by Shirley Simmons

The museums prepared material honoring two African American medical doctors who practiced in Fuquay Springs and Fuquay-Varina as a valuable addition to our Doctor’s Room docent led tour. We share briefly some of their history as we have been able to research their work in our town. While all doctors did see black and white patients, these two came to fill a niche for African American patients.

Dr. Judge Bustee Davis, Sr. is pictured by the Old North State Medical Society. One of our docents, Jeanette Moore-Burlock, enhanced it for our use.

Dr. Judge Bustee Davis was the earliest of these. Dr. Davis came to town at the impetus of Romie Burt who constructed a building specifically for his practice. Based upon our research and the memories of the Burt children, we believe his practice began about 1940 in the building which still exists on Railroad Street.

Davis was born February 1, 1885, the son of William and Clara Davis of Montgomery, Alabama. He chose to study for pre-med at the Old Leonard School of Medicine at Shaw University in Raleigh. His MD was earned at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee. Returning to Raleigh, he interned at St. Agnes Hospital in Raleigh.

Davis practiced in Louisburg, North Carolina for 20 years. Following that he had an office in Lillington, North Carolina for two years. From here Burt recruited him for his office in Fuquay Springs.

On Railroad Street, the Burt Cafe building was originally built by Romie Burt to house the office of Dr. J. B. Davis.

We could not verify exactly how long he worked from the Burt office which, after he vacated it, became Burt’s cafe. He moved when he built his own house and office on West Academy Street across from the First Baptist Church. At age 68, he was practicing there when he died August 11, 1953 following an illness of several weeks.

The museums would be interested in hearing of babies he might have delivered, two of whom we know were the Burt Children. Orlean Burt Newton, whom he delivered, remembers attending his funeral with her parents. Davis was buried in the Louisburg Cemetery.

Dr. Davis was once President of the NAACP, a deacon in the Baptist church, and listed in Who’s Who among North Carolina Negro Baptists. Professionally, Davis was a member of the Old North State Medical Society, one of the oldest medical societies for African American Physicians in the United States.

Davis married Gertrude Lola Williamson with whom he had four children: Judge Jr., Carolyn Pauline, Reid Astely, and Lula Beatrice.

Dr. George Clyde Debnam gave the museums access to this photo used in most of his biographical sources.

The second of the African American Doctors who served our town is one of the most recognized physicians of the state, often referenced as the “Dean” of African-American physicians in Raleigh, Dr. George Clyde Debnam. Our association with this doctor derives from George Rogers of Fuquay Springs who met Dr. Debnam during a hospital stay and persuaded him to consider setting up a practice here.

Dr. Debnam took over Dr. Davis’ practice with offices first in back of Roger’s Soda Shop and then in the Davis building for some ten years duration. Much of his time and energy was given to citizens of our town, although the family always lived in Raleigh.

One of fourteen or fifteen children, George was born to James Otis and Cherrie Smith Debnam in Youngsville, North Carolina on November 5, 1927. An outstanding scholar, he enrolled at Shaw University at the age of 15. Graduating in 1947, Debnam then earned his MD from Meharry Medical College in 1951. He, too, interned at St. Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, 1951-54.

He began his practice in Fuquay Spring in 1954. During this time, Dr. Debnam served military hospitals including Womack Hospital located on Fort Bragg, NC. He worked in Fuquay as part of the staff at the Fuquay-Varina Branch Hospital briefly after it was established in 1960.

Eventually, Dr. Debnam opened the Debnam Clinic in Raleigh where he remained until retirement. Married to Marjorie Boyd, he was blessed to have her serve as clinic office manager. They are parents of three daughters. Gwendolyn is a Professor of English; however, the twin daughters, Marie Georgette and Marjoria Lynnette both graduated from Meharry Medical College. They joined their father at the Debnam Clinic in 1995.

Dr. Debnam also contributed this photo from one of his speaking engagements when he was being honored.

When Dr. Debnam retired in 2001 after 50 years and 6 months (another source says 53 years) in practice, he had delivered 11,500 babies and performed more than 5,000 surgical operations. His distinguished career accrued many honors: President of the Old North State Medical Society, Doctor of the Year, Member of the Board of Trustees at Shaw University, a Trustee Emeritus at North Carolina Central University and Senior Physician at Wake Medical Center. In 1997, Shaw renamed the administration building the George C. Debnam Building.

Marjorie was an accomplished community volunteer and together the Debnams established “The Friends of Distinction”, a club to help young black men. Among Mrs. Debnam’s activities was work on breast cancer screening and after-school programs for black youth. She worked for 35 years with the YWCA, many years with Wake Opportunities, and was a leader in “Strengthening the Black Family, Inc.”

In the Independent, October 30, 1980, Dr. Debnam was quoted as “always having a special place in my heart for Fuquay-Varina.” At age 93, He remains an associate member of the First Baptist Church in Fuquay-Varina.

In retirement, Dr. Debnam founded Debnam Publishing Company and authored his first book, God’s Gifts: Mothers. This volume was dedicated to Marjorie who died in 2004. Dr. Debnam has produced manuscripts of original material on his life, Shaw University, medical conditions, and West-African and African-American funeral traditions and other anthologies. He was quoted as saying, “I am trying to draw attention to things that appear to be forgotten” in interviews with Barry Saunders.

The museums staff hopes in this research to draw attention to things many readers may have never known as we honor these two medical giants.

Sources: Obituary of Davis, Find a Grave, files in the museum of Dr. Debnam, Independent, October 30, 1980, interview with Orlean Newton, Old North State Society documentation, WRAL November 25, 2014 and History of Fuquay-Varina.


One of our younger residents remembered her step grandfather, E. T. Burchette, and sent us some pictures of the Cream Center for our collection at the museums. After talking with her and others, we decided to publish some of the interviews and her pictures in “Historically Speaking. “

Elijah Thomas Burchette and Ruth of Varina gave birth to five children: E. T., Jr,; James, Dot (Dickens) Ben and Ruth (Wilson). The elder Burchette farmed the land of Dr. Raymond Edwards, now the location of Bentwinds, and lived with his family off what is presently Nash Road. The Burchette children grew up in the Varina area and attended Fuquay Springs High School. Dot still lives on the farm where she raised her family. Ruth taught school in Virginia and at Hardbarger’s Business College in Raleigh where she still resides. The three sons are deceased.

E. T. was possessed of an infectious laugh, friendly, and loved by all the community. Ruth described him as a “left-handed golfer” with a million friends. He married twice. From his first marriage, he has a daughter, Gayle Puckett who lives in Wilmington. His second marriage to Margaret Motley gave him two stepdaughters, Paula and Sandra. Angie is the grandchild who loved and remembers him. She shares these pictures and contacts with her aunts.

Elijah Thomas Burchette, Jr. served the country in World War II.

After serving two years in Germany during World War II, E. T. came home to open his business sometime about the early 1950’s. We have been unable to definitely date the Twin City Cream Center but Chet Hairr thinks it would have existed until the late 1950’s.

Chet and Donald Cotton locate the building thus. First there was the Varina Farmer’s Exchange and Joe Mullen’s service station (now Jersey Mikes and The Art Gallery) then, Wayland Williams’ BBQ (which had earlier been Payne’s Restaurant). Next was The Cream Center building. It had begun life as a service station with an overhang and gas tanks in front. When first opened the building also housed Perry Howard’s Oil Co. but shortly thereafter the Cream Center expanded into that right hand section. Chet locates the Cream Center as “across from the Tastee Freez.” The railroad (Durham and Southern tracks now removed) passed between the Tastee Freez and Varina Knitting and south of this building as recalled by Max Ashworth.

This advertisement for the Cream Center featured E. T. Burchette on the right and Virgil Dickens on the left. Note the ad for “shakes” for which the business was famous locally.

E. T. was famed for his “ice cream and milkshakes,” Max testifies. Chet, who actually worked there during high school, along with Donald Averette, remembered much more of the menu. E. T., and later Chet, operated a machine into which they poured 2% milk from a 7 gallon container. They made all their own ice cream which was sold by the scoop, cup, or cone, in banana splits and in sundaes. One item in particular, Chet recalled as “the Honeymoon Special,” contained pineapple, cherries, and coconut. Another popular feature was packaged sandwiches which they heated in a toaster. Then there were “Long Johns,” a cream filled doughnut also heated in the toaster. Available were fountain cokes, cherry pepsi, and soda drinks. Chet says the juke box was popular and music was piped outside for the cars as well. Inside there was a bowling machine as an added attraction.

While there was room inside for customers, many individuals just drove up and blewthe horn for service. Bus boys, like Chet, then scurried outside to take orders and then deliver them to the cars. He says they also sold gasoline.

Twin City Cream Center name on back of building signifies the feeling of Fuquay Springs and Varina as “two twins.” Clearly the building fits the model of service station of the 1950’s.

Always one with an eye for business, E. T. was the big boss. James Burchette and Joe Mills, an older adult, were among supervisors of the youthful bus boys. Ruth, Dot and all agree that the major customers consisted of teenagers who saw The Cream Center as the town’s most popular date night . The Sunday attraction of ice cream brought out adults as well. The Cream Center opened at 9:00 the morning and remained open until 11:00 p.m. at night according to Chet.

Cars gathered around the Cream Center awaiting the curb service with some people perhaps going inside for service.

Everyone seems to agree that Burchette did not own the property but no one is quite certain when The Cream Center closed. Odell Betts and Jimmy Cotton, trucking businessmen, seem to have operated the business briefly according to Chet. After their stint, Frank Pleasants returned the building to its original usage as a service station. He appears to have added the two bays for a garage on the left as seen in the Dean photo dated 1961.

Frank Pleasant operated the Crown Service Station in the building, adding the two garage bays and repainting the exterior. It also appears to have additions to the rear in the stair step roof.

James Burchette worked for many years thereafter at the FCX. E. T. took up another career with Al Smith Buick where he would remain until he retired. E. T. died in 2010.

The Cream Center holds a place in the hearts of many who grew up and were part of the Fuquay Springs-Varina teenage scene during the 1950’s. Sonja Averette Musser (sister of Donald Averette) Willa Akins Adcock (who grew up across Broad Street) and Billy Yeargan (tobacconist of NC fame) all have reminisced about those days on “Way Back When.”

Source material from Interviews with Ruth Burchette Wilson and Dot Burchette Dickens, Max Ashworth, Donald Cotton, and Chet Hair. Pictures courtesy of Angie Bunn.

RAWLS Family Named the Community

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Early Police in Fuquay Springs

“Preserving the peace and good order”

The Charter of the Town of Fuquay Springs gave the commissioners and mayor the task of electing and fixing the salary of a constable or marshal and such policemen as “may be necessary for the preservation of the peace and good order of the town.” The incorporation lists Ebenezer Knox as that first constable. (One W. E. Knox lived with his brother who was a hotel keeper in the 1910 census.) Since the earliest town records which managed to survive date from September 7, 1914, the most creditable source found listing the officials for the town before that time was the North Carolina Yearbook printed by the News and Observer.

These listings name as Chief of Police :
– 1910 MacMillan for the town of 120 persons (There was a William McMillan with wife and five children living in town in 1910. Spelling of names often varies in the census records, so we cannot be certain.)
– 1911 W. W. Ferrall for a population of 170 and a tax rate of 25 cents per $100 of property,
– 1912 W. W. Howard
– 1913 Manley Clapp with a increase in population to 400
– 1914 W. F. Stuart

Chief Stuart was authorized in the board minutes of November 16, 1914 to police the town, collect taxes, repair potholes and bridges, and collect fees for arrests under bond of $200. Whether his performance proved unsatisfactory or too much for him or he just retired was not recorded. A committee, appointed to find a new chief, succeeded in having John Jones named chief on December 7, 1914 at a salary of $40 per month. In less than a year, October 11, 1915, J. E. Thomas was appointed at $35 per month and through 1916, he was allowed a percentage of taxes collected set at 4 percent in town and 6 percent if he had to go outside of town. The mayor was allowed to deputize policemen in 1915 for the Fourth of July at the Mineral Spring. The minutes of 1916 named John Jones, J. E. Thomas and W. F. Stuart who served for $1.50 per day and J. H. Rowland for $1.00. Again in less than one year, on September 25, 1916, C. B. Howard was elected Chief at $35 per month.

Through 1918-1919, the mayor hired policemen “for the best price possible”, with the discretion to hire men for Easter Monday, and for Saturday evening. Policemen received $10 for each arrest and/or $5.00 per day. No chief was named but one George Marcom resigned as the police officer June 10, 1920 and on December 6, 1921 J. D. Jones was employed as police chief, sanitary officer, and tax collector. Chief Jones had a contract for twelve months at $45. On April 3, 1922, the chief reported that all but three of the graves he was instructed to move beside the Cozart property had been relocated. Other duties were hauling of garbage for businesses once a week and residences once every two weeks and handling the matter of hog pens. By 1923, the Board of Commissioners wanted to talk to the citizens about police services. There was no separate budgeted amount for police, although there was $800 for fire.

Again changes were frequent. L. H. Smith, named town marshal May 5, 1924, had his services discontinued on August 7, 1925. That October, T. H. Stam was hired for policing on Saturday night and enforcing the Sunday closing law at $5.00 per day. He was told to get a pistol owned by the town from Arthur Fish.

Jeatus D. Jones, wife and daughter lived on Faucette Street. He served as Chief in 1920’s and continued to serve as a policeman in Varina during the 1940’s.

Business conditions during 1925-26 required special policemen, John Jones and J. D. Jones, for Christmas in both Varina and Fuquay. By February 15, 1926, Varina received her own specified policemen with the election of John Jones who was to be paid only when he made an arrest or served a conviction. No reference to a chief was made in 1927; however, in May L. E. Stephens was hired as a night watchman for two months at $100 per month, provided he ran the motor grader four to six days per month to keep up the streets. Night watchmen, policing, and tax collection were upgraded that year on September 5, with the hiring of two men (not named) , one for Fuquay and one for Varina for thirty days at $75.

Jeatus D. Jones was buried at Wake Chapel Cemetery in 1950.

In the three budgets of 1927-1930, the town allotted $1200 for policemen, received petitions to continue having a night watchman, and hired special policemen for July 4th and Easter Monday. On November 12, 1928, the board voted to hire two policemen (not named) for the year at $60 each per month. Besides police work, they were to do street work under Commissioner J. W. Lewter’s direction. In 1929 the police were to see that cars were not parked on the East side of Main Street between Fuquay Motor Company and Proctor Barbour. Named as special policemen in 1929 were A. R. Talley and J. M. Jones; in 1930 J. M. Jones, J. H. Rowland, V. V. Cole, and J. D. Jones.

John Madison Jones pictured as a young man. He was the son of William and Florence Jones and farmed just off what is now Ransom Street. He first is listed as Police Chief in 1915 and continued to be a special policemen in the 1930’s.

Enter the Great Depression era which saw the budget for 1930-31 reduce the police allocation to $800. Apparently, L. E. Stephens and W. F. Foster had been hired as the town’s two policemen, because on June 8, 1931 they were continued at their same salary until further notice. Mr. Foster was also the township constable, serving the Recorder’s Court. Named special policemen at $3.00 per day were J. M. Jones, J. D.Jones, N. N. Coley, and Sidney Adams.

Depression woes caused notice to be given that police services would be discontinued after June 1, 1932. Whereupon Mr. Stephens resigned effective February 15. The night watchman, first paid $30 then $20, was suspended until the town could pay. The police budgets dropped from $720 in 1931-32 to $100 in 1933-34. By 1935-36, the budget was back to $750 per year. In 1935, Jimmie Prince resigned as night watchman, and on May 6, policeman J. C. Evers, when appointed, declared that he could not collect garbage and clean the streets for $20 per month. The Town Manager’s office (created in 1933) was now authorized to purchase equipment for the police department.

Conditions improved during 1936 when two night policemen were given $10 raises per month and Mr. Foster and Mr. Evers received $50 and $55 respectively. Additionally, Evers got $6 per month for street cleaning while the town hired L. G. Prince to collect garbage at $17.50 per month. By September, Prince took over the street cleaning with his garbage duties at $30. In 1937-38, the town hired four policemen: N. W. Clark and W. F. Foster ($50) and M. Proctor and J. C. Evers ($55) and created a Streets and Water Department under W. L. Rowland at $75 per month, forever separating this from the police responsibilities.

The 1937-38 budget alloted the police department $1282.50 and named W. F. Foster and J. C. Evers as employed policemen. In 1939, Foster was designated as the Varina Officer and F. D. Starling as the Fuquay Officer with a department budget of $1425. Both officers received $60 per month, raised to $63 in 1941. In 1942, J. D. Jones, who replaced Mr. Starling, and Foster were both paid $69. Beginning with the budget of 1943-44, $900 each was allocated for the Fuquay Officer and the Varina Officer with an extra officer at $10. In 1947, when Foster died, the citizens of Varina petitioned to have J. D. Jones moved to their streets and A. E. Hester was elected as policeman for Fuquay at a salary of $110 per month.

These early policemen served the Town of Fuquay Springs as it grew from a total of 127 population in 1910. When this new municipal building, now the museum, opened in 1951, the awning on the right covered the entrance to their first official police station.

The town was investigating building a jail while paying T. S. Rogers $200 per month to haul prisoners from Recorder’s Court to Raleigh. Transferring prisoners had been a continuing problem since the Recorder’s Court for Middle Creek Township was set up in 1917 and several investigations of building a jail had been made, always failing because requirements were too involved. Now land was being sought for a town hall facility to house a jail, police, fire, and the town offices. Law and order in the Town of Fuquay Springs was well established and departmental responsibilities more defined as her 40th Anniversary neared. (The first municipal building on Fuquay Avenue was dedicated August 22, 1951)

Shirley Simmons Sources: FV Town Minutes, Charter for Fuquay Springs, North Carolina Yearbooks, U. S. Census


Burton Family Cemetery sign leads into the plot across from the original home place.

The father-son team of Ira Burton and Leroy Burton have become our next subjects for an article for the museums to share. These two gentlemen were persons we might all strive to emulate in our lives. In researching this article, not one person has uttered a single negative thing about either of these two men. The core of information on the father, Ira Burton, comes from a “The Burton Family History” in our collection and our History of Fuquay-Varina. This has been supplemented by written and oral interviews from the past and present on both men.

Mr. Ira was eulogized in an Independent column, “This Side of Fuquay,” by Bill Freeman which was entitled “The Late Ira Burton Loved Everybody.” Dr. Freeman declared “He was unusual in many ways.” Among them “He loved all people. Many times on Sunday, he would stand up in his and other churches to say, ‘Mr. Pastor, I want to say to our young folks that you have got to love everybody; you can’t go through this world hating.’ “ Freeman testifies, “This man went through out the community urging the old and young to work for harmony between the races.”

Richard and Julia Burton of Granville County, NC. gave birth to seven children, 6 sons and 1 daughter. The eldest, Ira, was born October 16, 1878. At age seventeen, he began working on the railroad from North Carolina to Petersburg, Va. and later worked in West Virginia and New Jersey for a wage of $1.00 per day. When his parents became ill in 1898, he left his job in New Jersey to return to Granville County. Upon the death of his father, he assumed responsibility for his mother and the younger children.

Ira Burton at birthday celebration for 100 years.

At age 22, Ira married Roberta Smith in Granville County. Upon the death of his mother in 1909, the Burtons moved to Willow Springs, North Carolina where they worked a farm on shares. In 1912, the young couple purchased a small farm along with a first horse and wagon. Bad economic times, caused them to have to return to share cropping; however, they were not to be deterred. In 1918, they purchased the Burton farm on the edge of Wake-Harnett County which became the Burton home place and the site of the Burton Family Cemetery. The house was donated for a fire department burn by grandson, Calvin King, a few years ago. Ezola, who cared for her father and mother in their latter years, was the last family resident on the property.

To the union of Ira and Roberta were born thirteen children, 7 sons and 6 daughters. Listed in the family history were Magazine, Nathaniel, William, Olivia, Ezola, Ira James, twins Leroy and Lela Everlyn, Eugene, Euzelia, Algernon, John, and Ruby. The first to be buried in the family cemetery was twin, Lela Everlyn who died at 7 years of age. When daughter Euzelia, a beautician in Fuquay living at home with her young son, died circa 1942, her son Calvin King was raised by his grandparents. He was graduated from Fuquay Consolidated High School in 1960 and pursued a military career.

Now living in Durham, Calvin has assumed responsibility for the cemetery for the family and gave us permission to make photographs there. The youngest child, Ruby, shared her memory that the only non-Burton family body laid to rest there is that of John White who worked with the Snipes neighbors. Mr. Ira honored Otha Snipes’ request to bury White there. Rosalyn Snipes remembers that White worked with the Snipes on the farm adjoining Burton. Since he had no family to care for him, Mr. Ira helped with his burial.

The beautiful field of family graves of many generations.

Freeman characterized Burton as “unusual in another respect, his belief in education and religion.” Ira Burton was one of the leaders in the First Baptist Church in Fuquay-Varina. He along with his wife, Roberta, were life-long members. The Burtons were active in the Masons and Eastern Star. He was instrumental in getting the first nursery for blacks at the Masonic Hall where Ruby remembered the children called him “grandpa.” The first Rosenwald school building for blacks on Jones Street was another effort on which he worked. His older children had attended the Bazzel Creek School. With Fuquay an elementary school only, Burton helped in a community effort to purchase the bus to transport high school students to Berry O’Kelly High School until the local high school could be established circa 1938.

Ira Burton filing his taxes.

In a phone interview from Philadelphia, Ruby, now 94 years old, remembered that Mr. Ira always worked for the school, was active in the PTA, the 4 H-club program, and the farmer’s association. Farming, building, and community efforts were significant within the Burton family. Miss Roberta was said to have loved her home and family, and enjoyed flowers, gardening, cooking, quilting, and missionary work.

Ruby characterized her father as strict and her mother as sweet and loving. The parents instilled a sense of hard work, independence, self sufficiency, and reliability in all the Burton children. She remembers a neighborhood of white Snipes and Rawls landowners and Snead and Burton black landowners all living in their congenial rural community.

In 1960, Roberta died at age 74; however, another of Ira’s “unusual” characteristics noted by Freeman was his longevity. On September 1, 1979, Freeman recounted that “more than 500 mourners filed by the bier in the First Baptist Church to pay their respects to the 101 year old.” Both husband and wife were interned in the family cemetery.

Leroy Burton’s funeral program 2002.
Ira Burton’s grave is beside his wife Roberta.

Ira’s son, Leroy Melvin Burton, one of the twins, was born on September 28, 1913 in Fuquay Springs. He attended school in the area and was one of the bus drivers for the high school students who were transported to Berry O’Kelly. When interviewed for our Ballentine School House displays, he told us that, as a student, he drove the bus from Fuquay to the famed high school for African Americans located in the Method Community.

Graduating from Berry O’Kelly were Olivia (who attended as a boarding student), Leroy, and Ezola. Euzelia came back to graduate in the first class at Fuquay Consolidated High School. All the younger siblings were educated in Fuquay, Ruby recalled.

Leroy’s life on the farm, led him to study agriculture. He graduated from A T & T in Greensboro, and became a vocational agriculture teacher. In 1940, he was boarding and teaching in Wilkesboro, North Carolina where he registered for the draft during World War II. There Leroy met pretty young teacher Jo Evelyn Hamm from Statesville and they were married while teaching in Alleghany County, N. C.

Calvin fondly recalls visits to Uncle Leroy in the mountains. He also knows that the family purchased black angus cows from that area. No one is definite about when Leroy and Jo Evelyn moved to Bridge Street in Fuquay. However, Ruby remembers that daughter Joan was born in Fuquay Springs. Her guess would be they moved in the early 1950’s.

At any rate, the Leroy Burtons did return to live in his home town for the rest of their lives. Both are pictured on the staff in the 1953 Yearbook, L’Esprit de Corps, in the museum’s collection. They may have been working there for several years prior to that yearbook. Mrs. Burton taught the third grade at Fuquay Consolidated and Mr. Burton became the vocational agriculture teacher in the high school. Dr. Freeman noted in his column that he “became a fledgling assistant agriculture teacher under Leroy Burton in 1954 at Fuquay Consolidated High School.” Mr. Ira gave him this advice which Freeman shared in that column. “Young man, we have some good folks here, white and black. We have a good community, and we welcome you here. If you come here and get the folks to love you, and do a good job, they will help you to do anything you want done.”

Leroy and Jo Evelyn raised three children who also graduated from Fuquay Consolidated High School. Leroy Melvin, Jr. and William Edward were both born in Statesville, Iredell County where Jo Evelyn had been living. The elder, Leroy Melvin Burton, Jr., became an established medical doctor in Raleigh, North Carolina and is listed in Who’s Who Among African Americans multiple times in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Dr. Burton died in 1994 and is buried at the Burton Family Cemetery. His younger brother, William had died at age 44 years and been buried in the same cemetery in 1987. Ruby tells us that William finished ROTC and served in the military during the Bay of Pigs. Leroy and Jo Evelyn are survived by four grandchildren. Calvin says Dr. Burton’s two daughters are both in the medical profession in Nashville. William’s son is an engineer with Caterpillar in Rocky Mount and his daughter lives in Angier.

In 1970, when the schools of Fuquay-Varina were integrated, Leroy moved to Fuquay-Varina High School to work with Jerry Holland in the vocational agriculture program. Mr. Leroy, very popular with students and staff, was especially noted for his kindness, wise counsel, and ability to work with everyone. The Holland family reminded us that on the weekends, Mr. Burton was the local magistrate and during the week the soft-spoken teacher. Mrs. Jo Evelyn Burton was remembered by fellow teachers in the Lincoln Heights Primary grades after integration.

Leroy Burton with unidentified student at FVHS.

When the Bengal Blvd. high school building opened, one agriculture position remained at the Fuquay-Varina Junior High and one moved with grades 10-12. Mr. Holland went to the high school and Mr. Burton taught the 9th grade, until that grade moved to the high school in the fall of 1977. About that time he is assumed, by teacher Micheal Bowden, to have retired.

Following in the footsteps of his father, Leroy worked for community progress. He was one of the co-founders of the Pine Acres Community Center in 1962. The building has served as a banquet hall, family reunion site, social center, after-school tutorial program. education center, polling place, and today a site for Meals on Wheels. It remains the heart of the African American Community as the founding fathers envisioned.

Pine Acres Community Building on Bridge Street.

When Jo Evelyn Burton died and was buried in the family cemetery in July 1998, daughter Joan moved back home to live with her father. Leaving her career in Atlanta, she was chosen the Executive Director of the Fuquay-Varina Community Development Corporation. Under her direction the two buildings from the Fuquay Consolidated High School were preserved and repurposed, one into a childhood learning center and the other into apartments for the elderly. Plans to save the separate gymnasium were made but the project was thwarted by storm damages to the building. Like her father and grandfather, Joan’s leadership within the community is legendary.

Mr. Leroy enjoyed his retirement on Burton Street, where he had built a home and encouraged his neighbor, Mr. Freeman, to build as well. He was buried in 2002 in the Burton Family Cemetery. Joan returned to other work thereafter. Sadly she was taken from us by illness just this year, 2020.

Leroy Burton’s gravestone is in a row with wife and two sons.

Other grandchildren of the Ira Burton’s reside in the area. Ruby, the only living child, married in 1947. After a few years at Camp Lejeune, they farmed in Buckhorn. She followed her husband to Philadelphia in 1957 where she and her children remain. Calvin and Ruby were gracious in sharing their memories and promised pictures of this remarkable family.

Freeman concluded his column by saying of Mr. Ira, “Fuquay is better because he passed this way.” Those of us who worked with Mr. Leroy enthusiastically say the same of the son as well. Definitely as one family member said , “We are good folks.” Our research endorses these evaluations 110%. Thank you “Burtons” for being part of our community!

Sources: phone interviews with Ruby Burton Bullock, Calvin King, Nancy Holland, Donald Cotton, Michael Bowden, Rosalyn Snipes
printed History of Fuquay-Varina, Burton Family History, “This Side of Fuquay” by Bill Freeman, The Independent, U. S. Census, Find a Grave, & other data.
Shirley Simmons, Volunteer Director


Fuquay Springs, N.C.

In response to an inquiry via Facebook from Mike Legeros (local fire department historian and blogger) regarding some confusion about the beginning date of the Fuquay Fire Department, we are sharing our research from the display and history housed in the Fuquay-Varina Museums.

The town minutes give us our first idea of fire protection when they passed a Fire District Resolution on November 1, 1915. What, if anything, precipitated that action was not clear. However, our major fire in town the following June clearly showed the necessity of some action. Farmer’s and Banner warehouse fires had occurred previously according to the Raleigh Times, January 17, 1914.

Our 1916 fire was discovered about 3:00 am in the morning of June 13. The first building in flames was the sheet metal warehouse used by the hardware company. Between this warehouse and the brick store building was a wooden barn, which according to an N & O account of June 14, was skipped over by a strange wind circumstance. Legeros’s account states the “fire was intentionally set” according to the Evening Dispatch of Wilmington. At no point either in local oral or written accounts have we been able to validate that cause for the fire.

After the fire, the barn between Main and Spring Avenue was found to be unharmed; however, the fire consumed three stores and their contents along Main Street. The Raleigh fire department was called but when no water source for their equipment was available, the request was withdrawn. The town was left to fight the fire with a bucket brigade. Eleanor Howard remembers her mother, Mary, telling of being present as water was taken from local residential wells and passed along the lines of citizens to the fire.

The loss was approximately $45,000 with little of the losses covered by insurance. The owners of the two-story building, A. W. Thompson and E. A. Howard, valued the structures at $14,000. Housed within the building were the three businesses of Dietz & Isaacson general merchants, Fuquay Drug Company owned by A. G. Elliott, and Fuquay Hardware Company. Upstairs losses were those of Dr. C. E. Check (physician), Dr. J. R. Edwards (dentist), and A. J. Fletcher (lawyer). Local accounts say on-lookers watched as Dr. Edwards’ new dental chair fell through the floor from his upstairs office. In an interview local banker, Robert Prince, recalled he helped as a youth to clean the remaining outside of the brick building and the interior was rebuilt at the corner of Main and Depot.

On June 5, 1922, the town minutes record a discussion of securing a lot for a fire truck house. Exactly when the town purchased the fire truck is unclear; however, Mr. Tom Ferguson was appointed that date as manager of the fire truck. He was paid for one day of work per week and charged with appointing members for his company. According to this authors’s interview with Rex Bradley (fireman now deceased) he remembered this first truck. He dated it as a 1922-24 Model T. Truck. It used 10 lbs of soda and 50 gal of water. A crank was turned adding acid to the tank creating a “very messy soda wash” in Bradley’s words.

The following March 12, 1923, Jake Siegfried was paid $20 for servicing of the fire truck. That June under Mayor V. O. Tilley, the town budgeted $800 for the fire department out of a expected town revenue of $5,000. By October 5, 1925 the town clerk billed citizens for use of the fire truck to fight fires. Interestingly, the town budget was decreased to $300 on June 18, 1926.

The date listed on the Legeros web and recorded in the fire department history that the Town Fire Department was organized in 1925 under W. Lee Rowland may refer to a formal organization called the Fuquay Springs Rural Fire Department. Rowland was listed as working in a garage and as an electrician in Fuquay Springs in the Census of 1920 and 1930. Clearly Rowland was in the picture, as he was requested to drive the fire truck to the Bank of Varina and back the first of every month (minutes Jan. 6, 1930)

In 1928-29, the town paid $150 for service and repair for the fire truck. The search for a lot was unsuccessful but Ballentine’s Service Station kept the fire truck in 1931. (Bradley could not pinpoint the exact location of this station but it is believed to have been on Main Street). The service station was paid $10 per month to keep the truck in running order and $5 for each fire that was fought. According to some sources, a lot was purchased from A. W. Thompson on Spring Avenue for $300 but no building was constructed at that time.

The depression impacted all town services. According to the minutes of April 3, 1934, the service station was paid $5.00 per month but received $7.50 for each fire fought by the operators of the service station. The Sept 7, 1935 town budget for the fire department was $150.

On Feb. 5, 1936, a contract was drawn between Lee Rowland and the town for servicing the fire truck (ending Ballentine’s contract). Yet during the depression years, the town instructed E. H. Clark and Town Manager, Cordle to purchase a fire truck and fire siren (minutes Feb. 7, 1938). The Fuquay Volunteer Fire Department (according to fire department history ) had been organized a few days earlier on Feb. 3, 1938. Definitely, W. Lee Rowland was chief.

As instructed, a 1936 Chevy fire truck was located for sale in the Town of Durham for $40. This April 4, 1938 purchase included a reconditioned siren for $180. Bradley noted that this truck had a water tank for use in fighting fires. This truck may have been kept briefly back of K. B. Johnson’s shop according to Bradley. (Note that the first connection to the new town water system occurred at the Bank of Fuquay on Sept. 6. 1937) Bradley then listed the new location of the fire truck as a tin building behind Main Street stores with an exit onto Depot Street. Charles Tingen was instructed to enlarge this house according to minutes of Nov, 2, 1940. (This building could have been on the lot purchased from Thompson in 1933.)

Greater service was provided with the purchase of an adapter(minutes January 15, 1939) to enable the Raleigh Fire Department fo assist the local department. The fire alarm was activated by Walter Howard at Main and Raleigh Streets using this siren. All fire calls were routed to him at Elliott’s (Fuquay) Drug. There were metal boxes with phones on Main Street in Fuquay and on Broad Street in Varina. The museums were given the flag Howard used for controlling traffic and informing the fire truck as it came by him about the location of the fire.

The town budget was raised to $662 on July 2, 1942. The next year, June 7, 1943, W. Lee Rowland was paid $40 per week as Fire Chief. The budget included $100 for volunteers
and $100 for equipment.

1946 fire showing destruction inside Proctor Barbour tractor department.

Enter the March 7, 1946 Fire. This blaze ignited about 2:00 p.m. in a bucket of gasoline being used in the Proctor-Barbour tractor repair department. Destruction of this one-story building, was complete with major water damage to the adjoining two-story Proctor Barbour establishment . Wade’s Theater, Barefoot Barber Shop, and Mudge & Prince Insurance were all destroyed as well.

1946: The 1946 fire on Main Street destroyed everything mid-block, leaving the Bank of Fuquay on the left of the picture. The Wade Theater is the middle two story building. The Proctor Barbour Tractor department where the fire began would be on the right. Picture: Independent staff

Fighting the fire was handicapped by numerous problems related in the N & O March 8, 1946. The Fuquay Springs truck was not capable of fighting the fire because of water pressure problems (according to local accounts, the tires were flat and there was a hen’s nest on the seat). Apex’s pumper truck did not fit the hydrants. Angier and Lillington were hampered by water pressure. Dunn’s equipment would not fit the adapters. Raleigh broke down in transit but arrived and using the adapters was able to extinguish the fire on the Bank of Fuquay’s roof.

Dr. Edwards (victim of the 1916 fire) removed his office contents from the upstairs of the Bank). Dr. Cozart’s new office behind the Bank suffered some damage as did the Plymouth-Dodge auto on Raleigh Street which was under construction. According to the N & O report “virtually all business firms in the town were closed and scores of businessmen and farmers rushed in to fight the fire.” Fire broke out in Holleman’s Grocery across the street, which had been emptied of stock, but there fire was extinguished. Most of contents of the Insurance Company and Barber Shop were also removed by citizens. Much of the damage had insurance coverage. The total cost was given at $150,000.

On July 2, 1947, a Mack International Fire Truck was delivered to Fuquay at a cost of $5,55.80. This is the vintage truck restored and displayed by the Fuquay-Varina Fire Department today. A, Y. Hairr and Manager Willard Council were instructed to work on a site to house the fire truck (minutes August 4, 1947). According the Bradley’s memory, the truck was then being kept back of Edsel Fuquay’s Service Station.

In 1948, Chief Rowland requested a fire drill each month and reimbursed firemen $1.00 if they were present for practice. The town budgeted $240 for rent on July 13, 1948. According to Bradley the truck was housed in the garage beside Bradley and Sherron Welding on Raleigh Street. The chief now was paid $572, and $300 each was budgeted for volunteers and equipment.

City Hall: The first municipal building, now the FV Museums, contained all the town government. Note the fire bay and the Mack fire truck. The tin building to the left is just visible besides the courtroom entrance. Heulon Dean picture.

Finally, the first Municipal Building (now the Museums) was opened August 22, 1951. The fire bay on the left side of the building became the home of the Fuquay Town Fire Department. On June 11, of that year the department had been restricted to calls 1/2 mile outside town limits. A tin building was later attached to the side of the municipal building for equipment.

Fire calls now came into the Police Station at the Municipal Building. Phones were labeled Town and Rural. The dispatcher on duty activated the appropriate siren. The two sirens located on a pole at the corner of Main are remembered by residents to have had different sounds. Two siren sites are often recalled—one at Main & Raleigh, another atop Proctor Barbour although we have been unable to verify dates. Later a siren would be placed atop the rural fire department building itself.

Rural Fire Department building with the FV Rural Fire Department pictured. This shows clearing the warehouse which covered much of that block and came back to this building. photo: courtesy J. G. Baker

On May 21, 1954 under sponsorship of the Farm Bureau, the Fuquay Rural Fire Department was organized. Many volunteers served both fire departments until on August 7, 1961 the new Rural Fire Department and the Town Fire Department were required to have two separate personnel rolls. The Fuquay Rural Fire Department housed equipment in K. B. Johnson’s garage and in a tin building at 134 Fuquay Avenue. They dedicated their brick building across from the municipal building August 2, 1965. (Later this housed the Rescue Squad and now Cultivate coffee shop)

Portrait from FV Fire Department of W. L. Rowland

W. Lee Rowland served as Chief of the Fuquay Springs Volunteer Fire Department from 1938-1963. With the 1963 Fuquay-Varina name change, Clifton Keith became Chief of the
Town Fire Department from 1963-1972. Tom Bridges was Chief of the Rural Fire Department, serving from 1953-1959.

1957: Pictured are the trucks from both the rural and town fire department according to Heulon Dean who took this photo. Taken on Raleigh Street, the Johnson Drug Store is across the street on the right and the Thompson Building on the left. This was the building which was gutted inside during the 1916 fire and rebuilt inside. Beside the trucks is the service station and one of the siren sites which Howard used to direct the trucks to a fire.

When the two departments merged some operations on July 10, 1972, agreements were drawn for leasing and sharing equipment, insurance, and taxes. By 1977, four rural trucks were housed at 128 S. Fuquay Avenue and two town trucks were housed at 134 Fuquay Avenue.

1977: These businesses occupied the mid-block which was rebuilt after 1946 and destroyed again in the 1977 fire on Main Street. Picture courtesy Jimmy Ashworth.

We end this “early history” with the last of three fires on Main Street the Fire of 1977. Chief Ed Schmelzer was serving as the Chief of the combined fire departments (1977-78). On March 1, 1977, smoke and flames were detected by a policemen in the Country Gardens and Gifts portion of the old Proctor-Barbour Building on the corner of Vance and Main Streets. When mid-morning came, the entire block south of the Bank of Fuquay had been virtually removed. The total cost is listed as $500,000. Kessler’s women’s clothing and Ransdell’s men’s clothing and shoes were completely destroyed. Only the records from United Credit Corporation were saved. Country Gardens, Flowers and Gifts and Home Office Machines were total losses. Friendly Florist’s second story was lost and the first floor too damaged to save. Earl Lee’s Portrait Studio had severe water damage and was unable to continue.

1977 morning after showing the damaged Proctor Barbour building which was later demolished.

The block remains today a stark reminder of the damage a fire can do to a block of buildings even with a well-trained operation and the assistance of neighboring fire departments as well. The Independent April 28, 1977 pictured wrecking squads clearing the B. B. Johnson property adjoining the Bank of Fuquay. S. L. Lane eventually cleared the partially burned portions of his Proctor Barbour Building. Thus the parking lot along South Main is left.

The Town of Fuquay-Varina Fire Department today represents a complete merger of the two earlier departments worked out by both departments as they began to share the building at 301 S. Fuquay Avenue in August, 1977. A total of nineteen men are known to have served to date as Chief in the history of our Fire Departments. Most are pictured in our museum’s story.

Shirley Simmons


The museums received an inquiry about a picture of men who met in 1990 and claimed to be a football team. The question came from a descendant of the Jones’ who were identified by her in the picture. We recognized this as a copy from the Independent which we display in the museums. Lest you have not heard, we share the tale here.

FUQUAY SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM 1930 Identified left to right as they gathered for a reunion in 1990. Chester Holland, William Holland, William Smith, Allen Rogers, Fred Jones, Kenneth Jones, John Smith, Bennett Bullock and Jack Rowland

At the fall reunion in 1990, 9 men took their picture and gave an interview about their first football team. They recalled a group of 20 boys who tried out for this the first football team at Fuquay Springs High School. Mr. W. E. Fleming, the principal, hired Dutch Parker as a teacher at the high school under condition that he take the football coaching job, too. According to the team, Parker knew exactly nothing about football but was sent to a two-week training camp at Chapel Hill to learn the sport.

Over that season, they played six games. They opened with Spring Hope High School and came away on the short end of a 60-0 score. A couple of them insisted the score was really 68-0. They also insisted they did not care about the outcome of the season, as they knew they knew nothing. They were out to have FUN. The team enjoyed two victories, both over Angier which was also fielding its first year team that 1930 year.

Benton Bullock recalled that the only one of the team who had ever played a game of football was Bill Stinson. Stinson he described as the reason Bullock scored their “first touchdown” against Angier. Stinson was told to run down for a pass, which he did, accompanied by great hollering so that the whole Angier team followed him. Under cover of this distraction, Bullock kept the ball and ran 50 yards for their first touchdown.

Besides the 9 who came to the reunion and are identified, they listed other names. Jack Blanchard and Robert Lee Dale were still alive but not attending the reunion. Deceased were John Henry Jones, Graham Brooks, Maynard Keith, Wilber Blalock and Percy Atkins. Listed as brothers were the Jones boys: Fred, Kenneth and Caleb who when stirred up became “a bunch of wasps.” Three other sets of brothers were William and John Smith, Allen and John Rogers, and Chester and William Holland. (The writer cannot quite find 20 names total but certainly 18 are named. Perhaps 2 did not make the team.)

FUQUAY SPRINGS HIGH SCHOOL BUILDING This was the second building of the high school, built on Ennis Street circa 1928. Today the county uses it as the office for the Fuquay-Varina Middle School after extensive remodeling.

The parents could not afford cleats so they either wore tennis shoes or nailed cleats into their brogans. Helmets were like leather caps and flew off heads when tackled. The field was back of the original high school building and evidently just that— a field. The boys recalled that in 1934, as a WPA project, the government leveled the field for the first time. Team training consisted of running a mile during their hour-long lunch break. They did have a practice after school but had to hurry home for chores before darkness overtook them. The Holland brothers insisted that they also ran a mile and half stretch to their home in the afternoon. They paid $5 for a driver to take them to away games on a flatbed truck. No admission was charged for games but they did pass the hat for contributions of a nickel or so.

(The writer wonders if Angier’s field was the notorious 10 yards short on one end field at he old Angier High School site. The team which played that end of the field was required to return the ball to the ten yard line and gain 10 more yards to score. BUT this tale awaits another telling.)

Shirley Simmons (Source: Nov. 7, 1990 Independent story and clipping by Holland family.)
Picture inquiry: Janice Britson in Pittsboro

Wilton D. “Skinny” Ashworth: Oh, The Memories He Shared!

Wilton D. Ashworth, known to all of us as “Skinny,” gave us many moments of reflection and remembrance which the Fuquay-Varina Museums can celebrate. He was a “people person” without question, but he was also a person who loved his home town and wanted to see its history preserved. Skinny did his part to support the museums and our vision!

Skinny visited the museums often. Always he arrived with “hey, y’all” and his signature smile. Each time, we always got answers to whatever puzzle piece we were currently researching. He shared the details he knew of the person’s life and could always tell us the names of sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers and even who the individual married. His genealogy archive was immense. Here we have lost his knowledge.

On the Blanchard Hotel, he told of seeing people sitting on the porch overlooking the spring. His description fit the pictures exactly. He remembered the names and locations of stores along Main Street which added much to our record of the locale. Fifty years on Main Street certainly gave him a vast knowledge and memory bank.

When we were taking pictures of Elliotts Pharmacy at its closing, he gave us details of beauty shops and operators located upstairs and he knew the lawyers who looked up and down Main Street from their vantage points in history. He even confessed to being a visitor in a session of the Recorder’s Court which tried a local madam.

On Skinny, himself, we all enjoy the talented backwards ride he displayed on his bicycle for H. Lee Waters while making the 1937 film of Fuquay Springs. He also shows up purchasing his ticket for the Wade Theater. An energetic 15 year old he was at the time! From his memory (augmented by his sister Frances and brother Jimmy) we have the identities of most of the individuals who appear in the film! Although the film is silent, we were given all this added information for posterity.

In our collections , we acknowledge his World War II uniform and picture of himself dressed in the same. One day, upon inspection he declared “ that’s a moth hole!” He promptly searched his closet and came back with a new pair of pants which would “look better.” Ever the clothing store expert, he even purchased his own mannequin to properly display the uniform. Accompanying the uniform, he donated a framed account of the front page News and Observer for August 15, 1945, a copy of Stars and Stripes, and his dog tags.

A veteran of service in the U.S. Army in France, England, Belgium and Germany, he made several trips back to those lands over the years. He possessed a wonderful map with actual sand from Utah Beach which he promised the museums could have eventually. Along with that, he brought us a picture of a comrade, Myron Matthews, who gave his life in France. Skinny donated a picture of himself at the grave site with the Matthews marker for our collection.

Finally, on November 11, 2017, he sat for an interview for our oral history collection. Dr. Leo and I had the interesting experience of hearing his recollections of the Ashworth Store, his Ashworth life, and of town events he recalled. This time he was seated in his apartment as Windsor Point. We are hoping there may be other stories he shared with family and friends which can be added to his file.

Another of the greatest generation of Americans has left our midst. We shall miss him on many fronts: at the store, in family get-to-gethers, at church, in impromptu visits, and especially those phone calls requesting “to pick your brain.” Fortunately he was a wonderful source for us and we express our appreciation that he gave us so much for our history collection and future generations.

Acknowledging contributor and Friend of the Museums:
Wilton D. “Skinny” Ashworth July 6, 1922-June 23, 2020

Author: Shirley Simmons


The oldest brick building existing in town today seems to be that of the three part Varina Mercantile now known as Fellowship Bible Church and located across South Main Street from the Mineral Spring. It has been remodeled on the interior and the three-store front entirely changed by the church.

This picture circa 1916, the oldest known picture of the three-store building housing Varina Mercantile, shows how it would have appeared to spring visitors. J. D. and partners located the business in the postal area he called “Varina” for his wife, Virginia.

Affectionately known as “Mr. Joe’s Store” by all the persons who can actually remember the days of operation, the mercantile establishment opened circa 1899. J. D. “Squire” Ballentine had operated a store across the creek, in what is now the Mineral Springs Park today, at least as early as 1884. The Squire, his older brother, William, and William’s son, Joe were the three entrepreneurs of this new brick establishment.

The “Squire” appears to have been active as a Justice of the Peace, a post master, and a farmer, so he is not recalled as actually working in the store. William had married into the Jones family and was farming and living on Sunset Lake Road. Thus, the two brothers deferred to “Mr. Joe” as the merchant in residence.

William Joseph “Joe” Ballentine (1876-1956) is buried at Wake Chapel Cemetery. He was the son of William Marshall Ballentine & Rhoda Ann Jones Ballentine.

According to Jane Person, the north section of the building had piece goods, shoes, and ready to wear. The middle section sold school books, supplies, and groceries. The third section handled hardware and farm equipment. The drive way into the building is still visible here. A large coal stove heated the store on the ground floor. Connecting doors could be opened within the inside. This configuration remained when it was an antique shop for a time. This author remembers the auction closing McCauley’s antiques when the three areas of the store were still evident.

Dated 1985, when the building was sold to Mission Chapel Church, the three stores are clearly visible with the mortuary or funeral home added to the right.

Jane Person, who grew up in the Ballentine-Spence House, remembered that upstairs were apartments. Either one room or larger apartments were available for rent. A water faucet for running water was added when the town got running water in 1937. She recalled the one bathroom for the whole upstairs which would have come with running water.

Construction of three stores is visible on the back side and the mortuary addition. By 1985, the upstairs appears to have been unused.

“Miss Lizzie,” Joe’s wife ran a millinery shop, perhaps originally in the store but eventually next door in a separate building. Again Eleanor Howard can remember her mother buying hats from Miss Lizzie. Some say it was located in the little brown house beside the old hotel; Joe Starr says the Lane boys identified the building as one which was moved back behind the store.

Elizabeth “Lizzie” Barham (1972-1959) was the daughter of Romulus Barham and Adrianna Margaret Williams Ballentine. She bore two daughters, Mary Elizabeth who died in her first year and her oldest, Margaret Joe Ballentine, who married S. Lloyd Lane.

In 1910, Mr. Joe was licensed to run a funeral home and the small addition to the south side of the three store front was added for that business. He purchased an ambulance which is shown in a 1926 picture. At first Ballentine only sold caskets, with families making all other provisions for a funeral. When his son-in-law, Lloyd Lane, became a licensed embalmer, the Ballentine’s Funeral Home expanded its services.

Shirley Hayes noted in an article for the Independent, “The first dead person I ever saw was in Mr. Joe Ballentine’s mortuary across the street from the spring. I was probably eight years old scouting about with neighborhood buddies on a summer evening. When we saw that no one was about, we sneaked up to the open door of the little wing on the south side of the building and peeped in to see a white-haired lady, beautifully coiffed, and dressed in a lavender gown, laid out in a coffin. The room was dimly lit. To us the scene was fascinating and a bit spooky as death is to children.”

Carolyn Blanchard and others remembered that Mr. Joe always gave children candy, a very generous serving when one only had a penny. Chester Holland remembered that his parents would only let them have candy at Christmas except when candy was offered from Mr. Joe. “Mr. Joe” was fondly remembered by all who were children of that era.

Chester’s father, J. C. Holland, and Mr. Joe were roommates at Elon College and the Hollands always traded with Mr. Joe. The museums have an 1904-1909 ledger donated by Bobby Barefoot which lists customers whose names are familiar in our area history. A valuable source of prices is available in this archived record.

Another record from a “faded” display listing which hung in the store details the extent of the merchandise. No author to this bit of rhyme was recorded.

Clothing for the naked,
Glasses for the blind;
Shoes for the barefooted,
Gloves that are lined.
Curtains for the windows,
Shoestrings and laces,
Lamps, wicks, and oil
To light the dark places.
Dried fruits, canned goods,
Everything to eat.
Caps for the head
And socks for the feet.
Woolen goods for dresses,
Ribbons for the old maids.
Tobacco for menfolk;
Hats for the ladies;
Toys for the children;
Bottles for the babies.
Queensware, glassware,
Pitchers and bowls;
Leather for harness
And leather for soles.
Straps and strings,
Buckles and screens;
The finest of silks,
And the coarsest of jeans.
Potatoes and apples,
Lard and meat;
Butter from the country,
Fresh and sweet,
Sugar and rice,
Beans and crackers,
Cheese and spice.
Oysters and salmon,
Flour and meal;
Mouse traps—and cats
To make the mice squeal.
Powder for hunters,
Axes for choppers,
And remedies for grunters.
Chewing gum, candy,
Corset and bustle;
The people come trading,
And how we do hustle.
Medicine to make you sick,
Medicine to make you well;
In fact, we have everything
That the best stores sell.

An old circular yellowed with age was the source of this piece furnished to the Independent in 1953 by Mr. Joe Ballentine.

Clyde Gilbert became a partner forming Ballentine Gilbert Funeral Home. The museums have calendars of 1949 advertising this establishment. Eventually Gilbert and Sugg purchased the Ballentine Funeral Home and moved the establishment to Academy Street. The museum has several calendars bearing names of this business. Mr. Joe retired shortly thereafter, circa 1949, and Varina Mercantile closed forever.

The building remained in the family and was home to several business renters. In 1985, it was sold to Mission Chapel Church. Needmore Bible Fellowship Church, Inc. took over the premises in 1991.

author: Shirley Simmons JAM


REV. EFF DAVID DODD 1884-1966 The Minister

The youngest son of John David Dodd was given the name Eff David when born on February 11, 1884 in Clayton, N.C. Educated in Johnston County and Wake County, he became a United Methodist Minister. His connection to Fuquay Springs is the final and surprising episode in the Dodd family here. Not everyone realized his connection to the
other Dodds.

E. D. Dodd

E. D. Dodd married Nora Finch the daughter of Joseph Ray and Elizabeth Greene Finch of Nash County on September 9, 1904. Methodist ministers served multiple charges and this couple was no exception. Daughter Christine Missouri was born on July 4th, 1907 at Spring Hope in Nash County. The couple served in Pitt County (Greenville) in 1910 where his father lived with them. On September 19, 1914, Eff David, Jr. was born. Rev. Dodd registered for the draft (1918) in World War I at Enfield, when he was serving as pastor there. A complete account of his service was not available for this article.

Minister E. D. Dodd is remembered fondly by many in the Fuquay-Varina Methodist Church family. His listing among the ministers here places his tenure as 1943-48. The church
had established a parsonage on the corner of Academy and Ennis Streets in 1925. Rev. E. D. Dodd and wife Nora lived there and took the option of moving into the retirement home established by the church for the remainder of their lives.

Early photo of Fuquay Springs United Methodist Church now the First United Methodist Church on Main Street. E. D. Dodd was minister here 1943-48. Photo: Senter Estate

An accomplished craftsman, Rev. Dodd’s work was recalled by Max Ashworth who grew up in this church. The minister designed and built the bannister for the church during a remodeling episode. At first Rev. Dodd worked within the parsonage but later built a workshop which became the basement of the Methodist minister’s retirement home located directly behind the parsonage on Ennis Street. Eleanor Howard recalls that her mother-in-law ordered a walnut chest from Mr. Dodd which the family still retains. Mark Howard, her son, on his way home from school often stopped by and visited Rev. Dodd in the workshop. Other individuals in Fuquay have recalled pieces of furniture made by Mr. Dodd. Fred Lee Hunt, Jr. remembered Rev. Dodd as his neighbor and friend during Fred’s youth on Academy Street.

Located at 518 E. Academy today, the FSUMC Parsonage 1925-51. E. D. Dodd lived here and in the house directly behind it on Ennis Street. Photo: Shirley Simmons

Rev Dodd was her pastor when Eleanor and J. E. Howard married. Eleanor’s intention was to join the Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church where the Howard Family were members. She
had been baptized by immersion in the Fuquay United Methodist Church at Johnson Pond and was hoping that the Baptist Church would receive her as a member without another baptism by their church. She laughingly recalls Rev. Dodd saying that he, “Hoped the Baptists would not take her.” The Baptist did! She holds today one of their longest membership records.

She also remembers that Rev. Dodd inquired regarding the circumstances surrounding the life of his father and “Miss Emma”. He appreciated this knowledge of Mary Aiken who had been their neighbor on the Mineral Spring hill.

According to the FVUMC History, the retirement home was eventually sold. The first parsonage was superseded by a new parsonage on Academy Street into which Rev. Lineberger moved in 1951. All three homes are privately owned today.

Located also on Academy Street, this the new Methodist Church parsonage was first the home of Rev. J. W. Lineberger, pastor from 1948-52. It has been privately owned since the Fuquay-Varina United Methodist Church moved to the Judd Parkway location.

Both the Dodds are listed as living in Fuquay-Varina on their death certificates and are buried in Wake Chapel Memorial Gardens. Rev Dodd died in Union Memorial Hospital on October 13, 1966 and Nora Dodd died in the same hospital on December 9, 1967. Their son, Eff David, Jr. lived in Monroe and appears to have cared for them in their last years. David, Jr. died in Monroe in 1991 as did his son Eff David, III in 2020. Daughter Christine married Cauvin Johnson, lived in Southern Pines, and was buried there in 1996. The children were not residents of Fuquay Springs at any point but were known to visit here.

The story of the Dodd Family has been an interesting one to research. Credits goes to Shirley Hayes, Eleanor Howard, Max Ashworth, and Ann Pegram for their interviews. The Independent, Smithfield Herald, Town Minutes, FVUMC History, and record sources have been utilized as well as cementery records. The author also read Larson’s non-fiction work on the family of the Ambassador. Eventually, the museums may be able to acquire further pictures of the gentlemen, the family and the Dodd house.

It was unique to attempt to trace the lives of the three men. Both the tragedy and honor of the first two are noteworthy connections to our town. That the beloved pastor came to live in Fuquay Springs after both the others were deceased was remarkable. We hope our retelling of their lives will be worth archiving. ( Shirley Simmons, author)