RAWLS Family Named the Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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