nonsense lifestyle, and scorn from both Germans and Americans. Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of the Beasts” also credits the activities of his daughter, Martha, as involved in liaisons with Nazis and an affair with a Russian agent. Research in KGB archives recently document her connection with Boris Vinogradov (who disappeared in 1938) and her later activities with the Russians after returning to the United States. There is evidence that she recruited her brother and her husband Alfred Stern in support of communist activity.

Dr. Dodd did visit his father in Fuquay Springs. John David is quoted as saying of one of these trips, “Will never stays long. He’s like a humming bird, in and out like a flash. Will always stays busy. I guess he has done more than any other man alive.”

Eleanor Howard remembers her mother, Mary Aiken, getting her daughter all dressed up and taking her next door to meet the visiting Dr. Dodd . “You may never have such a chance to shake the hand of an Ambassador,” Mary told her daughter.

W. E. Dodd made a series of speeches across the U. S. & Canada post 1937. On May 4, 1938, Ambassador Dodd visited Fuquay Springs. Picture was taken on steps of FS High School on Ennis Street. Identification by the N & O was only partial: L to R: Minister?, Josephus Daniels, Dr. W. E. Dodd, Mrs. Dodd, Tom Proctor back: Lyndon Ballentine, Dr. W. S. Cozart, boy Wiley Hicks Walters Complete identifications by Eleanor Howard and Betty Matthews

Upon his return, Dr. Dodd engaged in a speaking tour of the United States relating his experiences with the Hitler government. He hoped to resume his life at his Virginia estate, Stoneleigh Farm, near Round Hill but illness overtook him.

On May 28, 1938, his wife Mattie died of a heart condition at first thought to be severe indigestion. In December Dodd was involved in a tragic auto accident in which a boy was killed. He was indicted for leaving the scene. He stated that he paid all medical bills of the family, but he was never able to recover following this tragedy and that of Mattie’s death.

According to his obituary in the Smithfield Herald (February 13, 1940) he suffered from severe pneumonia, was placed in an oxygen tent, but died the following day.

Both Ambassador Dodd and his wife are buried in Rock Creek Cemetery. Loudoun County, Virginia. Relatives listed are his two children but no mention is made of his father or stepmother. At the time of his death, he was survived by two brothers, Rev. E. D. Dodd of Norlina and Rev. W. H. Dodd of Mocksville, and a sister Annie Dodd Griffin.

FUQUAY-VARINA’S DODD FAMILY CONNECTIONS (Part 1)

The Father, The Ambassador, The Minister

Fuquay-Varina has a connection to the Dodd family which has been intriguing to all of us over the years. Of the “father” of the family, we often hear comments much like those quoted from the Old Timer’s article written by Shirley Hayes, “ Our walk to the spring took us behind the Main Street home of a gruff old gentleman with a white beard who, as a small child, I found frightening. (Today it makes me think of Boo Radley in “To Kill a Mocking Bird.”) His last name was Dodd.” Others have referred to him as often sitting in his swing on the porch or being very cross with his wife. The story of this Mr. John Dodd and his house we have tried to research as our first account. The other two Dodd accounts will follow as installments.
(Shirley Simmons, Volunteer Director FV Museums)

JOHN DANIEL DODD 1844-1941 The Father

John Daniel Dodd was born November 12, 1844 in Clayton, Johnston County, NC. According to his tombstone the son of John Dodd and Angeline Dodd. He appears to have been the oldest in a large family of children listed in the Federal Census of 1850.

A distinguished looking gentlemen, J. D. Dodd lived with “Miss Emma” in the Dodd House overlooking the Mineral Springs. Photo: Courtesy Ed. Fuller (Fuller’s family operated the hotel across the street from the Dodd House)

John married Evaline Creech daughter of Stanford and Martha Creech in Johnston County on Christmas Eve, 1868. They raised seven children: William, Walter, Alonzo, John, Martha, David, and Anna. By 1900 they had moved to the Little River area of Wake County. Evaline died in 1909 and was buried in Clayton.

John Daniel was living in Greenville at the Federal Census of 1910 with his minister son David and wife Nora. Whether he later lived in Sanford or whether through his son’s ministry fields, where he met his second wife is unknown.

On June 18, 1925, John married a widow from Sanford, NC., Emma Rogers Watson. The couple purchased lots on Main Street in Fuquay Springs on July 25, 1925. Originally the Fuquay land, now part of the J. D. Ballentine Estate, the two lots are listed on the Ballentine Estate Map as having a dwelling on one, and a garage on the other. In settling the estate of J. D. Ballentine, A. W. Thompson had purchased the two lots in 1923. Thompson sold to Daniel Allen from whom the Dodds purchased the property.

We know that Ballentine did not live in that dwelling; however, we do not know who built the house or garage. We do know that the “Squire’s” office was adjacent to these lots and, according to the Fuquay family, his original wooden store was located on the office lot. His office lot later became known as the Sewell house and was there until a hurricane toppled a large tree onto the roof and destroyed it. Eleanor Howard, Ann Pegram and Shirley Hayes all remember this building only as the Sewell House; however, several people said the Squire had an office on this lot.

Photo taken of Easter Egg Hunt by Zazelle Johnson at her home is the only one found to date which shows the Dodd House in the background. By this point the house was rental property. Photo: Courtesy Fred Hunt, Jr.

The Main Street two-story house overlooking the Mineral Springs was the same home which caused young people like Shirley Hayes some consternation when passing. Eleanor Aiken Howard grew up in the former Ballentine School House after it became a dwelling. The school actually faced toward Main Street and the side of the Dodd House. Her playhouse was on the side near the Dodd house.

Eleanor describes the Dodd house as two-story with a large porch on front and an el on the back through which they usually entered to visit. She remembers “Miss Emma” and
relates that the lady lived a hard life with Mr. Dodd. She recalls a large swing with slats on the porch in which Mr. Dodd often sat. Occasionally, if Miss Emma was there, she and other children were allowed to swing.

Mary Aiken with daughter Eleanor on the golf course at the Mineral Spring. The Aikens lived in the Ballentine School converted to a dwelling and were neighbors of the Dodd family. Photo: Courtesy Eleanor Aiken Howard

Her memories of Mr. Dodd are of a strange old man. Once her dog got killed on the street and as she walked between the Sewell House and the Dodd House on her way home
from school, Mr. Dodd seemed to callously call out to inform her, “Your dog got killed.”

No record was located on the health of Mr. Dodd or whether health might have brought them to live at the Mineral Spring. Eleanor recalled that her mother, Mary Aiken, tried at times to help Miss Emma when Mr. Dodd refused to take his medicine. He was very difficult threatening to knock away the medicine spoon being offered to him

At what point he was admitted to the State Hospital in Raleigh, we did not find; however in researching the Dodd property a record was found. On July 2, 1941, a trustee of J. D. Dodd, Incompetent, acting on orders of the Clerk of Wake County, with the cooperation of Emma Dodd who was examined and in agreement, arranged the sale of the Fuquay Springs property. Ultimately the house and lots were purchased by W. J. Ballentine.

Dodd’s death certificate on Sept 9, 1941 was signed by an official at the State Hospital, listing as causes acute heart condition and senility. His residence was still noted as Fuquay Springs when he was buried in the Creech-Horne Cemetery in Clayton.

Emma removed to Sanford where she lived until her death on August 2, 1949 at age 87. Her burial was in the Kearny Upchurch Family Cemetery at Wake Crossroads. William Henry
Watson ( 1857-1923) and John Daniel Dodd( 1844-1941) are husbands listed along with a daughter, Eura C. Watson (1884-1901) in her records.

The Dodd house became rental property for “Mr. Joe.” The Mize family might have been the first family to rent there. Ann Mize Pegram remembers she was about mid-way the year for her third grade when her parents moved to Fuquay Springs. Other renters followed. Later after marriage, Ann returned to rent the same house, now an apartment building. She and L. V. Pegram lived in the downstairs apartment from 1952-1955. Son Don was born while they were there. Tenants of the upstairs apartment were Frankie and Lacy McLauren who now reside at Windsor Point.

Her description of the house includes a drive way along the front porch, a small yard, and a rock wall toward the spring. The street had been paved and widened until the foundation of the house was actually at the edge of the pavement. The back portion of the house, the el , was the kitchen. The museums have been soliciting any pictures of this house for years.

The house and lots eventually passed to S. L. Lane and wife, Margaret (daughter of Joe Ballentine) who sold them to Woodrow Johnson and wife Zazelle in February, 1957.
Woodrow Johnson served as Mayor of Fuquay Springs 1955-57. The Johnsons had completed the brick home begun on the site of the old Ballentine Schoolhouse in which the Aikens lived.

Woodrow & Zazelle Johnson completed this house on the site of the original Ballentine School house adjacent to the Dodd House. Now this is home to Parks and Recreation. Photo: Shirley Simmons

Town minutes of March 5, 1957 say the town accepted the deed to the “old Dodd House.” Officially a deed of April 2, 1957 states the lot as “being a portion of the property to be used by the Town of Fuquay Springs and the State of North Carolina to widen South Main Street.”

Thus the Dodd House became history at some time after 1957. No one has yet documented when it was demolished.

A SECOND SPECIAL FROM OUR ARCHIVES

Shirley Simmons, Volunteer Director

(This article detailing the Ragsdale connection to the Fuquay Independent is from the Shirley Mudge Hayes collection she left with us. Todd Caldwell was working at the Dunn Dispatch when Fuquay Springs sent a delegation to investigate his availability for coming to Fuquay Springs and opening a newspaper. Jewel Ballentine Stephens again was the citizen who remembered attending a meeting in 1935 to discuss this project. Caldwell came and began the first issue in 1935. The Ragsdales account of this newspaper publication is recounted here. )

Mildred Ragsdale Remembers the Independent’s Early Days
by Shirley Hayes

Mildred and Jack Ragsdale courtesy of daughter Jackie Seawell

When Mildred Cobb married Jack Ragsdale in 1946, she didn’t realize she was about to become just as “married” to Fuquay Springs’ 11-year-old newspaper, The Independent.

But Jack’s multi-titled job as the paper (he was in charge of advertising, production, typesetting, press operations and anything else that needed doing—except writing) absorbed him and his family.

Today probably no one in town remembers as much about the newspapers found and editor, Todd Caldwell, as Mildred does.

Unknown date but before Horace Tilley enlisted in WW II. Tilley was killed in 1945 but he had worked at Independent prior to entry into service. Left: Todd Caldwell, Middle: Jack Ragsdale Right: Horace Tilley (Photo courtesy Tilley family)

Caldwell wasn’t married when Jack went to work for him, and he was soon drawn into Jack and Mildred’s family. For years he ate lunch five days a week with the Ragsdales.

For most of his years in Fuquay-Varina, Caldwell lived in one room in the back of the Independent office building, located at the corner of Academy Street and Fuquay Avenue. He had a cot there and a hot plate.

After one brush with the law (a trooper suspected he’d had a toddy or two but didn’t charge him), Caldwell gave up driving. Then, every Friday afternoon Jack and Mildred would drive him to Raleigh and drop him off at the Sir Walter Hotel where he maintained a room. He returned to Fuquay on the bus on Monday mornings.

When Jack and Mildren’s two little girls came along, Cladwell became like a grandfather to them. “We love him like a father…or grandfather,” Mildred remembers. “And he loved us.”

As the years went by, Jack’s devotion to his job and his pride in the newspaper dictated much of his family’s lifestyle.

“We never once took a weeklong vacation,” Mildred remembers. Jack would not leave town until he was certain the week’s paper had been readied for mailing and delivered to the post office on a Thursday morning.

“We’d go to Carolina Beach, but we had to be back on Sunday night because Jack had to be at work on Monday morning,” Mildred said in a recent interview. “And before we could to home, Jack would have to stop at the Independent to be sure no one had left a machine on or a lighted cigarette in an ashtray.”

But Mildred didn’t complain—-and doesn’t complain—-about that awesome work schedule. “They were good days,” she says.

Jack grew up in Fuquay Springs (the town’s name change didn’t occur until the 1960’s.) He met Todd Caldwell when, as a high school student, he got a job folding newspapers at the Independent. After high school, he went into the Army during World War II, ending his tour in 1945. Then he went to work for Caldwell full time. The editor did all the writing and the bookkeeping. Jack did everything else.

As Mildred remembers it, Jack sold ads, then created the ads himself, hand setting the type. Some of the time he would take a bus to Raleigh, carrying Caldwell’s written news and editorial copy to be set in metal type by a Fayetteville Street printer named L. B. Cox. He would return with the type ready to go on a hand-operated flat-press. In the earliest days, the paper was printed in another town. Eventually, Caldwell went to New York and bought a press and a linotype machine. Then he hired a linotype operator.

Ragsdale learned to run the press, feeding newsprint into the machine page by page. Next the newspaper had to be folded and addressed. Sometimes Ragsdale worked all night on Wednesday night to have the papers ready for mailing Thursday mornings.

Mildred remembers Caldwell as a very reserved, very private person. He was well read and a good conversationalist once one got to know him, but he was not outgoing. When he finally married, some time in his 1950’s, he continued his routine of staying in Fuquay-Varina during the week and having the Ragsdales drive him to the Sir Walter on Friday afternoons. He didn’t tell us he was married for a long time,” Mildred remembers. “I guess after we dropped him off he would take a cab to their apartment somewhere on Hillsborough Street,” she says.

Eventually Jack learned of the union from some source and came home to make the big announcement, Mildred remembers.

Through the years Mildred, too, was drawn into helping at the newspaper, primarily operating an address-o-graph to stamp the names of subscribers on newspapers headed to the post office. Sometimes she folded papers and/or inserted advertising pages.

In 1936, Caldwell produced The Independent by sharing the two offices of Attorney Gunter and Attorney Cotton over Elliott’s Drug Store. Upon the death of Dr. Cheek, Caldwelll moved into his former office space for a time. Later Caldwell had an office near John Roger’s Service Station and in back of Newton Prince’s store. Finally, The Independent came to this location on Academy Street which is where Caldwell made his home.

When the Ragsdales learned in 1972 that Caldwell had sold the Independent to Ted Vallas, Mildred remembers that Jack was apprehensive about what the future would hold. “But as soon as we got to know Ted, our fears disappeared,” Mildred says. “He became like family too.”

After Jack’s death from cancer in 1978, Mildred continued to work for The Independent. Her work in more recent years was in classified advertising and subscriptions. Today she is retired, but she claims many good memories from her years as an integral part of the newspaper family.

She may not have ink in her veins, but she certainly knows what it is like to have ink on her fingers and her clothes….

She insists, “They were good days.”

(There was no date on this interview of Mildred. Research shows that she died in 2012. Jack & Mildred Ragsdale are buried at Greenlawn in Fuquay-Varina. The museums has a lot of material on Caldwell, Vallas and the Independent in the collection. The staff certainly misses the Independent as does all the public.)

A SPECIAL CONTRIBUTION FROM OUR ARCHIVES

Shirley Simmons, Volunteer Director

(The museums staff has been working with our archival materials and in doing so, sharing materials donated by former Independent reporter and Co-author of History of Fuquay-Varina, Shirley Mudge Hayes, has become one goal. Shirley Hayes now lives out of state but left these materials with us after we founded the museums archives. For those readers who did not know Shirley, she grew up near the Mineral Spring as a child, was graduated from Fuquay Springs High School in the Class of 1952, and graduated from Wake Forest College when it was still the college in Wake Forest. The Hayes family lived away for a time, returned to raise a daughter, Elizabeth, and support husband Charles “Chuck” who served as Town Manager. Those of us who treasured her friendship reference constantly her articles and reporting in The Fuquay Independent. Please enjoy this first article with which most of our staff can identify.)

“Mixed Feelings About Qualifying as An Old-timer”

The Class of 1952 at the Centennial Gala remains a close knit group of ladies. L to R: Willa Akin Adcock, Jane Riley McCullen , Shirley Mudge Hayes, Portia Mitchell Newman, Betsy Johnson Gunter, and Frances Poe Tindal.

I looked around one recent day and realized I am fast becoming one of the town’s oldtimers.

How well I remember the days when I, as a much younger reporter for The Independent, used to search out the “oldtimers” and ask them to tap into their memories to help me with historic feature stories about Fuquay Springs and Varina.

Lula Fuquay Sessoms was a favorite. Her Fuquay family was among the earliest settlers of the area.

Lula Fuquay Sessoms was the daughter of Stephen S. and Mary Fuquay who operated a laundry, cooked cakes for town employees, and told delightful stories of the family and town.

Then there was Margaret Ballentine Lane whose father ran a general store across the road from the Fuquay Mineral Spring. Her mother, “Miss Lizzie,” had a hat shop next door to the store.

And Edith Judd Parker (mother of Charles Parker of Parker Furniture) a lifetime resident chose father was the community’s first doctor and whose family had the first local telephone.

Today those lovely sources and many more are gone.

And now—-do I dare to say it—-those of my own generation are becoming the residents with the longest memories and the most to share about days gone by.

I’ve tried to dredge up the earliest of my Fuquay Springs memories. Varina back then (and for many years beyond that time) was another “town” on the other side of the tracks.

As a small child I lived in half of the house at the southwest corner of Main and Sunset Streets (there was no Sunset Street at the time). Daily I walked down the hill with Miss Mary Sharp—-who lived in the other side of the house with her sister—-and her cat Mosey—-to get water from the Fuquay spring, still then thought to have medicinal qualities.

L. A. Mudge, father of Shirley Mudge Hayes, came to Fuquay Springs permanently in the 1930’s. His partnership in Insurance was Prince, Mudge, Powell and Honeycutt, eventually becoming Mudge and Honeycutt. Earlier he worked as tobacco sales supervisor on the Fuquay market.

There was no big, beautiful house on the hill above the spring in those days, only a small red house that had been one of the community’s earliest schoolhouses * but in my day had been turned into a residence. Eleanor Aiken Howard and her parents, Mary and Allen Aiken, lived there then.

Our walk to the spring took us behind the Main Street home of a gruff old gentleman with a white beard who, as a small child, I found frightening. (Today it makes me think of Boo Radley in “To Kill a Mocking Bird.”) His last name was Dodd. One of his sons was ambassador to Germany before World War II, but I didn’t learn that until much later.

When I finally got old enough to go to school, my mother took me on the first day to the traditional red brick schoolhouse that stood at the corner of Academy and Ennis Streets where the Middle School is today. I was placed in the classroom of Miss Ellie Nicholson who was, in her day, one of the old family, old-timers. The father of one of my classmates, Betsy Johnson Gunter, who still lives here, had been taught by Miss Ellie. In my year Miss Ellie had 40-plus six-year-olds in her room. I know this because, over the years, my mother mentioned it, always with awe.

Miss Marvel Carter (left) and Miss Ellie Nicholson (right) teachers at Cardenas School pictures in front of the Lena Sexton home. Miss Ellie worked well into the 1940’s at Fuquay Springs School teaching first graders.

After the preliminaries of first day were completed, Miss Ellie said those of us whose parents were with us could leave at any time. I did not want to leave. I was already in love with school. So my mother spoke to another mother who was staying longer at the schoolhouse, and she agreed to drive me home when the school day ended.

I don’t remember how it happened, but I didn’t ride home with Mrs. Bridges. I walked, west along Academy Street and south on Main, probably a mile, all told. When I got home, my mother asked if Mrs. Bridges brought me. “No,” I am reported to have said, “I walked. Every step of the way.” So proud.

That walk, by the by, took me along a sidewalk, or more accurately a path, that wasn’t paved beside a street (Academy) that wasn’t paved.

See what I mean about being an old-timer!

Shirley, Chuck, Joe (son-in-law) and Elizabeth Hayes Saint posed at the Centennial Gala on Oct 10, 2009.

(*Note this building is our Ballentine Schoolhouse Museums. Also note that the museums has material on Ambassador Dodd and family, Mr. Joe’s store named Varina Mercantile, Mrs. Edith Parker and her father, Dr. Judd, Mary & Allen Aiken & Eleanor, the Old Red Building at Ennis & Academy, our first high school, and the Johnson House now used by Parks & Rec.
Shirley Simmons)

NEW RESEARCH ON THREE FORMER MAYORS

For our Centennial Birthday Celebration in 2009, the program included a presentation on the Mayors of Fuquay Springs and Fuquay-Varina from 1909-2009. During those years a total of 28 men had held the office of mayor, several more than one time. At least four other men had served as acting mayor for brief periods either following resignations or after the assassination of Dr. Cozart.

That centennial research did not uncover a lot of information on several men listed in our Roster of Mayors. Neither were we able to find anyone who could definitely remember these “missing” gentlemen to help with biographical information.

Since that time, the museums staff have kept all eyes open should any of these names appear. Sometimes a newspaper reference has surfaced; at other times a deed record has contained information. Recently, ancestry.com has also proven helpful with additional records.

While the future may reveal more biographical data as we locate more archives, we can now share a few more details of the lives of three of these mayors.

Since incorporation, our mayors have served two-year terms. There is no limit on number of terms or reelection— our current Mayor John Byrne holds the record for terms,
having been elected for ten two-year terms since 2001.

Information uncovered on three of our former mayors follows.

Mayor R. E. Kerr: 1919-1921 served only one term. From the town minutes, we learned that Kerr had served as a Town Commissioner several years. After 1921, he seemed to disappear, until we found an Independent article telling us that he had removed to Charlotte and was being recognized in the banking Industry.

Subsequently, we found that he was born September 12, 1893 in South Carolina and raised in the Rutherfordton home of his grandparents, John and Lelita Carpenter. Named Robert Emmet Kerr, he was the son of Jefferson Davis Kerr and mother Minnie Carpenter Kerr. In Fuquay Springs, the unmarried gentlemen was listed as a boarder in the Barham-Bullock Hotel in the 1920 census and was employed as a cashier in the Bank of Fuquay. His name as a notary for deeds and documents within Fuquay Springs appears from time to time in our archival searches.

Commissioners that term were A. W. Thompson, D. M. Spence, W. S. Adams, J H. Lincoln and R. T. Farabow.

After moving to Charlotte, Kerr met Ruby Edward Starnes of Mt. Holly, NC. and the two were married on April 12, 1934 by the Methodist minister of Mt. Holly. The business directory of Charlotte lists his position as Vice President of American Trust Company and Ruby as Vice President of Federal Soda Shop. They lived at 900 Mt. Vernon Avenue with two children, Robert Emmet, Jr. and Sarah Caruthers Kerr.

Kerr died March 19, 1989 at age 95, still residing at 900 Mt. Vernon Ave. He was proceeded in death by his son in 1986. Ruby lived until 1999 and was buried beside her husband in Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Mayor J. R. Boothe: 1925-1927 served only one term. Boothe had served as Clerk of Recorder’s Court and Clerk of the Board of Commissioners of the town.

John Robert Boothe, born Jan 28, 1863, was the son of William Boothe of the Holly Springs area of Wake County. He married Cornelia Holleman, daughter of William and Jane
Holleman of Holly Springs.

J. A. Boothe was relieved as tax collector in 1921 and subsequently elected on December 6, 1921 as Town Clerk and Clerk of Recorder’s Court for a salary of $15. The
town paid him a year’s salary in 1922.

Town Commissioners at this term were A. W Thompson, J. W. Prince. E. C. Fish, R. H.Barbour and G. W. Adcock.

Boothe was an established lumberman and co-owner of a firm Womble and Boothe. Within the town of Fuquay, he invested in property from the Sexton estate in Varina and in the S.S. Fuquay lands of Fuquay Springs. The Boothe’s acquired two lots from the Harrison estate on which the Keith Hardware Building, presently T. R.Ashworth Inc., was later built.

In 1930 only three years after his mayoral term, Boothe died in Durham at the age of 67. Cornelia died in 1935. Both are buried in the Holly Springs Cemetery associated with their family histories. They had one son, William Colon Boothe who married Levi Womble of New Hill.

Mayor S. A. Adams: served the shorted time as mayor in history: May 8, 1933-July 10, 1933.

The only individual who remembered him was Jewel Ballentine Stephens who said she believed his name was Sidney. With the help of Ancestry we have been able to locate further biographical information on this family.

Sidney Augustus Adams was born April 2, 1904 to William Sidney and Luta Adams in Wake County. In 1930 Sidney lived with his oldest sister, Katie, widowed by the early death of her husband Boyd Herman Jones and left with three small girls. Sidneys’ other sisters were Necie Jones Oliver and Lougenia Jones Ransdell.

William had served as Town Commissioner under Mayor Kerr. Sidney was hired as a special policeman for July 4, 1931 along with J. D. Jones, J. M. Jones and N. H. Coley. Paid $3.00 , the town gave them credit for taxes that year. Elected as mayor on May 8, 1933 while the town was struggling in the midst of the depression, on July 3 Sidney was offered $25 by the town to collect taxes. This seems to be the reason he resigned as Mayor on July 10 and J. E. Howard was elected Acting Mayor. His success in the tax collection was not recorded in town minutes nor was he mentioned again.

William, widowed, married a second time during the depression. The Adams family was living in Wake Forest by the time Sidney Augustus married Louise Shepherd of Orum, N. C. on August 19, 1940. The couple resided in Raleigh where Sidney’s place of business was Carolina Tractor and Equipment Company. When Sidney died November 15, 1973, he was employed in the parts department of Gregory Poole Equipment. He is buried at Montlawn Cemetery.

To date, no one has uncovered pictures of these mayors to add to our archives. However, we are glad to add this information on town leadership to our archival records.
Perhaps this recount may stir memories or result in materials from the public.

Shirley Simmons, Volunteer Director

BASEBALL INFORMATION UNCOVERED from the INDEPENDENT FILES

The FV Museums staff try to follow up on requests or questions for individual and on information which arises over the course of our research which either adds to something or corrects something we had previously been told.

Mickey Smith, Arthur Ray Talley and others recalled some things about baseball in Fuquay Springs when we were researching for Red Seagroves article. Among other ideas, they recalled Tom Seagroves wrote for the Independent on sports.

Following up on these, research has located these details.

A Sep 22, 1949 column by Thomas Seagroves in the Independent “Sports Review” Listed were Dick’s All stars and the Varina Sluggers with both Tom and J. C. Seagroves playing

Into the 1955 issues of the Independent there is the column continued by Seagroves “Sports Review”

Names of different teams we found in different issues:

April 24, 1947: Fuquay Cowboys, Varina Sluggers
April 25, 1947: Rawls Stumpdiggers
May 8, 1947: Holly Springs Rams
Sept 8, 1949: Varina Sluggers were in finals.
April 14, 1949: Rawls Stumpdiggers, Varina Sluggers, Wilbon Owls, Dick’s Service Station All Stars, Wake Harnett Cardinals.,
Sept 23, 1954: Nemo Sherman played with Rawls Stumpdiggers
Coach: Ben Perry, playing at Fleming Field

Another issue caught our attention with this story about a Fuquay native. March 24, 1949 Bobby Chappell signed with Philadelphia Phillies. He transferred to Phillies when Dusty Cooke was trainer. Earlier he was at St. Petersburg Jr. College to train with the Yankees.

The Museums have a picture of Dusty Cooke with Babe Ruth. Dusty was Mickey Smith’s uncle. According to Mickey, Dusty was expected to be the “next” Babe Ruth until he suffered an injury.

Other Professional baseball figures from Fuquay were Bill Holland (relative of Becky Medlin’s family) and Hollis Atkinson. There may be more to be uncovered.

Bill Holland
Hollis Atkinson

From different articles we found all these individuals a lot of us may remember:
Players: Harry Rowland, Harry, “faster than lightning” was pitcher.
Curtis Cotton, Billy Powell, Leon Pearce, Phillip Ransdell, Ray Williams, Donald Wagstaff, Tom Seagroves, Red Seagroves, Tommy Howard, Clinton Abernathy, Gaither Snipes, Roy Talley, Jimmy Tilley, Joe Chappell, Ed Brown, J. K. Shearon

We did not locate anything on the African American team from Holly Springs in the Independentyet; however, Mickey and others did recall that there was a good team which they saw play.

THE FUQUAY SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL BELL

In the year 1915, the Town of Fuquay Springs, led by former mayor, E. J. Ragsdale, requested allocation of $15,000 by the North Carolina General for the express purpose of establishing a high school in Fuquay Springs. Construction began in 1916. When the three story building opened in 1918 on Academy Street , a large school bell adorned the top of the “old red building.” The entire school, grades 1-11, were housed in this building until 1928 when a separate high school building opened facing Ennis Street.

Reporter Shirley Hayes at Fuquay Independent interviewed a number of individuals still alive in 1977, who had special connections at some point in their lives to this first high school. Her account entitled “The Walls Came Tumbling Down ” appeared on July 28, 1977 as the demolition of the building was completed by the D. H. Griffin, Company of Greensboro.

One interviewee was Myrtle Hopson who, having agreed to substitute one day for Principal W. E. Fleming, remained 29 years as a teacher. Her bell memory came from the year her class of 49 fifth graders occupied the room upstairs through which the bell rope passed from roof down to the first floor office. She enrolled a new student whom she had to seat near the bell rope area. Suddenly the young man jumped to his feet calling upon all his classmates to ”get out.” Mrs. Hopson finally quieted the student, explaining that the great shaking of the building was caused by the bell being rung above their heads. “In California, we call that an earthquake,” he insisted. Numerous individuals recounted the terrific shaking of the entire building when the bell was rung.

The bell provided the entire town with a way to keep time every school day. When the first bell each school morning rang at 8:00 a.m. , all parents and students knew to get moving, for the second bell at 8:30 a.m. would signal the beginning of classes for the day. Some recalled that the bell rang for recess, lunch and dismissal of school at 3:00 p.m. Some individuals stated that it was also rung to change classes at some point in time.

Miss May Adams who taught seventh grade was assigned the room into which the bell rope descended. Her closet on the front of the building is remembered as the actual
terminus of the rope. Miss Adams supervised the ringing of the bell for many years. When Mr. Fred Hunt took over as interim principal upon the death of Mr. Fleming in 1950, he recalled that Miss Adams had her watch brought to him to set as she has done daily with Mr. Fleming. Hunt sent word that Miss Adams should feel free to use her own watch to ring the bells at the proper times.

At some unrecorded date, during the administration of Principal Ed Farnell, the school was remodeled and an electrical bell system installed throughout what had become a campus of several buildings. At that point the huge bell was removed from atop the “old red bullding”. Fred Hunt rescued the now silent bell, building a frame for it and placing it in a prominent place in the yard. It was popular for picture taking and occasionally painting.

First High School for Fuquay Springs along Academy Street . Picture date in not recorded.

When grades 10-12 of the high school moved to Bengal Blvd in 1975, the bell remained on this frame near the old red building area. After the ninth grade moved to Bengal Blvd in 1977, the campus became totally Fuquay-Varina Middle School.

In a civic effort led by Mrs. Frances Senter, Joanna Proctor and the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club, the idea of building a MINI BELL PARK was born in town. The bell was rescued and kept in a secure place when the middle school renovation began. The plan was to hang the bell permanently in the Bell Park along Academy Street near the original front of the first high school building. The Woman’s Club project led to their earning the Civic Improvement Project Award during the GFWCNC 1977-78 administration. A total of $8,000 was collected from various organizations with $1,000 coming from the F.V .Woman’s Club. Masons worked to build the brick columns atop which a steel frame was mounted to hold the bell. Note in the picture how the design was built to match that of the new building for the Fuquay-Varina Middle School. The expectation was that the “old bell” was home for ever!

May Day Celebration at the Fuquay Springs High School in 1928. From the Robert Prince Collection.

Sometime subsequent to 2000, the Woman’s Club realized that the bell had been taken down from the frame. After a bit of sleuthing, Frances Senter and Shirley Simmons uncovered it hanging on a new frame in the interior of the Fuquay-Varina Middle School Campus. That is where is resides today.

Kim Johnson, current President of the Fuquay Springs Quester Chapter # 1134 and daughter of Frances Senter, brought our attention to the fact that few people seem to be aware on the current campus of the real origin of the bell. The Questers became inspired to place a marker recognizing the significance of this important piece of history. Chapter thinking is that this artifact of our town should be clearly identified and preserved.

Bell from Grennbriar (annual) in 1964. This was the way Mr. Hunt preserved the bell when it was removed from the Old Red Building.

We began trying to ascertain why it was removed, possibly when some work was being done on the new building along Academy, Street. We found that some long-time staff at the present middle school actually don’t know why a new tower was erected and the bell placed upon it.

Donald Cotton, graduate of Fuquay Springs High School, former teacher and Principal, and former official of Wake County Public Schools, suggested that we contact the Wake County Schools to see why the bell was moved and what might be done now. Mr. Greg Clark, Senior Director of Maintenance and Operations agreed to look into the matter. Word has been passing around that “someone is asking the question.” To the present date, no one seems to have an answer.

The Bell Mini Park as designed to match the middle school and placed along Academy Street in 1978.

Compounding the issue since the Questers began the effort to mark the bell is the fact that Wake County Public Schools will erect a new Fuquay-Varina Middle School at another site in the near future. Exactly what might become of the present school site has not been determined.

Hopefully, with the Fuquay Springs Questers leading the effort, one of three things can happen. Preferably the old bell can be placed again in the Mini Bell Park along Academy Street on the original building site. If not, then the Questers would like to identify a site for the old bell and to place a marker identifying the historic relic. This could mean a move to the museums grounds if the campus is abandoned and a new middle school is relocated as is being considered by Wake County presently. If there is a school kept on the campus in the future, then the bell could be marked and included perhaps along Academy Street again.

Current location of bell in interior of campus. Unidentified and largely unknown, the bell needs historical recognition again.

We solicit the public will to see this bell identified and remembered forever! Join in our appeal to Wake County Public Schools for the “best” resolution! Help us be certain that the bell is protected throughout any changes coming for that campus, too. The old bell is an important artifact from our town’s past and must not be abandoned.

Important facts relative to the Academy/Ennis/Woodrow Street campus

  • Fuquay Springs High School 1918 (first graduating class 1922)
  • Fuquay-Varina High School 1967 (first graduating class)
  • Fuquay-Varina Middle School 1975 (with move of high school grades 10-12 that year)
  • The ninth grade left the campus for Bengal Blvd in 1977.

Principals of the high school located on this campus

  • Henry A. Neal was principal one year, 1918
  • W. E. Fleming served as principal from 1919 until he died in 1950
  • Fred Hunt (Agriculture teacher) served as interim principal 1950-51
  • Edward N. Farnell became principal 1951
  • Isaac P. Davis came as principal in 1965
  • J. Don Lee became principal 1970
  • William M. Freeman, formerly principal at Fuquay Consolidated, moved from Fuquay Elementary in 1973 to Fuquay-Varina High School
  • Donald G. Cotton, student, teacher and assistant principal on this site, became the principal in 1975 at the Bengal Blvd location

The museums would welcome a listing of principals for the Fuquay-Varina Middle School on this campus to add to our archival base.

Correction to information “Historically Speaking” on School Bells
While researching, J. G. Allen’s name was found and further research adds his name to list of principals of Fuquay Springs High School)

  • Henry A. Neal was principal one year, 1918
  • W. E. Fleming served as principal from 1919 until he died in 1950
  • Fred Hunt (Agriculture teacher) served as interim principal during 1950 when Fleming suffered a heart attack J. G. Allen came as Assistant Principal in the fall of 1950 and became acting principal when Fleming died in September of 1950
  • Edward N. Farnell became principal June, 1951
  • Isaac P. Davis came as principal in 1965
  • J. Don Lee became principal 1970
  • William M. Freeman, formerly principal at Fuquay Consolidated, moved from Fuquay Elementary in 1973 to Fuquay-Varina High School
  • Donald G. Cotton, student, teacher and assistant principal on this site, became the principal in 1975 at the Bengal Blvd location

(Further research corrects the names of schools for the 1975-77 period on the campus)

  • Fuquay Springs High School 1918 (first graduating class 1922)
  • Fuquay-Varina High School 1967 (first graduating class)
  • Fuquay-Varina Junior High School 1975 (with move of high school grades 10-12 that year)
  • Fuquay-Varina Middle School 1977
  • ( ninth grade left the campus for Bengal Blvd in 1977.)

Submitted by: Shirley Simmons, Volunteer Director

FUQUAY-VARINA MUSEUMS, THE OLD MUNCIPAL BUILDING, AND ASHWORTH HISTORIC PARK

The portion of our Fuquay-Varina Museums which is termed the Centennial Museum and Archive is located in the building which is clearly marked “Muncipal Building” right over the center door. Located at 131 S. Fuquay Avenue, the building does have an important historical significance which we shall attempt to share in brief. The entire 3/4 of a block, now known at Ashworth Historic Park, likewise has a remarkable history.

Prior to the erection of this Municipal Building, there was no real home for town government. At times, the Mayor and Board of Commissioners met around town, in the Ballentine Building or other places. Some official work began to take place upstairs in the Thompson Building, commonly known as Elliotts Pharmacy and Elmos, after it was rebuilt in 1916. The museums have a sketch showing the location of the Recorder’s Courtroom and offices over what is now Elmos. The Recorder’s Court dates from 1917 in that site.

At times the mayor maintained an office in the upstairs, the clerks and some other officials were known to work there, along with law offices, beauty shops, and other businesses. Some people remember that over the Elliott’s part of the building one got medical “shots” of different types. Everything town related left there in 1951 with the erection of our “Municipal Building” ie. the Centennial Museum.

The original building on the site was the Fuquay Warehouse.  Henry Talley and most of his children came to sell tobacco here.  Picture and details in museum courtesy Talley family. 

Originally about half the block on Fuquay Avenue was the site of the first tobacco warehouse (1908) in Fuquay. Following that the block then became home to a number of dwellings—Daughtry, Ashworth, Rogers, Holland, and Van Hook come to mind. There was a Bunn bakery which many remember. At one point the Fuquay Springs Post Office was located in a building where the recently vacated library was later constructed.

Heulon Dean photo of municipal building in use. Shows fire truck in bay,, courtroom area for voting, voters outside, and metal building for additional fire truck on side. Driver of truck was identified as Mr. Rowland.

Finally in 1951, the town constructed its first “muncipal” home, this building on Fuquay Avenue. Mayor Dr. Wiley S. Cozart presided over the groundbreaking and led the effort. Dr. Wiley H. Cozart recalled his father actually journeyed to New York to acquire the steel needed to complete the structure.

Independent picture at dedication of municipal building 1951. August 23, 1951 issue.

According to the Independent (August 23, 1951) the building, built by A. Y. Hairr contractor, cost the town $53,000. Secretary of State, Thad Eure, gave the dedicatory address. He declared, “Tobacco as one of the things that has moved this town. You have long helped the state to hold the leadership on tobacco but to continue to hold it, a good research program is necessary.” At that time tobacco was sold in 10 warehouses. (Eventually a high of 12 warehouses operated in the area.)

Governor Kerr Scott, Mayor W. S. Cozart, Town Manager, Willard Council and Pastor Walton M. Page of Fuquay Springs Baptist Church all graced programs in the celebration. The parade float winner was the Fuquay Motor Company. The parade route ended in a grand finale at the new municipal building. A population of 1998 citizens enjoyed the big moment.

Over time the town purchased about 1/2 of the block. At times using houses on either side of the brick building, there were offices related to town functions. The recently vacated library building was designed and constructed by the Town, and the library moved there in 1988. Also, in 1988, the Town vacated this municipal building and moved to Judd Parkway into the second municipal building which they occupied until this month. For a time DMV used the entire old municipal building for licenses and license plate operations.

Fuquay Springs Quester Chapter # 1134 signed on with the town to provide a museum called the Ballentine School House. Moved to the block in 1993, they began interpreting history there in 2000. All the civic organizations in the area supported this building’s move. Questers further secured town permission and with town help moved the Little Fuquay Springs Post Office in 2008 to operate as the second museum.

The Centennial Commission occupied the front of the municipal building during the centennial year and built a display of artifacts as an exhibit for the centennial. Not wishing these artifacts to be lost and realizing the importance of a museum/archive could be to the town, a 501 c 3 non profit was organized. Since the Centennial of 2009, the Friends of the Museums, under an agreement with the Town, have operated the portion of the museums called our Centennial Museum and Archives in the front half of the building. DMV issues licenses, by agreement with the town, in the rear portion of the building.

With the town acquisition of the Rufus Ashworth property, now the Ashworth Historical Park site, about 3/4 of the block became public property. The old library building will revert from Wake County to town ownership this month. The Friends of the Museums have expanded
their local museums complex to include other components in the Ashworth Historic Park. Presently, the complex is in dire need of additional space to save our town’s history for our posterity.

The Friends of the Museums are presently planning to complete a replica of the Little Depot to complete our rail component at the museums. This will provide access to our Caboose # 375 for everyone. They recently placed a new roof on the Ballentine School House Museum.

Centennial Museum and Archive with new awnings, October 31, 2019. Photo by Shirley Simmons for museum.

The Board of Commissioners of the Town budgeted funding in 2019 for awning replacement on the old municipal building. They have also plans to evaluate and repair the leaking roof. The latter was of great importance as there has been some slight water damage which the museum could not afford to have continue. The Friends of the Museums have been fortunate that no artifacts have been damaged and DMV has had no damage to their operation. The Friends of the Museums, a non profit 501c 3, recognize and appreciate this expenditure of the town to maintain the building as part of the museums complex.

If you haven’t come in or just driven by, please do so to admire our new blue awnings. While they do match exactly the mail box in the corner and the new town signs, definitely they give the Old Municipal Building and the Centennial Museum a “new” look.

Check us out at fuquay-varina-museums.org or Facebook Fuquay-Varina Museums. Perhaps this history of the complex will whet public appetite to come, look, and learn!