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.
One of our younger residents remembered her step grandfather, E. T. Burchette, and sent us some pictures of the Cream Center for our collection at the museums. After talking with her and others, we decided to publish some of the interviews and her pictures in “Historically Speaking. “
Elijah Thomas Burchette and Ruth of Varina gave birth to five children: E. T., Jr,; James, Dot (Dickens) Ben and Ruth (Wilson). The elder Burchette farmed the land of Dr. Raymond Edwards, now the location of Bentwinds, and lived with his family off what is presently Nash Road. The Burchette children grew up in the Varina area and attended Fuquay Springs High School. Dot still lives on the farm where she raised her family. Ruth taught school in Virginia and at Hardbarger’s Business College in Raleigh where she still resides. The three sons are deceased.
E. T. was possessed of an infectious laugh, friendly, and loved by all the community. Ruth described him as a “left-handed golfer” with a million friends. He married twice. From his first marriage, he has a daughter, Gayle Puckett who lives in Wilmington. His second marriage to Margaret Motley gave him two stepdaughters, Paula and Sandra. Angie is the grandchild who loved and remembers him. She shares these pictures and contacts with her aunts.
After serving two years in Germany during World War II, E. T. came home to open his business sometime about the early 1950’s. We have been unable to definitely date the Twin City Cream Center but Chet Hairr thinks it would have existed until the late 1950’s.
Chet and Donald Cotton locate the building thus. First there was the Varina Farmer’s Exchange and Joe Mullen’s service station (now Jersey Mikes and The Art Gallery) then, Wayland Williams’ BBQ (which had earlier been Payne’s Restaurant). Next was The Cream Center building. It had begun life as a service station with an overhang and gas tanks in front. When first opened the building also housed Perry Howard’s Oil Co. but shortly thereafter the Cream Center expanded into that right hand section. Chet locates the Cream Center as “across from the Tastee Freez.” The railroad (Durham and Southern tracks now removed) passed between the Tastee Freez and Varina Knitting and south of this building as recalled by Max Ashworth.
E. T. was famed for his “ice cream and milkshakes,” Max testifies. Chet, who actually worked there during high school, along with Donald Averette, remembered much more of the menu. E. T., and later Chet, operated a machine into which they poured 2% milk from a 7 gallon container. They made all their own ice cream which was sold by the scoop, cup, or cone, in banana splits and in sundaes. One item in particular, Chet recalled as “the Honeymoon Special,” contained pineapple, cherries, and coconut. Another popular feature was packaged sandwiches which they heated in a toaster. Then there were “Long Johns,” a cream filled doughnut also heated in the toaster. Available were fountain cokes, cherry pepsi, and soda drinks. Chet says the juke box was popular and music was piped outside for the cars as well. Inside there was a bowling machine as an added attraction.
While there was room inside for customers, many individuals just drove up and blewthe horn for service. Bus boys, like Chet, then scurried outside to take orders and then deliver them to the cars. He says they also sold gasoline.
Always one with an eye for business, E. T. was the big boss. James Burchette and Joe Mills, an older adult, were among supervisors of the youthful bus boys. Ruth, Dot and all agree that the major customers consisted of teenagers who saw The Cream Center as the town’s most popular date night . The Sunday attraction of ice cream brought out adults as well. The Cream Center opened at 9:00 a.m.in the morning and remained open until 11:00 p.m. at night according to Chet.
Everyone seems to agree that Burchette did not own the property but no one is quite certain when The Cream Center closed. Odell Betts and Jimmy Cotton, trucking businessmen, seem to have operated the business briefly according to Chet. After their stint, Frank Pleasants returned the building to its original usage as a service station. He appears to have added the two bays for a garage on the left as seen in the Dean photo dated 1961.
James Burchette worked for many years thereafter at the FCX. E. T. took up another career with Al Smith Buick where he would remain until he retired. E. T. died in 2010.
The Cream Center holds a place in the hearts of many who grew up and were part of the Fuquay Springs-Varina teenage scene during the 1950’s. Sonja Averette Musser (sister of Donald Averette) Willa Akins Adcock (who grew up across Broad Street) and Billy Yeargan (tobacconist of NC fame) all have reminisced about those days on “Way Back When.”
Source material from Interviews with Ruth Burchette Wilson and Dot Burchette Dickens, Max Ashworth, Donald Cotton, and Chet Hair. Pictures courtesy of Angie Bunn.
RAWLS HOUSEHOLD RESIDENTS: Henry and Ann Rawls Family m. 1847 Marshall Henry & Mary Jane Rawls Family m. 1909 David Henry Rawls, brothers and sisters 1958-2013
Henry Rawls, born in the Suffolk area of Virginia, came to North Carolina where he purchased fifty acres of land. He married Ann Wood of Cumberland County Jan 13, 1847. Their first house was across the railroad near the spring. The house on Piney Grove-Rawls Road was constructed near the well which he located along the road for benefit of travelers and his family. The dwelling was enlarged/remodeled by his son, Marshall and then his grandson, Henry over the years of family occupancy. Among other things, an outdoor kitchen was abandoned and one placed inside the dwelling which was demolished by the development company in 2020 for a planned housing project. The company spokeswoman says they have planned to preserve some stones from the chimney and some of the wood from the old house to be part of their project.
Henry and Ann (according to his grandson, Henry) gave birth to 10 sons and 2 daughters. Those known to have lived according to David Henry were: William, David, Nancy, James, Neill, Marshall, Sarah, and McLenow. The small cemetery here is the final resting place for some of these children and the original Rawls couple. The development company is planning to honor this family cemetery at the request of the descendants and has fenced it off.
Henry farmed and carried mail by horseback from J. D. Ballentine’s Post Office of Varina to Angier, Barclaysville, Coats, and Dunn after 1880. David Henry (the grandson) thought the “Varina” post office was located in a small building in the yard of the Ballentine home along present highway 401 S.
Land for the Rawls School was donated by Henry Rawls in 1869. Located on the site of the present Rawls Baptist Church, it was a one room building. Mattie was the last Rawls to attend, finishing first grade in 1927. Lafayette School received the remainder of children from the Rawls school that year.
The Raleigh and Cape Fear RR (later the Raleigh & Southport and the Norfolk Southern) crossed the Rawls property and reached Chalybeatte Springs in 1903. Eventually, the line was completed to Fayetteville with a railroad bridge across the Cape Fear at Lillington before there was a highway bridge. David Henry remembered that the family had crossed the river on the ferry and gone to Fayetteville by wagon before the rail line was completed.
A small freight depot existed about halfway between the McDowell crossing and the Piney Grove-Rawls Rd. crossing of the railroad. From here passengers could flag the train to Fayetteville or Raleigh, leaving wagons parked at the depot until the return trip. No record of the end of this small building was known exactly.
A sidetrack existed along that area of the track used for passing and loading-unloading cars. David Henry recalled a time when the rails gave way with a sidetracked engine hauling gravel. Larger than anything ever run on the track, it eventually was cut from its trucks and hoisted out by crane.
William married China Stinson and lived in the Piney Grove area where China died in 1930. James, Nancy and Sarah remained single and are known to have lived in the homeplace for most of their lives. They continued to live with brother Marshall and his wife. Sarah died in 1942 in a hospital in Raleigh.
Marshall Henry Rawls, born Sept 15, 1864, married Mary Jane Pollard of Cumberland County on July 5, 1909. The couple lived in the Rawls home place with the elder Henry Rawls and Rawls siblings. Here they raised nine children: Beatrice, Wilson, Annie, Christine, Henry, Edna, Mattie, Kermit, and Edith.
With the Granville wilt disaster, they began to grow tobacco. Marshall Henry also ran a small store located on the property, selling thread and supplies. David Henry and Kermit worked in several local sawmills, eventually running their own on Hector’s Creek. Henry was a builder for many local projects and worked at Fort Bragg for a time.
Marshall Henry died at 94 years in 1958. Woodrow Wilson Rawls was killed in France during World War II. Christine married Robert Evans Puryear in 1938 living in the Clinton area. Edna married Frank H. McDowell in 1947 and lived away. Late in life they built a home across the railroad from the home place and attended the First United Methodist Church. Edith married Frederick Wilson Isaacs in 1950 and lived in Virginia.
The other children: Beatrice, Annie, Henry, Mattie, and Kermit never married, living together in the homeplace. Mary Jane Rawls was the matriarch in the family until her death in 1973. Kermit worked on the farm and saw mill with Henry until his sudden death in 1984. The Rawls farm became the premier place for youth in and around Fuquay to work barning tobacco, each being guaranteed a home cooked lunch by Beatrice, Annie, and Mattie.
Mattie worked for Dr. Edwards in town. Beatrice served as clerk of Rawls Baptist Church for years. Both authored historical research for the church. Mattie located the original deeds to the railroad from the family. Henry earned a reputation as a master of barbecue at the Rawls Community Club and an umpire of Little League Baseball. He sang in the choir and for many funerals. Looking after the maintenance of the building, he was a pillar of the Rawls Baptist Church. For years these family members hosted the entire church membership for goodies each Christmas. Henry supplied the neighborhood from his garden, looked after the cemetery, and helped anyone in the neighborhood. Mattie shared her tube roses, her coconut cakes, and her sweet potato pudding with friends.
At her death in 2013, Mattie was the last Rawls resident of the house. Along with Wilson, these five Rawls children and grandchildren joined their parents in the Rawls Baptist Church Cemetery.
The Rawls farm and home place were sold by the nieces and nephews for development in 2019. The old home, added to several times with large enclosed back porch, has been razed as have all the old out buildings and several tenant houses on the acreage. Our museum has been given a number of Rawls artifacts and photographs will be preserved for posterity. The RAWLS name of this family lives on in Rawls Church Road, Rawls Baptist Church, and the Rawls Community Club. Hopefully, the developer’s plans will perpetually honor the Rawls name/history.
This article written in response to request for information by the developer which led to study of notes from interviews with Mattie and Henry Rawls conducted by Shirley Simmons. These individuals are sorely missed in the community.
The Charter of the Town of Fuquay Springs gave the commissioners and mayor the task of electing and fixing the salary of a constable or marshal and such policemen as “may be necessary for the preservation of the peace and good order of the town.” The incorporation lists Ebenezer Knox as that first constable. (One W. E. Knox lived with his brother who was a hotel keeper in the 1910 census.) Since the earliest town records which managed to survive date from September 7, 1914, the most creditable source found listing the officials for the town before that time was the North Carolina Yearbook printed by the News and Observer.
These listings name as Chief of Police : – 1910 MacMillan for the town of 120 persons (There was a William McMillan with wife and five children living in town in 1910. Spelling of names often varies in the census records, so we cannot be certain.) – 1911 W. W. Ferrall for a population of 170 and a tax rate of 25 cents per $100 of property, – 1912 W. W. Howard – 1913 Manley Clapp with a increase in population to 400 – 1914 W. F. Stuart
Chief Stuart was authorized in the board minutes of November 16, 1914 to police the town, collect taxes, repair potholes and bridges, and collect fees for arrests under bond of $200. Whether his performance proved unsatisfactory or too much for him or he just retired was not recorded. A committee, appointed to find a new chief, succeeded in having John Jones named chief on December 7, 1914 at a salary of $40 per month. In less than a year, October 11, 1915, J. E. Thomas was appointed at $35 per month and through 1916, he was allowed a percentage of taxes collected set at 4 percent in town and 6 percent if he had to go outside of town. The mayor was allowed to deputize policemen in 1915 for the Fourth of July at the Mineral Spring. The minutes of 1916 named John Jones, J. E. Thomas and W. F. Stuart who served for $1.50 per day and J. H. Rowland for $1.00. Again in less than one year, on September 25, 1916, C. B. Howard was elected Chief at $35 per month.
Through 1918-1919, the mayor hired policemen “for the best price possible”, with the discretion to hire men for Easter Monday, and for Saturday evening. Policemen received $10 for each arrest and/or $5.00 per day. No chief was named but one George Marcom resigned as the police officer June 10, 1920 and on December 6, 1921 J. D. Jones was employed as police chief, sanitary officer, and tax collector. Chief Jones had a contract for twelve months at $45. On April 3, 1922, the chief reported that all but three of the graves he was instructed to move beside the Cozart property had been relocated. Other duties were hauling of garbage for businesses once a week and residences once every two weeks and handling the matter of hog pens. By 1923, the Board of Commissioners wanted to talk to the citizens about police services. There was no separate budgeted amount for police, although there was $800 for fire.
Again changes were frequent. L. H. Smith, named town marshal May 5, 1924, had his services discontinued on August 7, 1925. That October, T. H. Stam was hired for policing on Saturday night and enforcing the Sunday closing law at $5.00 per day. He was told to get a pistol owned by the town from Arthur Fish.
Business conditions during 1925-26 required special policemen, John Jones and J. D. Jones, for Christmas in both Varina and Fuquay. By February 15, 1926, Varina received her own specified policemen with the election of John Jones who was to be paid only when he made an arrest or served a conviction. No reference to a chief was made in 1927; however, in May L. E. Stephens was hired as a night watchman for two months at $100 per month, provided he ran the motor grader four to six days per month to keep up the streets. Night watchmen, policing, and tax collection were upgraded that year on September 5, with the hiring of two men (not named) , one for Fuquay and one for Varina for thirty days at $75.
In the three budgets of 1927-1930, the town allotted $1200 for policemen, received petitions to continue having a night watchman, and hired special policemen for July 4th and Easter Monday. On November 12, 1928, the board voted to hire two policemen (not named) for the year at $60 each per month. Besides police work, they were to do street work under Commissioner J. W. Lewter’s direction. In 1929 the police were to see that cars were not parked on the East side of Main Street between Fuquay Motor Company and Proctor Barbour. Named as special policemen in 1929 were A. R. Talley and J. M. Jones; in 1930 J. M. Jones, J. H. Rowland, V. V. Cole, and J. D. Jones.
Enter the Great Depression era which saw the budget for 1930-31 reduce the police allocation to $800. Apparently, L. E. Stephens and W. F. Foster had been hired as the town’s two policemen, because on June 8, 1931 they were continued at their same salary until further notice. Mr. Foster was also the township constable, serving the Recorder’s Court. Named special policemen at $3.00 per day were J. M. Jones, J. D.Jones, N. N. Coley, and Sidney Adams.
Depression woes caused notice to be given that police services would be discontinued after June 1, 1932. Whereupon Mr. Stephens resigned effective February 15. The night watchman, first paid $30 then $20, was suspended until the town could pay. The police budgets dropped from $720 in 1931-32 to $100 in 1933-34. By 1935-36, the budget was back to $750 per year. In 1935, Jimmie Prince resigned as night watchman, and on May 6, policeman J. C. Evers, when appointed, declared that he could not collect garbage and clean the streets for $20 per month. The Town Manager’s office (created in 1933) was now authorized to purchase equipment for the police department.
Conditions improved during 1936 when two night policemen were given $10 raises per month and Mr. Foster and Mr. Evers received $50 and $55 respectively. Additionally, Evers got $6 per month for street cleaning while the town hired L. G. Prince to collect garbage at $17.50 per month. By September, Prince took over the street cleaning with his garbage duties at $30. In 1937-38, the town hired four policemen: N. W. Clark and W. F. Foster ($50) and M. Proctor and J. C. Evers ($55) and created a Streets and Water Department under W. L. Rowland at $75 per month, forever separating this from the police responsibilities.
The 1937-38 budget alloted the police department $1282.50 and named W. F. Foster and J. C. Evers as employed policemen. In 1939, Foster was designated as the Varina Officer and F. D. Starling as the Fuquay Officer with a department budget of $1425. Both officers received $60 per month, raised to $63 in 1941. In 1942, J. D. Jones, who replaced Mr. Starling, and Foster were both paid $69. Beginning with the budget of 1943-44, $900 each was allocated for the Fuquay Officer and the Varina Officer with an extra officer at $10. In 1947, when Foster died, the citizens of Varina petitioned to have J. D. Jones moved to their streets and A. E. Hester was elected as policeman for Fuquay at a salary of $110 per month.
The town was investigating building a jail while paying T. S. Rogers $200 per month to haul prisoners from Recorder’s Court to Raleigh. Transferring prisoners had been a continuing problem since the Recorder’s Court for Middle Creek Township was set up in 1917 and several investigations of building a jail had been made, always failing because requirements were too involved. Now land was being sought for a town hall facility to house a jail, police, fire, and the town offices. Law and order in the Town of Fuquay Springs was well established and departmental responsibilities more defined as her 40th Anniversary neared. (The first municipal building on Fuquay Avenue was dedicated August 22, 1951)
Shirley Simmons Sources: FV Town Minutes, Charter for Fuquay Springs, North Carolina Yearbooks, U. S. Census
The father-son team of Ira Burton and Leroy Burton have become our next subjects for an article for the museums to share. These two gentlemen were persons we might all strive to emulate in our lives. In researching this article, not one person has uttered a single negative thing about either of these two men. The core of information on the father, Ira Burton, comes from a “The Burton Family History” in our collection and our History of Fuquay-Varina. This has been supplemented by written and oral interviews from the past and present on both men.
Mr. Ira was eulogized in an Independent column, “This Side of Fuquay,” by Bill Freeman which was entitled “The Late Ira Burton Loved Everybody.” Dr. Freeman declared “He was unusual in many ways.” Among them “He loved all people. Many times on Sunday, he would stand up in his and other churches to say, ‘Mr. Pastor, I want to say to our young folks that you have got to love everybody; you can’t go through this world hating.’ “ Freeman testifies, “This man went through out the community urging the old and young to work for harmony between the races.”
Richard and Julia Burton of Granville County, NC. gave birth to seven children, 6 sons and 1 daughter. The eldest, Ira, was born October 16, 1878. At age seventeen, he began working on the railroad from North Carolina to Petersburg, Va. and later worked in West Virginia and New Jersey for a wage of $1.00 per day. When his parents became ill in 1898, he left his job in New Jersey to return to Granville County. Upon the death of his father, he assumed responsibility for his mother and the younger children.
At age 22, Ira married Roberta Smith in Granville County. Upon the death of his mother in 1909, the Burtons moved to Willow Springs, North Carolina where they worked a farm on shares. In 1912, the young couple purchased a small farm along with a first horse and wagon. Bad economic times, caused them to have to return to share cropping; however, they were not to be deterred. In 1918, they purchased the Burton farm on the edge of Wake-Harnett County which became the Burton home place and the site of the Burton Family Cemetery. The house was donated for a fire department burn by grandson, Calvin King, a few years ago. Ezola, who cared for her father and mother in their latter years, was the last family resident on the property.
To the union of Ira and Roberta were born thirteen children, 7 sons and 6 daughters. Listed in the family history were Magazine, Nathaniel, William, Olivia, Ezola, Ira James, twins Leroy and Lela Everlyn, Eugene, Euzelia, Algernon, John, and Ruby. The first to be buried in the family cemetery was twin, Lela Everlyn who died at 7 years of age. When daughter Euzelia, a beautician in Fuquay living at home with her young son, died circa 1942, her son Calvin King was raised by his grandparents. He was graduated from Fuquay Consolidated High School in 1960 and pursued a military career.
Now living in Durham, Calvin has assumed responsibility for the cemetery for the family and gave us permission to make photographs there. The youngest child, Ruby, shared her memory that the only non-Burton family body laid to rest there is that of John White who worked with the Snipes neighbors. Mr. Ira honored Otha Snipes’ request to bury White there. Rosalyn Snipes remembers that White worked with the Snipes on the farm adjoining Burton. Since he had no family to care for him, Mr. Ira helped with his burial.
Freeman characterized Burton as “unusual in another respect, his belief in education and religion.” Ira Burton was one of the leaders in the First Baptist Church in Fuquay-Varina. He along with his wife, Roberta, were life-long members. The Burtons were active in the Masons and Eastern Star. He was instrumental in getting the first nursery for blacks at the Masonic Hall where Ruby remembered the children called him “grandpa.” The first Rosenwald school building for blacks on Jones Street was another effort on which he worked. His older children had attended the Bazzel Creek School. With Fuquay an elementary school only, Burton helped in a community effort to purchase the bus to transport high school students to Berry O’Kelly High School until the local high school could be established circa 1938.
In a phone interview from Philadelphia, Ruby, now 94 years old, remembered that Mr. Ira always worked for the school, was active in the PTA, the 4 H-club program, and the farmer’s association. Farming, building, and community efforts were significant within the Burton family. Miss Roberta was said to have loved her home and family, and enjoyed flowers, gardening, cooking, quilting, and missionary work.
Ruby characterized her father as strict and her mother as sweet and loving. The parents instilled a sense of hard work, independence, self sufficiency, and reliability in all the Burton children. She remembers a neighborhood of white Snipes and Rawls landowners and Snead and Burton black landowners all living in their congenial rural community.
In 1960, Roberta died at age 74; however, another of Ira’s “unusual” characteristics noted by Freeman was his longevity. On September 1, 1979, Freeman recounted that “more than 500 mourners filed by the bier in the First Baptist Church to pay their respects to the 101 year old.” Both husband and wife were interned in the family cemetery.
Ira’s son, Leroy Melvin Burton, one of the twins, was born on September 28, 1913 in Fuquay Springs. He attended school in the area and was one of the bus drivers for the high school students who were transported to Berry O’Kelly. When interviewed for our Ballentine School House displays, he told us that, as a student, he drove the bus from Fuquay to the famed high school for African Americans located in the Method Community.
Graduating from Berry O’Kelly were Olivia (who attended as a boarding student), Leroy, and Ezola. Euzelia came back to graduate in the first class at Fuquay Consolidated High School. All the younger siblings were educated in Fuquay, Ruby recalled.
Leroy’s life on the farm, led him to study agriculture. He graduated from A T & T in Greensboro, and became a vocational agriculture teacher. In 1940, he was boarding and teaching in Wilkesboro, North Carolina where he registered for the draft during World War II. There Leroy met pretty young teacher Jo Evelyn Hamm from Statesville and they were married while teaching in Alleghany County, N. C.
Calvin fondly recalls visits to Uncle Leroy in the mountains. He also knows that the family purchased black angus cows from that area. No one is definite about when Leroy and Jo Evelyn moved to Bridge Street in Fuquay. However, Ruby remembers that daughter Joan was born in Fuquay Springs. Her guess would be they moved in the early 1950’s.
At any rate, the Leroy Burtons did return to live in his home town for the rest of their lives. Both are pictured on the staff in the 1953 Yearbook, L’Esprit de Corps, in the museum’s collection. They may have been working there for several years prior to that yearbook. Mrs. Burton taught the third grade at Fuquay Consolidated and Mr. Burton became the vocational agriculture teacher in the high school. Dr. Freeman noted in his column that he “became a fledgling assistant agriculture teacher under Leroy Burton in 1954 at Fuquay Consolidated High School.” Mr. Ira gave him this advice which Freeman shared in that column. “Young man, we have some good folks here, white and black. We have a good community, and we welcome you here. If you come here and get the folks to love you, and do a good job, they will help you to do anything you want done.”
Leroy and Jo Evelyn raised three children who also graduated from Fuquay Consolidated High School. Leroy Melvin, Jr. and William Edward were both born in Statesville, Iredell County where Jo Evelyn had been living. The elder, Leroy Melvin Burton, Jr., became an established medical doctor in Raleigh, North Carolina and is listed in Who’s Who Among African Americans multiple times in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Dr. Burton died in 1994 and is buried at the Burton Family Cemetery. His younger brother, William had died at age 44 years and been buried in the same cemetery in 1987. Ruby tells us that William finished ROTC and served in the military during the Bay of Pigs. Leroy and Jo Evelyn are survived by four grandchildren. Calvin says Dr. Burton’s two daughters are both in the medical profession in Nashville. William’s son is an engineer with Caterpillar in Rocky Mount and his daughter lives in Angier.
In 1970, when the schools of Fuquay-Varina were integrated, Leroy moved to Fuquay-Varina High School to work with Jerry Holland in the vocational agriculture program. Mr. Leroy, very popular with students and staff, was especially noted for his kindness, wise counsel, and ability to work with everyone. The Holland family reminded us that on the weekends, Mr. Burton was the local magistrate and during the week the soft-spoken teacher. Mrs. Jo Evelyn Burton was remembered by fellow teachers in the Lincoln Heights Primary grades after integration.
When the Bengal Blvd. high school building opened, one agriculture position remained at the Fuquay-Varina Junior High and one moved with grades 10-12. Mr. Holland went to the high school and Mr. Burton taught the 9th grade, until that grade moved to the high school in the fall of 1977. About that time he is assumed, by teacher Micheal Bowden, to have retired.
Following in the footsteps of his father, Leroy worked for community progress. He was one of the co-founders of the Pine Acres Community Center in 1962. The building has served as a banquet hall, family reunion site, social center, after-school tutorial program. education center, polling place, and today a site for Meals on Wheels. It remains the heart of the African American Community as the founding fathers envisioned.
When Jo Evelyn Burton died and was buried in the family cemetery in July 1998, daughter Joan moved back home to live with her father. Leaving her career in Atlanta, she was chosen the Executive Director of the Fuquay-Varina Community Development Corporation. Under her direction the two buildings from the Fuquay Consolidated High School were preserved and repurposed, one into a childhood learning center and the other into apartments for the elderly. Plans to save the separate gymnasium were made but the project was thwarted by storm damages to the building. Like her father and grandfather, Joan’s leadership within the community is legendary.
Mr. Leroy enjoyed his retirement on Burton Street, where he had built a home and encouraged his neighbor, Mr. Freeman, to build as well. He was buried in 2002 in the Burton Family Cemetery. Joan returned to other work thereafter. Sadly she was taken from us by illness just this year, 2020.
Other grandchildren of the Ira Burton’s reside in the area. Ruby, the only living child, married in 1947. After a few years at Camp Lejeune, they farmed in Buckhorn. She followed her husband to Philadelphia in 1957 where she and her children remain. Calvin and Ruby were gracious in sharing their memories and promised pictures of this remarkable family.
Freeman concluded his column by saying of Mr. Ira, “Fuquay is better because he passed this way.” Those of us who worked with Mr. Leroy enthusiastically say the same of the son as well. Definitely as one family member said , “We are good folks.” Our research endorses these evaluations 110%. Thank you “Burtons” for being part of our community!
Sources: phone interviews with Ruby Burton Bullock, Calvin King, Nancy Holland, Donald Cotton, Michael Bowden, Rosalyn Snipes printed History of Fuquay-Varina, Burton Family History, “This Side of Fuquay” by Bill Freeman, The Independent, U. S. Census, Find a Grave, & other data. Shirley Simmons, Volunteer Director