Tombstone at Wake Chapel Cemetery

Our interest in this family came from a request from Eleanor Howard who wanted to know what we could research about a “Jake” Siegfried and wife. Betsy Gunter, one of our docents, remarked that she had heard her parents mention the name but did not know what Jake did unless he was a handyman around town. While in the process of searching, Dan Turner and Donald Cotton mentioned knowing the gentlemen. Thus, we submit what we have been able to research about an interesting family from our past.

According to an interview done by Frances Walls in the June 25, 1953 Independent, “Jake” shared his story to that point. At that time, he appears to be living in the caretaker’s house at the American Legion building on Johnson Pond Road.

“Jake” was named John Jacob Siegfried when born in Mainz, Germany in 1883. He completed eight years of school but found himself an orphan in 1897. At fifteen, the young man began as a apprentice seaman, paid $5 per month on a ship sailing from Hamburg, Germany to Sidney, Australia. Injured by a broken cable, he endured 3 weeks before medical attention could be obtained, resulting in 22 weeks in a Hamburg hospital to recover.

Returning to the sea, Jake made 18 trips across the Atlantic, seeing the United States first in 1902. He deserted the German oil tanker in 1905 to board a U. S. freighter hoping that the American sailors had better food. He was quoted as saying, “I soon found out that the American ship was the hungriest ship I had ever been on.” That trip he went to Puerto Rico to pick up molasses. “We went into a hurricane and the molasses broke loose. So for three days we pumped molasses out of the hold of the ship. I know there was a trail of molasses four miles long trailing in our wake.”

Disillusioned with this career, Jake quit the sea in 1908. In Petersburg, Va. he became captain of the William Penn dredge on a channel around Petersburg. From there he moved to the Norfolk and Portsmouth area working in shipyards.

Enter a lady from Varina, North Carolina. Floy R. Neal, the daughter of Atlas Neal, was born May 11, 1882. Floy was living with her brother and sister-in-law in Raleigh in the 1900 U. S. Census and was employed at 18 years of age as a cotton mill winder. The 1910 U. S. Census lists her as married to Jacob Siegfried and live in Norfolk, Va. That record lists them as having had one child born but not living.

There is a marriage record from Warren County, NC of Floy R. Neal and Fabio Siegfried with a date of June 5, 1916 which appears to be theirs; however, the name and date do not quite appear correct as transcribed. In his interview, Jake clearly says that he married Floy Neal of Wake County. (Mrs. Siegfried was alive and living with him at the 1953 interview time.)

Jake related that they came to Fuquay Springs in 1918 where he opened a bicycle shop. He had learned sign painting is Norfolk and stated that he put up a lot of signs in Fuquay Springs. Jake was also an artist and won first prize at the fair for a landscape painted on cardboard in 1922. He was fond of Indian motorcycles and told of riding with A. G. Elliott through Eastern North Carolina. At one point he said he rode his motorcycle to Niagara Falls.

The Siegfrieds were living in Fuquay at the time of the census in 1930 and again in 1940. Eleanor Howard remembered that the Siegfrieds lived on the street behind the Howards when Beth Howard was killed. She recalled Mrs. Siegfried coming to visit her and their sharing the grief of the loss of a child. Eleanor did not share further details of the Siegfried child.

Jake’s interview continued with their moving to Fort Bragg in 1941 and subsequently to Camp Davis in Wilmington. The are residents of Wilmington, North Carolina in the 1950 U.S. Census. Jake had opened a sign painting business there and stated that he had served in the U. S. Coast Guard. Without more specific data, we have not accessed his records. Mrs. Siegfried does appear to have a nephew, James Milton Sandy, age 50, in their household that year. Sandy appears to have been born in Holly Springs, married and divorced. At one point he is listed as employed by K. B. Johnson and Sons of Fuquay Springs. His family were residents of Wilmington where he is buried. He died in S. C. in 1962.

In December of 1951, the Siegfrieds moved back to Fuquay Springs at the request of American Legion Post 116. He served as caretaker of the clubhouse known as the Beale Johnson Mansion located on the Johnson Pond in 1953. We have asked the Legion for any data they might find. Donald Cotton, a member of Post 116, recalls Siegfried.

Floy Siegfried died on April 30, 1963 and was buried at Wake Chapel Memorial Gardens in Fuquay-Varina. Jake lived until 1970 and is buried beside Floy.

During one of our Board meetings for the museums, Dan Turner mentioned that he remembered Jake. Jake did talk about his sign painting business in his interview which Dan remembers vividly. When asked to tell us what he recalled of Siegfried, Dan submitted the following article which we have decided to attach here exactly as he penned the material. Dan states the purpose of our “Historically Speaking“ collection so well.

by Dan Turner
April 29, 2023

I recall vividly riding along with my father in 1958 to go and see Mr. Jake Siegfried. He owned a circa 1920s gas station building on Old Highway 15A – just north of Five Points. The rectangular brick building had a hip-roof with a portico extending from the main block of the station. The roof of the portico was supported by two square brick columns facing south. On the right and left of the front door were two tall rectangular glass windows. This gas station design can be found all across the South and now has become almost extinct.

Mr. Siegfried was a slightly stout man of average height, and sported a well-kept beard. Having a beard in 1958 was an usual thing for the times. Possibly that may be what made me remember that fact. Mr. Seigfried was of German descent. He spoke with a slight accent and seemed to have a pleasant nature. My father found him to be an interesting character. Mr. Siegfried always had an interesting story to tell about his growing up years and life experiences. I have always wondered how he came to live near Fuquay-Varina. Nowadays, I think of questions I should have asked earlier in my life. For example, when did Mr. Siegfried’s family come to the United States from Germany? I only wish I could have listened more intently to his stories. As a child I thought he was an “old man.” I knew he was much older than my father by far and that was “old” to my eight-year-old eyes.

Mr. Siegfried was a meticulous sign painter according to my father (Mr. L. E. Turner) . My father was a very particular man when it came to executing any project, no matter how small or large. He wanted every job to be executed at a professional level. I recall my father saying we were fortunate to have such an excellent sign painter was living near Fuquay Varina.

I do not know for sure if Mr. Siegfried lived inside the gas station building. However, I recall going inside the building during cold weather when my father was ordering additional signs. I just assumed this must be Mr. Siegfried’s living quarters since it looked like a cozy nest with a wood heater, chairs, tables, and so forth..

I spoke with my older brother, Thomas Turner, this afternoon to confirm his recollections of Mr. Siegfried. They are the same as mine. The Fuquay Varina area had so many interesting people – genuine characters – during my growing up years. I have often thought Charles Dickens would have enjoyed writing about these folks. During my growing up years, almost no one moved-in-and-out of the area. Families appeared to be stable and so many of the elders enjoyed telling stories about these most interesting people.

I can see Mr. Siegfried now in my mind and only wish we had photos of him along with more information about him. It is difficult for me to believe that I knew so many interesting characters born in the 19th and early 20th centuries… Now my generation are the ones who must strive to save these individual memories for posterity. That is the reason the Museums of Fuquay Varina are so important to the citizens of the town — past and present. Without the dedicated service of volunteers manning the Museums and volunteers working with local family members to secure artifacts and recollections of our citizens from the past, so much of our united history would be lost forever. So please consider checking any hidden gems from your family and share them with the Museums.