Meet the Ballentines: Part II “The Postmaster Family and more”

by Shirley Simmons

The oldest son of William and Cynthia Ballentine was John C. Ballentine born in December 15, 1829 in Wake County. His family will become our second article, noting the connection to our Varina Post Mistress and the training of our “Squire” Ballentine by this, his older brother. We are indebted to interviews of and the written biography by Jewell Ballentine Stephens and the ancestry record written by Miss Ruth Johnson for many of the family details.

John C. married Emily Katherine Cutts, according the State of North Carolina marriage records on November 22, 1854 in Cumberland County. (Jewell spells her name Katherine, and it appears that the family used that name or Katie for her rather than Emily.)

John enlisted at age 32 in the 31st Infantry, Company C of North Carolina Troops. He suffered a severe injury at Drewry’s Bluff, Virginia on May 16, 1864. According to Jewell he never fully recovered from this wound, living with severe pain in his chest all his days.

Following the Civil War, the young family bought property in the Buckhorn Creek area of Wake County at the end of what is now called Adcock Road. That creek was the site of Ballentine’s Mills which, along with farming, provided the income for John’s family. His enterprises included a grist mill, a sawmill, a turpentine distillery and a general store. The records of U. S. Postmasters show that John C. Ballentine was named post master of Ballentine’s Mills on October 26, 1874. He seems to have held the position until November of 1897. That post office was consolidated with Holly Springs in 1904.

His younger brother, J. D. Ballentine, worked as a clerk in the post office following his return from the war and before establishing his own mercantile enterprise at the Mineral Spring. By 1880, J. D. had established himself as post master in his own right naming his post office “Varina.”

John C. and Katie appear to have raised 2 daughters and 3 sons: Civil Anne Ballentine (married name Wood), Ella M.Ballentine (married name Spoon) , Edward Hill, Romulus White, and Delmore S. Ballentine The father, John C. died at the family home in 1907. Edward remained at home and was listed in 1910 as head of the household which included his mother, his sister Civil Wood, and his brother Delmore.

In an interview, Jewell said her Uncle Romulus taught college penmanship in Albany, NY and died when she was in high school. Her aunt Ella lived in Burlington, where she and her husband ran a dairy. Her widowed aunt Civil came to live at home and helped with Jewell’s college funds.

Edward Hill Ballentine lived from 1961-1934. This would have been his photo during the period in which he served the town as clerk. Courtesy Stephens Family.
Foy Olive Ballentine as a young lady circa 1900 (scrapbook of Jewell)

Edward Hill Ballentine of Walthall, NC (older name for Duncan) seemed to be a confirmed bachelor until a pretty new teacher came to Wilbon. He courted and wed Foy Johnson Olive of Apex when he was 49 and Foy 28. The couple moved into the Ballentine family home at Ballentine’s Mills. The 1920 Federal Census located their household at the old homeplace and listed Edward as head of the home for his mother, bachelor brother Delmore along with Foy and their two children.

Edward Ballentine with his two young children, Olive and Jewell. (Scrapbook of Jewell)

Ballentine studied business at an Alabama College and used that expertise in his career in Varina. He was bookkeeper for Dr. J. M. Judd’s office before and after moving from Ballentine’s Mill into town. The museums have his tester used at work on the Cardenas Telephone Exchange as the repairman. He was also business manager for the telephone company. In an early mercantile business in town, Ballentine and Powell, located on Main Street , he was a partner with Cary Powell.

Community interests took much of his time. The Town Minutes record his election as clerk June 5, 1925 while also serving as Clerk of the Recorder’s Court and Treasurer. Ballentine was reelected to these positions June 10, 1929. That November he was paid $5 per day when he worked to collect taxes for the town. The minutes record on March 10, 1931 that the Clerk and court are doing three to four times more business and the Town Board voted to increase his salary. The Clerk had to oversee the costs of the Recorder’s Court during the depression and pay all the bills. The inevitable happened, the town had to cut his salary along with other cost saving measures. The Town appears to have honored him with a letter of thanks during the year of 1933.

E. H. Ballentine also served his church. Jewell’s book copied an account written by her father as Assistant Clerk detailing a revival held in October, 1925 at Roger’s Warehouse. This happens to include the record of her joining the Fuquay Springs Baptist Church where she remained a faithful member all her life.

Jewell Ballentine Stephens chose this picture as her book cover. The occasion was Thanksgiving in 2004 when she was 91 years young. (Courtesy Jimmy Wallace Studios)

Jewell, the daughter born August 18, 1913, has recorded her life in her autobiographical work, I Am Jewell and This Is My Story published in 2012. She had an older brother who lived one day, and a baby brother, Olive Thurlow Ballentine in whom she delighted.

She was a rich source of information on her family, the town, the school, the Baptist Church and and on many events of Fuquay Springs and Varina. In 1920 her family moved to Ennis Street, purchasing the house built for Henry A. Neal who had served one year as principal at Fuquay Springs High School. She continued to live there until her very last years and helped the Fuquay Springs Questers conduct the Tour of Houses on Ennis Street in 2015.

Ballentine-Stephens House: Build circa 1918 on Ennis Steet, this was the home of the Ballentine and Stephens Families until recently. A new owner is trying to keep the historic home authentic. (Courtesy Shirley Simmons for tour brochure)

Jewell had begun first grade at Wilbon but the year was interrupted when a diphtheria epidemic occurred. Her family never sent her back so she entered the first grade in January of 1921 at Fuquay Springs High School. Her high school graduating class was that of 1930.

Class of 1930 at Fuquay Springs High School Front: Lewis Maness, Winnie Saunders, Ruby Tingen, Jewell Ballentine, Felcie Mize, Minnilee Martin, Annabel Weeks, Elton Rowland, Myree Dennis, Dorothy Tilley, Sue Senter, Buron Ferrell Back: Elizabeth Howard, Dora Rosemond Ellott, Reid Lassiter, Sarah Felming, Rex Bradley, Mabel Dickens, Frances Strickland, Irene Powell, Irene Phelps (Courtesy: Jewell Stephens

Jewell enrolled at Meredith College from which she graduated in 1934. Her father had been offered the job as postmaster in Varina but suggested his newly graduated daughter instead. Jewell had worked as a clerk in the Varina Post office prior to college. Deciding not to teach school for which she had prepared, she became Post Master at Varina on September 18, 1934. Sadly, her father died from a sudden heart attack that November.

Jewell Ballentine Stephens, Post Mistress at Varina. (Scrapbook of Jewell)

Jewell labored on in the Post Office for four years and in 1940 she was given permanent Civil Service status and received her Post Master’s Commission from FDR.

The sign above the door of the last building once located west of the Bank of Varina identifies this as the Post Office, Varina. (Scrapbook of Jewell)

The Varina Post Office was located in small buildings to the west of the Bank of Varina with Farmer’s Supply between the post office and the bank. This series of small buildings were burned in the Stephens Supply fire and only the bank builtding remains there today.

Mallie Bruns Stephens preferred to be called “Steve.” He was the epitome of a North Carolina gentlemen!

A new teller came to work in the bank from the Collins Grove and Holly Springs area family. A friendship ensued between Jewell and “Steve.” Their relationship continued after he moved to First Citizens Bank at Fort Bragg.

Olive finished his forestry degree at North Carolina State College. Two years later, right in the midst of the depression, he secured a job with the New Deal in the Department of Agriculture and was assigned to Sparta, NC. Working on the Blue Ridge Parkway during its construction, he became friends with North Carolina Congressman Robert Doughton.

Olive Thurlow Ballentine 1915-1945
Mattie Lee Doughton Ballentine, wife of Olive

Boarding with the Marvin Doughton family, a romance developed between Olive and Mattie Lee, the oldest daughter. The two married in 1941. The entire Stephens family were soon engulfed in World War II . Olive volunteered for U.S. Army Air Forces and was eventually sent to the Pacific Theater. Jewell was busy helping her customers with rations, blackouts, selective service forms and overseas mail. Stephens was called but given a medical deferment.

Jewell became Mrs. Mallie Bruns Stephens on September 5, 1942 when she married her “Steve” in a private wedding held in the minister’s home. The couple lived in the Ennis Street homeplace with Mrs. Ballentine. Stephens transferred to First Citizens Bank in Raleigh. Within a year, her mother Foy Olive Ballentine suffered from a return of cancer and died on July 16, 1943.

Foy Olive Ballentine as an older lady living on Ennis Street. (Scrapbook of Jewell)

Sandra Jean Stephens arrived on October 4, 1944. Steve returned to the Bank of Varina in January 1945. The family received word that Olive was first missing and then that he had been killed in action. It would be April before they learned the details of the Japanese kamikaze attack upon his Victory ship at Lingayen Gulf, in the Philippine Islands and his burial at sea on January 12, 1945.

The Fuquay Springs Baptist Church has been proud to recognize Olive as one of their three members killed in action during World War II. Equally noted in church records is the service of Jewell Ballentine Stephens as the Junior Girls Sunday School teacher for many years. During her lifetime, she held multiple positions and entered all the activities in the church from bell choir to history and the ladies circles. The church recognized her for eighty-two years of service in 2007; however, she remained a faithful Baptist as long as she lived.

Jewell Ballentine Stephens beside the house on Ennis Street. (Scrapbook of Jewell)

Jewell recounted for our history book her knowledge of the coming of the Independent newspaper to town. As post master she was invited to a meeting in the courtroom over what would be Elmo’s store today. There the decision was made to invite Todd Caldwell to come to Fuquay Springs and publish a local paper in 1935. She coyly admitted that she and a girlfriend, whom she took with her, were the only two women involved in this important town discussion.

Margaret Seagroves came to work as an Assistant to the Post Master in Varina before Sandra was born. With that five years experience and Jewell’s help, Seagroves was able to get the Varina Post Master’s position when Jewell decided to retire. During the Seagroves tenure the Varina Post Office moved again. It was last located where Ennis street meets Broad in a building now part of the Aviator.

For a total of eleven years, Jewell served her country and Varina, retiring In September, 1945 to become a full-time mother and housewife. Twins boys, Phillip and David joined the Stephens family in 1947. The youngest son, Billy, completed the family in 1953.

Mallie and Jewell with their four teenage children. Courtesy Stephens Family
In 1957, Philip, David, Sandra and Billy enjoyed one of their family visits to Myrtle Beach. Courtesy Stephens Family

Steve, who was forced to stop work by health issues, died in 1968. Sandra graduated from Peace College and enjoyed a career with the North Carolina Department of Transportation. The twins both graduated from Lenoir Rhyne College and have had successful professional careers: Philip in Insurance and David in History. Billy enrolled at Carolina Military Academy. He later studied at Wake Technical College and became a plumber. Billy’s life was cut short in 2010 by colon cancer.

Jewell took up her first new career for which the town knew her more that 50 years: “The Luzier Lady.” Her clients and her own amazing countenance attest to the cosmetic products she sold the rest of her life. Her second new career found her at the Department of Motor Vehicles in Raleigh for 10 years. Finally, Jewell followed the path of numerous ladies around the area, by working part time in a tobacco warehouse office.

During her retirement years, Jewell traveled to the Holy Land and to Russia. The family also took tours of Alaska and various parts of the United States. Still her greatest pleasure of all came with the arrival of her only grandchild, Rhonda Ballentine Johnson, daughter of Sandra. Rhonda continued in the family footsteps by graduating from Meredith College and enjoying her career as an artist for the North Carolina Department of Transportation.

During Jewell’s long life, a great family pleasure was trips like this planned mountain vacation. Her influence permeated the lives of her children and all who knew her in Fuquay-Varina. Courtesy Stephens Family.

Jewell, Sandra and Rhonda became quite a threesome in her later days with shopping, canning, needlepoint, and art — all interests in their lives. The Stephens family home is one of the historic structures on Ennis Street and historically the family was interwoven with the lives of all the residents of that street.

Three Generations of the Family: Jewell, Sandra, and Rhonda were hostesses for the Quester Tour along Ennis Street. Note the historic family photos which they treasure. (Courtesy Shirley Simmons, Quester)

Jewell wrote her autobiography with the help of her children in 2012. She was living with Sandra and Rhonda when she died on June 16, 2015. Her grave is beside her “Steve” in the Wake Chapel Cemetery.

This father and daughter played significant roles in our town’s history. They comprise another part of the extended Ballentine family of the area. The Stephens name is significant in the development of South Park Village on the Stephens farm in Holly Springs; the Ballentine name in the housing development off Adcock Road in the Wilbon area. Jewell’s daughter and granddaughter have continued to support the museums. The family has made important donations to our collection including pen and ink drawings by Rhonda.

The Ballentine influence will always be part of our history. We are fortunate to be able to share it with you and to enlighten newcomers in our series: “Meet the Ballentines.” Their name lives on in the Ballentine School House Museum but their family means much more in our history.

Sources: Federal Census Records , N. C. Records, Fuquay-Varina Town minutes, Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church minutes, U.S. Postal records, Several Interviews with Jewell Ballentine Stephens, I Am Jewell and This Is My Story written by Jewell Ballentine Stephens, Concerning Our Ancestors written by Ruth Johnson.