MEET THE BALLENTINES: Part I “The Squire and Varina”

by Shirley Simmons

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.

The original marker for William and Cynthia Ballentine was moved into the Lane Plot at Wake Chapel Christian Church Cemetery.
FV Museums Collection, Photo by Simmons.

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.

The home of William and Cynthia Ballentine was a rambling place for young J.D. and Varina. Clearly there was a back section and a front section to the house.
FV Museums Collection, Courtesy Mr. & Mrs. Curtis Perry.

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.

Mr. & Mrs. Curtis Perry shared these pictures of the Ballentine House on 401 S as it might have appeared when they lived there. Date unknown for picture.

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.

Varina Mercantile was housed in this three-part store to which Mr. Joe added the Funeral Home on the right. The picture dates from 1985 when it had become home to a number of rental firms.
Photo in Museums Collection, N.C. Archives.
Varina Mercantile as remodeled by the Fellowship Bible Church today. Upstairs is now part of the church but once was apartments for rent.

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 large marker placed on the Ballentine plot at Oakwood.
FV Museums Collection, Photo by Shirley Simmons

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.

Selina Ballentine Rand was buried in Oakwood in the Rand plot. No one has yet located a picture of her although she does have many descendants.
FV Museums Collections, Photo by Shirley Simmons

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.

Clarence Marvin Ballentine was the second of the children to be buried in Oakwood.
FV Museums Collection, Photo by Shirley Simmons

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.

The Lane Family very graciously donated the original tombstone of Virginia (Varina) Arey Ballentine to the museums where is one of our favorite artifacts.
FV Museums Collection, Photo by Shirley Simmons

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.

The Oakwood Cemetery of Raleigh is the resting place of many of the persons who are subjects of this article.
FV Museums Collection, Photo by Shirley Simmons

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.

Arthur was buried in the same grave site as his parents and all three names placed on the large Ballentine headstone. Note all three died at different times, so we could not determine exactly who erected the marker or when but our guess is that it was placed there upon the death of the Squire himself.
FV Museums Collection, Photo by Shirley Simmons

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.

Built circa 1910, the Ballentine Spence House was the home of the Squire and Varina, then of Arthur with the Spence Family, and finally purchased by the Spence Family who lived there many years. It is located on Spring Street directly across from the Varina Mercantile and the Joe Ballentine homeplace all of which are in our Fuquay Historic District.
FV Museums Collection, Photo by Shirley Simmons

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.

This left hand section of the original Varina Mercantile was the portion designated as the estate of J. D. Ballentine. He was owner with his brother, William, and his nephew, Joe Ballentine who actually ran the establishment.
FV Museums Collection, N C Archives

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.

The original Ballentine House on 401 S was neglected as a rental property and became a target of vandals. The Perry owners intended to save it but found it too far gone for restoration.
FV Museums Collection, Photo by Fuquay Questers.

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.