“LIKE FATHER LIKE DAUGHTER“ WORKS, TOO! (Part 2)

The usual adage, “like father, like son” is a familiar one; however, in this instance, there is also a daughter who has in amazing ways walked in the footsteps of her father. We honor the philosophy and lives of both Romie Burt, Sr. for his outstanding life and his youngest daughter, Orlean Burt Newton who is following in his footsteps working on our Friends of the Museums Board these past 10 years and making other contributions to life in Fuquay-Varina.

The Daughter

While all the children exemplify some of the outstanding traits of their father, the museums are honored to recognize the one of them who has earned our “most like her father” title. Orlean has been involved with the Friends of the Museums for the entire ten years of our work. For our benefit, we are recognizing her to be “like father, like daughter” for all the people and the Town of Fuquay-Varina.

Six-year old Orlean enjoyed a happy childhood with a loving family.
Fuquay Consolidated High School graduation photo of Orlean Burt.

The youngest daughter, Orlean, graduated from Fuquay Consolidated High School among the distinguished Class of 1960. Senior superlatives named her “Most Popular Girl”, and “Best All Around Girl”. Her four years as a cheerleader earned her distinction as “Most School Spirit.” She also participated in the Jabberwok, sponsored by the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority. They voted her “Miss Most Likely to Succeed” among their ranks.

Jabberwok declaration of “Most Likely to Succeed” was certainly prophetic for Orlean.

Since Golia had first belonged to First Baptist Church and moved to Bazzel Creek with her husband, Orlean along with the other children went to both churches for alternating Sunday services. Orlean loved music, Sunday School, and joined both her church choir and the high school glee club.

With steadfast encouragement from her parents, she won a scholarship and was graduated from North Carolina College at Durham (now North Carolina Central University) earning her degree in Business Education. When a recruiter from the U. S. government offered her a job in Washington, D.C., she was led to choose that area for better career opportunities.

Limitations upon upward mobility were definitely felt in her family in the segregated south.

Coed Orlean posed for this snapshot on the campus of North Carolina College.
Orlean Burt on her busy graduation day from college.

Like Romie, she was a pioneer, becoming the first African American to work in the office of the director in one of her positions at the Department of Labor in Washington, D.C. Between 1964-2002, Orlean worked in the nation’s capital as a secretary, a claims examiner and later as a workers’ compensation specialist. She conducted many training sessions though out the US and also at Guantanamo Bay and in Germany.

The character traits she observed in her dad prompted her to value and seek community involvement. Always interested in vocal music, Orlean sang with the 200 voice National Christian Choir, an “audition only” group with occasional tours and in her own church choir at Forest Heights Baptist Church in Oxon Hill, Maryland. She joined the Black Political Women In Action. Service to others and working with people she credits to her father’s influence.

Orlean married Larry Newton Sr., her college sweetheart, from whom she was later divorced. She is the mother of one son, Larry Newton, Jr. who works in the biopharmaceuticals industry which encompasses biotechnology and pharmaceuticals in Los Angeles, California. During his growing up years she and her son made frequent trips home. Larry travels a lot with his job; Orlean enjoys visiting him when possible.

Orlean enjoyed a visit with her son, Larry, Jr. in California while he supported the performance of the National Christian Choir on tour there.

On the occasion of Romie Burt’s 98th birthday in 2001, she arrived home to find two EMS trucks in the yard of her childhood home. Orlean accompanied her mother as she was transported to the hospital. Golia suffered an aneurysm on the aorta and died that night at Wake Med in Cary. During the next months , Orlean and Dazell along with Etta were back and forth caring for their dad.

Burt had been married to Golia 65 years, when she died and left him alone. At 98 years, Romie’s health required a caregiver. Orlean arranged to retire and return to North Carolina and Fuquay-Varina. Retirement brought her permanently in 2002 to live with her dad on Railroad Street. Just as Romie had assumed responsibility for his family as a young man, she shouldered the mantle of caregiver in his life.

Orlean presented the 100th birthday cake for inspection by Romie.

Romie at 100 years of age prepared for celebration of his birthday.

Much of this time, Romie used a walker and needed support with the supplying of his physical needs. During this period, the family continued his annual birthday celebrations. Blessed with a sharp mind, much of his philosophy was documented by writers of the Independent. Many citizens shared in these special parties.

Mayor John Byrne congratulated Romie Burt on one of his birthday occasions.

At his death in 2006, the eulogy in St. Augusta Missionary Baptist Church was attended by a multitude of the town’s residents. Many distinguished friends took part in his service. Dr. Lorenzo A. Lynch came from Durham to officiate, joined by Rev. Robert A. Horne of Bazzel Creek Missionary Baptist Church, Rev. Harold F. Trice of Union Chapel Baptist Church in Butner, and Rev. Dr. Marvin Connelly, Jr. Pastor of St. Augusta Missionary Baptist Church. Remarks were also given by Mayor John Byrne, Dr. Leonzo D. Lynch, Second VP of the General Baptist Convention of NC and Pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Charlotte, medical Dr. George C. Debnam of Raleigh, and Rev. Michael Cotten of Fuquay-Varina Jubilee Church. He was praised for strength, resilience, and wisdom. Sons Dennis and Walter had preceded him in death as had all his siblings except Sadie Dennis. Burial was at Carolina Biblical Gardens in Garner.

Orlean says she always hoped to return to her roots in Fuquay-Varina. Fuquay-Varina is blessed that Orlean not only just returned but became actively involved in our town. Among her first efforts was membership in the Fuquay-Varina Community Development Corporation to save the Fuquay Consolidated School buildings. She remains active in the efforts to preserve the history of that school.

Joining Wake Chapel Christian Church, she became the first African-American member and is a faithful voice in the Chancel Choir. She is a member of the Chapel Bible Sunday School Class, and the Maranatha Circle at Wake Chapel.

With Women’s Priority Associates, she is a member of the Strategic Core Group, meeting monthly to pray and plan a luncheon/program which serves the needs of women (both churched and unchurched). The purpose of a Priority Luncheon is to provide a strategic entry point for women to hear a personal testimony about how a relationship with Jesus Christ changes lives.

In 2009, the citizens named to the Centennial Commission to plan the Town’s centennial events included Orlean Burt Newton. She actively attended monthly meetings for a year and was part of all the celebratory events. At year’s end, she joined other insightful members of the Centennial Commission who organized to preserve the collections from the centennial by incorporation into the Friends of the Museums of Fuquay-Varina, a 501 c 3 non profit.

Orlean worked at the Centennial event in 2009 with her cousin, Martha Moore. Both ladies were part of the Centennial Commission.
Heritage Day duties as President found Orlean discussing the program to dedicate our NS Caboose with former President Max Ashworth.

Led by Larry Bennett, first president, Orlean was elected secretary of the Friends of the Museums, holding that office from 2010-2018. Orlean’s commitment to the Friends of the Museums which she has championed since its inception finds her currently President of the Board. Monthly meetings of the Friends for ten years, fundraising projects, Heritage Days and Town Festivals and all the minutia of details associated with the museums have brought no wavering in her dedication.

Tobacco stringing demonstration at the museums included Orlean with Gail Woolard and Rosalyn Snipes.

Additionally, she has trained and served as one of the docents who actually manned the stations at the museums until interrupted by Covid 19. However, she is still actively seeking space for expansion and a broad, more diverse collection of artifacts and archives. Along with other officers, she has taken advantage of the year to attend webinars to improve the non-profit operation. Financial stability and substantial community support remain major goals in 2021.

To a person, we, the members of the Friends Board who serve with her admire the numerous qualities which many citizens note were found in her father. Orlean is faithful to her commitments, supportive of our efforts and work, always pleasant, inclusive of everyone, caring about the lives and families of all of us, treating everyone the same, a fine Christian lady, and essentially a peacemaker. She faithfully works to help the museums be inclusive of all aspects of our town’s heritage and history.

Orlean shares Heritage Day work to present the buildings at the museums with docents and board treasurer, Brenda Johnson.

She accepted a position on the Board of the FV Downtown Association in 2018 and is part of their design committee. She regularly supports the Cultural Arts programs of Fuquay-Varina.

Borrowing from the funeral program of Romie Burt, Sr., “in appreciation for the gift of his years,” we co-opt a part of the poem written especially for the service by Debra Collins. Like her father, Orlean “makes the environs of her world better by the power and presence of God’s grace.” Our community has been and is blessed “by the work of their hands.”

The program celebrating the Life and Love of Romie Burt, Sr. is a treasured artifact for the museums collection.

Sources:
2020 Telephone interviews by Shirley Simmons with: Etta Burt McNair Chesley, Orlean Burt Newton, John Romie Burt, Jr. Rev. Dr. Lorenzo A. Lynch, Curtis Holleman and Portia Mitchell Newman. History of Fuquay-Varina, 2009, The Independent: June 3, 1998; May 8, 2002; May 7, 2003; and May 19, 2004. “Celebrating the Life and Love of Romie Burt, Sr,” December 30, 2006. Pictures from museum events and Burt family donation to the collection.

“LIKE FATHER LIKE DAUGHTER“ WORKS, TOO!

The usual adage, “like father, like son” is a familiar one; however, in this instance, there is also a daughter who has in amazing ways walked in the footsteps of her father. We honor the philosophy and lives of both Romie Burt, Sr. for his outstanding life and his youngest daughter, Orlean Burt Newton who is following in his footsteps working on our Friends of the Museums Board these past 10 years and making other contributions to life in Fuquay-Varina.

Romie Burt in his famed coveralls outside Mitchell Chevrolet

Orlean Burt Newton, the daughter who is compared to her father in philosophy and work.

The Father

Romie Burt, Sr. was born in the Holly Springs-Duncan area of Wake County on May 7, 1903. According to the census and his obituary he was the oldest child of Rosa Burt and James Dennis. He lived his entire life in the area, generally in Fuquay Springs. In an interview on his 99th birthday with the Independent, May 8, 2002, Burt stated, “ I’ve never been to South Carolina or Virginia. I’ve never been out of the state of North Carolina and I’ve never taken a vacation.”

As the oldest of 9 siblings, Romie worked from childhood to help his mother support the family. Schools of his era were never more than 6 months but the family is unsure just how many years he completed in school. Because of his role in the family support he told the reporter for the Independent on his 100th birthday, “I only got to go to school about 30 days out of the year.” Whatever years he attended were at the Bazzel Creek School located near the church on Wilbon Road.

Romie could best be described as self educated, reading the paper daily according to his daughter, Etta. She remembers that he always made sure his children had something to read, including the newspaper and subscriptions to Life and Time magazines among others. He provided a set of encyclopedia and a dictionary for the home, insisting that the children utilize them. Orlean recalled her father provided the girls with her own typewriter for school work which later accompanied them to college.

The 1920 census taker listed Romie as a farm laborer at 16 years of age. Briefly he worked at Butner, NC during the construction of the camp. Now married with family, Burt was listed as working in a service station in the 1930 U. S. census.

Portia Mitchell Newman recalled that her father purchased the garage of Henry Sessoms on Main Street in 1934. According to Mr. Mitchell, Romie was employed by Sessoms when the business sale was being finalized. In the discussion, Burt indicated he would like to continue this employment. Mitchell hired him on the spot for as long as he wanted to work.

Portia Mitchell greeted Romie on his 100th Birthday on behalf of the Mitchell family.

Curtis Holleman, whose uncle was a mechanic there, remembers Burt as an employee at Mitchell Chevrolet. Holleman recalled Romie’ s characteristic cap and coveralls.

At 100 years, Burt himself described his job to the Independent. “ I was a first aid man. I changed the oil and helped the customers.” Many citizens remember the gentleman with whom they preferred to leave their vehicles for service. Later as proprietors of the drug store, Curtis and Kitty often enjoyed visits to chat with the elder Burt in his home.

Curtis and Kitty Lane Holleman were guests at Burt’s 100th birthday.

Romie was a valued employee of Mitchell Chevrolet for the remainder of Mitchell’s life. When the company was sold in 1987, it appears that Romie remained with the Mitchener Chevrolet Company for three more years, finally retiring at age 87.

Portia emphasized that her dad trusted Romie more than anyone in the world outside his family. When young Portia walked from the Fuquay Springs School on Ennis and Academy to the Chevrolet building, Romie was sometimes dispatched with a car to drive her home. She describes Burt as a “perfect gentleman” and a “strict father” himself. Her recollection is that Burt’s own children would come into the shop and wait to catch his attention when they needed their dad. Both Mitchell and Burt worked from daylight to dark. Both were frugal and taught their children to be respectful, Portia emphasized.

Wallace Mitchell is quoted in the History of Fuquay Varina as remembering, “He and my father started working together when I was three months old, and he has been a part of my life all of my life. I admire this man so much.”

Burt walked to work every day except Friday, when he drove his car so that Miss Golia could do grocery shopping at the Food Center. When Golia completed her purchases next door, Romie could then drive her home with the groceries. Each Sunday when there were services, he drove his family to Bazzel Creek Baptist Church. Etta enthused affectionately about her dad’s ’34 Chevrolet, painted pea green with yellow behind the spokes.

Bazzel Creek Church is one of the oldest African American Churches of the area.

He was a faithful member of his church, which he described as beginning under a brush arbor made of trees covered by sheep skins to keep our the rain. Bazzel Creek Baptist Church was founded by ex-slaves from Piney Grove Baptist Church in 1866. No one was sure when he joined the church but indications are this was from very early in his life as he was recognized for many years as the oldest member. In his later years for attendance ease, his membership was moved to First Baptist Church on North West Street where Golia had originally been a member. His membership remained with the latter congregation upon his death at age 103.

Rev. Dr. Lorenzo Lynch came as minister to Bazzel Creek Church while a seminary student at Shaw University. He recalls that he, “a 19 or 20 year old, received valuable counsel from Burt.” Romie served as Chairman of Deacons, Church Treasurer and Sunday School teacher. After Lynch married, Burt insisted that the minister and his wife always take Sunday dinner with them following the once-a-month worship. Theirs was a life-long friendship.

Rev. Dr. Lynch remains a friend of the family and attended the famed birthday party of 102 years along with Dr. George Debnam

Faith was an integral part of Burt’s life. He attributed his longevity to “hard work and clean living and in believing and trusting in the Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.”

Romie married Madelene Chisholm on February 11, 1923. By the 1930 census the Burt family was residing in Fuquay Springs, listing three children: Dennis C., Dazell,
and Walter G.

On April 6, 1936, Romie married a second time. The second Mrs. Burt was Golia Thorpe of Harnett County. Romie and Golia owned their home on Railroad Street in Fuquay Springs. Living with the couple in 1940 were Dazell and their two-year old daughter, Etta Geneva. Two additional children were born to this union, Orlean Rose and Romie Burt, Jr.

This photograph of Romie, Golia and their young daughter Etta is a feature in the Wells Fargo Bank lobby display of Historic Fuquay.
Orlean Burt and her brother, Romie Jr. grew up on Railroad Street.

An active member of the Golden Star Lodge # 150, PHA, Romie Burt was an avid proponent for his community, always looking out for the specific needs of his people. Our belief is that his Cafe on Railroad Street was the town’s first black owned business. Uniquely, the building did not originate as a cafe. Burt built it for an office and brought the first African-American physician, Dr. J. B. Davis, to serve the town. Orlean recalls that both she and Romie, Jr, were delivered by Dr. Davis. Etta recalled Miss Jessie, the nurse, who gave shots. This doctor vacated the building when he moved into his own house and office in the triangle across from First Baptist Church.

The building then was converted to a Cafe run by Golia and son, Dennis, assisted by Annie Raines. In segregated days, this cafe was needed to provide and serve lunches and dinners to black workers from the North State Tobacco redrying plant across the street. Our best research has the cafe opening certainly after 1943, perhaps about 1945-46. Etta remembers sitting in the window as a fourth grader, to observe what was happening at the cafe.

The cafe also opened on Sunday afternoons, providing a place for African American youth to gather. Hotdogs, hamburgers, sodas, and ice cream were featured; supervision by the older Burt couple was a definite. Etta also recalled her parents always brought Bazooka Bubble Gum home as a treat on Sunday nights. Orlean believes they closed the cafe when other black businesses were established in the town; however, the exact date eludes history.

Once when Principal D. A. Thomas decided that students could not use the gymnasium for their senior prom, Romie Burt allowed the class to hold the event in his cafe. Mildred Scott Lucas’s class was involved in that occasion, she recalled to Orlean.

This building remains today and has been suggested as an addition to the museums. North Carolina Preservation specialists note that the frame building is unique, unusually well preserved, and significant as a black-owned business. They recommended saving the structure in a consultation with the Friends of the Museums. Moving the cafe to Ashworth Park is supported as one of the future Strategic Goals of the Friends of the Museums.

Moving The Burt Cafe Building from Rallroad Street today is one of the goals of the Friends of the Museums. The family will donate the building to the non-profit.

Burt facilitated a building next door to the cafe in which at least two Raleigh funeral homes, Lightner and Haywood, briefly operated satellite offices. Burt assisted their operation by selling insurance policies. This tiny structure was known last as “the Lamb’s Corner” and has been demolished. This operation was shortlived. Owen Scott owned a building on W. Academy St. in which Mims and Trice would open the first locally owned African American funeral home.

Known as the Lamb’s Corner in recent years, this was the building used as the first African American Funeral Home next door to the cafe.

Property owner, respected leader and esteemed businessman are all descriptive of Burt. His fairness and consideration in pricing rental property set an example for the entire community. Holleman describes Burt as “wealthy but never boastful.” According to Rev. Dr. Lynch, Burt “contributed more than most members” to his church. He “kept complete reports and was always up front and above board with the treasurer’s books.” Lynch noted that Burt invested in real estate and owed nobody. At his death, Lynch believed him to be a millionaire.

Talking to the Independent on the occasion of his 95th birthday, Burt remembered when land could be purchased for one cent per acre. He told of purchasing 10 acres in Fuquay on which he grew tobacco from a black family who wanted to move north. Orlean believes this to be the only time he took out a loan from Robert Prince, his friend at the Bank of Fuquay.

Robert Prince and Romie Burt enjoyed a life-long friendship. Here he was a guest at one of the birthday parties.

Among his investments were farm land in the Holly Springs, Apex, and Harnett County areas and multiple rental properties. When building his own new brick home on Railroad Street beside his older residence, he hired all the contractors, paid the bills each week, and finished with no mortgage or debt. He testified to learning the importance of land as a good investment from Mrs. Emma Stinson who was left with only land after the Civil War (Independent, 1998).

Romie & Golia posed for this photograph in their yard along Railroad Street.

Helping his community was especially noteworthy when the Fuquay-Varina Community Development Corporation purchased the old Fuquay-Varina Consolidated School property
from Wake County Schools planning to transform the buildings into apartments for the elderly and a day care center. The lawyers and school board were surprised to find that some of the school had actually been constructed on Burt’s property. Burt declined to contest the matter, saying that his children had all been educated in that school. Instead he donated the acreage, which had been appropriated by the county for the school, to the corporation. (Independent 1998) “I was raised that money wasn’t everything. Friends in the community who work together will always prosper,” he believed. Romie, Jr. recalls that his father gave not only this land but also contributed land to the town for the widening of Railroad Street for two way traffic and for the extension of North West Street. At some point this was authenticated by the Town of Fuquay.

His gardening skills providing produce shared with neighbors and friends is legendary. All three of his children noted this as a special memory of their dad’s philosophy of life. Rev. Lynch commented that Burt worked two jobs. After a day at Mitchell’s Chevrolet he came home at 5:00 only to go directly to his farming. Etta noted that her father always had enough food to help people. He let them come to his garden and he delivered food and coal to many of the elderly.

Golia was a wonderful cook according to her daughter Etta. Her table was always open to any visitor with her husband insisting, “Sit down and eat.” Miss Golia was an accomplished seamstress, making all the girls’ clothes. She also sewed for the neighborhood. Golia did all her three daughters’ hair. Orlean declared her mother the “most talented woman she ever knew.”

Orlean treasures this childhood photograph with her mother.

The era in which the Burt children grew up was a segregated one. School, church, and community were essentially separate lives with only minimal overlapping of the racial
divide in their early lives. However, their father’s philosophy of life is evident in their lives and the inspiration he instilled is manifested in their accomplishments.

His first three children called Golia mother. Each of them admired mother Golia and appreciated the father who provided for and guided them to become good citizens.

Dennis, the eldest, helped Golia in the cafe. He married Yvonne McClain and raised six children: Willis C. (deceased), Willa Jean, Alvenus, Wade, Dennis A., and Aaron, all of whom live in the area. He generally worked in construction, finishing cement. He died in 1968. Dazell moved to New York where she worked as a supervisor with Angelica Health Care most of her life. She returned to the area after retirement. Orlean became her caregiver until her death in 2019. Walter also lived part of his life in the D. C. area before he returned to a career as a maitre d’ in hotels in Raleigh. Orlean recalls him as an impressive gentleman. His death came in 2000.

The importance of education was paramount in their childhood as the living three children remember. Orlean quotes her father’s belief on getting an education, “Boys need it but girls must have it. What you have in your head nobody can take away from you.” The three younger children all chose college with their father paying for what scholarships did not cover.

Etta Geneva Chesley is retired and lives in Temple Hills, Maryland today. She graduated from the Fuquay Consolidated School and Shaw University in Raleigh. She remembered that Mr. Mac Mitchell gave each of the Burt children a silver dollar every Christmas. She proudly saved her 17 coins for her college fund. Her teaching career as a reading specialist in DC covered 41 years and 9 months. From her father, she carried forth to “work with those who were struggling” and declared in her interview that all children are “special.” Her four children from her first husband are Nathaniel Clayton McNair III, Natalyn Maryetta (deceased), Natasha Claytonia McNair Shannon, and Na’etta Jenene McNair. They all reside in the DC area today.

John Romie, Jr. graduated from Fuquay Consolidated School and chose to further his education at Harris Barber College. Spending many years in the DC area, he also completed some course work at the university in D.C. His career was spent supervising beauty and barber shops associated with the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, and the U. S. Air Force. He worked in management with Giant Foods as one of five black managers. He retired and returned to Fuquay-Varina circa 1999. He is the father of nine: Chantel, Tonya, Richard Myles, Ronda Denise, Floyd Antonio, Valencia, Romel, Monique Alecia (deceased) and Mekiya.

Grandchildren were a part of the Burt birthday celebration for 102 years.

Romie, Jr. has followed in the steps of his father by identifying and working to fill needs of his people. He served as the first Chairman of the Cultural Arts Society of Fuquay-Varina . He and Mayor John Byrne are credited with implementing the idea in 2003 and leading the town to organize the first Martin Luther King Celebration in 2004.

Sources:
2020 Telephone interviews by Shirley Simmons with: Etta Burt McNair Chesley, Orlean Burt Newton, John Romie Burt, Jr. Rev. Dr. Lorenzo A. Lynch, Curtis Holleman and Portia Mitchell Newman. History of Fuquay-Varina, 2009, The Independent: June 3, 1998; May 8, 2002; May 7, 2003; and May 19, 2004. “Celebrating the Life and Love of Romie Burt, Sr,” December 30, 2006. Pictures from museum events and Burt family donation to the collection.

MUSEUMS HONOR TWO AFRICAN AMERICAN DOCTORS

by Shirley Simmons

The museums prepared material honoring two African American medical doctors who practiced in Fuquay Springs and Fuquay-Varina as a valuable addition to our Doctor’s Room docent led tour. We share briefly some of their history as we have been able to research their work in our town. While all doctors did see black and white patients, these two came to fill a niche for African American patients.

Dr. Judge Bustee Davis, Sr. is pictured by the Old North State Medical Society. One of our docents, Jeanette Moore-Burlock, enhanced it for our use.

Dr. Judge Bustee Davis was the earliest of these. Dr. Davis came to town at the impetus of Romie Burt who constructed a building specifically for his practice. Based upon our research and the memories of the Burt children, we believe his practice began about 1940 in the building which still exists on Railroad Street.

Davis was born February 1, 1885, the son of William and Clara Davis of Montgomery, Alabama. He chose to study for pre-med at the Old Leonard School of Medicine at Shaw University in Raleigh. His MD was earned at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. Returning to Raleigh, he interned at St. Agnes Hospital in Raleigh.

Davis practiced in Louisburg, North Carolina for 20 years. Following that he had an office in Lillington, North Carolina for two years. From here Burt recruited him for his office in Fuquay Springs.

On Railroad Street, the Burt Cafe building was originally built by Romie Burt to house the office of Dr. J. B. Davis.

We could not verify exactly how long he worked from the Burt office which, after he vacated it, became Burt’s cafe. He moved when he built his own house and office on West Academy Street across from the First Baptist Church. At age 68, he was practicing there when he died August 11, 1953 following an illness of several weeks.

The museums would be interested in hearing of babies he might have delivered, two of whom we know were the Burt Children. Orlean Burt Newton, whom he delivered, remembers attending his funeral with her parents. Davis was buried in the Louisburg Cemetery.

Dr. Davis was once President of the NAACP, a deacon in the Baptist church, and listed in Who’s Who among North Carolina Negro Baptists. Professionally, Davis was a member of the Old North State Medical Society, one of the oldest medical societies for African American Physicians in the United States.

Davis married Gertrude Lola Williamson with whom he had four children: Judge Jr., Carolyn Pauline, Reid Astely, and Lula Beatrice.

Dr. George Clyde Debnam gave the museums access to this photo used in most of his biographical sources.

The second of the African American Doctors who served our town is one of the most recognized physicians of the state, often referenced as the “Dean” of African-American physicians in Raleigh, Dr. George Clyde Debnam. Our association with this doctor derives from George Rogers of Fuquay Springs who met Dr. Debnam during a hospital stay and persuaded him to consider setting up a practice here.

Dr. Debnam took over Dr. Davis’ practice with offices first in back of Roger’s Soda Shop and then in the Davis building for some ten years duration. Much of his time and energy was given to citizens of our town, although the family always lived in Raleigh.

One of fourteen or fifteen children, George was born to James Otis and Cherrie Smith Debnam in Youngsville, North Carolina on November 5, 1927. An outstanding scholar, he enrolled at Shaw University at the age of 15. Graduating in 1947, Debnam then earned his MD from Meharry Medical College in 1951. He, too, interned at St. Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, 1951-54.

He began his practice in Fuquay Spring in 1954. During this time, Dr. Debnam served military hospitals including Womack Hospital located on Fort Bragg, NC. He worked in Fuquay as part of the staff at the Fuquay-Varina Branch Hospital briefly after it was established in 1960.

Eventually, Dr. Debnam opened the Debnam Clinic in Raleigh where he remained until retirement. Married to Marjorie Boyd, he was blessed to have her serve as clinic office manager. They are parents of three daughters. Gwendolyn is a Professor of English; however, the twin daughters, Marie Georgette and Marjoria Lynnette both graduated from Meharry Medical College. They joined their father at the Debnam Clinic in 1995.

Dr. Debnam also contributed this photo from one of his speaking engagements when he was being honored.

When Dr. Debnam retired in 2001 after 50 years and 6 months (another source says 53 years) in practice, he had delivered 11,500 babies and performed more than 5,000 surgical operations. His distinguished career accrued many honors: President of the Old North State Medical Society, Doctor of the Year, Member of the Board of Trustees at Shaw University, a Trustee Emeritus at North Carolina Central University and Senior Physician at Wake Medical Center. In 1997, Shaw renamed the administration building the George C. Debnam Building.

Marjorie was an accomplished community volunteer and together the Debnams established “The Friends of Distinction”, a club to help young black men. Among Mrs. Debnam’s activities was work on breast cancer screening and after-school programs for black youth. She worked for 35 years with the YWCA, many years with Wake Opportunities, and was a leader in “Strengthening the Black Family, Inc.”

In the Independent, October 30, 1980, Dr. Debnam was quoted as “always having a special place in my heart for Fuquay-Varina.” At age 93, He remains an associate member of the First Baptist Church in Fuquay-Varina.

In retirement, Dr. Debnam founded Debnam Publishing Company and authored his first book, God’s Gifts: Mothers. This volume was dedicated to Marjorie who died in 2004. Dr. Debnam has produced manuscripts of original material on his life, Shaw University, medical conditions, and West-African and African-American funeral traditions and other anthologies. He was quoted as saying, “I am trying to draw attention to things that appear to be forgotten” in interviews with Barry Saunders.

The museums staff hopes in this research to draw attention to things many readers may have never known as we honor these two medical giants.

Sources: Obituary of Davis, Find a Grave, files in the museum of Dr. Debnam, Independent, October 30, 1980, interview with Orlean Newton, Old North State Society documentation, WRAL November 25, 2014 and History of Fuquay-Varina.

THE TWIN CITY CREAM CENTER

One of our younger residents remembered her step grandfather, E. T. Burchette, and sent us some pictures of the Cream Center for our collection at the museums. After talking with her and others, we decided to publish some of the interviews and her pictures in “Historically Speaking. “

Elijah Thomas Burchette and Ruth of Varina gave birth to five children: E. T., Jr,; James, Dot (Dickens) Ben and Ruth (Wilson). The elder Burchette farmed the land of Dr. Raymond Edwards, now the location of Bentwinds, and lived with his family off what is presently Nash Road. The Burchette children grew up in the Varina area and attended Fuquay Springs High School. Dot still lives on the farm where she raised her family. Ruth taught school in Virginia and at Hardbarger’s Business College in Raleigh where she still resides. The three sons are deceased.

E. T. was possessed of an infectious laugh, friendly, and loved by all the community. Ruth described him as a “left-handed golfer” with a million friends. He married twice. From his first marriage, he has a daughter, Gayle Puckett who lives in Wilmington. His second marriage to Margaret Motley gave him two stepdaughters, Paula and Sandra. Angie is the grandchild who loved and remembers him. She shares these pictures and contacts with her aunts.

Elijah Thomas Burchette, Jr. served the country in World War II.

After serving two years in Germany during World War II, E. T. came home to open his business sometime about the early 1950’s. We have been unable to definitely date the Twin City Cream Center but Chet Hairr thinks it would have existed until the late 1950’s.

Chet and Donald Cotton locate the building thus. First there was the Varina Farmer’s Exchange and Joe Mullen’s service station (now Jersey Mikes and The Art Gallery) then, Wayland Williams’ BBQ (which had earlier been Payne’s Restaurant). Next was The Cream Center building. It had begun life as a service station with an overhang and gas tanks in front. When first opened the building also housed Perry Howard’s Oil Co. but shortly thereafter the Cream Center expanded into that right hand section. Chet locates the Cream Center as “across from the Tastee Freez.” The railroad (Durham and Southern tracks now removed) passed between the Tastee Freez and Varina Knitting and south of this building as recalled by Max Ashworth.

This advertisement for the Cream Center featured E. T. Burchette on the right and Virgil Dickens on the left. Note the ad for “shakes” for which the business was famous locally.

E. T. was famed for his “ice cream and milkshakes,” Max testifies. Chet, who actually worked there during high school, along with Donald Averette, remembered much more of the menu. E. T., and later Chet, operated a machine into which they poured 2% milk from a 7 gallon container. They made all their own ice cream which was sold by the scoop, cup, or cone, in banana splits and in sundaes. One item in particular, Chet recalled as “the Honeymoon Special,” contained pineapple, cherries, and coconut. Another popular feature was packaged sandwiches which they heated in a toaster. Then there were “Long Johns,” a cream filled doughnut also heated in the toaster. Available were fountain cokes, cherry pepsi, and soda drinks. Chet says the juke box was popular and music was piped outside for the cars as well. Inside there was a bowling machine as an added attraction.

While there was room inside for customers, many individuals just drove up and blewthe horn for service. Bus boys, like Chet, then scurried outside to take orders and then deliver them to the cars. He says they also sold gasoline.

Twin City Cream Center name on back of building signifies the feeling of Fuquay Springs and Varina as “two twins.” Clearly the building fits the model of service station of the 1950’s.

Always one with an eye for business, E. T. was the big boss. James Burchette and Joe Mills, an older adult, were among supervisors of the youthful bus boys. Ruth, Dot and all agree that the major customers consisted of teenagers who saw The Cream Center as the town’s most popular date night . The Sunday attraction of ice cream brought out adults as well. The Cream Center opened at 9:00 a.m.in the morning and remained open until 11:00 p.m. at night according to Chet.

Cars gathered around the Cream Center awaiting the curb service with some people perhaps going inside for service.

Everyone seems to agree that Burchette did not own the property but no one is quite certain when The Cream Center closed. Odell Betts and Jimmy Cotton, trucking businessmen, seem to have operated the business briefly according to Chet. After their stint, Frank Pleasants returned the building to its original usage as a service station. He appears to have added the two bays for a garage on the left as seen in the Dean photo dated 1961.

Frank Pleasant operated the Crown Service Station in the building, adding the two garage bays and repainting the exterior. It also appears to have additions to the rear in the stair step roof.

James Burchette worked for many years thereafter at the FCX. E. T. took up another career with Al Smith Buick where he would remain until he retired. E. T. died in 2010.

The Cream Center holds a place in the hearts of many who grew up and were part of the Fuquay Springs-Varina teenage scene during the 1950’s. Sonja Averette Musser (sister of Donald Averette) Willa Akins Adcock (who grew up across Broad Street) and Billy Yeargan (tobacconist of NC fame) all have reminisced about those days on “Way Back When.”

Source material from Interviews with Ruth Burchette Wilson and Dot Burchette Dickens, Max Ashworth, Donald Cotton, and Chet Hair. Pictures courtesy of Angie Bunn.

RAWLS Family Named the Community

RAWLS HOUSEHOLD RESIDENTS:
Henry and Ann Rawls Family m. 1847
Marshall Henry & Mary Jane Rawls Family m. 1909
David Henry Rawls, brothers and sisters 1958-2013

Henry Rawls, born in the Suffolk area of Virginia, came to North Carolina where he purchased fifty acres of land. He married Ann Wood of Cumberland County Jan 13, 1847. Their first house was across the railroad near the spring. The house on Piney Grove-Rawls Road was constructed near the well which he located along the road for benefit of travelers and his family. The dwelling was enlarged/remodeled by his son, Marshall and then his grandson, Henry over the years of family occupancy. Among other things, an outdoor kitchen was abandoned and one placed inside the dwelling which was demolished by the development company in 2020 for a planned housing project. The company spokeswoman says they have planned to preserve some stones from the chimney and some of the wood from the old house to be part of their project.

Henry and Ann (according to his grandson, Henry) gave birth to 10 sons and 2 daughters. Those known to have lived according to David Henry were: William, David, Nancy, James, Neill, Marshall, Sarah, and McLenow. The small cemetery here is the final resting place for some of these children and the original Rawls couple. The development company is planning to honor this family cemetery at the request of the descendants and has fenced it off.

Henry farmed and carried mail by horseback from J. D. Ballentine’s Post Office of Varina to Angier, Barclaysville, Coats, and Dunn after 1880. David Henry (the grandson) thought the “Varina” post office was located in a small building in the yard of the Ballentine home along present highway 401 S.

Mattie Rawls shared this dim photograph of a crowd of persons on the steps of the Rawls School building at some unknown date.

Land for the Rawls School was donated by Henry Rawls in 1869. Located on the site of the present Rawls Baptist Church, it was a one room building. Mattie was the last Rawls to attend, finishing first grade in 1927. Lafayette School received the remainder of children from the Rawls school that year.

The Raleigh and Cape Fear RR (later the Raleigh & Southport and the Norfolk Southern) crossed the Rawls property and reached Chalybeatte Springs in 1903. Eventually, the line was completed to Fayetteville with a railroad bridge across the Cape Fear at Lillington before there was a highway bridge. David Henry remembered that the family had crossed the river on the ferry and gone to Fayetteville by wagon before the rail line was completed.

A small freight depot existed about halfway between the McDowell crossing and the Piney Grove-Rawls Rd. crossing of the railroad. From here passengers could flag the train to Fayetteville or Raleigh, leaving wagons parked at the depot until the return trip. No record of the end of this small building was known exactly.

A sidetrack existed along that area of the track used for passing and loading-unloading cars. David Henry recalled a time when the rails gave way with a sidetracked engine hauling gravel. Larger than anything ever run on the track, it eventually was cut from its trucks and hoisted out by crane.

William married China Stinson and lived in the Piney Grove area where China died in 1930. James, Nancy and Sarah remained single and are known to have lived in the homeplace for most of their lives. They continued to live with brother Marshall and his wife. Sarah died in 1942 in a hospital in Raleigh.

Marshall Henry Rawls, born Sept 15, 1864, married Mary Jane Pollard of Cumberland County on July 5, 1909. The couple lived in the Rawls home place with the elder Henry Rawls and Rawls siblings. Here they raised nine children: Beatrice, Wilson, Annie, Christine, Henry, Edna, Mattie, Kermit, and Edith.

Family of Marshall Rawls: Descendants of the Puryear family donated this family photo. Front L to R: Marshall Rawls, Mary Jane (wife), Edith, Kermit Middle L to R: Beatrice, Annie, Edna, Christine, Mattie Back L to R: Wilson (uniform indicates date of 1940’s) Henry

With the Granville wilt disaster, they began to grow tobacco. Marshall Henry also ran a small store located on the property, selling thread and supplies. David Henry and Kermit worked in several local sawmills, eventually running their own on Hector’s Creek. Henry was a builder for many local projects and worked at Fort Bragg for a time.

Woodrow Wilson Rawls, age 33 years, was killed in France on June 23, 1944. The family held a memorial service at Rawls Baptist Church July, 1948 and his grave is marked in the church cemetery. In 2017, Harnett County Veterans honored him by placing his name on the memorial at Lillington and the family gave his medals to our museum case.

Marshall Henry died at 94 years in 1958. Woodrow Wilson Rawls was killed in France during World War II. Christine married Robert Evans Puryear in 1938 living in the Clinton area. Edna married Frank H. McDowell in 1947 and lived away. Late in life they built a home across the railroad from the home place and attended the First United Methodist Church. Edith married Frederick Wilson Isaacs in 1950 and lived in Virginia.

The other children: Beatrice, Annie, Henry, Mattie, and Kermit never married, living together in the homeplace. Mary Jane Rawls was the matriarch in the family until her death in 1973. Kermit worked on the farm and saw mill with Henry until his sudden death in 1984. The Rawls farm became the premier place for youth in and around Fuquay to work barning tobacco, each being guaranteed a home cooked lunch by Beatrice, Annie, and Mattie.

Kermit Atkins Rawls served in the U. S. Army and was discharged in 1945 at Fort Bragg. He died at the Veterans Hospital, Durham, at age 62 and is buried at Rawls Cemetery. Here he was pictured on the left with a friend in service.

Mattie worked for Dr. Edwards in town. Beatrice served as clerk of Rawls Baptist Church for years. Both authored historical research for the church. Mattie located the original deeds to the railroad from the family. Henry earned a reputation as a master of barbecue at the Rawls Community Club and an umpire of Little League Baseball. He sang in the choir and for many funerals. Looking after the maintenance of the building, he was a pillar of the Rawls Baptist Church. For years these family members hosted the entire church membership for goodies each Christmas. Henry supplied the neighborhood from his garden, looked after the cemetery, and helped anyone in the neighborhood. Mattie shared her tube roses, her coconut cakes, and her sweet potato pudding with friends.

David Henry Rawls, named for his grandfather, Henry, and his father Marshall Henry, died at age 92. He was buried at Rawls Cemetery in 2017. Here he was pictured as umpire for Little League Baseball. He also helped with girls basketball at Lafayette and was involved with many community, church and school activities.

At her death in 2013, Mattie was the last Rawls resident of the house. Along with Wilson, these five Rawls children and grandchildren joined their parents in the Rawls Baptist Church Cemetery.

The Rawls farm and home place were sold by the nieces and nephews for development in 2019. The old home, added to several times with large enclosed back porch, has been razed as have all the old out buildings and several tenant houses on the acreage. Our museum has been given a number of Rawls artifacts and photographs will be preserved for posterity. The RAWLS name of this family lives on in Rawls Church Road, Rawls Baptist Church, and the Rawls Community Club. Hopefully, the developer’s plans will perpetually honor the Rawls name/history.

This article written in response to request for information by the developer which led to study of notes from interviews with Mattie and Henry Rawls conducted by Shirley Simmons. These individuals are sorely missed in the community.

Early Police in Fuquay Springs

“Preserving the peace and good order”

The Charter of the Town of Fuquay Springs gave the commissioners and mayor the task of electing and fixing the salary of a constable or marshal and such policemen as “may be necessary for the preservation of the peace and good order of the town.” The incorporation lists Ebenezer Knox as that first constable. (One W. E. Knox lived with his brother who was a hotel keeper in the 1910 census.) Since the earliest town records which managed to survive date from September 7, 1914, the most creditable source found listing the officials for the town before that time was the North Carolina Yearbook printed by the News and Observer.

These listings name as Chief of Police :
– 1910 MacMillan for the town of 120 persons (There was a William McMillan with wife and five children living in town in 1910. Spelling of names often varies in the census records, so we cannot be certain.)
– 1911 W. W. Ferrall for a population of 170 and a tax rate of 25 cents per $100 of property,
– 1912 W. W. Howard
– 1913 Manley Clapp with a increase in population to 400
– 1914 W. F. Stuart

Chief Stuart was authorized in the board minutes of November 16, 1914 to police the town, collect taxes, repair potholes and bridges, and collect fees for arrests under bond of $200. Whether his performance proved unsatisfactory or too much for him or he just retired was not recorded. A committee, appointed to find a new chief, succeeded in having John Jones named chief on December 7, 1914 at a salary of $40 per month. In less than a year, October 11, 1915, J. E. Thomas was appointed at $35 per month and through 1916, he was allowed a percentage of taxes collected set at 4 percent in town and 6 percent if he had to go outside of town. The mayor was allowed to deputize policemen in 1915 for the Fourth of July at the Mineral Spring. The minutes of 1916 named John Jones, J. E. Thomas and W. F. Stuart who served for $1.50 per day and J. H. Rowland for $1.00. Again in less than one year, on September 25, 1916, C. B. Howard was elected Chief at $35 per month.

Through 1918-1919, the mayor hired policemen “for the best price possible”, with the discretion to hire men for Easter Monday, and for Saturday evening. Policemen received $10 for each arrest and/or $5.00 per day. No chief was named but one George Marcom resigned as the police officer June 10, 1920 and on December 6, 1921 J. D. Jones was employed as police chief, sanitary officer, and tax collector. Chief Jones had a contract for twelve months at $45. On April 3, 1922, the chief reported that all but three of the graves he was instructed to move beside the Cozart property had been relocated. Other duties were hauling of garbage for businesses once a week and residences once every two weeks and handling the matter of hog pens. By 1923, the Board of Commissioners wanted to talk to the citizens about police services. There was no separate budgeted amount for police, although there was $800 for fire.

Again changes were frequent. L. H. Smith, named town marshal May 5, 1924, had his services discontinued on August 7, 1925. That October, T. H. Stam was hired for policing on Saturday night and enforcing the Sunday closing law at $5.00 per day. He was told to get a pistol owned by the town from Arthur Fish.

Jeatus D. Jones, wife and daughter lived on Faucette Street. He served as Chief in 1920’s and continued to serve as a policeman in Varina during the 1940’s.

Business conditions during 1925-26 required special policemen, John Jones and J. D. Jones, for Christmas in both Varina and Fuquay. By February 15, 1926, Varina received her own specified policemen with the election of John Jones who was to be paid only when he made an arrest or served a conviction. No reference to a chief was made in 1927; however, in May L. E. Stephens was hired as a night watchman for two months at $100 per month, provided he ran the motor grader four to six days per month to keep up the streets. Night watchmen, policing, and tax collection were upgraded that year on September 5, with the hiring of two men (not named) , one for Fuquay and one for Varina for thirty days at $75.

Jeatus D. Jones was buried at Wake Chapel Cemetery in 1950.

In the three budgets of 1927-1930, the town allotted $1200 for policemen, received petitions to continue having a night watchman, and hired special policemen for July 4th and Easter Monday. On November 12, 1928, the board voted to hire two policemen (not named) for the year at $60 each per month. Besides police work, they were to do street work under Commissioner J. W. Lewter’s direction. In 1929 the police were to see that cars were not parked on the East side of Main Street between Fuquay Motor Company and Proctor Barbour. Named as special policemen in 1929 were A. R. Talley and J. M. Jones; in 1930 J. M. Jones, J. H. Rowland, V. V. Cole, and J. D. Jones.

John Madison Jones pictured as a young man. He was the son of William and Florence Jones and farmed just off what is now Ransom Street. He first is listed as Police Chief in 1915 and continued to be a special policemen in the 1930’s.

Enter the Great Depression era which saw the budget for 1930-31 reduce the police allocation to $800. Apparently, L. E. Stephens and W. F. Foster had been hired as the town’s two policemen, because on June 8, 1931 they were continued at their same salary until further notice. Mr. Foster was also the township constable, serving the Recorder’s Court. Named special policemen at $3.00 per day were J. M. Jones, J. D.Jones, N. N. Coley, and Sidney Adams.

Depression woes caused notice to be given that police services would be discontinued after June 1, 1932. Whereupon Mr. Stephens resigned effective February 15. The night watchman, first paid $30 then $20, was suspended until the town could pay. The police budgets dropped from $720 in 1931-32 to $100 in 1933-34. By 1935-36, the budget was back to $750 per year. In 1935, Jimmie Prince resigned as night watchman, and on May 6, policeman J. C. Evers, when appointed, declared that he could not collect garbage and clean the streets for $20 per month. The Town Manager’s office (created in 1933) was now authorized to purchase equipment for the police department.

Conditions improved during 1936 when two night policemen were given $10 raises per month and Mr. Foster and Mr. Evers received $50 and $55 respectively. Additionally, Evers got $6 per month for street cleaning while the town hired L. G. Prince to collect garbage at $17.50 per month. By September, Prince took over the street cleaning with his garbage duties at $30. In 1937-38, the town hired four policemen: N. W. Clark and W. F. Foster ($50) and M. Proctor and J. C. Evers ($55) and created a Streets and Water Department under W. L. Rowland at $75 per month, forever separating this from the police responsibilities.

The 1937-38 budget alloted the police department $1282.50 and named W. F. Foster and J. C. Evers as employed policemen. In 1939, Foster was designated as the Varina Officer and F. D. Starling as the Fuquay Officer with a department budget of $1425. Both officers received $60 per month, raised to $63 in 1941. In 1942, J. D. Jones, who replaced Mr. Starling, and Foster were both paid $69. Beginning with the budget of 1943-44, $900 each was allocated for the Fuquay Officer and the Varina Officer with an extra officer at $10. In 1947, when Foster died, the citizens of Varina petitioned to have J. D. Jones moved to their streets and A. E. Hester was elected as policeman for Fuquay at a salary of $110 per month.

These early policemen served the Town of Fuquay Springs as it grew from a total of 127 population in 1910. When this new municipal building, now the museum, opened in 1951, the awning on the right covered the entrance to their first official police station.

The town was investigating building a jail while paying T. S. Rogers $200 per month to haul prisoners from Recorder’s Court to Raleigh. Transferring prisoners had been a continuing problem since the Recorder’s Court for Middle Creek Township was set up in 1917 and several investigations of building a jail had been made, always failing because requirements were too involved. Now land was being sought for a town hall facility to house a jail, police, fire, and the town offices. Law and order in the Town of Fuquay Springs was well established and departmental responsibilities more defined as her 40th Anniversary neared. (The first municipal building on Fuquay Avenue was dedicated August 22, 1951)

Shirley Simmons Sources: FV Town Minutes, Charter for Fuquay Springs, North Carolina Yearbooks, U. S. Census

TWO REMARKABLE BURTON MEN

Burton Family Cemetery sign leads into the plot across from the original home place.

The father-son team of Ira Burton and Leroy Burton have become our next subjects for an article for the museums to share. These two gentlemen were persons we might all strive to emulate in our lives. In researching this article, not one person has uttered a single negative thing about either of these two men. The core of information on the father, Ira Burton, comes from a “The Burton Family History” in our collection and our History of Fuquay-Varina. This has been supplemented by written and oral interviews from the past and present on both men.

Mr. Ira was eulogized in an Independent column, “This Side of Fuquay,” by Bill Freeman which was entitled “The Late Ira Burton Loved Everybody.” Dr. Freeman declared “He was unusual in many ways.” Among them “He loved all people. Many times on Sunday, he would stand up in his and other churches to say, ‘Mr. Pastor, I want to say to our young folks that you have got to love everybody; you can’t go through this world hating.’ “ Freeman testifies, “This man went through out the community urging the old and young to work for harmony between the races.”

Richard and Julia Burton of Granville County, NC. gave birth to seven children, 6 sons and 1 daughter. The eldest, Ira, was born October 16, 1878. At age seventeen, he began working on the railroad from North Carolina to Petersburg, Va. and later worked in West Virginia and New Jersey for a wage of $1.00 per day. When his parents became ill in 1898, he left his job in New Jersey to return to Granville County. Upon the death of his father, he assumed responsibility for his mother and the younger children.

Ira Burton at birthday celebration for 100 years.

At age 22, Ira married Roberta Smith in Granville County. Upon the death of his mother in 1909, the Burtons moved to Willow Springs, North Carolina where they worked a farm on shares. In 1912, the young couple purchased a small farm along with a first horse and wagon. Bad economic times, caused them to have to return to share cropping; however, they were not to be deterred. In 1918, they purchased the Burton farm on the edge of Wake-Harnett County which became the Burton home place and the site of the Burton Family Cemetery. The house was donated for a fire department burn by grandson, Calvin King, a few years ago. Ezola, who cared for her father and mother in their latter years, was the last family resident on the property.

To the union of Ira and Roberta were born thirteen children, 7 sons and 6 daughters. Listed in the family history were Magazine, Nathaniel, William, Olivia, Ezola, Ira James, twins Leroy and Lela Everlyn, Eugene, Euzelia, Algernon, John, and Ruby. The first to be buried in the family cemetery was twin, Lela Everlyn who died at 7 years of age. When daughter Euzelia, a beautician in Fuquay living at home with her young son, died circa 1942, her son Calvin King was raised by his grandparents. He was graduated from Fuquay Consolidated High School in 1960 and pursued a military career.

Now living in Durham, Calvin has assumed responsibility for the cemetery for the family and gave us permission to make photographs there. The youngest child, Ruby, shared her memory that the only non-Burton family body laid to rest there is that of John White who worked with the Snipes neighbors. Mr. Ira honored Otha Snipes’ request to bury White there. Rosalyn Snipes remembers that White worked with the Snipes on the farm adjoining Burton. Since he had no family to care for him, Mr. Ira helped with his burial.

The beautiful field of family graves of many generations.

Freeman characterized Burton as “unusual in another respect, his belief in education and religion.” Ira Burton was one of the leaders in the First Baptist Church in Fuquay-Varina. He along with his wife, Roberta, were life-long members. The Burtons were active in the Masons and Eastern Star. He was instrumental in getting the first nursery for blacks at the Masonic Hall where Ruby remembered the children called him “grandpa.” The first Rosenwald school building for blacks on Jones Street was another effort on which he worked. His older children had attended the Bazzel Creek School. With Fuquay an elementary school only, Burton helped in a community effort to purchase the bus to transport high school students to Berry O’Kelly High School until the local high school could be established circa 1938.

Ira Burton filing his taxes.

In a phone interview from Philadelphia, Ruby, now 94 years old, remembered that Mr. Ira always worked for the school, was active in the PTA, the 4 H-club program, and the farmer’s association. Farming, building, and community efforts were significant within the Burton family. Miss Roberta was said to have loved her home and family, and enjoyed flowers, gardening, cooking, quilting, and missionary work.

Ruby characterized her father as strict and her mother as sweet and loving. The parents instilled a sense of hard work, independence, self sufficiency, and reliability in all the Burton children. She remembers a neighborhood of white Snipes and Rawls landowners and Snead and Burton black landowners all living in their congenial rural community.

In 1960, Roberta died at age 74; however, another of Ira’s “unusual” characteristics noted by Freeman was his longevity. On September 1, 1979, Freeman recounted that “more than 500 mourners filed by the bier in the First Baptist Church to pay their respects to the 101 year old.” Both husband and wife were interned in the family cemetery.

Leroy Burton’s funeral program 2002.
Ira Burton’s grave is beside his wife Roberta.

Ira’s son, Leroy Melvin Burton, one of the twins, was born on September 28, 1913 in Fuquay Springs. He attended school in the area and was one of the bus drivers for the high school students who were transported to Berry O’Kelly. When interviewed for our Ballentine School House displays, he told us that, as a student, he drove the bus from Fuquay to the famed high school for African Americans located in the Method Community.

Graduating from Berry O’Kelly were Olivia (who attended as a boarding student), Leroy, and Ezola. Euzelia came back to graduate in the first class at Fuquay Consolidated High School. All the younger siblings were educated in Fuquay, Ruby recalled.

Leroy’s life on the farm, led him to study agriculture. He graduated from A T & T in Greensboro, and became a vocational agriculture teacher. In 1940, he was boarding and teaching in Wilkesboro, North Carolina where he registered for the draft during World War II. There Leroy met pretty young teacher Jo Evelyn Hamm from Statesville and they were married while teaching in Alleghany County, N. C.

Calvin fondly recalls visits to Uncle Leroy in the mountains. He also knows that the family purchased black angus cows from that area. No one is definite about when Leroy and Jo Evelyn moved to Bridge Street in Fuquay. However, Ruby remembers that daughter Joan was born in Fuquay Springs. Her guess would be they moved in the early 1950’s.

At any rate, the Leroy Burtons did return to live in his home town for the rest of their lives. Both are pictured on the staff in the 1953 Yearbook, L’Esprit de Corps, in the museum’s collection. They may have been working there for several years prior to that yearbook. Mrs. Burton taught the third grade at Fuquay Consolidated and Mr. Burton became the vocational agriculture teacher in the high school. Dr. Freeman noted in his column that he “became a fledgling assistant agriculture teacher under Leroy Burton in 1954 at Fuquay Consolidated High School.” Mr. Ira gave him this advice which Freeman shared in that column. “Young man, we have some good folks here, white and black. We have a good community, and we welcome you here. If you come here and get the folks to love you, and do a good job, they will help you to do anything you want done.”

Leroy and Jo Evelyn raised three children who also graduated from Fuquay Consolidated High School. Leroy Melvin, Jr. and William Edward were both born in Statesville, Iredell County where Jo Evelyn had been living. The elder, Leroy Melvin Burton, Jr., became an established medical doctor in Raleigh, North Carolina and is listed in Who’s Who Among African Americans multiple times in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Dr. Burton died in 1994 and is buried at the Burton Family Cemetery. His younger brother, William had died at age 44 years and been buried in the same cemetery in 1987. Ruby tells us that William finished ROTC and served in the military during the Bay of Pigs. Leroy and Jo Evelyn are survived by four grandchildren. Calvin says Dr. Burton’s two daughters are both in the medical profession in Nashville. William’s son is an engineer with Caterpillar in Rocky Mount and his daughter lives in Angier.

In 1970, when the schools of Fuquay-Varina were integrated, Leroy moved to Fuquay-Varina High School to work with Jerry Holland in the vocational agriculture program. Mr. Leroy, very popular with students and staff, was especially noted for his kindness, wise counsel, and ability to work with everyone. The Holland family reminded us that on the weekends, Mr. Burton was the local magistrate and during the week the soft-spoken teacher. Mrs. Jo Evelyn Burton was remembered by fellow teachers in the Lincoln Heights Primary grades after integration.

Leroy Burton with unidentified student at FVHS.

When the Bengal Blvd. high school building opened, one agriculture position remained at the Fuquay-Varina Junior High and one moved with grades 10-12. Mr. Holland went to the high school and Mr. Burton taught the 9th grade, until that grade moved to the high school in the fall of 1977. About that time he is assumed, by teacher Micheal Bowden, to have retired.

Following in the footsteps of his father, Leroy worked for community progress. He was one of the co-founders of the Pine Acres Community Center in 1962. The building has served as a banquet hall, family reunion site, social center, after-school tutorial program. education center, polling place, and today a site for Meals on Wheels. It remains the heart of the African American Community as the founding fathers envisioned.

Pine Acres Community Building on Bridge Street.

When Jo Evelyn Burton died and was buried in the family cemetery in July 1998, daughter Joan moved back home to live with her father. Leaving her career in Atlanta, she was chosen the Executive Director of the Fuquay-Varina Community Development Corporation. Under her direction the two buildings from the Fuquay Consolidated High School were preserved and repurposed, one into a childhood learning center and the other into apartments for the elderly. Plans to save the separate gymnasium were made but the project was thwarted by storm damages to the building. Like her father and grandfather, Joan’s leadership within the community is legendary.

Mr. Leroy enjoyed his retirement on Burton Street, where he had built a home and encouraged his neighbor, Mr. Freeman, to build as well. He was buried in 2002 in the Burton Family Cemetery. Joan returned to other work thereafter. Sadly she was taken from us by illness just this year, 2020.

Leroy Burton’s gravestone is in a row with wife and two sons.

Other grandchildren of the Ira Burton’s reside in the area. Ruby, the only living child, married in 1947. After a few years at Camp Lejeune, they farmed in Buckhorn. She followed her husband to Philadelphia in 1957 where she and her children remain. Calvin and Ruby were gracious in sharing their memories and promised pictures of this remarkable family.

Freeman concluded his column by saying of Mr. Ira, “Fuquay is better because he passed this way.” Those of us who worked with Mr. Leroy enthusiastically say the same of the son as well. Definitely as one family member said , “We are good folks.” Our research endorses these evaluations 110%. Thank you “Burtons” for being part of our community!

Sources: phone interviews with Ruby Burton Bullock, Calvin King, Nancy Holland, Donald Cotton, Michael Bowden, Rosalyn Snipes
printed History of Fuquay-Varina, Burton Family History, “This Side of Fuquay” by Bill Freeman, The Independent, U. S. Census, Find a Grave, & other data.
Shirley Simmons, Volunteer Director

OUR EARLY FIRE DEPARTMENT & HISTORY

Fuquay Springs, N.C.

In response to an inquiry via Facebook from Mike Legeros (local fire department historian and blogger) regarding some confusion about the beginning date of the Fuquay Fire Department, we are sharing our research from the display and history housed in the Fuquay-Varina Museums.

The town minutes give us our first idea of fire protection when they passed a Fire District Resolution on November 1, 1915. What, if anything, precipitated that action was not clear. However, our major fire in town the following June clearly showed the necessity of some action. Farmer’s and Banner warehouse fires had occurred previously according to the Raleigh Times, January 17, 1914.

Our 1916 fire was discovered about 3:00 am in the morning of June 13. The first building in flames was the sheet metal warehouse used by the hardware company. Between this warehouse and the brick store building was a wooden barn, which according to an N & O account of June 14, was skipped over by a strange wind circumstance. Legeros’s account states the “fire was intentionally set” according to the Evening Dispatch of Wilmington. At no point either in local oral or written accounts have we been able to validate that cause for the fire.

After the fire, the barn between Main and Spring Avenue was found to be unharmed; however, the fire consumed three stores and their contents along Main Street. The Raleigh fire department was called but when no water source for their equipment was available, the request was withdrawn. The town was left to fight the fire with a bucket brigade. Eleanor Howard remembers her mother, Mary, telling of being present as water was taken from local residential wells and passed along the lines of citizens to the fire.

The loss was approximately $45,000 with little of the losses covered by insurance. The owners of the two-story building, A. W. Thompson and E. A. Howard, valued the structures at $14,000. Housed within the building were the three businesses of Dietz & Isaacson general merchants, Fuquay Drug Company owned by A. G. Elliott, and Fuquay Hardware Company. Upstairs losses were those of Dr. C. E. Check (physician), Dr. J. R. Edwards (dentist), and A. J. Fletcher (lawyer). Local accounts say on-lookers watched as Dr. Edwards’ new dental chair fell through the floor from his upstairs office. In an interview local banker, Robert Prince, recalled he helped as a youth to clean the remaining outside of the brick building and the interior was rebuilt at the corner of Main and Depot.

On June 5, 1922, the town minutes record a discussion of securing a lot for a fire truck house. Exactly when the town purchased the fire truck is unclear; however, Mr. Tom Ferguson was appointed that date as manager of the fire truck. He was paid for one day of work per week and charged with appointing members for his company. According to this authors’s interview with Rex Bradley (fireman now deceased) he remembered this first truck. He dated it as a 1922-24 Model T. Truck. It used 10 lbs of soda and 50 gal of water. A crank was turned adding acid to the tank creating a “very messy soda wash” in Bradley’s words.

The following March 12, 1923, Jake Siegfried was paid $20 for servicing of the fire truck. That June under Mayor V. O. Tilley, the town budgeted $800 for the fire department out of a expected town revenue of $5,000. By October 5, 1925 the town clerk billed citizens for use of the fire truck to fight fires. Interestingly, the town budget was decreased to $300 on June 18, 1926.

The date listed on the Legeros web and recorded in the fire department history that the Town Fire Department was organized in 1925 under W. Lee Rowland may refer to a formal organization called the Fuquay Springs Rural Fire Department. Rowland was listed as working in a garage and as an electrician in Fuquay Springs in the Census of 1920 and 1930. Clearly Rowland was in the picture, as he was requested to drive the fire truck to the Bank of Varina and back the first of every month (minutes Jan. 6, 1930)

In 1928-29, the town paid $150 for service and repair for the fire truck. The search for a lot was unsuccessful but Ballentine’s Service Station kept the fire truck in 1931. (Bradley could not pinpoint the exact location of this station but it is believed to have been on Main Street). The service station was paid $10 per month to keep the truck in running order and $5 for each fire that was fought. According to some sources, a lot was purchased from A. W. Thompson on Spring Avenue for $300 but no building was constructed at that time.

The depression impacted all town services. According to the minutes of April 3, 1934, the service station was paid $5.00 per month but received $7.50 for each fire fought by the operators of the service station. The Sept 7, 1935 town budget for the fire department was $150.

On Feb. 5, 1936, a contract was drawn between Lee Rowland and the town for servicing the fire truck (ending Ballentine’s contract). Yet during the depression years, the town instructed E. H. Clark and Town Manager, Cordle to purchase a fire truck and fire siren (minutes Feb. 7, 1938). The Fuquay Volunteer Fire Department (according to fire department history ) had been organized a few days earlier on Feb. 3, 1938. Definitely, W. Lee Rowland was chief.

As instructed, a 1936 Chevy fire truck was located for sale in the Town of Durham for $40. This April 4, 1938 purchase included a reconditioned siren for $180. Bradley noted that this truck had a water tank for use in fighting fires. This truck may have been kept briefly back of K. B. Johnson’s shop according to Bradley. (Note that the first connection to the new town water system occurred at the Bank of Fuquay on Sept. 6. 1937) Bradley then listed the new location of the fire truck as a tin building behind Main Street stores with an exit onto Depot Street. Charles Tingen was instructed to enlarge this house according to minutes of Nov, 2, 1940. (This building could have been on the lot purchased from Thompson in 1933.)

Greater service was provided with the purchase of an adapter(minutes January 15, 1939) to enable the Raleigh Fire Department fo assist the local department. The fire alarm was activated by Walter Howard at Main and Raleigh Streets using this siren. All fire calls were routed to him at Elliott’s (Fuquay) Drug. There were metal boxes with phones on Main Street in Fuquay and on Broad Street in Varina. The museums were given the flag Howard used for controlling traffic and informing the fire truck as it came by him about the location of the fire.

The town budget was raised to $662 on July 2, 1942. The next year, June 7, 1943, W. Lee Rowland was paid $40 per week as Fire Chief. The budget included $100 for volunteers
and $100 for equipment.

1946 fire showing destruction inside Proctor Barbour tractor department.

Enter the March 7, 1946 Fire. This blaze ignited about 2:00 p.m. in a bucket of gasoline being used in the Proctor-Barbour tractor repair department. Destruction of this one-story building, was complete with major water damage to the adjoining two-story Proctor Barbour establishment . Wade’s Theater, Barefoot Barber Shop, and Mudge & Prince Insurance were all destroyed as well.

1946: The 1946 fire on Main Street destroyed everything mid-block, leaving the Bank of Fuquay on the left of the picture. The Wade Theater is the middle two story building. The Proctor Barbour Tractor department where the fire began would be on the right. Picture: Independent staff

Fighting the fire was handicapped by numerous problems related in the N & O March 8, 1946. The Fuquay Springs truck was not capable of fighting the fire because of water pressure problems (according to local accounts, the tires were flat and there was a hen’s nest on the seat). Apex’s pumper truck did not fit the hydrants. Angier and Lillington were hampered by water pressure. Dunn’s equipment would not fit the adapters. Raleigh broke down in transit but arrived and using the adapters was able to extinguish the fire on the Bank of Fuquay’s roof.

Dr. Edwards (victim of the 1916 fire) removed his office contents from the upstairs of the Bank). Dr. Cozart’s new office behind the Bank suffered some damage as did the Plymouth-Dodge auto on Raleigh Street which was under construction. According to the N & O report “virtually all business firms in the town were closed and scores of businessmen and farmers rushed in to fight the fire.” Fire broke out in Holleman’s Grocery across the street, which had been emptied of stock, but there fire was extinguished. Most of contents of the Insurance Company and Barber Shop were also removed by citizens. Much of the damage had insurance coverage. The total cost was given at $150,000.

On July 2, 1947, a Mack International Fire Truck was delivered to Fuquay at a cost of $5,55.80. This is the vintage truck restored and displayed by the Fuquay-Varina Fire Department today. A, Y. Hairr and Manager Willard Council were instructed to work on a site to house the fire truck (minutes August 4, 1947). According the Bradley’s memory, the truck was then being kept back of Edsel Fuquay’s Service Station.

In 1948, Chief Rowland requested a fire drill each month and reimbursed firemen $1.00 if they were present for practice. The town budgeted $240 for rent on July 13, 1948. According to Bradley the truck was housed in the garage beside Bradley and Sherron Welding on Raleigh Street. The chief now was paid $572, and $300 each was budgeted for volunteers and equipment.

City Hall: The first municipal building, now the FV Museums, contained all the town government. Note the fire bay and the Mack fire truck. The tin building to the left is just visible besides the courtroom entrance. Heulon Dean picture.

Finally, the first Municipal Building (now the Museums) was opened August 22, 1951. The fire bay on the left side of the building became the home of the Fuquay Town Fire Department. On June 11, of that year the department had been restricted to calls 1/2 mile outside town limits. A tin building was later attached to the side of the municipal building for equipment.

Fire calls now came into the Police Station at the Municipal Building. Phones were labeled Town and Rural. The dispatcher on duty activated the appropriate siren. The two sirens located on a pole at the corner of Main are remembered by residents to have had different sounds. Two siren sites are often recalled—one at Main & Raleigh, another atop Proctor Barbour although we have been unable to verify dates. Later a siren would be placed atop the rural fire department building itself.

Rural Fire Department building with the FV Rural Fire Department pictured. This shows clearing the warehouse which covered much of that block and came back to this building. photo: courtesy J. G. Baker

On May 21, 1954 under sponsorship of the Farm Bureau, the Fuquay Rural Fire Department was organized. Many volunteers served both fire departments until on August 7, 1961 the new Rural Fire Department and the Town Fire Department were required to have two separate personnel rolls. The Fuquay Rural Fire Department housed equipment in K. B. Johnson’s garage and in a tin building at 134 Fuquay Avenue. They dedicated their brick building across from the municipal building August 2, 1965. (Later this housed the Rescue Squad and now Cultivate coffee shop)

Portrait from FV Fire Department of W. L. Rowland

W. Lee Rowland served as Chief of the Fuquay Springs Volunteer Fire Department from 1938-1963. With the 1963 Fuquay-Varina name change, Clifton Keith became Chief of the
Town Fire Department from 1963-1972. Tom Bridges was Chief of the Rural Fire Department, serving from 1953-1959.

1957: Pictured are the trucks from both the rural and town fire department according to Heulon Dean who took this photo. Taken on Raleigh Street, the Johnson Drug Store is across the street on the right and the Thompson Building on the left. This was the building which was gutted inside during the 1916 fire and rebuilt inside. Beside the trucks is the service station and one of the siren sites which Howard used to direct the trucks to a fire.

When the two departments merged some operations on July 10, 1972, agreements were drawn for leasing and sharing equipment, insurance, and taxes. By 1977, four rural trucks were housed at 128 S. Fuquay Avenue and two town trucks were housed at 134 Fuquay Avenue.

1977: These businesses occupied the mid-block which was rebuilt after 1946 and destroyed again in the 1977 fire on Main Street. Picture courtesy Jimmy Ashworth.

We end this “early history” with the last of three fires on Main Street the Fire of 1977. Chief Ed Schmelzer was serving as the Chief of the combined fire departments (1977-78). On March 1, 1977, smoke and flames were detected by a policemen in the Country Gardens and Gifts portion of the old Proctor-Barbour Building on the corner of Vance and Main Streets. When mid-morning came, the entire block south of the Bank of Fuquay had been virtually removed. The total cost is listed as $500,000. Kessler’s women’s clothing and Ransdell’s men’s clothing and shoes were completely destroyed. Only the records from United Credit Corporation were saved. Country Gardens, Flowers and Gifts and Home Office Machines were total losses. Friendly Florist’s second story was lost and the first floor too damaged to save. Earl Lee’s Portrait Studio had severe water damage and was unable to continue.

1977 morning after showing the damaged Proctor Barbour building which was later demolished.

The block remains today a stark reminder of the damage a fire can do to a block of buildings even with a well-trained operation and the assistance of neighboring fire departments as well. The Independent April 28, 1977 pictured wrecking squads clearing the B. B. Johnson property adjoining the Bank of Fuquay. S. L. Lane eventually cleared the partially burned portions of his Proctor Barbour Building. Thus the parking lot along South Main is left.

The Town of Fuquay-Varina Fire Department today represents a complete merger of the two earlier departments worked out by both departments as they began to share the building at 301 S. Fuquay Avenue in August, 1977. A total of nineteen men are known to have served to date as Chief in the history of our Fire Departments. Most are pictured in our museum’s story.

Shirley Simmons

FUQUAY’S FIRST FOOTBALL TEAM

The museums received an inquiry about a picture of men who met in 1990 and claimed to be a football team. The question came from a descendant of the Jones’ who were identified by her in the picture. We recognized this as a copy from the Independent which we display in the museums. Lest you have not heard, we share the tale here.

FUQUAY SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM 1930 Identified left to right as they gathered for a reunion in 1990. Chester Holland, William Holland, William Smith, Allen Rogers, Fred Jones, Kenneth Jones, John Smith, Bennett Bullock and Jack Rowland

At the fall reunion in 1990, 9 men took their picture and gave an interview about their first football team. They recalled a group of 20 boys who tried out for this the first football team at Fuquay Springs High School. Mr. W. E. Fleming, the principal, hired Dutch Parker as a teacher at the high school under condition that he take the football coaching job, too. According to the team, Parker knew exactly nothing about football but was sent to a two-week training camp at Chapel Hill to learn the sport.

Over that season, they played six games. They opened with Spring Hope High School and came away on the short end of a 60-0 score. A couple of them insisted the score was really 68-0. They also insisted they did not care about the outcome of the season, as they knew they knew nothing. They were out to have FUN. The team enjoyed two victories, both over Angier which was also fielding its first year team that 1930 year.

Benton Bullock recalled that the only one of the team who had ever played a game of football was Bill Stinson. Stinson he described as the reason Bullock scored their “first touchdown” against Angier. Stinson was told to run down for a pass, which he did, accompanied by great hollering so that the whole Angier team followed him. Under cover of this distraction, Bullock kept the ball and ran 50 yards for their first touchdown.

Besides the 9 who came to the reunion and are identified, they listed other names. Jack Blanchard and Robert Lee Dale were still alive but not attending the reunion. Deceased were John Henry Jones, Graham Brooks, Maynard Keith, Wilber Blalock and Percy Atkins. Listed as brothers were the Jones boys: Fred, Kenneth and Caleb who when stirred up became “a bunch of wasps.” Three other sets of brothers were William and John Smith, Allen and John Rogers, and Chester and William Holland. (The writer cannot quite find 20 names total but certainly 18 are named. Perhaps 2 did not make the team.)

FUQUAY SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL BUILDING This was the second building of the high school, built on Ennis Street circa 1928. Today the county uses it as the office for the Fuquay-Varina Middle School after extensive remodeling.

The parents could not afford cleats so they either wore tennis shoes or nailed cleats into their brogans. Helmets were like leather caps and flew off heads when tackled. The field was back of the original high school building and evidently just that— a field. The boys recalled that in 1934, as a WPA project, the government leveled the field for the first time. Team training consisted of running a mile during their hour-long lunch break. They did have a practice after school but had to hurry home for chores before darkness overtook them. The Holland brothers insisted that they also ran a mile and half stretch to their home in the afternoon. They paid $5 for a driver to take them to away games on a flatbed truck. No admission was charged for games but they did pass the hat for contributions of a nickel or so.

(The writer wonders if Angier’s field was the notorious 10 yards short on one end field at he old Angier High School site. The team which played that end of the field was required to return the ball to the ten yard line and gain 10 more yards to score. BUT this tale awaits another telling.)

Shirley Simmons (Source: Nov. 7, 1990 Independent story and clipping by Holland family.)
Picture inquiry: Janice Britson in Pittsboro

Wilton D. “Skinny” Ashworth: Oh, The Memories He Shared!

Wilton D. Ashworth, known to all of us as “Skinny,” gave us many moments of reflection and remembrance which the Fuquay-Varina Museums can celebrate. He was a “people person” without question, but he was also a person who loved his home town and wanted to see its history preserved. Skinny did his part to support the museums and our vision!

Skinny visited the museums often. Always he arrived with “hey, y’all” and his signature smile. Each time, we always got answers to whatever puzzle piece we were currently researching. He shared the details he knew of the person’s life and could always tell us the names of sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers and even who the individual married. His genealogy archive was immense. Here we have lost his knowledge.

On the Blanchard Hotel, he told of seeing people sitting on the porch overlooking the spring. His description fit the pictures exactly. He remembered the names and locations of stores along Main Street which added much to our record of the locale. Fifty years on Main Street certainly gave him a vast knowledge and memory bank.

When we were taking pictures of Elliotts Pharmacy at its closing, he gave us details of beauty shops and operators located upstairs and he knew the lawyers who looked up and down Main Street from their vantage points in history. He even confessed to being a visitor in a session of the Recorder’s Court which tried a local madam.

On Skinny, himself, we all enjoy the talented backwards ride he displayed on his bicycle for H. Lee Waters while making the 1937 film of Fuquay Springs. He also shows up purchasing his ticket for the Wade Theater. An energetic 15 year old he was at the time! From his memory (augmented by his sister Frances and brother Jimmy) we have the identities of most of the individuals who appear in the film! Although the film is silent, we were given all this added information for posterity.

In our collections , we acknowledge his World War II uniform and picture of himself dressed in the same. One day, upon inspection he declared “ that’s a moth hole!” He promptly searched his closet and came back with a new pair of pants which would “look better.” Ever the clothing store expert, he even purchased his own mannequin to properly display the uniform. Accompanying the uniform, he donated a framed account of the front page News and Observer for August 15, 1945, a copy of Stars and Stripes, and his dog tags.

A veteran of service in the U.S. Army in France, England, Belgium and Germany, he made several trips back to those lands over the years. He possessed a wonderful map with actual sand from Utah Beach which he promised the museums could have eventually. Along with that, he brought us a picture of a comrade, Myron Matthews, who gave his life in France. Skinny donated a picture of himself at the grave site with the Matthews marker for our collection.

Finally, on November 11, 2017, he sat for an interview for our oral history collection. Dr. Leo and I had the interesting experience of hearing his recollections of the Ashworth Store, his Ashworth life, and of town events he recalled. This time he was seated in his apartment as Windsor Point. We are hoping there may be other stories he shared with family and friends which can be added to his file.

Another of the greatest generation of Americans has left our midst. We shall miss him on many fronts: at the store, in family get-to-gethers, at church, in impromptu visits, and especially those phone calls requesting “to pick your brain.” Fortunately he was a wonderful source for us and we express our appreciation that he gave us so much for our history collection and future generations.

Acknowledging contributor and Friend of the Museums:
Wilton D. “Skinny” Ashworth July 6, 1922-June 23, 2020

Author: Shirley Simmons