The Friends of the Museums are honored to salute one of our members, a non profit called the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club and to acknowledge that the GFWC Junior Woman’s Club is likewise a loyal member. The recent Fuquay Varina Arts Festival sparked an inquiry to us regarding the history of the Arts Festivals in Fuquay-Varina. Our research has led us to share this amazing record.
The Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club was chartered as the Varina Woman’s Club in 1926 and Federated with the GFWC NC in 1927. As such, it is the oldest civic organization within our town’s area. The GFWC Junior club is younger and the second such organization within our town. The former club’s motto is “Service;” the latter gives a lot of service to our town.
The Woman’s Club began their association with the Arts early in their existence. Historically, the national GFWC Arts Department began first awarding prizes to clubwomen in 1910. Officially in 1944-45, Art became one of the department’s of the GFWC. Clubwomen were first the persons whose work was entered for judging across the state. By 1960-61, we know that Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club (it had adopted that name in the 1954) had its first student Sallie Southall Cotton Scholarship Winner in the District, Joanne Payne (Norris).
GFWC-NC held Arts Festivals in all the districts in 1964. In the first recorded winners we have located, the Fuquay-Varina Club boasted of three blue ribbon art winners sponsored in 1978- 1979 under President Agnes Egsegian. Mrs. Agnes won silver for her visual arts entry that year. This would mean that Fuquay’s association with the Arts Festival is at least 45 years old, possibly older.
Arts Festivals were organized by the Districts (now there are nine districts in N. C.) and hosted in our District VIII by individual clubs when Fuquay-Varina took their turn in 1982-83. President Joanna Proctor declared that the one hosted here was one of the largest held in the districts with over 145 persons in attendance. GFWC-NC budgeted money for student prizes that year.
Attendees would have been club women and certainly candidates for scholarships. By 1986-87, Fuquay’s candidate for Sallie Southall Cotton, Gary Adkins, was our second District winner. We did not find records of arts and literature winners but can assume there to have been continuing participation.
At that point our annual local Festival was held in our clubhouse on Ennis Street. Again, these were local festivals without public attendance but exhibiting work from students in arts and craft categories and in literature. In 1998-2000 our local club extended invitations to join our Arts Festival at Harnett Central Middle and High Schools. During those two years, the students and club won 13 blue ribbons at the state level. Mary Lou Kendall served as Arts Chairman under the Presidency of Shirley Simmons. The festival was outgrowing the clubhouse space.
When GFWC encouraged joint efforts with the Junior Clubwomen, President Dot Mays led the expansion to a joint festival by both clubs. In 2001-2002 the Arts Festival moved to the Community Building. Such a successful effort earned chairmen, Pollyanna Sheets and Helen Smith the departmental award. This was the beginning of public festivals and many students and parents came to view the displays.
The 2003 Festival was first hosted by Windsor Point in their auditorium. In 2004-2006, President Debbie Semple led an expansion of the Arts Festival to include community artists along with clubwomen and a total of 13 schools. Truly, this had become a COMMUNITY service event.
During the next administration of President Vicki Currin, Chairman Helen Smith proposed a new vision. Windsor Point welcomed the Arts Festival to their auditorium and Helen and her daughter, Cherry, procured wonderful display boards. Helen had come from a background of Art in Birmingham museums and led the clubs into elegance of display during 2006-2008.
By 2009, the Fuquay-Varina Arts Festival had grown to 350 entries under President Pam Booker. Chairman Ann Hull and Beverly Anderson won the departmental award for a great show featuring clubwomen and students. The 2010 festival featured over 400 entries.
Pollyanna Sheets became President and added her expertise in Art to that of Chairmen Vickie Cardin and Stephanie Wallace. The 2010-12 festivals continued to expand and the art department kept being winner among our departments. During these years several student winners in sewing and music advanced to state competition levels.
Presidents Marilyn Gardner and Emily Cox found their administrations of 2012-2018, still exulting in the arts. Beth Barlow, Chairman, won department honors in 2013. Student winners in all levels of Literature, Visual Arts, and Music advanced in record numbers. Southern Wake Academy students were added. Clubwomen won awards in quilting, crocheting and other crafts. Then in 2014, the Festival reached a peak of 651 entries.
In President Patty Bryne’s administration, Martha Smallwood took the Co- Chairman’s reins. During the 1917 Festival there were a grand total of 619 entries When the 2018 festival found everyone braving snow and ice, the festival was reduced to a one-day event. Even with all the confusion, there were still 462 entries.
President Julia Yeargin’s second festival in 2020 fell victim to the covid pandemic. No festival was held in the state that year. In 2021 the State managed a virtual festival. This found Co-Chaiman Smallwood, viewing the entries by committee only with judging in the clubhouse. This continued when covid prevented a return to a public festival in 2022 at the very last minute. Smallwood and CSP still collected entries. The winners were declared at District and State for President Nancy Randolph’s administration in its final year.
Hurrah! In 2023, Windsor Point again welcomed the Fuquay-Varina Arts Festival. President Jeanette Moore Burlock and faithful chairman, Martha Smallwood, managed to showcase a total of 410 entries from students and clubwomen. Martha has, over time, worked the Festival into an art itself with her computer skills, preparing forms and reports.
Each student has received a Certificate of Participation for the past 20 years, almost universally done in calligraphy by Debbie Semple. Jeanette Moore-Burlock has printed and supplied certificates, flyers and programs gratis of Fairway Printing. A “Best in Show” award also has dated from the beginning Windsor Point Festivals. Finally, Mayor John Byrne began a Proclamation of “Fine Arts Week” in Fuquay-Varina for every Festival which the new Mayor Blake Massengill continued in 2023.
A SALUTE to the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club, The GFWC Junior Woman’s Club of Fuquay-Varina, and to Windsor Point for the wonderful Art Festivals which recognize our student Visual Arts, Crafts, and Literature. An even louder SHOUT OUT to the staff of all the area schools who work to collect and submit the student entries which have enlarged what began as a clubwomen festival into this showcase for our young artists.
Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club: this long history of support for the ARTS is just one example of your motto: SERVICE. The Friends of the Museums are honored to recognize your leadership contribution to and recognition of our students, clubwomen, and community!
No, we are not named for two families who “fought” each other. While we have been getting that “tale” from newcomers in the museums, we have not been able to find the origin of this “Hatfield & McCoy” tall tale. HOWEVER, here we will try to give you the “rest of the story.” (Shirley Simmons)
The Fuquay name is definitely from the family of William Fuquay who purchased 110 acres from Jesse Jones according to a deed of 1804 “in the 28th year of American Independence.” The story has long been that he owned 1000 acres which we cannot confirm. When land was deeded to the sons of David Crockett, the acreage does amount to more than the original figure. Therefore, the Fuquay family did accumulate more acreage at some point.
This family did give their name to the town because they were the owners of the land on which they literally “plowed up” and thus discovered the Mineral Spring in 1858.
From where did our Fuquay family originate? There appear to be three versions or stories told over time.
First story: In 17th century, Lewis and William Fuquay came to New York from France, living first in New York, then in Virginia. Lewis went west and William came to our Fuquay area.
This is told by Fuquay family in several writings, generally attributed to Lula Fuquay Sessions. Lula recounts that she is the daughter of Stephen Sampson Fuquay II. “ He was the son of David Crockett Fuquay and the grandson of Stephen Samson Fuquay I who was the son of William Fuquay,” Lula wrote.
Second Story: A book entitled From the Isle of Skye to the Isle of Maui by William Benton Patterson , published 1991 gives another story we have recounted at he museums. Two brothers came with the French in 1780 and were present at the Yorktown victory of Washington. His claim is that Guillaume Fouquet (William) landed with Count De Rochambeau and married Mary Hall in 1790 in Virginia. A second brother, John Louis Fouquet came with Lafayette. William came to North Carolina, Louis went elsewhere. He dates this Wake County arrival as 1810 which does not agree with the Wake County Deed.
Current Story: Research by the Huguenot Society of Virginia under taken by Martha Fuquay Cummings states that Guilluame Fouquet, a French Huguenot, settled in Virginia. He died circa 1698 in Henrico County, Va. His descendants, leading to our Fuquay Family, are numbered below. We have added the known descendants from William, all names of which agree with the accounts of Lula Sessoms and other Fuquay descendants in our area and with Patterson’s record.
1. Guilluame Fouquet (settled in Virginia) 2. Ralph (youngest son of Guilluame ; born circa 1684 in Virginia; brother of Martha’s ancestor who was named William) 3. Ishum (son of Ralph) 4. William (born circa 1755) m. Mary Hall bought 110 acres in Fuquay (recorded in Wake County 1805) 3 children: Isham, Luisa, Stephen 5. Stephen Sampson (born circa 1787 ) m. Sarah Ausley (3 sons, 3 daughters) William, Isham, David, Cynthia, Polly, Charity 6. David Crockett (born 1818) m Louisa Partin (had 6 sons) Stephen, Nathan, David, Alrich, James, Benjamin 7. Stephen Sampson m. Mary Sorrell (9 children) Lenna, Mattie, Beadie, Alpha, Lula, David, Alrich, Emma, Stephen
The museums docents detail the three stories; the repetition of family names is telling.
In all three stories, the names of all those known in our town remain identical.
However, there appears to be veracity in the Huguenot origin. NCSU has a professor who is researching North Carolina Huguenot families and has visited us to incorporate our Fuquay family information. We await his research to confirm this lineage. Martha is listed officially with the Huguenot Society of Virginia and has done much research for her line of the family. She, too, has visited our town while researching.
As to Fuquay home sites in our town, the children of Stephen Fuquay said:
1. William and Mary (Molly) lived at the end of Pine Street about where the house built by Dr. Wiley Cozart was located. 2. David Crockett and Louisa lived on Main Street in a house located about where later was erected the Fuquay Branch Bank. 3. Stephen and Mary lived about the juncture of Vance Street and Angier Rd where the Wells house was located. We do have a framed photo of this Fuquay house in the museum donated by the family.
The “Varina” portion of our name originated with a pseudonym chosen by Virginia Arey of Fayetteville, N. C. in writing to James D. Ballentine during the Civil War. She is assumed to have “borrowed” the name of the wife of Jefferson Davis. As a proper lady, she was writing to a gentlemen to whom she had had no official introduction.
There are two versions of her use of the name. The widely held one is that she wrote morale building letters to Ballentine; however, Linwood Stephenson penned an article stating that she knit the soldier socks and included her name in the gift.
Ballentine is said to have looked her up in Fayetteville, courting her and marrying her on December 3, 1867. As far as anyone could remember, he always called her “Varina.”
In 1880, when Ballentine applied for a post office on his property to replace one known as “Old Shop,” he asked to name it “Varina.” This post office could have been in his house but was believed by the Rawls family, whose ancestor carried the mail, to have been located near the Ballentine home at S. Main Street and Wagstaff Rd.
From 1880-1900, the “Varina “post office became the one serving all citizens from the Willow Spring area south into the Rawls Community of Harnett County. The post office served a postal route via horseback into Harnett County. The first Church of The Later Day Saints, organized in the Rawls community, was known as “The Varina Stake.”
Circa 1899, Ballentine renamed his family store, now located in the new brick building at the mineral spring, “Varina Mercantile.” The rail line coming from Durham, through Holly Springs, destined eventually for Dunn, North Carolina, identified its new depot, Varina Station, by the post office. This depot it built where the line crossed the rail running south from Raleigh. Thus the name “Varina became associated with the area along what is now Broad Street.
Mr. B. G. Ennis, who owned the rail crossing area, toyed with the idea of a Town of Varina which never materialized. We do have his proposed drawing of same.
While Ballentine’s Varina post office was renamed Sippahaw in 1901 and then renamed Fuquay Springs by Hattie Parker in 1902, the name “Varina” remained with the now Durham and Southern rail depot and the Ballentine store. The official name for the town became Fuquay Springs when incorporated in 1909. The Varina Station was not within the original town limits along with several other areas such as Cardenas and Blanchard.
By 1913, when Hattie Parker moved her post office up town to Depot Street in Fuquay Springs, residences and businesses now located near “Varina Station” decided it inconvenient to have to pick up mail over on Depot Street.
Mr. Gregory petitioned for a new U. S. Post Office to be named “Varina.” Located just across from the depot on what would become Ennis Street, he provided the first building for this second “Varina” post office in 1913. This cemented the name for the area radiating outward from Broad Street as “Varina.” Eventually, “Varina” post addresses would extend into the country on a rural route as well.
Local Presbyterians officially organized their local congregation as “Varina Presbyterian Church” in 1913.
Other businesses would use the name “Varina” as well. W. L. Johnson led the incorporation of a “Bank of Varina” on September 26, 1914. Alonzo Averette and A. V. Autry named their business “Varina Garage and Machine Company” in 1918. Both these businesses were located along Broad Street. On January 24, 1924, Herbert Akins and N. H. Hopson opened “Varina Supply Company” in the building now called “The Brick.” There was Varina Brick Warehouse opened in 1914; Varina Knitting Mill in 1931 and Varina Farmer’s Exchange of the 1950’s and various other uses of the “Varina” name over the years.
Eight women, led by Mrs. Bessie Hopson, organized the Varina Woman’s Club in 1926. This club met over the Bank of Varina until they built their clubhouse in 1936.
The community called “Varina” gradually became part of the Town of Fuquay Springs as the town limits extended northward. The “Varina” post office would relocate along Broad Street, moving several times. There would be a Fuquay Springs policeman assigned to patrol the streets of “Varina” as well as one assigned to “Fuquay.”
Numerous organizations would begin to incorporate both “Fuquay” and “Varina” into their names. The Fuquay Varina Woman’s Club officially changed its name in 1951 and published their first cookbook, “Fuquay Varina’s Favorite Recipes.” They organized the first Fuquay Varina Garden Club in 1954. The Presbyterians changed their name to the Fuquay Varina Presbyterian Church. Many ads referred to Fuquay Varina.
When the idea of changing the town name to Fuquay-Varina became a movement, many people already referred to Fuquay Varina. Officially, in 1963 the General Assembly rechartered the municipality as Fuquay-Varina, using the hyphenated town name. The Mayor Alfred Johnson touted our being “one of two hyphenated towns in North Carolina.”
The Varina post office, located in a building now belonging to the Aviator at the junction of Ennis and Broad Streets, remained open into the 1970’s to serve businesses in that area, even after the main post office was changed from Fuquay Springs to Fuquay-Varina. The Class of 1967 became the first graduates from Fuquay-Varina High School.
Many older families still will proudly claim to have been “residents” of “Varina” or of “Fuquay Springs. ” Roughly the Varina area encompassed streets from near the First Methodist Church to the FV Presbyterian Church and all the area north on Broad and Main and west on Wake Chapel Rd and Highway 55, plus some surrounding rural area.
Our two names do have their definite history which we recount with pride.
We hope that everyone now knows more of the story! However, today, we know that our hyphenated name establishes for the world that we are “A Dash More.”
On a 1934 morning, a bundle of joy which they named Shirley Ann arrived at the home of the Mudge family. Belle Bass Mudge, an employee in the commercial department of Southern Bell Telephone in Raleigh, had married Leon Augustus Mudge, a sub agent of Standard Oil of Varina, NC, on July 1, 1929.
Belle’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. John Willian Bass, were residents of Raleigh. The parents of L. A., Mr. & Mrs. G. O. Mudge, hailed from Blowing Rock, NC.
After first residing in Raleigh, the Mudges became residents of Fuquay Springs, first living along S. Main Street in the area of the Mineral Springs. Other residents like Eleanor Aiken (Howard) remember the young Shirley as one of their playmates in the small town of Fuquay Springs. In 1945, a little sister, Nancy arrived, completing the Mudge family.
These little tykes were enrolled in Fuquay Springs High School, which eventually served them grades 1-12 years. Shirley became one of the “fifty-two” members of the graduating class of 1952 according to her fellow classmate, Willa Akins Adcock.
During those years, Shirley honed her skills as a wordsmith which would become her trademark for life. A member of the Beta Club, she was also Chief Marshal of her Junior Class. She was voted the “Most Intellectual” female in Senior Superlatives. The 1952 Greenbriar was published under the leadership of Editor, Shirley Ann Mudge.
A review of editions of the Greenbriar reveal that she was a member of the Future Homemakers of America which provided a fireplace and picnic tables in the new Falcon Park across from the high school. Not surprising, she was outstanding in the Book Club, the Student Council, and the French Club. Her interests even included membership in the Future Teacher’s of America, although she never actually entered the teaching profession.
Girls were first admitted to Wake Forest College during World War II, and Shirley, along with fellow classmates, Willa Akins (Adcock), and Portia Vann Mitchell (Newman) enrolled there in the Class of 1956. These three ladies and five other members of the FSHS Class of 1952 established themselves as the “Crazy Eight” who have enjoyed fun-filled reunions annually for many years and in many locations.
At then Wake Forest College, Shirley’s literary skills were front and center on campus. She worked on the Old Gold and Black (student newspaper) her sophomore and junior years. However, her greatest achievement was becoming Editor of The Student during her senior year. Established in 1882, this was the oldest of four student publication avenues on campus. Shirley was the lone female member of the Publications Board which advised not only the newspaper and literary magazine, but also the Howler (yearbook) and WFDD (campus radio). According to the Howler of 1956, these four student publications “covered the campus like the magnolias.”
Shirley’s interest was not limited, however. She was a member of the Woman’s Recreational Association (along with Willa and Vann), the Sigma Pi Alpha Chapter (for French, Spanish, and German scholars) and the distinguished Philomathesian Literary Society. The latter featured mock student debates, drama, extemporaneous speaking, and contests every spring against their rival literary society.
Following graduation from Wake Forest College in the last Class of 1956 on the old campus in Wake County, Shirley began her professional newspaper career. Her daughter remarked that she bravely went to Norfolk, Va. where she knew no one. She lived in a rooming house and walked to her job as a reporter for the Virginian Pilot By the census of 1957, Shirley had moved back to Sanford, North Carolina and was employed at the Sanford Herald. Next she was found working on the staff of The Raleigh Times. At the Times she amassed a treasure of articles on a multitude of subjects.
While a member of the Raleigh Spinsters Club, she met Charles “Chuck” Harrison Hayes, a member of the Raleigh Bachelor’s Club. On February 5, 1965, the two were wed in Raleigh, N.C. Capt. Hayes, USMC of Quantico, Va., a graduate of the Citadel, had served as assistant officer in charge of Marine Recruiting in Raleigh prior to being transferred to Quantico, Va.
Shirley continued to work at the Raleigh Times while “Chuck” did a tour in Vietnam. After her husband returned, they left the states for his assignment in England, where Chuck served under Admiral John Sidney McCain, Sr. Their only child, Elizabeth, was born in England and spent her first seven years of life in her military family, stationed both in Fayetteville, North Carolina and Norfolk, Virginia.
Fortunately for us, Shirley never lost her dream of returning to her hometown of Fuquay-Varina. When Chuck left the service, they were able to settle back in Wake County in 1976.
Shortly thereafter, Shirley began her career with the Fuquay Independent. In the August 19, 1976 edition, owner Ted Vallas announced his leaving and her new role. “Shirley Hayes will continue as editor of the paper and will do a much better job and I ever could. I consider myself fortunate to have someone of her caliber to leave the news side with.”
While Elizabeth established her Fuquay roots at Wake Chapel School with her second grade classmates, Shirley became reporter extraordinary at the Independent. One need only search a few issues to marvel at her immense talent for interviewing and reporting. Story telling ran through her veins. As Elizabeth stated it best in a Facebook post, “She respected and saw the story in every person.”
In reviewing the subsequent Independent issues for 1976 alone, we found quite a collection of articles by Shirley Hayes. She detailed Dottie Harden’s life from England to Fuquay-Varina on September 2. On September 9, she visited Helen Senter’s Resthome and on Sept 16, she gave an account of the Talley Family and the tobacco market in Fuquay-Varina.
Chuck served as Interim Fuquay Town Manager from June 1976 to January 1978. The Independent of September 9, 1976 pictures Chuck at well 13, stating it was really the fifth in operation for the town.
Among the memories most notable in Fuquay-Varina, was Shirley’s reporting on the Fuquay Town Commissioner’s meetings and official town business. Her insight, wisdom, and thorough journalism kept citizens informed about the proceedings within municipal government as they had never been before or since.
Over time, the Fuquay Independent underwent several changes of ownership and editorship. Circa 2000, when Biff Eller left to establish a small newspaper called Neighbors in Fuquay-Varina, Shirley moved over from the Independent to assist in the effort. It was after this venture closed, that she retired from official journalistic coverage of Fuquay-Varina.
In 2009, Shirley Mudge Hayes was named to the Centennial Commission for the town. Among her responsibilities, she helped organize the first scan day of pictures from individuals. Success and cooperation from the public in this endeavor has resulted in our continuing an archive of photos. Shirley Hayes then joined with Shirley Simmons in the writing of a History of Fuquay-Varina. Each of these ladies undertook chapters or subjects which are distinctive within the published book. Shirley chose the pictures for the cover of the edition, selecting those subjects which she found most representative or appealing. This publication has become a major source of historical preservation within our town, Copies are used constantly by the museums staff and are available for purchase through the museums.
Unfortunate health issues resulted in Shirley and Chuck leaving Fuquay in February of 2017. Shirley suffered a stroke while on a family visit to Florida. Her rehab needs made it necessary for Elizabeth to move her to Connecticut where she could become their temporary caregiver. When Chuck developed macular degeneration and Shirley suffered a fall with resulting surgery, their return was delayed. Eventually after Shirley endured a bout with pneumonia and then the installation of a pacemaker, the couple agreed with Elizabeth that they should remain in Connecticut.
Sadly, they sold their Fuquay home, but Shirley was able to move her most prized possessions to her new home. Elizabeth notes that Connecticut fell in love with her mother just like North Carolina. In Elizabeth’s words, “She was good with people.”
Shirley spent her last years in an apartment attached to Elizabeth’s historic 1753 home. Elizabeth reports that she thrived on visits with her granddaughter, Olivia, attended her grandson’s baseball games, and loved her backyard trees, newspapers, books, dogs, and people. In the week before her death she enjoyed a visit with Nancy’s daughter and husband and was an avid spectator at her grandson’s ball game.
This gentle soul left us on June 16, 2022. A service was held at First Church Fairfield. Connecticut on June 25. Elizabeth hopes to arrange a memorial service in Fuquay-Varina at some future time.
Implicitly the spirit of Shirley Mudge Hayes remains very much alive within her hometown of Fuquay-Varina. Appreciation of her award winning journalistic skills and acknowledgement of her legacy of work endure. The history of our town would not be so rich nor thorough had she not lived and worked among us. The Friends of the Museums are honored to salute Shirley Mudge Hayes, one of our own!
Our acknowledgment of the following: Willa Akins Adcock provided pictures and memories. Elizabeth Hayes Saint (herself an editor) shared historic details of the family and admiration for her mother. The Greenbriar and Howler yearbooks, the Independent files, and the Federal census were invaluable sources. Shirley Simmons, September, 2022.
The oldest organization of citizens chartered in Fuquay Springs is the North Carolina American Legion Post 116. Their charter of November 3, 1920 lists 15 members. The museums have located descendants and family members of 10 of these gentlemen known to have connections to our area today. The other five were veterans of World War I who resided in the area at that time. Our archives would welcome further information.
The American Legion “dedicated its original club house and set about living in it” on April 17, 1927. Located just north of the Fuquay Mineral Spring, the building quickly became the headquarters for visitors to the spring on Easter Monday and other occasions. This building, known as the Log Cabin or Log Bungalow, occupied the properties of the present Crazy House Brewing at 330 S. Main Street.
According to research of deeds, the American Legion under Commander W. S. Cozart sold the property to J. C. Tilley, Adjutant (Secretary) on March 18, 1946. Post 116 then purchased the property known as the Beale Johnson House and the Old Mill Farms from the State Board of Education of North Carolina on April 1, 1949.
Since that time, American Legion Post 116 has resided on Johnson Pond Rd, presently occupying their own buildings across the road from the original Johnson house at the mill on Johnson Pond. After the Legion moved to Johnson Pond, many residents documented using the American Legion house for family reunions, parties and special occasions.
The story of the original log building is colorful and touching. In 1922, Commander W. W. Seawell undertook to begin building a house for the American Legion. Seawell and the Legionnaires began collecting money to finance the construction and people began to offer logs. The members went into the woods, cut logs, and hauled them out. This became slow business during the 1920’s and they ran out of money. Seawell came down with disease and was hospitalized at Oteen near Ashville, NC. From his hospital bed, he continued to urge the men to complete the log structure.
The newspaper record gives glowing praise to the townspeople for materials contributed and wholesale prices given them, until finally “after five years,” they managed completion of the log cabin. The American Legion Post 116 declared this structure “a community center” in recognition of the contributions of wonderful local citizens.
On the dedication day, a barbecue “as good as can be made” was served and the public was invited to help celebrate. Officers then were L. Bruce Gunter, L. E. Stevens, and P. K. Honeycutt. Dr. W. S. Cozart took charge of the BBQ. The speaker was Colonel John Hall Manning, head of the Veteran’s Loan Fund and Oliver Smith of Raleigh. S. T. Proctor recounted the building saga deemed “a right heroic story.” The Fuquay Springs Baptist Church Pastor, Rev. J. P. Harris gave the dedicatory prayer. The Woman’s Auxiliary was in charge of music. Sadly, Ex Commander Seawell was not well enough to be present.
Over the museum’s research history, many citizens recount the building as a USO center during World War II. Former residents of the Ben Wiley recall events across the road especially the use of the building as a polling place for elections. Others have related that the Cozart family tore down the building and used the logs in construction of a log home on Angier Road. Since the Legion’s removal from S. Main Street several persons have owned the property and other buildings have been constructed thereon.
True to its origins, the American Legion continues today to cook and serve BBQ dinners either for political events or as fundraisers for their organization. Their organization has remained a major player in school and community activities within Fuquay-Varina and Wake County. Want a fish plate? Or a Christmas tree?
Congratulations on 100 proud years! Help them Celebrate June 24, 2022!
(Source: unidentified news clipping) April 18, 1927. Oral accounts.
The Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club is the oldest civic organization in our town. The only other organization which pre-dates this group is that serving the membership of military service men and women: Local American Legion Post #116.
In 1926, eight women, all of whom lived in the area of town known as “Varina,” met and organized themselves. Oral records tell us that the club began in the home of Mrs. Bessie Hopson (first wife of N. H. Hopson, a local businessman). Shortly thereafter, they moved into a rented room in the Judd Building on Broad Street. Calling themselves the “VARINA WOMAN”S CLUB” , they elected Mrs. Hopson as their president and adopted their motto, “Service.” In 1951, the Club became the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club officially as women from both areas had become members over the years.
The women who founded the Woman’s Club in Varina knew about two earlier levels of organization designed to unite women in support of causes important to their lives and families.
The earliest, now known as GFWC (General Federation of Women’s Clubs) traced its origins to Jane Cunningham Croly, a professional journalist, who in 1868 had attempted to attend an all-male press club dinner honoring novelist Charles Dickens. Denied admittance based on gender, she formed a woman’s club called Sorosis. Across the nation other groups of women who had organized, attended a convention in New York City in 1898 to discuss the causes of their gender. From that came the official General Federation of Women’s Clubs in 1890.
The more local North Carolina Woman’s Club is dated from 1902 when seven clubs held a convention in Winston Salem. North Carolina’s Sallie Southall Cotton was a leader in this movement to provide for the women of our state. From their meeting came the North Carolina Federation begun with 20 clubs federated in 1903.
Our Varina Woman’s Club voted to become a federated club with the North Carolina Federation in 1927. The local women enjoyed the support of Dr. J. M. Judd, whose wife Amorette Ballentine Judd was a charter member. The Judd’s gave the ladies a lot on Ennis Street on which Dr. Judd supervised the building of a clubhouse in 1936.
The clubhouse was paid for with chicken stew suppers, oyster dinners and food booths at the State Fair. Construction began, and the lot was deeded to the club president on November 23, 1936. Accordingly the event prompted a story and picture in the Independent (which had begun publication in mid 1935). Their 1938-39 Yearbook notes that “members consider finishing (paying for) their new clubhouse as their best piece of work.” Keeping up the clubhouse, refurbishing it from time to time, have been major parts of the club history. The most consistent funding over the years has come from the publication and sale of five cookbooks.
The Raleigh Woman’s Club followed by others led to a total of 31 N. C. clubhouse buildings owned by clubs in 1938. Over time, maintaining a building became quite an investment for many clubs. By 2004, only 15 individual clubs still owned their buildings. The Fuquay- Varina Clubhouse was listed on the National Historic Register 2007 and received Landmark Recognition by Wake County in 2010.
Over the years, the club has been served by 38 different women as president. Both wives of Hopson, Mrs. Bessie Hopson and Mrs. Myrtle Hopson served more than one term. Also serving two separate terms were Mrs. Helen Honeycutt, Mrs. Shirley Simmons, and Mrs. Marilyn Gardner. Nine women have served as District Presidents and numbers have held various State offices. Mrs. Lynette Walters led in establishing the first F.V. Junior Woman’s Club in 1963; Mrs. Kim Pearce organized the present GFWC Juniors in 1986. Mrs. Jeane Elkins organized the first Juniorette club for high school girls in 1970; Mrs. Stephanie Wallace organized the present juniorette club at FVHS in 2009. Mrs. Myrtle Hopson belonged to the club from 1938-2001; Mrs. Jack Senter, with 67 years work, became the longest tenured member of history at her death in 2016.
The club history notes the contributions of every Presidential administration as the club has functioned to serve the world, nation, state, and our town. During the 1940’s the club work was organized into departments: The American Home, Literature, Music, and the Garden.
By the 1950’s, the departments featured the American Home, American Citizenship, Art, Education, International Relations, Literature and Music, and Public Welfare. By 2000 six departments worked: Art, Conservation, Education, Home Life, International Affairs, and Public Affairs. The recent reorganization calls for Community Service Projects (CSP’s) listed as Arts and Culture, Health and Wellness, Environment, Education and Libraries, and Civic Engagement and Outreach.
Working through those various departments and CSP projects, the Club has organized two Fuquay-Varina Garden Clubs, the first in 1954 and the current one in 2007. A senior citizen organization, the Sippihaw Pioneers, was set up in 1971 and remained in existence many years. One of the outstanding projects of Women’s Clubs was founding of United States public libraries; the Fuquay Public Library was originated by the club in 1954 and remains a proud project of the club women under the Wake County System. Mrs. Helen Gunter from the club was the first librarian and member, Mrs. Robert Cotten , a town leader in the library’s development.
At one time a club sponsored Ceramic Center existed in Falcon Park, the special education program was originated at the high school, glee clubs were created at the high school, beautification and street lighting were led by the club and the FV Theater Arts Guild was organized. The FV Woman’s Club advocated for a Cultural Arts Center for decades .
Scholarships at the high schools of Fuquay-Varina, Harnett Central . Southern Wake Academy and now Willow Spring have been annually provided; administration of the FV Mini Grants for teachers and the FV Technical Scholarships are handled by the club in partnership with the Town of Fuquay-Varina. An annual Arts Festival dating from the 1950’s has been a proud program for clubwomen and for students, now reaching some 15 local schools with new ones added continuously.
Additionally, programs throughout the decades have received emphasis and support. Among these were Infantile Paralysis, Cancer Drives, G.I. Bill, Unicef, Dimes for Liberty, March of Dimes, N. C. Zoo, N. C. Aquarium, Operation Smile, FV Hospital Auxiliary, Boys and Girls Homes at Wacamaw, Crysalis Club at Woman’s Prison, Fire Safety, Jaws for Life, Operation Christmas Child, Heifer, Wreaths Across America, and on and on as they wax and wane.
From a charter membership of 8, the club reached a high of 97 members in 1959-60. Throughout the years, women of all interests, origins, and ages have served as members of this historic club. Volunteerism is alive and well at all three levels of GFWC in Fuquay-Varina.
With the current fight to overcome the interruption of life by Covid 19, the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club hopes to continue it proud tradition of “service” to the community of Fuquay-Varina. It’s clubhouse is still serving a vital need as a place for small dinners, baby showers, birthday parties, family reunions and even start-up churches.
The Fuquay-Varina Museums hopes to archive the records of the Woman’s Clubs and all other civic clubs so that the history of our town is preserved and always treasured. Non-profits are invited to consider memberships in exchange for this archival support. In exchange for use of the clubhouse for Friends of the Museums Board meetings, the museums are giving a $100 annual membership of non-profits to the F. V. Woman’s Club.
Federation Day for the GFWC is celebrated each April 24th. On that date in 1890, 63 clubs officially formed the GFWC. Today we are one of nearly 3,000 clubs. Their general reasoning came from Julia War Howe, “It occurred to them that union is strength. Then they began to reach out toward each other.” Women of the Fuquay-Varina Women’s Clubs are still reaching out.
The museums staff, in conjunction with the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club Education CSP, has compiled this short historical record of our local club in recognition of Federation Day 2022.
A Wonderful Women’s History Month Subject Shirley Simmons & Betsy Gunter
Everyone who refers to her called her “Miss Ruth” so surely we should do the same!
This affectionate name seems to be a tribute to the gentle, friendly, and ladylike qualities she always personified. The intellect and dedication of “Miss Ruth” to history and genealogy continues to enable us to document many facets of the early area history.
About 1956, she appears to have seriously begun her collection, research, and compilation of the history of the Jones, Adams, Atkins, Northingtons, Utleys, Speights, Rowlands, Betts, Hunters, Fuquays, Tapleys, Blanchards, Yanceys, Johnsons, and many others. The impetus for her research seems to have begun in 1935 when she was elected Secretary for the Utley family reunions. Her friendships with Mrs. A. J. Fletcher, Mrs. Cornelia Norris and Mrs. Elizabeth Reid Murray are noted in several articles. Ruth Bethea Johnson is listed in the dedication of the first volume of the History of Wake County as one of Mrs. Murray’s sources. Certainly materials and pictures were used from her collection in parts of these two volumes.
Ruth Bethea Johnson was born December 17, 1895. The first child and only daughter of Kemp Bethea Johnson and his wife Mary Alice Utley. Their official address was Old Shop but her birthplace was actually Raleigh, N.C. Her father was cutting timber on the property of John Mills during that winter and the couple were residing temporarily in Raleigh when their daughter chose to arrive.
A few years later, K. B. Johnson built their new family home in what we know as Five Points. The reason was clear. His timber business would utilize the new Mills Railroad (chartered as the Raleigh and Cape Fear) to ship lumber. Johnson operated a large sawmill in that vicinity which Ruth estimated provided the livelihood for about 100 people.
Ruth grew up with five brothers, Harold Weston, Brantley Baird, Marvin McKenzie, and Atkins Burnett. She never married. According to her brief obituary, two brothers Marvin and Burnett remained alive along with three nieces, four nephews, seven great-nephews, and five great-nieces. One of her nieces, Betsy Johnson Gunter, has kept clippings and pictures which she allowed us to use.
We have not confirmed that Ruth attended Oakwood School and possibly Irene Cook’s school but there are pictures of her brothers at Oakwood. We have learned that she graduated from the public Holly Springs High School. That boarding high school opened in 1908 in a large brick building and was one choice for high school for many local students before Fuquay Springs opened our high school in 1918.
We located her as a sophomore and Vice President of that class in the 1913 Yearbook for Elon College. In 1915, she was one of two Psephelian Commencement Essayists with her title “Choosing a Vision.” According to Mrs. Weathers, she studied in Chicago and took private piano lessons at some later point in her life.
One of her students, Mrs. Hurley Weathers, recalled Miss Ruth affectionately in 1961 for the Fuquay Independent. She described a dramatic operetta titled “Miss Cherry Blossom” directed, produced and presented by Miss Ruth and the students of Fuquay Springs High School some time in the 1920’s. The show featured costumes arranged by a former student whom the Johnson family had sponsored at Elon, Loshio Sato. Married to a wealthy Japanese import-export merchant, Ms. Kato shipped props and costumes to “Miss Ruth” from their NewYork office. Transportation was erratic even then, so that J. E. Brown (agent at Varina Station) actually personally delivered them to the high school just in time. The production traveled to Apex and Coats High Schools and all the “geisha girls” of Fuquay Springs were stars according to Mrs. Weathers.
Taking leave from teaching , Miss Ruth traveled abroad. The Fuquay museums have her copy of the Cunard Line cruise from New York to London on Wednesday, July 7, 1926 and her return on Cunard’s RMS Antonia sailing August 7, 1926 from Southampton to Montreal. She is listed as a passenger on both voyages.
The 1930 Federal Census lists her as teaching and living in the family home. We have not been able to confirm whether she was back on the Fuquay Springs faculty; however, the 1940 census finds her boarding in Raleigh and the owner of a book shop.
Her niece Betsy remembers The State Bookshop and visits to see Aunt Ruth there. She describes the book shop as having an opening into the foyer of the State Theater Building on S. Salisbury Street. Among Betsy’s keepsakes are children’s books which came as gifts written by various authors who did book signings at the shop. One of these treasured editions was written by Anna Roosevelt, daughter of FDR. Betsy remembers fondly overnight visits with Aunt Ruth at Park View Apartments in Raleigh.
The State Book Shop era of her life provided the materials she donated to the archives of Elon University. Her legacy gift to Elon University Library consisted of 139 editions, estimated by some at $50,000. Numbers of these books were first editions, many autographed during special teas and book signing occasions at The State Book Shop. Included in the archival materials are handwritten notes from Inglis Fletcher thanking Ruth for an event on Dec. 12, 1950 and other occasions.
Besides Fletcher, James Boyd, Bruce Catton, Thomas Wolfe and Margaret Mitchell are authors among her collection of first editions. Gone With the Wind was recorded by Ruth as being the first edition which sold for as much as $3.50.
This entire collection was housed in special bookcases built from a walnut tree cut on the Johnson land. But even more important, the gift was made in honor of Oma Utley Johnson. Oma was Ruth’s first cousin, the daughter of her mother’s brother, Rufus. Oma happened to marry an unrelated Johnson. Oma Utley Johnson was a graduate of Elon with Ruth in 1915, and served as librarian from 1932-1959 at the university.
Upon her retirement from the book shop in 1956, Ruth began in earnest the writing of family history. Concerning Our Ancestors: The Johnsons and their kin was published in 1980 by Ruth. According to the volume, it was printed by Harold Parker and Sons Printers, and distributed by Standard Homes Plan Service. Other sources tell us that William Johnson provided funding in his estate to cover the publication.
Sources also give credit to Campbell University for assisting in the typing and compilation. Miss Ruth created a charitable annuity fund at Campbell for the Fine Arts Center. That institution provided some materials and pictures to the museums during our work on the town’s history. She served on the Presidential Board of Advisors at Campbell and as a retired musician and artist chose the Fine Arts program as her beneficiary there.
According to Betsy, “Miss Ruth” returned home to live with her mother in her latter years and remained in the house after Mrs. Johnson’s death. Her father, K. B. Johnson had been killed in front of his home when his automobile was struck by a Norfolk Southern freight train on Nov. 13, 1943.
The History Room of Wake Chapel Christian Church is dedicated to Ruth Bethea Johnson. In truth she established, collected materials and furnished this as a labor of love. She and her entire family were life-long members of that institution. Her uncle, Rev. J. Lee Johnson, was the most revered pastor, serving the church for 29 years.
Ruth Bethea Johnson died on January 25, 1985 at age 89. She is buried with many of her kin at Wake Chapel Cemetery. She is remarkable for her allegiance to family, Elon University, Campbell University, and her devotion to research and the history of our area. The Fuquay-Varina Museums are honored to present this brief biographical sketch in recognition of “Miss Ruth” during Women’s History Month 2022.
Sources: Grateful appreciation to Crystal Carpenter who shared materials from the Archives Biographical file of Ruth Bethea Johnson at Elon University. Yearbook photo, 1915 Elon College. Interviews and materials from Betsy Johnson Gunter. “Former Pupil Heaps Praise For Teacher,” Mrs. H. R. Weathers, Independent, October 26, 1961; “Fuquay High Faculty in 1922,” Mrs. H. R. Weathers,Independent, May 4, 1949. “Johnson Family’s History Involves Community,” Independent, May 6, 1981. F.V. Museums files and pictorial archives. U.S. census records. Elizabeth Reid Murray, History of Wake County, Vol 1, Capitol County Publishing Co, Raleigh NC. 1983. Ruth Bethea Johnson, Concerning Our Ancestors: The Johnsons and their kin, Harold Parker and Sons, Fuquay-Varina, NC. 1983.
In recognition of Women’s History Month (March), we have selected three ladies from our past to highlight. Docents at the Fuquay-Varina Museums often find themselves referring to “those three Jones girls” as they tell the story of our area to visitors. Many of our artifacts and archives relate to their story and are told with zeal.
ETHELDRED Jones had three granddaughters who grew up in his home on Sunset Lake Road. This property was his original land grant of 1779 from the first Lord Caswell of the State of North Carolina according to Miss Ruth Johnson. The five hundred acres came to him for service with Joel Lane, Surveyor. Another grant of 640 acres came for his Revolutionary War Service. Over his lifetime, he continued to add to his holdings.
His father, Philip Jones, who lived in Edgecombe County died when he was 11 years old. Etheldred married Jean Lane, Joel Lane’s niece, and built their home on the hill looking over Terrible Creek about 1780. By the time of his 1835 death he is reported by various family sources to have amassed 50,000 acres. His descendants are part of much of Wake County history.
Our three Jones girls are his grandchildren and the daughters of Barnabas Jones, youngest son of Etheldred Jones, who inherited the homeplace. According to the custom of the day, the homeplace was reserved for the youngest child. Barnabas was the heir of some 3300 acres of land (according to Ruth Johnson) which was only a small portion of the estate of Etheldred. Their home is still standing, with many restorations, on the property of the Jones- Johnson Home Place, also referred to as the Standard Homes business site.
The family story goes that Barnabas was working at the grist mill on Johnson Pond when a young lady named Polly Rowland passed that way on her first day of school. He was reported to have announced that he would marry that lass. Indeed, he did marry the only daughter of Lewis Rowland, son of William Rowland and part of the Rowland clan of Willow Springs and environs. At their 1835 marriage, Barnabas was 49 and Polly was 27.
Polly became a widow with the THREE JONES GIRLS, age 7, 6, and 4, in the year 1843, according to Miss Ruth Johnson’s research (p. 93) His will arranged for the land to go to the three girls. The oldest, Mary Jane Lane Jones inherited the mill pond and about 1400 acres along what was the old stage road and the Post Office called Old Shop. The middle daughter, Betsy Ann Jones inherited the virgin timber land of over 800 acres. The baby, Rhoda Ann Mayberry Jones was heir to the homeplace and 1100 acres of land which could be used by her mother in her widowhood. Polly remarried a lawyer named Nathan Gardner and thus was no longer entitled to the homeplace although she lived on there until the girls married in 1856.
Mary Jane, at the age of 20 years, was courted by John Lewis Johnson from down in Summerville, in Harnett County. Born in 1836, Mary Jane was said to be very gentle and never ruffled. Her husband, Lewis was noted as full of jest and pranks. She lived two years after he died. She suffered from asthma and a cough most of her life and this intensified in 1905, resulting in her death.
At several times of his life, John Lewis was post master at Old Shop alternating with Mr. Utley. They lived in the area we know as Five Points today, in what is now the home of the Adcock family behind the John Deere property on 401 N. The museums also have a letter from a medical doctor asking him about his satisfaction with medical marijuana dated 1877.
This couple became the parents of Almira Isabella, Ida Jane, Kemp Bethea, Mary Lorena, Helena Ella, James Beale, Seaton Willard, and John Lee Johnson.
From this Jones girl, descendants today include the K B Johnson family who founded the oil company. K. B. was President of the Bank of Fuquay and a leader in the growth of the town and the railroad. He is credited with naming Cardenas, Kennebec, and with the large lumber business of several counties. He was killed when an unexpected train rammed his automobile as he was crossing the rail line in front of his house just off present 401 N.
James Beale Johnson should be associated with the large antebellum home off Johnson Pond Road above the mill, recently owned by the Turner family. His first wife, Della Ragsdale is the famed statue located in the Wake Chapel Cemetery.
The oldest daughter, Almira married into the McCullers family of the area called McCullers, today. Her record at Elon and her many friends are all recorded in the Johnson family book. Sadly, she died in 1893 when her first child was only two weeks old.
Lorena married Zeb Atkinson from Georgia. Hollis Atkinson, Mary Jane’s grandson, became a professional baseball player. The Atkinson home was located across the mill pond and is still standing. Locally, it is associated with the Whitted family who lived there many years. Recent owners have removed the porches and the old water tower.
John Lee Johnson became the pastor of Wake Chapel Church, serving 29 years there. His wife, Kate and daughter Katie Lee Russum taught in the local schools.
The youngest Jones girl, Rhoda Ann married that same year (1856) to her Johnson suitor. Rhoda Ann and William Wesley Johnson had seven daughters and three sons: Virginia Frances, Julia Isabella, Archibald Neill, Mary Ann, Marilla Irene, Otilla Rosalie, William Lewis, Daisy Valeria, Ethel Lucille, and Alfonso Gales. They built the large home now on the Jones-Johnson property about 1860.
Wesley died of a heart attack in 1896. Rhoda Ann then took over the reins of his property and church duties and even opened a small dairy operation before her death in 1900.
Isabella became the wife of John A. Mills who built the Raleigh and Cape Fear Railroad from Raleigh to Fuquay Springs which became the Raleigh and Southport in 1902. During flood, Mills is said to have loaded box cars and parked them on the railroad bridge over the Cape Fear River. The highway bridge washed away but the rail bridge was held in place. This line, sold to Norfolk and Southern in 1911, is still in operation through our town.
Irene became a teacher extraordinary. She taught at Holly Springs High School and then in the math department of Elon College. Irene married a Burlington attorney, John Cook, and then did advanced study at Chicago University. In 1904, she returned to her home and built a private school on Sunset Lake Road.
Archie Neill Johnson became an entrepreneur. Establishing a store in Corinth, he employed two gentlemen named Rufus Ashworth and Elmo Fish. From his home in Cardenas, (moved and renamed the Caramba Inn) he operated a small freight station.
On September 1, 1911, he opened the first retail establishment called A. N. Johnson on Main Street in Fuquay Springs. Officially, still chartered under that name, Johnson brought Elmo Fish from his Corinth store to manage this one. The business was bought out by the Fish family and operates under the name, Elmo’s. Rufus Ashworth joined the business after World War I and eventually opened his own retail establishment on Main Street, Ashworth’s Clothing today.
The youngest son, Gales inherited the homeplace. He is credited with adding the columns and huge porches with the circular effect on the front. He met and married Buelah Olive. They had two sons, Glendon and William, who would raise families in the area.
Much of Gales’s life was spent away from here. A graduate of the Anerican School of Phrenology, he worked the lecture circuit in various cities. While in Detroit, he realized the need for mass building of homes. As a a result, he and a partner formed Standard Homes Plan Service in Washington, D.C.,
In 1920, Beulah and Gales moved home so the two boys could connect with their roots. Gales commuted on weekends, often via rail and sometimes by driving his cadillac from D.C. He helped his sons establish the Standard Homes Plan Service in Raleigh which they then transferred to the homeplace, building the company offices and plant on Sunset Lake Road. This business, with the address, VARINA, provided that community a major economic success for many years.
William married Lois Frazelle and inherited the house. He was instrumental in helping establish the Fuquay Library and was a major force in the Fuquay Springs Methodist Church. At his death in 1974, his wife and daughters remained in residence. Joanna and her husband, Philip Proctor took over the Standard Homes business. Today the historic houses on the National Register property are in the hands of Jones-Johnson-Proctor descendants.
The middle Jones daughter, Betsy Ann, broke her engagement to a third Johnson marrying William Marshall Ballentine instead Their family story was told in Part III of the Ballentines. (fuquay-varina-museums.org, Historically Speaking, June 19, 2021)
When Betsy Ann’s mother, Polly married her third husband, Alexander S. Utley, it was said for “love.” The widower had been her first love, she declared. When their home burned, William Ballentine added an attachment to his home according to Mrs. Parker. This she described as a big room connecting his house and the kitchen built for her and Grandpa Aleck. Grandma Polly visited all the family and “inspired them by her courage and independent manner of life” according to Edith Parker. Utley died in 1888 and Polly in 1901.
So when Barnabas announced his plan to marry Polly Rowland, the story of so many families of Fuquay Springs and Varina had their beginning. Those THREE JONES GIRLS became the roots for much of our area history. Their grandfather, Etheldred, is buried in the family cemetery on the Jones-Johnson property and his name appears on multiple properties on our land grant map of Wake County displayed in the museums.
Sources: Concerning Our Ancestors the Johnsons and their kin, Ruth Bethea Johnson, Harold Parker and Sons, Printers, Standard Homes Plan Service Distributors, 1980. Interviews of Edith Parker and Ruth Johnson in Independent, F.V. Museums files.
A recent visitor who made inquiry about the history of the Fuquay-Varina Hgh School prompted us to compile what we know about the history of our high schools.
The earliest high school is our town opened in 1918. Prior to that time students desirous of attending high school had several choices—all out of town. Prominent was Cary High School or Holly Springs High School both of which received boarding students from out of town. A number of families chose to enroll their high schooler in Buie’s Creek Academy (later Campbell University) or Elon College, both of which had high school departments.
Led by former Mayor Ed Ragsdale, a group of citizens petitioned the General Assembly for $15,000 to establish a public high school. Displayed in the museum is an ad in the Independent for this funding.
The “Old Red Building” was the result of this effort. Built at the corner of Academy and Ennis Streets, where the middle school is located today, our first high school opened in 1918. Chester Holland often told us about helping drag out the dirt for the basement of this structure. The building consisted of seven classrooms and an auditorium. In 1921, a west wing was added.
That first year, Mr. Henry A. Neal served as principal. Following him came Mr. W. E. Fleming in 1919. He had begun his 32nd year as principal at his death on September 10, 1950.
We have not found an account of the first year faculty but Mr. Fleming taught all the high school for two weeks until a second teacher was hired according to the Feb 17, 1949 Independent article. The entire faculty that first year consisted of 5 elementary teachers and the two high school staff members. The total enrollment in all grades was 286 with an average attendance of 164. One student, Agnes Judd, having earned credits from Holly Springs High School in previous years, that year became the first graduate.
By 1922, the high school faculty had grown to four— Harry J. Pope (science and geometry); Ralph Herring (Latin and history); Miss Ruth Johnson (English and French) and Mr. Fleming. (Independent picture, May 4, 1967) The first graduating class consisted of 12 individuals. (picture A History of Fuquay-Varina, p. 152)
In 1927 the high school building on Ennis Street signified growth. This is the same building now housing the offices of the Fuquay-Varina Middle School. The student body enrolled 655, with 5 high school teachers and 14 graduates. (Searchlight, 1928)
For African American students, two elementary schools moved from Bazzel Creek and Holland’s Crossroads to Jones Street in 1921. Mr. Joseph S. Davis became Principal. (Portrait in Ballentine School House Museum) and served until 1947. Along with Principal Davis, his wife and two other teachers taught elementary students. Transportation was arranged with the purchase of a bus by the community. (see Burton family Historically Speaking article ) so the high school students could enroll at Berry O”Kelly High School in Method. Mr. Leroy Burton talked of driving this bus as a student.
Efforts to build what became Fuquay Consolidated High School were successful with the erection of a high school building on Jones Street. The first graduation class in 1938 consisted of five students. Another interesting graduation did not occur in 1942. That year the entire senior class elected to return for the addition of the 12th grade and became the Class of 1943.
Integration in the fall of 1970 brought a change in the life of all high school students in Fuquay-Varina. For the last time, the Class of 1970 from Fuquay Consolidated High School had consisted of 75 graduates. The Class of 1970 from Fuquay-Varina High School had graduated 99 students.
All Fuquay-Varina High School students took over the campus of the formerly white high school bounded by Academy, Ennis and Woodrow Streets. The campus of the formerly black Fuquay Consolidated High School on Jones Street became home to Fuquay-Varina Elementary School. High school students voted to give up being Bison or Falcon and all became Bengal Tigers moving forward. This mascot has extended to the local middle and elementary students.
Community efforts led the Wake County Public School Board to propose a new high school and purchase the site on Bengal Boulevard. In the fall of 1975, Fuquay-Varina High School moved grades 10-12 to the new campus. In 1977, the school welcomed the arrival of the ninth grade students.
The high school grew in student enrollment. A cafeteria expansion, a second gymnasium, the 300-400 halls, along with renovation of the library and administrative wing opened in 1994. The 500-600 halls were added in 1999.
The entire student body vacated the premises and moved temporarily to the newly constructed Willow Springs High School in the fall of 2019. Now in 2021, 2,007 students grades 9-12 of Fuquay-Varina High School are back on Bengal Boulevard in their completely new home. The 925 students grades 9 and 10 assigned to Willow Springs High School have the honor of founding their new high school in 2021.
Terrance McCotter presides over the new/renovated project at Bengal Boulevard; he has a staff of 157. Wade Martin is the founding principal at Willow Springs. The area of Fuquay-Varina is proud to welcome two new high school campuses.
The history of our area high schools has changed over time as has our town and the outlying country. Within our environs there is also a charter high school: Southern Wake Academy, which draws students from a wider area.
Sources:History of Fuquay-Varina, 2009; School History (FVCHS) by J. Simona Lee; Articles of Fuquay-Varina Community Development Corporation; Independent, May 4, 1967; Independent, September 13, 1989; Independent, February 17, 1949; Fuquay-Varina High School: Brief History by Shirley Simmons; Two Remarkable Burtons by Shirley Simmons in Historically Speaking, August, 2020; The Gold Leaf, 1917; Museums displays Ballentine School. Information from Terrance McCotter and Wade Martin, 2021.
One of the reasons Fuquay-Varina grew, the RAILROADS, we feature in our Fuquay-Varina Museums Tours. Uniquely in this one town, the railroads constructed THREE depots. Historically, we have been searching the data for these buildings. We have always been missing facts but , thanks to Tim Carroll, who has acquired and donated some wonderful records for our archives, we found much missing information. From these archives we can now add to our previous history of all three depot buildings.
Among these new documents is a detailed copy of the crossing of the two rail lines along what is now Broad Street. The Raleigh and Cape Fear desired to cross the line of the Cape Fear and Northern on the land of B. G. Ennis in Middle Creek township. It specifies that all expenses for putting in, maintaining, and replacing the crossing would be the responsibility of the Raleigh and Cape Fear. The agreement between John A. Mills, President RCFRR and J. E. Stagg, President CFNRR was signed April 27, 1899.
This settles the question of which line had the first track rights given by Mr. Ennis. The winner is the Cape Fear & Northern. The question of which railroad first constructed one of our three depots seems to belong to the Raleigh & Cape Fear, as of now.
The “little depot “ of the Raleigh and Cape Fear Railroad, sometimes called the Mills Railroad, was located along the tracks on the Depot Street side. It was the reason for naming the street running now from S. Main at the Mill (formerly Johnson’s Drug Store) to the rail lines. Later, because Hattie Parker established the Fuquay Springs Post Office, it would be termed the Fuquay Springs Depot. In 1900-1902, persons debarking here were in Sippihaw.
This depot appears only in a post card version showing a crowd of visitors all decked out in their traveling best. To recreate this building beside our caboose has been a dream of the Friends of the Museums. Mike Weeks graciously worked to design a building. However, this one photo gave very few details from which he could visualize the depot. The cost of building such a replica has escalated, too. That dream is still our dream.
The origin of this depot we already knew. Barney and Hattie Jones sold a strip of land fifty feet from the center of the track on both sides of the railroad to the Raleigh & Cape Fear RR for $1 on April 18, 1902. In addition, they included another 1 and 1/10 acre “ as may be suitable for a depot.” While the railroad, chartered in 1898, built the line and operated trains to a terminus on the Jones land, it was slow to construct a depot.
So slow in fact, that Barney and Hattie, on October 15, 1903, drew up another document. Having given 420 feet parallel to the track on both sides of the rail, and across the rail from the center of the trestle over Neill’s Creek a parcel containing 4 acres, they were upset that no depot had been constructed. They now declared the property contingent upon a freight and passenger station being located on the land within six months of that date.
Thus it has always appeared that our “little depot” probably was completed between October, 1903 and April, 1904. There is no evidence that the Jones’s took further action in the matter. The structure pictured is identified as the Raleigh & Southport Depot, the name under which Mills had reorganized the R & C F in 1905. We still can hope to find actual building details.
The second depot was that built on the original Cape Fear and Northern Railroad line along what is now Broad Street. In 1904, the CF & N RR name was changed to the Durham and Southern RR. An original shed, thought to have been in use circa 1908 by the D & S, was reputed to have been destroyed by fire We do have pictures of the construction of the still existing Varina Station depot under rail section supervisor, Stephen Brantley Adcock which the family dated as 1910.
One has to look closely at the current Aviator’s Tap House today to identify Adcock’s original Varina Station building within their present structure. Their web site speculates the building dates from 1903; however, it would appear not to be that early as the above photo clearly shows that building under construction.
Of course, there was no Broad Street when the rail lines first crossed and the nearest post office was VARINA south of town near the Ballentine home. Consequently the current area identified as “Varina” began with this Varina Station. Subsequently, in 1913 , Mr. Gregory applied for a post office across from the depot reviving a “Varina” post office. The museum has a map which show that in1914 there were no buildings along what was destined to become Broad Street; however, the street across from the depot began to sport some of the present buildings shortly thereafter.
Our new records show Varina Station’s depot first became part of an agreement on February 1, 1912 with the Raleigh, Charlotte and Southern line extending from Varina to Charlotte. This new line needed to use the D & S facilities at Varina for transfer of freight and passengers on the line which still runs west toward Duncan.
A Norfolk Southern memorandum from July 8, 1912 allowed the Raleigh Cape Fear and Southport acquired by Norfolk Southern circa 1911 to use the D & S facilities in Varina as well. Thus, the beginnings of what would be the Union Depot at Varina Station date from 1912. Agent J. E. Brown at Varina Station was paid a salary of $60 per month and the expenses of operating the facility, including maintenance, were shared equally by D & S and NS.
According to these archives, by 1926-27 disagreement about the feasibility of the union depot agreement surfaced. Contentions were multiple, continuous, back and forth between the parties.
D & S argued that Norfolk Southern used the yards and depot but did not account for track usage to and from the warehouse storage there. Norfolk Southern contended that erecting their own station would save them money. Both disagreed over the salary or charges by Brown who claimed he handled interchanges between 17 cars a day. Sunday operations or operations outside of hours were another source of contention. D & S termed the track operation a menace: trains came onto their tracks, made flying switches, split switches, and derailed or blocked the lines. NS countered their moving cars to the warehouse and interchanges saved D & S engines from having to perform this operation. D & S lamented that NS engines were much heavier, causing damage to frogs and guard rails, costing $700 in annual maintenance.
The Varina Station records for 1927 showed that gross revenues were $50,760.00 for D & S and $13,094.76 for NS. The station delivered freight valued at $118,642.39 to NS and received freight from NS valued at $199,294.38.
In the early 1930’s D & S continued to argue for more revenue from NS while NS discontinued agencies at Willow Springs and McCullers in 1932, putting this work on the Varina office. Upon reviewing the 1912 memorandum in 1935, they concluded nothing in the files actually gave NS the right to use D & S tracks in Varina.
The Varina Station occupied 11.20 acres of land, termed the most valuable property in Varina. The station value was $3,030.32 and the property $4,480. The estimated cost to build another station in 1935 would be $4,500. The rail yard in Varina was busy, handling “more trains than Zebulon, Wendell, or Lillington.”
The little Fuquay Springs depot was only 1/2 mile from Varina, in the city of Fuquay Springs. NS contended they could move this operation from Fuquay Springs to Varina and establish their own agency more economically.
Without notifying D & S, the Norfolk Southern management discontinued the Fuquay Springs Station effective July 1, 1935 and consolidated all operations in Varina. When challenged, Kennedy of NS replied this closure was based upon practicality. Almost all local business was being transferred at the Varina Station.
Our speculation on an earlier closing of the Fuquay Springs depot about the time of the Union Depot agreement was proven wrong. Alan Ashworth and Tim Carroll uncovered a listing of agents in 1934. Now we can prove the actual demise of that depot. We do know that when abandoned the building seems to have been used as a warehouse, or storage building. We have not yet found exactly when it was demolished. Tax records show NS continued to own a parcel of land along the track consistent with the location of the original depot.
The letter exchanges did provide us with an interesting list of industries and businesses. In Varina were: Varina Knitting (no siding); W. H. Stephens (warehouse); Varina Supply Co. and Carolina Feed (section of a warehouse). Also listed were Farmer’s Supply, Varina Implement Co., and Standard Oil Co. Listed as between Varina and Fuquay were: American Supplies & Senter Lumber Co (on wye off NS main branch to Fayetteville) and Clark-Phelps coal dealers (siding off Fuquay branch). Also listed were Proctor-Barbour furnishings and hardware, E.C. Fish fertilizer, and K.B. Johnson & Son gas and oil (all off a siding of the Fuquay Branch)
By the mid 1930’s the flurry of letters delineate constant contention between keeping a union depot and operating separate facilities by each railroad. The major disagreement: costs of the operation versus fair charges. Agent J. E. Brown, serving as telegraph agent, too, requested that D & S keep the Railway Express Agency in their depot. On June 22, 1936 Railway Express judged there was no reason for them to change their location even if the two railroads divorced.
On June 6, 1936, Hawkins of NS stated there was no possibility of reaching an agreement on the use of Varina Station facilities so he was instructing their engineering department to arrange for the construction of their own station in Varina. Yet Kennedy of NS wrote two days later that he saw no necessity for both rails to have their separate stations in a small place like Varina. Gill of D & S countered that the instructions to begin construction had already been given by NS.
The argument escalated when D & S refused to allow Norfolk Southern access onto their property and proposed placing a fence between the two lines. The General Superintendent of NS wrote D & S Gill that such a fence would “make it impossible to unload passengers or send express and mail from our main line to the joint station for local delivery.” He suggested there would need to be an opening in the fence to pull baggage and mail trucks through.
Enclosed with the above report was notation of a petition signed by 44 individuals and local businesses supporting the union station as completely satisfactory. W. S. Cozart, Mayor of Fuquay Springs sent a Western Union Telegram dated June 20, 1936 with the same message.
The result was a NS application filed with the N. C. Utilities Commission to built a NS station at Varina. This was countered by D & S Gill asking Mayor Cozart to set the record straight with the public on D & S’s attempts to negotiate with NS on the matter and touting their shared use of facilities since 1912.
A strange event followed. The records include a letter on June 23, 1936 to Gill noting that NS had been ordered to stop work on tearing down the Fuquay Springs Station. They were to return and replace the boards they had taken to Varina to build a new station there.
Kennedy of NS wrote that he visited Varina and concluded that NS could build on the Fuquay Springs side of their line and have adequate space without using D & S property; however, he insisted he would not oppose a new joint station as Mayor Cozart proposed.
The North Carolina Utilities Commission received the petition and requested that the two gentlemen (Kennedy of NS and Gill of DS) exert the powers of their respective offices to effect an amicable agreement and continue the union depot in June, 1936. The proposed building by NS was stopped pending the announced public hearing with the Utilities Commission.
A flurry of letters ensued with conflicting opinions on who was most responsible for the controversy. Both sides contributed documentation on costs with NS insisting they could serve better and more cost effectively with an independent station. Opinions from all sides are documented in the archives throughout the entire year.
Finally, on November 24, 1936, an order from the Utilities Commission came down. The rails would continue joint operation of the passenger depot using the D & S agency forces at the Varina Station. NS would build an additional facility for handling freight on their own property.
This directive dates our third depot. It actually was an open ended portion of the same structure operating today on the premises of the Norfolk Southern line in Varina. When NS was unable to complete the building by Jan 1, 1937, the rail used box cars on a side track until the station was finished.
The major documents following this year involved the payment by NS for use of the D & S depot and the D & S agency staff. Norfolk Southern discontinued passenger service circa 1939. Officials declared in 1941 that they would no longer need or use the waiting rooms in the D & S depot. The exact date for the termination of passenger service by D & S was not documented in these papers.
After a conference, effective April 1, 1944, D & S paid all agency salaries and billed NS for their proportion of services. At that time Norfolk Southern operated 8 trains daily through Varina on their lines to Fayetteville and Charlotte while Durham and Southern operated 2 trains daily. Gross revenues for NS were $39,958 while D& S revenues were $28,337. That small 58 mile line continued to be the very profitable operation.
Finally, Norfolk Southern decided it no longer required the services of the D & S agent or any use of the office. Effective August 1, 1957, Norfolk Southern established it own office using the building which still exists along the tracks in Varina. Handling all NS business , thereafter the open structure was completely closed to fit their operation.
When Seaboard Railway purchased the Durham and Southern line, the routing system was replaced by mobile units. Katherine Brown succeeded her father in the agent’s chair. 1977. When the depot closed in 1977, Katherine transferred to Apex for four years.
Multiple efforts to preserve the Varina Station building as an historic site were initiated. The present New Hope Valley Railway considered using the line for its tourist attraction. The Railway Historic Society and the Fuquay-Varina Preservation Alliance tried to save the building.
The tracks were removed along Broad Street and the depot stood derelict. Finally Akin Properties acquired the building and moved the depot, minus the freight sheds, closer to the Ennis street crossing. Aiken constructed the new brick structure, they named “Varina Station” on much of the original depot site The wooden depot became rental property for several retail businesses until it was purchased by the Aviator.
When one views closely the current Aviator’s Tap House, much of the interior of the Varina Station was carefully preserved. The exterior of Adcock’s original Varina Station building presents a much altered facade changed several times as repurposed for the Tap House.
Still Fuquay-Varina can boast of retaining two of her three historic depots. Thanks to this recent cache of documents, we can now date the three with more accuracy. The history surrounding the Union Depot at Varina Station proved to be contentious but illustrative of the town’s growth. Later archival finds may add more details to their life.
Sources: Archives of Norfolk Southern and Durham and Southern correspondence 1912- 1957 donated by Tim Carroll, History of Fuquay-Varina (2009), School History (of FCHs) by J. Simona Lee , History of FVHS by Shirley Simmons, Searchlight, 1928, Deeds of Wake County, Independent . May 6, 1967, Sept. 12, 1989, Feb 17, 1949, and other files of the museums.
The staff report the Fuquay-Varina Museums have acquired three different printed works over this past year as part of our archives for research.
While we have no ambition to become a library, we do want to have copies of materials which might add to our research or that of patrons of the museums. We also want to offer local historical accounts which might be useful and not otherwise readily available to a researcher.
First coming to us was a novel which in actuality has a great deal of historical content. Barbara Brown Gathers’s, The Secrets of Hattie Brown, was given to the museums by the author. She is the granddaughter of Hattie Cowan Brown, who has written about the subject from the stories and accounts known to her family. The novel provides a vital glimpse of life.
Hattie and her family lived in Fuquay Springs for the last period of her lifetime. Upon her death, and that of their father, the children migrated north to find a better opportunity for their lives. During the time the family resided here, the father, Robert, hired by Jesse Howard, worked at the Old North State Tobacco Company. Howard was newly married to Blake Carroll and the couple were expecting their first child. Hattie’s mother recommended her daughter to help Blake with the new baby. Thus the couple moved to Fuquay Springs.
Barbara and the other grandchildren and great grandchildren have subsequently located Hattie’s grave at Bazzel Creek Baptist Church and placed a marker in her honor.
Second book: Bryant Tyndall has volunteered as a docent at the Fuquay-Varina Museums for several years. During the course of his duties, he shared much of his research for a book he planned to publish. When his children facilitated the actual publication of his “Treasured Memories of Fuquay-Varina and Willow Springs” under the title, The Broken Mirror , in 2020, Shirley Simmons donated a copy to our collection. We do this in honor of our fellow docent.
This second piece of literature has great historical value for research because of the many persons Bryant recalls and the multiple incidents of life he recounts. Especially of interest to our town’s story are his descriptions of Varina along Broad Street. While some of his tales of Willow Springs are familiar, much of his work has details which shed new light on that area. Certainly the book complements our other historical records.
Finally, when the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club initiated a project honoring our local ‘Strong Women,” the researcher, Jeanette Moore-Burlock, included an interview of Evelyn Smith Booker. She has graciously agreed to donate copies of her interviews to our collection. Incidental to her tribute to this lady, we learned Mrs. Booker had published a partial autobiography and an account of her life’s work, copyrighted in 2021.
Mrs. Booker had served on the Town’s Centennial Commission’s committee for the Gala in 2009 and her accomplishments as a television executive were well known and appreciated by the staff. However, what we have learned from her work, A Winner in Spite of…. caused us to acquire a copy to augment our collection. Her insights and wisdom, her philosophy and faith, and her family roots are invaluable and inspirational. Her delivery of truths on African American Life is vitally important. Her rise in the corporate world and her contribution to the community are part of the heritage the museums hope to preserve.
These three works and these three individuals are part and partial of the museum’s archival vision: to preserve and make available to all the History of Fuquay-Varina and her people and to assist the future researcher by providing a thorough collection of materials related to our people and our life.