The staff report the Fuquay-Varina Museums have acquired three different printed works over this past year as part of our archives for research.
While we have no ambition to become a library, we do want to have copies of materials which might add to our research or that of patrons of the museums. We also want to offer local historical accounts which might be useful and not otherwise readily available to a researcher.
First coming to us was a novel which in actuality has a great deal of historical content. Barbara Brown Gathers’s, The Secrets of Hattie Brown, was given to the museums by the author. She is the granddaughter of Hattie Cowan Brown, who has written about the subject from the stories and accounts known to her family. The novel provides a vital glimpse of life.
Hattie and her family lived in Fuquay Springs for the last period of her lifetime. Upon her death, and that of their father, the children migrated north to find a better opportunity for their lives. During the time the family resided here, the father, Robert, hired by Jesse Howard, worked at the Old North State Tobacco Company. Howard was newly married to Blake Carroll and the couple were expecting their first child. Hattie’s mother recommended her daughter to help Blake with the new baby. Thus the couple moved to Fuquay Springs.
Barbara and the other grandchildren and great grandchildren have subsequently located Hattie’s grave at Bazzel Creek Baptist Church and placed a marker in her honor.
Second book: Bryant Tyndall has volunteered as a docent at the Fuquay-Varina Museums for several years. During the course of his duties, he shared much of his research for a book he planned to publish. When his children facilitated the actual publication of his “Treasured Memories of Fuquay-Varina and Willow Springs” under the title, The Broken Mirror , in 2020, Shirley Simmons donated a copy to our collection. We do this in honor of our fellow docent.
This second piece of literature has great historical value for research because of the many persons Bryant recalls and the multiple incidents of life he recounts. Especially of interest to our town’s story are his descriptions of Varina along Broad Street. While some of his tales of Willow Springs are familiar, much of his work has details which shed new light on that area. Certainly the book complements our other historical records.
Finally, when the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club initiated a project honoring our local ‘Strong Women,” the researcher, Jeanette Moore-Burlock, included an interview of Evelyn Smith Booker. She has graciously agreed to donate copies of her interviews to our collection. Incidental to her tribute to this lady, we learned Mrs. Booker had published a partial autobiography and an account of her life’s work, copyrighted in 2021.
Mrs. Booker had served on the Town’s Centennial Commission’s committee for the Gala in 2009 and her accomplishments as a television executive were well known and appreciated by the staff. However, what we have learned from her work, A Winner in Spite of…. caused us to acquire a copy to augment our collection. Her insights and wisdom, her philosophy and faith, and her family roots are invaluable and inspirational. Her delivery of truths on African American Life is vitally important. Her rise in the corporate world and her contribution to the community are part of the heritage the museums hope to preserve.
These three works and these three individuals are part and partial of the museum’s archival vision: to preserve and make available to all the History of Fuquay-Varina and her people and to assist the future researcher by providing a thorough collection of materials related to our people and our life.
The Kindergarten of Miss Nina Tilley located behind her home on South Main Street is a fondly held memory of multiple residents who grew up in our town between the 1940’s and 1960’s. Several of our Questers /Docents and others have asked that the museums research and record some history of that “institution.”
The Tilley Kindergarten came before public kindergarten in North Carolina and was the brainchild and labor of love of Nina Tilley. The small one room building, erected on Main Street still exists as a rented building behind what was the home of Nina and Joel Tilley. All the students remember “Mr. Joel” being around the kindergarten, keeping things in order.
Our research found that Nina Stallings Brickhouse was born in Tyrell County NC. to James Gilbert and Hattie Della Swain Brickhouse on May 11, 1903. She appears to have been the seventh of nine children born to that farm family. Patty Fleming remembers that she always said she was from Bath, N. C. Census forms record that the family lived on the “sound side” of highway 90 in that area, usually mentioning Columbia, NC as the address.
Nina was a product of the schools of Tyrell County and a graduate of Appalachian State Normal School, Class of 1925. Normal Schools prepared teachers and Nina became a public school teacher upon graduation. How she came to this area of the state is not clear; however, Emily Tilley remembers that Nina had one sister who married a Dupree and lived in Angier, another lived somewhere near and a brother lived in Raleigh. Anyway, whether she first taught elsewhere or not, in 1930 Nina was boarding in Fuquay Springs with Jesse and Eva Jones and employed as a teacher of first grade in the Coats School. The Tilley family all associate her with Coats School. Even after her marriage she was listed as a substitute teacher.
No one was sure when , but she met Joel Carleton Tilley. Emily remembered the boarding house run by the Joneses. Patty married one of Joel’s best friends, Coleman Fleming. Coleman’s mother was Della Tilley Fleming, sister of Joel. So in the small town of Fuquay Springs, a romance blossomed even though the details have been lost.
Joel was one of the 18 children born to Analphus Lee Tilley, Sr. and Nettie Veasey Tilley. Four girls and ten boys lived to adulthood in Fuquay Springs. Joel served, as did a number of his brothers, in World War I. Born in Granville County, a farm boy, he enlisted in the United States Army from Fuquay Springs on September 6, 1918 and was discharged on January 24, 1919. At some point after returning from service, he became employed in the tobacco business and was variously listed in the federal census as a Broker and a Printman Manager and eventually as a Tobacconist.
Joel won the hand of Nina when he was 45 and she was 33 years of age. They were married November 25, 1936 in the Raleigh home of Dr. L. E. M. Freeman. The account of the marriage in the News and Observer states that Joel was in the tobacco business and she a member of the Coats School faculty.
Emily remembers that Uncle Joel and Aunt Nina lived next door to her family on S. Main Street. Her father, Ernest Tilley helped Joel build the building on the vacant lot across the street to serve as Aunt Nina’s kindergarten.
Kitty Lane Johnson Holleman was one of the first kindergarteners in Fuquay Springs. She recalled that she entered in January, 1945 for that half year, then continued the following September for the first full year of Miss Nina’s Kindergarten.
Among those with early memories and pictures was Kaye Howard Cloniger. She recalls that George Bullock, Curtis Holleman and Martha Hunt were all in that first full year. David Holleman says he entered in the fall of 1945. He says “it was different from staying at home.” Mr. Chester drove him each day. He remembers that Maynard Keith, Jr. was in his class and that Faye Tilley also attended that year. He commented on the difference in statue of Nina and Joel, on Mr. Joel’s carpentry skills, and the building itself. Maybe his mother told him he was Little Boy Blue in the commencement but he is not sure.
Kay, who conspired with others to send us pictures, identifies this 1947-48 photograph as taken on Martha Hunt’s birthday. She says Fred Lee Hunt got invited as Martha’s younger brother and is labeled in the photo. Fred Lee located the photos for Kaye among those of his father.
Everyone recalls that each year there was a final commencement program complete with costumes. Emily says there was always the May Pole Dance held on the vacant lot in front of the building and later in the yard. In the 1947-48 May Pole, she identifies Martha Hunt as third (in dress) and Reginald Shaw in front of her in the sailor suit.
Kaye listed classmates during her year as Wesley Cotten, Fred Hunt, Jimmy Williams and Reginald Shaw.
Emily, a retired teacher, principal and assistant superintendent herself, remembers that Miss Nina’s kindergarten was held to strict discipline. She was loved but brooked no nonsense about learning. Miss Nina knew what was needed to be ready for first grade and insisted on progress. Seated in chairs at tables, she taught them numbers, the alphabet, printing, drawing, and reading. She remembers going over as a child and seeing just how things were conducted.
Among the students identified in the Class of 1952 were Sally Cozart, Jennifer Ashworth, Helen Berry, Robert Revels, and John Edwards.
Evidence is that Miss Nina had a gracious heart for children in the neighborhood, as Gerry Rogers recalls. While he was officially in kindergarten in 1953-54, he visited for two or three years earlier. One year a student became sick and could not perform his role in the commencement. Miss Nina simply contacted Mrs. Rogers and Gerry (who knew all the lines from his visits) was installed into the role for that year. Gerry remembers his classmates, Wray Stephens, Judy Stephens, Tommy Broadwell, Karl Busick, Bill Carson, and Freddie Norris.
Karl Busick identifies Aunt Nina as tall and statuesque but Uncle Joel as very small of statue. He remembers that Joel was missing fingers on one hand. All of the students called her “Miss Nina” as is good Southern etiquette. Mary Lou Spence Hartman and Gail Amos Woolard could still picture her red nail polish, remember the aromas of the small school house, and recall the record player used for music.
Among the several people who thought the Tilley house came later with the kindergarten building there prior, Karl was correct according to Emily. Again, Joel built the house of her dreams for Nina in front of the kindergarten some time after 1954. Emily believes Nina designed her specific dream house. Emily also recalls Nina was an immaculate housekeeper. The two remained friends for life as well as “relatives.”
Karl listed classmates of 1954 including Gerry Rogers, Peggy Bell, Martha Person Reid, Van Rollins, and Emily McCauley. A member of the Tilley clan, Karl located this picture of Miss Nina among his family photos. Patty Fleming remembered that her son, Jim, was in kindergarten that fall when Hurricane Hazel came through Fuquay Springs.
The single class room with a front coat closet was the description of all students. There was a small bathroom in the back and a number of steps outside in back. Inside the coat room, everyone deposited their garments and their lunch boxes.
Every class graduated with a theme chosen by Miss Nina. Kim Senter Johnson, who graduated in the Class of 1960 was decked out as a flower with a costume of red crepe paper sewn to fit her. She remembers her big brother, Milton, in 1958, was Little Boy Blue. So perhaps the programs ideas were repeated over the years.
While a number of students actually lived near the kindergarten, most parents dropped off and picked up children every day. Gail Amos Woolard said her mother participated in a car pool to provide transportation from Varina. First detailed in an interview with Jewell Ballentine Stephens, the students involved were Gail Amos, Billy Stephens, Joe Tilley, David Carson, and Elizabeth Spence. Their mothers took a weekly turn via Ennis, Clifton, Wade and Vance Streets to Main. Gail thinks Miss Jewell worked out the details because her mother was very concerned that the kindergarten was “miles” away from her home. She laughed in recalling the exact route, every turn by each house, culminating with five small wired children all in the back seat, no seat belts or anything.
Her Class of 1959 included: Ed Blanchard, Faye Ashworth, David Carson, Robin Chappell, Melick Elliott, Martha McLeod, Billy Stephens, Joe Tilley, Randall Washington, Brenda Wells, Elizabeth Spence, Milton Senter and perhaps others according to Gail’s memory.
Gail also recalled that Mrs. Tilley gave each student a nickel for being good that week. To receive a nickel was a great incentive for her positive responses. After school on Friday, the nickels were promptly spent by the students at the Luther Tilley Store just doors away.
An Independent commencement article by Miss Nina reported the theme was “Miss Kindergarten of 1967.” That entire program was listed with Master of Ceremonies, Bob Weuster and Mistress of Ceremonies, Angela Matthews. Three judges were Marty Barbee, Josh Williford, and Steven Burch. Escorts for the contestants were Ellis Powell, Jr, Tim Pearce, Russ Snipes, and Allen Thomas. Finally the entire list of contestants for Miss Kindergarten: Virginia Rowland, Debra Nix, Becky Powell, Amy Senter, Sarah Stephenson, Betty Lynn Walters, Mary Robin Ransdell, Christy Morton, Rebecca Houck, Jeanette Currin, Kathy Morgan, Robin Fish, Kim Collier, Lydia Mewborn, Anna Ellis, Renee Averette, Martha Jane Roundy, Rhonda Griffis, Julia Adams, and Denise Morgan. The total of 29 members was more than many remembered, the usual answer to how many were in your class has been about 20-25.
The final year of Miss Nina’s Kindergarten appears to have been 1967-68. An August 24, 1967 announcement by Mrs. Tilley in the Independent declared that kindergarten would open on September 5 between the hours of 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. No one had quite remembered the exact time, although many remembered carrying lunch. Kim Senter Johnson even recalled that when she broke so many glass thermos bottles, her milk was taken in a glass jar and put into Mrs. Tilley’s refrigerator until lunch.
Mrs. Tilley’s obituary says she retired in 1967 but she personally wrote an account for the Independent of May 23, 1968. The closing exercise of Miss Tilley’s Kindergarten was scheduled for May 30, 1968 at 5:00 p.m. “Back Through The Years” would be the theme with a child to represent each class. She invited the public as always and especially “every child that attended my kindergarten.” The next issue of June 6, 1968 carried a photograph by Heulon Dean of 29 children. They were not identified.
Several persons remembered that Mrs. Peggy Gray took over the kindergarten following Miss Nina’s retirement. In an interview, Peggy confirmed that she rented the building for two years. She continued a policy begun by Miss Nina by accepting five applications from Angier each year. She recalled the kindergarten furnished the large crayons and some supplies for each child . After those two years, the building needed some repairs and Mrs. Gray went to teach at Wake Chapel School closing the institution forever.
Emily Tilley believes that Aunt Nina retired to care for Uncle Joel who was in declining health. Mr. Joel Tilley’s obituary in the News & Observer February 1, 1973 says that he was survived by Mrs. Tilley, three sisters, Miss Lida Tilley, Mrs. E. O. Fleming, and Mrs. Katie Adcock and two brothers, Luther L. and A. Lee Tilley, Jr. His funeral was held at Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church with burial in Wake Chapel Cemetery.
Emily recalled that Miss Nina lived on at the house for several years. She visited her often as did others of the Tilley Clan. In 1989, Miss Nina moved first to Arizona and then to Cooperas Cove, Texas. She made her home with her niece and husband, Charles and Laura Jane Thomas Councilman in Texas until her death in 1997.
Miss Nina’s April 26, 1997 obituary revealed that her funeral was conducted at Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church and she was buried beside Joel at Wake Chapel. The family requested that students of Mrs. Tilley’s kindergarten serve as honorary pallbearers. She was survived by many nieces and nephews of the Brickhouse generations and an extended Tilley Family but she and Joel had no children.
What information is still eluding our search? To date not even Mrs. Gray can recall the cost of attending kindergarten with Mrs. Tilley. Several students have suggested that the museums might record students in various classes if readers would like to submit names as they remember. The following came from a scrapbook page of Sandra Stephens Johnson.
An extended research of the Independent may find that many years there are accounts of the graduation exercises and themes. According to the Questers motto, “It is fun to search and a joy to find.” We hope all the former kindergarteners enjoy remembering Miss Nina.
SOURCES:Federal Census Records, Obituary Nina Tilley, N & O April 26, 1997, Obituary Joel Tilley, N & O, Feb 2, 1973, Marriage Tilley-Brickhouse, N & O, & State of NC. County of Wake, Register of Deeds, Nov 25, 1936. Interviews: Curtis and Kitty Lane Holleman, July 3, 2021; Peggy Gray, July 3, 2021; Karl Busick, July 6, 2021; Gerry Rogers, July 7, 2021; Patty Fleming, July 8, 2021; Emily Tilley, July 8, & July 13, 2021; David Holland, July 14, 2021. Independent, May 11, 1967, August 24, 1967, May 23, 1968, June 6, 1968 Emails: Gail Amos Woolard, Kim Senter Johnson, Kaye Howard Cloniger. Kathy Tilley Shaffer and others through them.
Pictures courtesy of Fred Hunt, Gail Amos, Karl Busick and Sandra Johnson.
William Marshall Ballentine was the third child of William and Cynthia Ballentine. His is the family most associated with the Sunset Lake Road Ballentine family and also in partnership with J.D. Ballentine in the Varina Mercantile at the mineral spring area of town.
Born on October 8, 1834, William grew up with ambition to achieve (according to Miss Ruth Johnson.) “Uncle Billy Ballentine” (as he was known in the family) managed to outmaneuver one of the three Johnson males who were courting the three Jones girls. The middle daughter of Barnabas Jones, Betsy Ann, was engaged to a third Johnson until William Ballentine arrived upon the scene. She became Mrs. Ballentine while her two sisters married into the Johnson clan. The Ballentine-Jones marriage took place on July 12, 1856.
Her inheritance from her father, Barnabas Jones, was wooded land to the west of the homeplace. Much of it was virgin timber. Ballentine engaged in saw milling and according to Mrs. Edith Parker, he built their house located on what is now Sunset Lake Road. The house still stands, but has been bricked over and changed greatly.
Mrs. Parker recalls family lore on this marriage in her book. Uncle Billy seemed to always make sure Betsy Ann had whatever she wanted whether it be horses hitched to go visiting or care and concern for her family. A Raleigh Artist named Denmark declared of Betsy, “She doesn’t have a care of the children at home—she knows everything is being taken care of.”
William was also instrumental in assisting many other home building youth with timber from his sawmill located just north of his house. Edith recounts that Grandpa Billy had a cotton gin which she could remember seeing in operation. She said her mother told her he had a commissary (store) from which he supplied his tenants and others. Mrs. Parker attributed pretty molding, coffins and wardrobes to his enterprises as well.
Betsy Ann and William became parents to four sons and two daughters. The eldest, James Erastus was born in 1863. In 1890, he built his bride, Lillian, a home next door to the family. This house still stands with much the same appearance as originally. To date a family descendant resides there.
Second was Laylin Medora, called Dora. She developed a hunchback soon after age two. Miss Johnson says they tried everything to treat and improve this condition but to no avail. Dora lived with her parents until their deaths and then with her brother, Charlie and his wife Elizabeth. until her death in 1929.
The third child, Claudius Leonard (Lennie) built a house on the northern side of the homeplace which still stands. Listed as a farmer, he married Ella Walker who taught school. The youngest brother, the sixth child, Charles Airis married Elizabeth Taylor in 1909 and continued to live in the homeplace. He married a second time to Mae Grantham in 1937. Mr. Lennie and Mr. Charlie were well known gentlemen living until late 1949 and 1957 respectively. All these Ballentines are buried at Wake Chapel Cemetery.
The fourth child and second daughter, Amorette (Ammie) married Dr. J. M. Judd. Their story is told well in the museums. The Judd house was the office of the doctor and stood near the present Judd Parkway and Main intersection. Following the death of James Judd the dwelling was demolished. The name lives on in Judd Parkway.
Dr. J. M. Judd played an important role in the early town and especially in the business district of Varina and the Bank of Varina. Amorette Ballentine Judd was a charter member of the Varina Woman’s Club. Together they donated the land for the clubhouse on Ennis Street.
The fifth child, William Joseph (Mr Joe) came home from Elon College to go into business with his father and Uncle J. D. in the Varina Mercantile at the Mineral Spring. Mr. Joe married Lizzie Barham, who oversaw the hotel begun by her parents and operated her own millinery shop at the mercantile store.
Mr. Joe added the Ballentine Funeral Home attached to Varina Mercantile. Eventually, this became Ballentine and Gilbert and then Gilbert and Sugg. Finally it was moved to Academy Street and lastly operated there as Williford’s Funeral Home. Today the building has been repurposed for office work space.
Mr. Joe was a large investor in real estate all over town. Among these were a Ballentine Service Station, a Ballentine Drug Store, and then the large building owned by Mr. Joe which became Proctor and Barbour on Main Street. They lived first in the apartments over the store, then in a dwelling located just behind the Varina Mercantile and last in the Barham House which became his and Miss Lizzie’s home on Main Street across from the spring.
The only daughter of Mr. Joe and Miss Lizzie, Margaret, married S. L. Lane who served as undertaker in the funeral home. Lane was mayor of Fuquay Springs, 1957-63. Miss Margaret was involved in all the social functions of the early town, especially the historical and social developmental activities.
Note that the Ballentine Elementary School off Sunset Lake Road associated with the family is not the Ballentine Schoolhouse Museum associated with J. D. Ballentine. This locale connection to the family of Mr. William or “Billy” Ballentine is important in defining the role of this family in our early history.
William Ballentine and the Johnson men who had married the three Jones girls were responsible for founding the Oakwood School. Originally the school was located along Sunset Lake Road, next door to the Ballentine homes. Later it enjoyed a larger building at the intersection of Sunset and Whitted Road. James Erastus became a teacher in the Oakwood School at the age of seventeen, following the tenure of his minister, Rev. Clements. The Ballentines and the Johnsons spearheaded this school for the convenience of their children and others in the country until these small schools were consolidated at Fuquay Springs High School in 1918.
When James Erastus married Lillian Parker Yates of Raleigh, the Squire reported the union as “a brilliant marriage.” He referred to the groom as “professor.” James Erastus continued to teach at Oakwood and serve as Wake Chapel Church secretary. Unfortunately, he died at the early age of 42 in 1905 leaving Lillian with two children. Miss Lily continued to teach at Oakwood.
Described as very good with math figures, Lillian took upon herself the opening of a business, a creamery, on the property. Beginning with butter and buttermilk, she expanded to a full dairy operation. Her son, Lynton Yates Ballentine attended Oakwood and Cardenas schools, then Holly Springs High School 1913-17. He became a student at Wake Forest College earning a BA in political economy in 1921. Upon returning home, he assisted his mother with the dairy operation and oversaw the family farming enterprises.
In 1922, L. Y. married Rebecca Patterson with whom he had three children — Carolyn, Rebecca, and Yates. After divorcing, he and his son lived with his mother and sister Mabel. His daughters, Carolyn and Rebecca lived with their mother in Fayetteville. When he remarried in 1944 to Bessie Bangert Phoenix, the couple moved into the Sir Walter Hotel in Raleigh.
L. Y. , known generally as “Stag,” was active in the Fuquay Springs Baptist Church, and involved in local politics. First came terms as a Wake County Commissioner (1926-34) followed by election to the North Carolina Senate (1937-43). He was then elected Lt. Governor of North Carolina (1945-49) and finally the 12th Commissioner of Agriculture where he served from 1949 until his death in 1964.
His obituary details his heart attack while addressing a farm group in White Sulphur Springs. Six weeks later as he was recuperating there, he suffered a fatal attack at age 65. Governor Sanford ordered flags flown at half staff and stated, “Throughout his life, “Stag” Ballentine served the citizens of his state…..Our farms are move productive because of his work. Our farmers are living better lives and our farm economy is stronger. Citizens both in the rural area and in town have benefited. His interest in improving education has benefited every young person in the state.”
The daughter, Lillian Mabel Ballentine, trained to teach. “Miss Mabel” taught at Oakwood for many years. After the death of her mother, she became the major force in the dairy operation. L. Y. was able to assist with contracts to sell milk to Campbell College, Meredith College and the Sir Walter Hotel as well as local customers and a route to Dunn.
Miss Mabel never married and died after a sudden attack in 1972. The dairy and estate passed to the three children of L. Y. Thus great granddaughter, Caroline Ballentine Elliott branched out into the riding academy located on the property. She was active in the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club and local town and church affairs. The dairy was one of the last to operate in Wake County, closing Ballentine’s dairy in 1986 and all operations in 1987.
The Ballentines of William and Betsy Ann and their descendants are the namesake for the Ballentine Dairy, the Ballentine Subdivision and the Ballentine Elementary School.
Uncle Billy was declared to be a “man of vision” by Miss Ruth Johnson and an “industrious and talented person” by Mrs. Edith Judd Parker. He was noted for his generosity to the family and his management of his many enterprises.
Thus the descendants of William and Cynthia Ballentine have left their many faceted mark upon our local history. A visit to our Fuquay-Varina Museums will provide further artifacts and archives. The Master Plan originally drawn for the museums park allocated a place to the Creamery ( First building at Ballentine Dairy) Still this little building could be saved and placed in the park to honor our Ballentine Dairy History and that early business history of our area. Many dairy artifacts are found in the museums’ collection.
Sources: Edith Parker’s written historical articles; Ruth Johnson’s Concerning our Ancestors; Obituary of L.Y. Ballentine, Interviews of Edith Parker and Carolyn Randall, archives and displays on FV museums, FVWC History.
The oldest son of William and Cynthia Ballentine was John C. Ballentine born in December 15, 1829 in Wake County. His family will become our second article, noting the connection to our Varina Post Mistress and the training of our “Squire” Ballentine by this, his older brother. We are indebted to interviews of and the written biography by Jewell Ballentine Stephens and the ancestry record written by Miss Ruth Johnson for many of the family details.
John C. married Emily Katherine Cutts, according the State of North Carolina marriage records on November 22, 1854 in Cumberland County. (Jewell spells her name Katherine, and it appears that the family used that name or Katie for her rather than Emily.)
John enlisted at age 32 in the 31st Infantry, Company C of North Carolina Troops. He suffered a severe injury at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia on May 16, 1864. According to Jewell he never fully recovered from this wound, living with severe pain in his chest all his days.
Following the Civil War, the young family bought property in the Buckhorn Creek area of Wake County at the end of what is now called Adcock Road. That creek was the site of Ballentine’s Mills which, along with farming, provided the income for John’s family. His enterprises included a grist mill, a sawmill, a turpentine distillery and a general store. The records of U. S. Postmasters show that John C. Ballentine was named post master of Ballentine’s Mills on October 26, 1874. He seems to have held the position until November of 1897. That post office was consolidated with Holly Springs in 1904.
His younger brother, J. D. Ballentine, worked as a clerk in the post office following his return from the war and before establishing his own mercantile enterprise at the Mineral Spring. By 1880, J. D. had established himself as post master in his own right naming his post office “Varina.”
John C. and Katie appear to have raised 2 daughters and 3 sons: Civil Anne Ballentine (married name Wood), Ella M.Ballentine (married name Spoon) , Edward Hill, Romulus White, and Delmore S. Ballentine The father, John C. died at the family home in 1907. Edward remained at home and was listed in 1910 as head of the household which included his mother, his sister Civil Wood, and his brother Delmore.
In an interview, Jewell said her Uncle Romulus taught college penmanship in Albany, NY and died when she was in high school. Her aunt Ella lived in Burlington, where she and her husband ran a dairy. Her widowed aunt Civil came to live at home and helped with Jewell’s college funds.
Edward Hill Ballentine of Walthall, NC (older name for Duncan) seemed to be a confirmed bachelor until a pretty new teacher came to Wilbon. He courted and wed Foy Johnson Olive of Apex when he was 49 and Foy 28. The couple moved into the Ballentine family home at Ballentine’s Mills. The 1920 Federal Census located their household at the old homeplace and listed Edward as head of the home for his mother, bachelor brother Delmore along with Foy and their two children.
Ballentine studied business at an Alabama College and used that expertise in his career in Varina. He was bookkeeper for Dr. J. M. Judd’s office before and after moving from Ballentine’s Mill into town. The museums have his tester used at work on the Cardenas Telephone Exchange as the repairman. He was also business manager for the telephone company. In an early mercantile business in town, Ballentine and Powell, located on Main Street , he was a partner with Cary Powell.
Community interests took much of his time. The Town Minutes record his election as clerk June 5, 1925 while also serving as Clerk of the Recorder’s Court and Treasurer. Ballentine was reelected to these positions June 10, 1929. That November he was paid $5 per day when he worked to collect taxes for the town. The minutes record on March 10, 1931 that the Clerk and court are doing three to four times more business and the Town Board voted to increase his salary. The Clerk had to oversee the costs of the Recorder’s Court during the depression and pay all the bills. The inevitable happened, the town had to cut his salary along with other cost saving measures. The Town appears to have honored him with a letter of thanks during the year of 1933.
E. H. Ballentine also served his church. Jewell’s book copied an account written by her father as Assistant Clerk detailing a revival held in October, 1925 at Roger’s Warehouse. This happens to include the record of her joining the Fuquay Springs Baptist Church where she remained a faithful member all her life.
Jewell, the daughter born August 18, 1913, has recorded her life in her autobiographical work, I Am Jewell and This Is My Story published in 2012. She had an older brother who lived one day, and a baby brother, Olive Thurlow Ballentine in whom she delighted.
She was a rich source of information on her family, the town, the school, the Baptist Church and and on many events of Fuquay Springs and Varina. In 1920 her family moved to Ennis Street, purchasing the house built for Henry A. Neal who had served one year as principal at Fuquay Springs High School. She continued to live there until her very last years and helped the Fuquay Springs Questers conduct the Tour of Houses on Ennis Street in 2015.
Jewell had begun first grade at Wilbon but the year was interrupted when a diphtheria epidemic occurred. Her family never sent her back so she entered the first grade in January of 1921 at Fuquay Springs High School. Her high school graduating class was that of 1930.
Jewell enrolled at Meredith College from which she graduated in 1934. Her father had been offered the job as postmaster in Varina but suggested his newly graduated daughter instead. Jewell had worked as a clerk in the Varina Post office prior to college. Deciding not to teach school for which she had prepared, she became Post Master at Varina on September 18, 1934. Sadly, her father died from a sudden heart attack that November.
Jewell labored on in the Post Office for four years and in 1940 she was given permanent Civil Service status and received her Post Master’s Commission from FDR.
The Varina Post Office was located in small buildings to the west of the Bank of Varina with Farmer’s Supply between the post office and the bank. This series of small buildings were burned in the Stephens Supply fire and only the bank builtding remains there today.
A new teller came to work in the bank from the Collins Grove and Holly Springs area family. A friendship ensued between Jewell and “Steve.” Their relationship continued after he moved to First Citizens Bank at Fort Bragg.
Olive finished his forestry degree at North Carolina State College. Two years later, right in the midst of the depression, he secured a job with the New Deal in the Department of Agriculture and was assigned to Sparta, NC. Working on the Blue Ridge Parkway during its construction, he became friends with North Carolina Congressman Robert Doughton.
Boarding with the Marvin Doughton family, a romance developed between Olive and Mattie Lee, the oldest daughter. The two married in 1941. The entire Stephens family were soon engulfed in World War II . Olive volunteered for U.S. Army Air Forces and was eventually sent to the Pacific Theater. Jewell was busy helping her customers with rations, blackouts, selective service forms and overseas mail. Stephens was called but given a medical deferment.
Jewell became Mrs. Mallie Bruns Stephens on September 5, 1942 when she married her “Steve” in a private wedding held in the minister’s home. The couple lived in the Ennis Street homeplace with Mrs. Ballentine. Stephens transferred to First Citizens Bank in Raleigh. Within a year, her mother Foy Olive Ballentine suffered from a return of cancer and died on July 16, 1943.
Sandra Jean Stephens arrived on October 4, 1944. Steve returned to the Bank of Varina in January 1945. The family received word that Olive was first missing and then that he had been killed in action. It would be April before they learned the details of the Japanese kamikaze attack upon his Victory ship at Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippine Islands and his burial at sea on January 12, 1945.
The Fuquay Springs Baptist Church has been proud to recognize Olive as one of their three members killed in action during World War II. Equally noted in church records is the service of Jewell Ballentine Stephens as the Junior Girls Sunday School teacher for many years. During her lifetime, she held multiple positions and entered all the activities in the church from bell choir to history and the ladies circles. The church recognized her for eighty-two years of service in 2007; however, she remained a faithful Baptist as long as she lived.
Jewell recounted for our history book her knowledge of the coming of the Independent newspaper to town. As post master she was invited to a meeting in the courtroom over what would be Elmo’s store today. There the decision was made to invite Todd Caldwell to come to Fuquay Springs and publish a local paper in 1935. She coyly admitted that she and a girlfriend, whom she took with her, were the only two women involved in this important town discussion.
Margaret Seagroves came to work as an Assistant to the Post Master in Varina before Sandra was born. With that five years experience and Jewell’s help, Seagroves was able to get the Varina Post Master’s position when Jewell decided to retire. During the Seagroves tenure the Varina Post Office moved again. It was last located where Ennis street meets Broad in a building now part of the Aviator.
For a total of eleven years, Jewell served her country and Varina, retiring In September, 1945 to become a full-time mother and housewife. Twins boys, Phillip and David joined the Stephens family in 1947. The youngest son, Billy, completed the family in 1953.
Steve, who was forced to stop work by health issues, died in 1968. Sandra graduated from Peace College and enjoyed a career with the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The twins both graduated from Lenoir Rhyne College and have had successful professional careers: Philip in Insurance and David in History. Billy enrolled at Carolina Military Academy. He later studied at Wake Technical College and became a plumber. Billy’s life was cut short in 2010 by colon cancer.
Jewell took up her first new career for which the town knew her more that 50 years: “The Luzier Lady.” Her clients and her own amazing countenance attest to the cosmetic products she sold the rest of her life. Her second new career found her at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Raleigh for 10 years. Finally, Jewell followed the path of numerous ladies around the area, by working part time in a tobacco warehouse office.
During her retirement years, Jewell traveled to the Holy Land and to Russia. The family also took tours of Alaska and various parts of the United States. Still her greatest pleasure of all came with the arrival of her only grandchild, Rhonda Ballentine Johnson, daughter of Sandra. Rhonda continued in the family footsteps by graduating from Meredith College and enjoying her career as an artist for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
Jewell, Sandra and Rhonda became quite a threesome in her later days with shopping, canning, needlepoint, and art — all interests in their lives. The Stephens family home is one of the historic structures on Ennis Street and historically the family was interwoven with the lives of all the residents of that street.
Jewell wrote her autobiography with the help of her children in 2012. She was living with Sandra and Rhonda when she died on June 16, 2015. Her grave is beside her “Steve” in the Wake Chapel Cemetery.
This father and daughter played significant roles in our town’s history. They comprise another part of the extended Ballentine family of the area. The Stephens name is significant in the development of South Park Village on the Stephens farm in Holly Springs; the Ballentine name in the housing development off Adcock Road in the Wilbon area. Jewell’s daughter and granddaughter have continued to support the museums. The family has made important donations to our collection including pen and ink drawings by Rhonda.
The Ballentine influence will always be part of our history. We are fortunate to be able to share it with you and to enlighten newcomers in our series: “Meet the Ballentines.” Their name lives on in the Ballentine School House Museum but their family means much more in our history.
Sources: Federal Census Records , N. C. Records, Fuquay-Varina Town minutes, Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church minutes, U.S. Postal records, Several Interviews with Jewell Ballentine Stephens, I Am Jewell and This Is My Story written by Jewell Ballentine Stephens, Concerning Our Ancestors written by Ruth Johnson.
A really sad occasion for we historians to see one of our oldest buildings razed this week. Progress is the name of the game, but there is nostalgia over the loss of the historical over one-hundred year old building which now will be only a memory! We share this history with you who might not have known the story.
In 1903, Dr. J. A. Sexton donated a lot to the Fuquay Springs Methodist Episcopal Church for their new church building. The citizens of Methodist persuasion had been worshiping at Cokesbury, or at least some members had grown up in that church. After moving into the area around the mineral spring which would become Fuquay Springs, these people were so excited to be given a lot for a church. They now joined the newly organized Fuquay Springs Baptists who used their little wooden building where Fidelity Bank now stands in 1903.
Among these Methodist charter members were J. D. Ballentine, Mr. and Mrs. Romulus Barham and daughter Lizzie, Dr. and Mrs. J. M. Judd, and Hattie Parker Jones family members, and the Sessoms family.
The diligent members paid for their little building within the first six months, opening for services in 1904. It was termed “a good one-room structure, very nice for that time.” The steeple contained a bell which could be heard for miles. Since the Fuquay Road came up the hill behind the Varina Mercantile buildings and continued south eventually in the area of Wagstaff Road, the steeple and front of the building faced that road to the south.
J. K. Sessoms provided fuel for the wooden stove and built the fire so the church would be warm for services. Dr. Judd had the pews built at the Blanchard sawmill. He had drawn off the plan for them based on the pews from Edenton Street Methodist Church in Raleigh.
At this juncture in time, there were no churches termed full-time. Some records tell us that the Baptists held preaching on the first Sunday, the Methodist on the second Sunday, and Wake Christian Church was the third Sunday. After the 1913-14 organization of the Presbyterians, they had the fourth Sunday. Mr. Chester Holland often told us about his attending different worship services on the designated Sundays.
The Methodist congregation worshiped there for a quarter century. In 1930, they completed their first brick building on North Main Street and moved out of the little wooden structure. The property was deeded by the congregation to the Ballentines. Miss Lizzie passed the property to her daughter Margaret Lane. We have been told it was rental property during these years.
In 1977, Ida Mae and Jimmy Ashworth purchased the building and Ida Mae opened her antique shop inside. By that point the steeple had been removed and a porch added to the side making the building front on Main Street. Dormers in the Main Street roof opened the attic for upstairs rooms.
When the Ashworth’s closed the shop and sold the building, it was repurchased by members of the Lane family. Following 1986, It was converted to rental apartments until this demolition. in 2021. An additional structure built in a similar style was added on the back property several years ago.
Certainly, the structure had undergone many changes and was not a modern building. Sadly we can no longer point this out as the “first” Methodist Church in Fuquay Springs. A piece of our history is gone forever! We remember these hardy Methodists which have now become two separate congregations. First Methodist members remain at the 1930 site on North Main and the Fuquay-Varina Methodists have their facilities on Judd Parkway.
Sources: Fuquay-Varina Methodist Church history, FV History, Wake County Records
Today we write about one family of them, J. D., the “Squire,” and wife Virginia, “Varina,” Ballentine. So much has been written or just told, some quoted and misquoted, some accurate or guesswork. Our article may do some of all these, but we will attempt to share the research from the Museums of Fuquay-Varina on this couple and their family which we hope to be factual.
James Devereaux Ballentine was the youngest son of William (born 1800) and Cynthia Crawley Ballentine (born 1809). Their tombstone at Wake Chapel Cemetery states, “United on earth June 1, 1926, United in heaven January 30, 1892.” This later date is the death of Cynthia. Their tombstone was moved by the Lane family to Wake Chapel Cemetery from a family cemetery someplace along highway 401 South perhaps between their home and Trinity Episcopal Church.
J. D. “Jimmy” to the family grew up in the house which stood just across from where Wagstaff Road intersects Highway 401 S. We are told that the youngest son by custom inherited the home place in that era, thus that may account for J. D. and Varina living there. Most of the older children had married and were already living away when J. D. returned from war, settled into the community, married Virginia and brought her there to live. We are also told that the house was such a large establishment that the mother, Cynthia, had quarters in the back portion with the Squire and Varina living in the front section in her later years.
Virginia Arey, known to us as “Varina” grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina.( Arey is correct and not Avery as often printed.) Joseph Arey was born in New Jersey and listed as a special magistrate and a gentleman in the federal census in Fayetteville, N.C. Joseph married Selina C. Stuart in 1825 in Cumberland County. In the 1850 census, there is no listing of the mother of seven year old Virginia. We assume Selina to be deceased. Rachel , the oldest daughter, seems to be the sister-mother figure. There are a second sister, Elizabeth, and four brothers, Sebastian, Joseph, Edward and Charles. The second brother, Joseph, teaches common school. Virginia becomes a teacher herself in common school according to a later census.
Rachel married a Whitfield and is listed as a widow in 1870, providing a home for her children and her father. Joseph Arey died in 1872 leaving a substantial estate to his children. His estate included stores and lots known as the “Staierh Property” on Market Square and Gillespie Street, a house on Donelson Street, and fifty acres on Camden Road. Rachel Whitfield and J. D. Ballentine were executors of the estate and will.
Tradition has it that Virginia wrote to J. D., signing her name, “Varina” at sometime during the war. He enlisted October 4, 1861. There is another writer who says that she knit socks and included her name inside as “Varina.” Both stories may be true.
Company C of the 31st Regiment of North Carolina Troops was last recorded in the North Carolina official history in 1864 and came home sometime in 1865. J. D. looked up the lady he knew as “Varina” in Fayetteville and the romantic connection ensued. When they were married December 3, 1867, they came to live at the home place with the elder Ballentines. He always called her “Varina” and thus originated that name, used multiple times throughout our area.
The same year as the 1867 marriage of J. D. and Varina, one of J. D’s sisters, Sarah Jane Ballentine , had married Alvin Smith, according to Miss Ruth Johnson. Another sister, Mary Elizabeth Ballentine had been married since 1858 to James Madison Stephenson. Both these girls have descendants in the Smith, Sexton, Johnson and Stephenson families. The second son, Gaston had married in 1855 to Nancy Judd.
In later articles we will try to chronicle the lives of brothers John and William and their families of our area. These three brothers have greatly impacted our community history. Suffice it to recount here that John Ballentine, J. D.’s older brother, was a post master and gave J. D. experience working with him as a postal clerk sometime after he returned home.
This influenced J.D. to apply to open a post office which he proposed and named “Varina.” His application says that Old Shop on the stage coach route is no longer the major community and a new office is needed to serve the people near the Mineral Spring. A Rawls family ancestor carried mail by horseback from the Varina Post Office down into Harnett County and beyond. Henry Rawls believed the Varina Post Office to have been a small building near the home; a few sources have located it as being “in the house.” We cannot prove which to be correct but it was “at” the homeplace.
Note this Varina Post Office served all the inhabitants from Willow Springs into northern Harnett County for some twenty years (between 1880-1900). This is clearly the oldest postal address for the present town area. Ballentine applied successfully to move the Varina post office north, locating it in what we believe would be his mercantile store at the Mineral Spring in 1899. By that point the new brick building was established.
By 1884, J. D. Ballentine was recognized prominently as a merchant in Varina. His original store was on the spring side of the creek according to the memory of the Fuquay sisters. He also was listed as a farmer and had acquired extensive land holdings by the time of his death. A major task and the reason he was identified as “Squire” was his work as a Justice of the Peace. Documents are continuously unearthed with his signature in our research projects.
Varina and J. D. had three children. The daughter, named Selina Estelle was born Sept 4, 1869. It was at the time for her first grade education that the couple founded the Ballentine School House on the hill above the Mineral Spring. Both taught in the school, according the “Mr. Joe” Ballentine. Two sons followed. Arthur Stuart was born in 1875 and Clarence Marvin in 1879. Both of them attended the Ballentine School according to recorded remarks of “Mr. Joe.”
Virginia, “Varina” died on May 28, 1888 at age 45. “Varina’s” original gravesite was in the family cemetery near the home place. That tombstone had been saved by the Lane descendants and was given to the museums. Most visitors find this an interesting artifact. This Lane family descended from Mr. Joe Ballentine and wife and are the ones who also moved J. D.’s parents graves to their plot at Wake Chapel Church. J.D. and Varina’s new tombstone is located in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. The removal of Varina’s remains took place after the death of the “Squire” when either his second wife or his daughter had Varina buried beside the Squire in Oakwood.
The daughter, Selina, called “Lina”, married Nathaniel Macon Rand of Garner on February 22, 1888. She was nineteen and he was thirty-four, an established merchant in Raleigh. At the time of his death intestate on November 16, 1914, he was survived by Selina and five children: Philip B. (25) Julian Arey, (23) Gordan (18), Virginia A (13) and Nancy G. (6). When the mercantile firm of Crowder and Rand was dissolved, Selina and the children received $66,050. Nathaniel Rand was predeceased by their third child, Nathaniel Jr.( two years of age).
The Rand family are buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh very near the Ballentines. Selina lived with Gordon (who never married) in Raleigh until he died in 1942. Her death came in 1945 and she was buried beside Nathaniel Rand in Oakwood Cemetery. Julian and Nancy lived until 1959 and 1990 respectively. Virginia married Orion Russell and had one daughter before she died in 1932. The Russell family is also buried in Oakwood. To date, a limited contact has been made with a Rand Family member but no pictures have surfaced of either Varina or James D. Ballentine.
There are great grandchildren and great great grandchildren, descendants from Julian Arey, Virginia (Russell) and Nancy G (McInniss) who are living today but the museums have not been successful in contacting any of them. We are hopeful someone might have pictures.
Upon Varina’s death, J. D. was granted legal guardianship of the boys, Arthur and Clarence who inherited their mother’s interests in the Arey estate. They continued to live in the Ballentine home place with Cynthia and their father. In February, 1898, J. D. remarried. He was now 50 years old and his bride, Cornelia F. Betts, was 35. She was the daughter of Rev. Allen Betts and Margaret Whittington Betts of Wake County.
According to Miss Ruth Johnson’s book, Clarence attended Wake Forest College at some point. He was married May 10, 1900 to Eva V. Austin of Richmond County. They were living in Durham at the time of his death in 1939. He was listed as a retired merchant. They had no children.
Our Ballentine couple built their new home on Spring Street known as the Ballentine-Spence House circa 1910. This house had indoor plumbing, electricity and some unique features. It has had some remodeling by recent owners but generally is intact historically. J.D. bought one of the first automobiles in town. He wrote for the Gold Leaf under the name “Swizzle. ” We are still seeking old copies of this paper if any are found. He was involved in town government and asked to serve as mayor in 1915 which he declined to do. In early 1917 he suffered a stroke, which led to his death two weeks later on February 5. We do have a copy of the Gold Leaf featuring his obituary displayed in the museums.
The family had J. D. Ballentine buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh, NC and the cemetery records that the grave of Virginia was moved from the home place in Fuquay to this site. Cornelia and Clarence served as executors of J. D.’s will at that time. Our assumption is that the home place cemetery was moved at this time with the parents reburied at Wake Chapel Cemetery. The old tombstone was used in the Lane family yard as a stepping stone until they donated it to the museum.
Cornelia listed her address as Fuquay Springs when she remarried March 14, 1918. William P. Campbell (now widowed) had served as pastor at Fuquay Springs Baptist Church 1913-1914 and was then serving as pastor at Chadbourn, North Carolina. Our assumption is that the two had renewed contact with each other but Miss Ruth Johnson only recorded that Cornelia married a “Campbell.” The couple served churches at several places in the ensuing years.
The twice widowed, Cornelia, lived with her nephew in Raleigh in the 1940 census. The Campbell’s grave site is also Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. Cornelia, age 77, died in 1947.
Arthur Ballentine, unmarried, continued to live in the Ballentine house on Spring Avenue. The Dan Spence family moved into the house with Arthur who had his room up stairs. Jane Spence Person remembered that Arthur provided the Spence children with candy and goodies.
Arthur had served as clerk for the town and his death certificate lists him as a farmer. He was reported to have died from tuberculosis. Dr. W. S. Cozart, Joe Ballentine, and J. E. Howard signed his death certificate. Arthur was buried beside his parents in Oakwood with the same tombstone engraved for all three.
At Arthur’s death in 1923, the estate of J. D. Ballentine was settled. In 1923, the Spence family purchased the house from the undivided estate of J. D. Ballentine. Thus, the house officially became designated as the “Ballentine-Spence House” in the Fuquay Historic District.
Besides the home and lot which the Spence family purchased, some 748 acres on Neil’s Creek, 94 acres of woodland, and 45 acres of Smith Land were sold to J. E. Howard. The store property lists the northern section of the three-store building as part of J. D. Ballentine’s estate. Mr. Joe Ballentine would eventually acquire the entire store property.
The original Ballentine home place on 401 S eventually became the property of John Adcock and was inherited by the Perry family. The Perrys intended to restore the house; however, over the years it was so vandalized that it could not be saved. They instead built a new house on the site across from where Wagstaff Road dead ends into 401 on South Main Street . They have graciously given the oldest known photographs of the house to the museums. Prior to their gift the only photographs were of the deserted and vandalized dwelling.
J. D. Ballentine’s small office, which he used in his work as magistrate, was located across the street from the new brick store. There is reason to believe that it was a portion of his original store which the Fuquay descendants remembered. Eventually, this property contained a dwelling which remained until a hurricane sent a tree crashing through it in more recent history. The lot is now part of the Mineral Spring Park just across the bridge over the creek. Other property including the Dodd House were all acquired by the Johnson family and are now part of the park.
Thus James Devereaux, the “Squire’,” and Virginia, “Varina, ” Ballentine the youngest son and daughter-in-law of William and Cynthia and their family have entered the historical record of Fuquay-Varina. While J.D. and Varina are the most recognized names generally, later articles will feature the oldest son, John C. and the third son, William Marshall , and the contributions of these Ballentine descendants.
Among the Sources: Interviews of several Fuquay descendants, Jane Spence Person, Rand family genealogist, and Marion Lane family. Research by Shirley Simmons in Wake County, Federal Census records, Court documents, Town minutes, and North Carolina Archives and other records. Various articles of history archived in the museums and written by different persons have been consulted. Concerning Our Ancestors by Ruth Johnson 1980 and the Gold Leaf 1917 were helpful.
Two local citizens, Rick and Vicki Powell, called the attention of the Fuquay-Varina Museums staff to a gravestone located in the overgrown old family cemetery off Judd Parkway. As they were walking and observing the beginning of grading for what would become Holland Station, curiosity got the better of them and they studied closely the stones located in that small area. ONLY ONE bore engraved information. That stone had been turned over, or had fallen over. Upon their inquiry we realized that name was not familiar to any of former records.
The construction company was careful to preserve the area and the several unmarked stones which appear to indicate graves. A wonderful iron fence encircles the area with a gate for entrance into the sacred ground. This touched our hearts and inspired us to begin to search.
Whose grave was this? How did it come to be?
This research led us down several paths over the past couple of years. While we still lack definitive answers to parts of the puzzle, Mary Winiford Tutor has become a real person. As we share what we have learned, our hope is that descendants may come forth with additional materials which either confirm or correct the assumptions of our research.
According to North Carolina Marriage Records, M. W. Smith wed S. G. Tutor on January 29, 1871 in the Smith residence in Wake County. According to her tombstone, Mary Winiford Smith was born January 17, 1847 and died March 28, 1888. The twenty-four year old bride lived only 41 years and 71 days.
Someone cared enough to provide an engraved stone to honor her life. Who did this? Why was she buried in this lonely, neglected place? Or was it always neglected?
There is besides the record of their 1871 marriage, their listing in the Federal Census of 1880. Children listed in order are: Laurina F. (8), Mary H (7), Mary T. (5), Ida A (2) and Nancy I. (2). The latter appear to be twins. The family is living in Buckhorn, Harnett County and farming for their living.
Our next discovery was that there were two boys born after the 1880 census, Earlie Tutor born about 1882 and Erwin Edgar Tutor born in 1885. In a court document in 1900 as heirs to their grandfather’s estate, these two are named. The court appointed a guardian ad litem for grandchildren of Etheldred and Mary.
At some point after the death of Mary Winiford, this young family removed to Durham where Samuel is listed as a weaver in a Durham City Directory. Fortunately, his obituary was recorded in the Biblical Recorder. Samuel Green Tutor, born in Harnett County, July 29, 1850, “died at his home in East Durham, May 28, 1898 after four or five weeks of a lingering illness.”
The obituary says that he had professed religion and associated himself with Macedonia Baptist Church in Harnett County. He had come by church letter and became a charter member of East Durham Baptist Church. The obituary further states he left a widow and several children. No recorded grave site appears for him although it is presumed to be in Durham.
We did find a marriage record of S. G. Tutor and Mrs. Helen Jones in Durham on January 23, 1889. There is also a court record of June 10, 1898 which allowed and set aside some personal property as a yearly allowance to Mrs. M. H. Tutor, widow of S. G. Tutor, for support of herself and one child under fifteen years of age. Erwin appears to have been that minor child. Erwin Edgar did work in the mills of Durham along with Ida and Nancy Isabelle according to later city directories.
What about the husband, S. G. Tutor?
A family headed by William Madison Tutor, born and living in Cumberland County in the Federal Census of 1850 answers that puzzle piece. With his wife, Harriet, their household lists children: William, Dorcus, Hixey, James, Reuben, Jessee and Samuel (age 0) By the 1870 census, the Tutors live in Buckhorn, Harnett County and Samuel Green is 20 years old the year before his marriage. Another son, Alfred Young was born in 1853.
An interview with Alfred’s descendant, Jimmie Tutor, identifies him as “Ap” Tutor. Jimmy confirms that there was an Uncle Samuel named for a brother of William Madison who emigrated to the southern United States. This uncle gave the land for Macedonia Baptist Church near Duncan.
The William Madison Tutor family cemetery is located south of Duncan, North Carolina. In this cemetery are buried eight family members. The parents, Madison and Harriett, son Alfred and his wife Lottie, two of Alfred’s (Ap’s) children and two old aunts (names unknown) are interred there. Jimmie did not know who these “old aunts” might actually have been.
What of the Etheldred Smith family to which Winiford belonged?
The Federal census records of 1860 identified a family headed by Etheldred Smith living in Wake County with a wife Mary and seven children. Etheldred was first located in the 1840 census living in Middle Creek with a wife and two female children under 5 years. No record seems to appear for him in 1850 which would have been the first listing of all family members by name. However, in 1860 his seven children are identified by name: Sarah, Casandra, Richard, Elizabeth, Winiford, Lewis and William. All except Sarah and Winiford are listed in the partition of their father’s property in 1900. We can assume that Sarah has died, too.
Sometime between the 1860 and the 1870 censuses, Etheldred appears to have died. Mary heads her household in 1870 with various children and grandchildren in her household. Exact dates of death for Etheldred and Mary have not been located however, she is not living by 1900. She appears to have been Mary Ann Cerf of Cumberland County if the records are correct in her children’s death certificates.
Where did they actually live?
Would it have been on the property with the graveyard now located inside Fuquay-Varina along Judd Parkway?
Addresses in Middle Creek do lack consistency in the various census records until there appears a court record of a land dispute which arose in 1900. A third party, Archie Smith and wife claim that Mary A. Smith (Widow) mortgaged her land to them. The suit between her children who claim she repaid the mortgage vs. Archie and other children on his side seeking settlement is brought in Wake County Superior Court. That document states that the late Etheldred Smith was the owner of the said 75 acres and lived there for more than twenty years.
At the time of the family dispute over the partition of the property of Etheldred in 1900, Lewis and wife Monique, Elizabeth Francis and husband Alvin D, Senter, Richard P. Smith (unmarried) and Cassandra Smith (unmarried) and the children of Winiford, Lorena Tutor Abernathy and husband, Mollie Tutor Hays and husband, Nancy Isabelle Tutor and Iva Tutor are on one side. On the other side are William Smith and the two Tutor sons, Ervin and Earlie, and Stella Smith, niece of William, and the Archie Smith couple claiming the mortgaged property to be theirs.
The court resolution is to appoint three commissioners (neither related by blood or marriage to any of the parties) to survey and partition the 75 acres into seven shares as nearly equal in point of value as possible. All three commissioners lived in the area of what is now Fuquay-Varina: B. D. Cotton, W. H. Holland, and B. G. Ennis. (Interestingly, the daughter of Archie Smith appears later to marry into the Holland family.)
The task was accomplished and the matter settled. The lots were numbered and apportioned to the children. The lot number 7 was allotted to Lewis. When Lewis Henry Smith sold this share to J. M. Judd in 1908 the parcel contains 9.5 acres more or less. When Dr. Judd deeded property to his daughter Edith Judd Parker in 1942, one tract of land, listed as # 7 in the division of the Etheldred Smith property containing 9.5 acres, identfies one of the barns as that “nearest the grave yard. “ The property as deeded to Holland Station Developers by the Parkers did include this cemetery which the developers have set aside inside a fence.
Whose graveyard was this?
The Parkers say they were not aware of the cemetery within the wooded area until after the sale to the development company. The indication is that the cemetery was totally forgotten and abandoned except for the notation on the Judd deed. The only marked gravestone is that of Mary Winiford Tutor who died in 1888.
The North Carolina Cemetery Commission has no listing for this cemetery in Fuquay-Varina nor of identifying any graves. After checking they can find no information. Cemetery records are done by location more than by individual names their office told us. Most of this research is done by volunteers who document the names recorded. Other Smith cemeteries of Fuquay-Varina do have names listed and can be ruled out as being this one.
When we first began the research into one Mary Winiford Tutor, our assumption was that she died while living on this site as a tenant family. Further research seems however to place the couple as living in the Duncan area during her marriage. The Tutor family has extensive ties to that area of Harnett County according to Jimmie Tutor.
Speculation and the presence of the tombstone seem to indicate that this was actually the home of the Smith Family. The daughter of Etheldred and Mary Smith was buried in their Smith family cemetery and given a marker clearly identifying her grave.
The census records of 1880 list the mother, Mary, as living. Our assumption is that she outlived Mary Winiford but we don’t know. If she was buried in this cemetery between 1880 and 1900 the family did not mark her tombstone. No resting place has been located for Etheldred either; however, he would have died before 1870 and before this daughter. Just how many graves might be identified within this graveyard, cemetery research experts would have to investigate but clearly there are graves in addition to Mary Winiford Tutor.
Our research shows that Cassandra Smith and Sarah Smith (sisters of Mary Winiford) along with their mother and father could possibly be buried with unmarked graves in this graveyard. This speculation is based upon our inability to locate their graves elsewhere as we can of other family members. The property was still undivided at that 1900 point so the family was still living here and disputing who inherited what. The property is noted as “Smith Property” in the Judd/Parker deeds.
Was there a Smith homestead here?
Since the partition papers state that Etheldred had lived on the property 20 years, where was his home? Would he have built or owned a home? Would it be near the family graveyard?
The Parkers know that the house near the graveyard was listed as a tenant house when Dr. Judd acquired the property from Lewis in 1908. They know that Dr. Judd made additions to the house in 1913 and 1926. Whether he demolished an original dwelling or added to an original structure is not known by current owner, Gerald Parker. Again based upon common practice, the family graveyard was generally located near the family dwelling. The question may remain ambiguous, a supposition.
Our BEST research and speculation is that Mary Winiford Smith Tutor, young wife of Samuel Green Tutor was buried in her Smith family graveyard in 1888. There could at least be four other individuals who may occupy this burial site for whom gravesites elsewhere have not been found. How many grave sites might be proven to be on the site remains to be considered/determined.
Thankfully, the graveyard will be respected! Perhaps some unlocated family resource may be found to further solve the historical puzzle of who is buried here? Meantime, we are grateful that the Holland Station Development has preserved the site and the North Carolina Cemetery Commission is now aware of the existence of these graves.
Sources: Federal Census Records, Wake County Superior Court Records, Wake County Register of Deeds, NC Cemetery Commission, Interview Jimmie Tutor, Biblical Recorder, July 20, 1898, Interview Charles & Anna Parker, Photos by Vicki and Rick Powell. Durham City Directories, North Carolina Death Certificates, Durham County Estate Record June 14, 1898, Melissa Timo, Historic Cemetery Specialist.
All photos: Fuquay-Varina Museums Collection, Courtesy of Vicki & Rick Powell for the museums.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.”
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.