A Wonderful Women’s History Month Subject
Shirley Simmons & Betsy Gunter

Ruth Bethea Johnson as a young woman. Courtesy 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.

Picture of Ruth as a young lady. Photo from Ruth Johnson Collection.

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.

K. B. Johnson built this house for the family. Pictured here in 1910, it has been restored and renovated in Five Points area. Courtesy Betsy Gunter

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.

This tintype of the Johnson children was taken at the North Carolina State Fair in 1906. Ruth in back, Harold on left and Baird on right. Photo from Ruth Johnson Collection

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.

Fuquay Faculty
Ruth identified this photo as Holly Spring Boarding High School students. She is picture on the left rear. Her cousin Oma is in front of her. She identified the lady beside Oma in the hat as Pauline Holt (Mrs. W.S. Cozart). Photo from Ruth Johnson Collection

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.

Ruth Johnson from the Yearbook of Elon College in 1915, her senior year. Photo from Digital North Carolina Yearbooks.

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.

Ruth belonged to the Golden Anniversary graduates of Elon. Here she is the lady on the left of the four seated in front. Courtesy Elon University archives. Ruth served on various boards as did K. B. Johnson and others of her family. She is on the front right with the flowered purse. Courtesy Elon University archives.

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.

Ruth is pictured with President Wiggins and another official of Campbell University. Courtesy Campbell University archives.

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.

Kemp Bethea Johnson

The parents of Ruth were instrumental in her life’s work. Kemp Bethea Johnson and Mary Alice Utley Johnson (pictured). Courtesy Betsy Gunter and the Ruth Johnson Collection.

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 Johnson spent her late years working with the family history. Here she features two treasures: the portrait of William Johnson and the photo of Grandma Polly. Photo from museums collection.

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.

Those Three Jones Girls

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.

Land Grant to Etheldred Jones on Terrible Creek (Johnson family records)

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.

Grandmother Polly Rowland Jones as identified by Ruth Johnson and Edith Parker. She married twice more. The last time to Arthur S Utley
Grist Mill on Terrible Creek which was run by Barnabas Jones. This was restored by Averette during the 1930’s but fell into disrepair and was demolished eventually.

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.

John Lewis Johnson married Mary Jane Jones. Both pictures came from Ruth Johnson’s collection.
Mary Jane Jones

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.

The K B. Johnson Family photo was courtesy of Betsy Johnson Gunter.
K. B. Johnson House has been restored to former elegance by recent owners. The last Johnson resident was Miss Ruth Johnson.

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.

Almira Johnson married into the McCullers family. This family portrait came from Miss Ruth’s collection.

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.

Zeb Atkinson married Lorena Johnson at her family home June 24, 1888. The lived first in Georgia but later made their home on the Johnson land across from the mill pond.
The Atkinson home later was owned by the Whitted family. This photo from Ruth Johnson’s collection shows the second story and porches which were added.

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.

Rhoda Ann Jones married William Wesley Johnson in 1856.
William Wesley Johnson was brother to John Lewis Johnson who married Mary Jane.

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.

Isabella Johnson married John Alllison Mills, a prominent businessman and railroad president. The Mills rail came to Fuquay Springs as the Raleigh and Cape Fear and eventually reached Fayetteville as the Raleigh and Southport in 1906.

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.

Irene Johnson Cook taught at Holly Springs High School and Elon College and studied at Chicago University. She retuned home in 1904 to open two schools near the Johnson Home.

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.

Archie Neal Johnson home, originally in Cardenas on the site of Cleveland Ale House today, has undergone restoration by Slaughter and others. It was moved further down Sunset Lake Rd. Robbie Lane Smith Jackson a sixth generation Johnson, renamed it the Caramba Inn. (museums photo)

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.

William Wesley Johnson built this original house in 1860 on the property today known as Standard Homes . His son Gales Johnson added the circular front about 1910.

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.,

Gales Johnson advertisement is courtesy of Ruth Johnson’s collection.

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.

Ruth Johnson displayed the portrait of William Johnson in the home where he and wife Lois lived. Descendents of William and Lois still live in the house.

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.

Would you like to know more about your high school history?

The high school building for FSHS of 1927-28 from the Searchlight of that year. It is the office building of FVMS on Ennis Street today.

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.

FSHS built in 1918 at the corner of Ennis & Academy was the first high school in our town.

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.

The 1918 high school building served until it was demolished in 1977. This photo explains why it was called “the old red building.”

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.

FSHS gym, now known as Council Gym, was a WPA project on Ennis Street.

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)

The Searchlight of 1928 for FSHS has the oldest known picture of the new high school building on Ennis Street. This was remodeled housing the office of FVMS.

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.

FCHS served high school students from 1938-70 on Jones Street.

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.

FCHS gym was the “dream” alumni hoped to save as they refurbished buildings on Jones Street . It is pictured here in 2008 before it met a storm which damaged it beyond repair.

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.

FCHS annual from 1953. The museums are seeking more volumes for our collection.
The 1953 L’ Esprit de Corps dedication was to J. Simona Lee, English teacher.

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.

In 1948, FSHS initiated an annual, The Greenbriar.
The 1967 Greenbriar was the first to belong to Fuquay-Varina High School.

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 first volume of the Bengal Tiger came to Fuquay-Varina High School in 1971.

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.

FVHS as it appeared before torn down to be replaced by 2021 new building.

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.


Shirley Simmons 2021

Varina Station Building named Fuquay-Varina indicating 1960’s but undated.

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.

Map of the proposed crossing of the two rail lines came to us undated; however the archives did note that there was an agreement for crossing the lines in Varina. Courtesy Tim Carroll

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.

Lastly called the Fuquay Springs Depot, sometimes referred to as the “little depot,” this Raleigh and Southport Depot pictured here in an undated postcard was our first depot. Museum collection

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.

Construction crews under Stephen Brantley Adcock are pictured at work on what is clearly the original building called Varina Station, our second depot. Courtesy Cheryl Clark.

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.

John Eual Brown came to Varina Station in 1911. He had served as the first fifty year employee of the Durham and Southern when he retired in 1959. Courtesy Brown Family

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.

Circa 1934 the crossing of D & S and NS tracks illustrates what Varina was like then. The D & S, our second depot, was then the Union Depot. Courtesy Tim Carroll

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.

NS completed their depot, our third, on the far right circa 1937. The photo date is not known; however, at least two extensions of the D & S building show in the roof. All of Broad Street businesses were built (1914-24) and the trees were removed in 1937. Courtesy Betty Bruce Hoover
D & S picture of their one-story depot in Varina (undated. ) Courtesy Tim Carroll

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.

Jasper Hendricks Ashworth advanced to conductor on the passenger train between Fayetteville and Varina in 1911. This was a picture from his “retirement” run taken at Varina Station with family and friends. Courtesy Betty Bruce Hoover

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.

Katherine Brown grew up with the Varina Station and followed her father as agent in 1959. The Varina Station depot closed in 1977. Courtesy Betty Bruce Hoover

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.

Heulon Dean photo shows the open ended NS freight station on the left and the D & S depot in the center. NS ended all their use of the D & S building in 1957. Dean photo 1957

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.

The abandoned Varina Station pictured in 1989. Nothing proposed for preserving the historic structure materialized at that time. NC Archives photo

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.

D & S removed all their tracks between the depot and Broad Street and the land became privately owned. NC Archives photo
Varina on Broad

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.

Varina Station was moved toward the intersection and a brick wall added around part of the premises. Pictured here in 2008 it was then occupied by Hoke Powell. Simmons photo
Varina Station was moved toward the intersection and a brick wall added around part of the premises. Pictured here in 2008 it was then occupied by Hoke Powell. Simmons photo

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.

The Aviator Brewing Company shortly after it became the current owner of the repurposed old Varina Station. Thus the second of our depots is preserved. Simmons photo
The third depot remains in use, actively in operation by various parts of the Norfolk Southern corporation from 1937-2021. Note it is completely across the tracks from the original D & S property. Simmons photo

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.


by Shirley Simmons

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.

The descendants of Hattie Brown located her grave at Bazzel Creek and have placed this marker there in 2021.

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.

The cover of “The Broken Mirror” published by Bryant Tyndall.

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.

The cover of Evelyn Booker’s book with her picture. The Booker family have been landowners within the area for generations.

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.


Shirley Simmons and lots of student contributions

The Kindergarten of Miss Nina Tilley located behind her home on South Main Street is a fondly held memory of multiple residents who grew up in our town between the 1940’s and 1960’s. Several of our Questers /Docents and others have asked that the museums research and record some history of that “institution.”

The Tilley Kindergarten came before public kindergarten in North Carolina and was the brainchild and labor of love of Nina Tilley. The small one room building, erected on Main Street still exists as a rented building behind what was the home of Nina and Joel Tilley. All the students remember “Mr. Joel” being around the kindergarten, keeping things in order.

Our research found that Nina Stallings Brickhouse was born in Tyrell County NC. to James Gilbert and Hattie Della Swain Brickhouse on May 11, 1903. She appears to have been the seventh of nine children born to that farm family. Patty Fleming remembers that she always said she was from Bath, N. C. Census forms record that the family lived on the “sound side” of highway 90 in that area, usually mentioning Columbia, NC as the address.

Nina was a product of the schools of Tyrell County and a graduate of Appalachian State Normal School, Class of 1925. Normal Schools prepared teachers and Nina became a public school teacher upon graduation. How she came to this area of the state is not clear; however, Emily Tilley remembers that Nina had one sister who married a Dupree and lived in Angier, another lived somewhere near and a brother lived in Raleigh. Anyway, whether she first taught elsewhere or not, in 1930 Nina was boarding in Fuquay Springs with Jesse and Eva Jones and employed as a teacher of first grade in the Coats School. The Tilley family all associate her with Coats School. Even after her marriage she was listed as a substitute teacher.

No one was sure when , but she met Joel Carleton Tilley. Emily remembered the boarding house run by the Joneses. Patty married one of Joel’s best friends, Coleman Fleming. Coleman’s mother was Della Tilley Fleming, sister of Joel. So in the small town of Fuquay Springs, a romance blossomed even though the details have been lost.

The Tilley Family with mother at table. Joel is first on left. One son, Alvah, was killed in World War I, other 9 boys pictured with 4 girls standing.

Joel was one of the 18 children born to Analphus Lee Tilley, Sr. and Nettie Veasey Tilley. Four girls and ten boys lived to adulthood in Fuquay Springs. Joel served, as did a number of his brothers, in World War I. Born in Granville County, a farm boy, he enlisted in the United States Army from Fuquay Springs on September 6, 1918 and was discharged on January 24, 1919. At some point after returning from service, he became employed in the tobacco business and was variously listed in the federal census as a Broker and a Printman Manager and eventually as a Tobacconist.

Joel won the hand of Nina when he was 45 and she was 33 years of age. They were married November 25, 1936 in the Raleigh home of Dr. L. E. M. Freeman. The account of the marriage in the News and Observer states that Joel was in the tobacco business and she a member of the Coats School faculty.

Emily remembers that Uncle Joel and Aunt Nina lived next door to her family on S. Main Street. Her father, Ernest Tilley helped Joel build the building on the vacant lot across the street to serve as Aunt Nina’s kindergarten.

Kitty Lane Johnson Holleman was one of the first kindergarteners in Fuquay Springs. She recalled that she entered in January, 1945 for that half year, then continued the following September for the first full year of Miss Nina’s Kindergarten.

Among those with early memories and pictures was Kaye Howard Cloniger. She recalls that George Bullock, Curtis Holleman and Martha Hunt were all in that first full year. David Holleman says he entered in the fall of 1945. He says “it was different from staying at home.” Mr. Chester drove him each day. He remembers that Maynard Keith, Jr. was in his class and that Faye Tilley also attended that year. He commented on the difference in statue of Nina and Joel, on Mr. Joel’s carpentry skills, and the building itself. Maybe his mother told him he was Little Boy Blue in the commencement but he is not sure.

Kay, who conspired with others to send us pictures, identifies this 1947-48 photograph as taken on Martha Hunt’s birthday. She says Fred Lee Hunt got invited as Martha’s younger brother and is labeled in the photo. Fred Lee located the photos for Kaye among those of his father.

Martha’s Birthday: Mrs. Nina Tilley led her kindergarten in a birthday party for student Martha Hunt and invited Martha’s younger brother, Fred. Photo: Kaye Cloniger

Everyone recalls that each year there was a final commencement program complete with costumes. Emily says there was always the May Pole Dance held on the vacant lot in front of the building and later in the yard. In the 1947-48 May Pole, she identifies Martha Hunt as third (in dress) and Reginald Shaw in front of her in the sailor suit.

May Pole: Class 1947-48 May Pole Celebration. Martha Hunt third on left, Reginald Shaw in front of her. Photo: Kaye Cloniger courtesy Fred Lee Hunt, Jr.

Kaye listed classmates during her year as Wesley Cotten, Fred Hunt, Jimmy Williams and Reginald Shaw.

Inside classroom: Students inside kindergarten during Martha’s birthday party Photo: Kaye Cloniger courtesy Fred Lee Hunt, Jr.

Emily, a retired teacher, principal and assistant superintendent herself, remembers that Miss Nina’s kindergarten was held to strict discipline. She was loved but brooked no nonsense about learning. Miss Nina knew what was needed to be ready for first grade and insisted on progress. Seated in chairs at tables, she taught them numbers, the alphabet, printing, drawing, and reading. She remembers going over as a child and seeing just how things were conducted.

Among the students identified in the Class of 1952 were Sally Cozart, Jennifer Ashworth, Helen Berry, Robert Revels, and John Edwards.

Evidence is that Miss Nina had a gracious heart for children in the neighborhood, as Gerry Rogers recalls. While he was officially in kindergarten in 1953-54, he visited for two or three years earlier. One year a student became sick and could not perform his role in the commencement. Miss Nina simply contacted Mrs. Rogers and Gerry (who knew all the lines from his visits) was installed into the role for that year. Gerry remembers his classmates, Wray Stephens, Judy Stephens, Tommy Broadwell, Karl Busick, Bill Carson, and Freddie Norris.

Certificate: Each student received a graduation certificate. Gerry Rogers contributed a photo of his which he has framed in his house.

Karl Busick identifies Aunt Nina as tall and statuesque but Uncle Joel as very small of statue. He remembers that Joel was missing fingers on one hand. All of the students called her “Miss Nina” as is good Southern etiquette. Mary Lou Spence Hartman and Gail Amos Woolard could still picture her red nail polish, remember the aromas of the small school house, and recall the record player used for music.

Among the several people who thought the Tilley house came later with the kindergarten building there prior, Karl was correct according to Emily. Again, Joel built the house of her dreams for Nina in front of the kindergarten some time after 1954. Emily believes Nina designed her specific dream house. Emily also recalls Nina was an immaculate housekeeper. The two remained friends for life as well as “relatives.”

Nina Tilley: Karl Busick found this photo of Nina Tilley in his family pictures.

Karl listed classmates of 1954 including Gerry Rogers, Peggy Bell, Martha Person Reid, Van Rollins, and Emily McCauley. A member of the Tilley clan, Karl located this picture of Miss Nina among his family photos. Patty Fleming remembered that her son, Jim, was in kindergarten that fall when Hurricane Hazel came through Fuquay Springs.

The single class room with a front coat closet was the description of all students. There was a small bathroom in the back and a number of steps outside in back. Inside the coat room, everyone deposited their garments and their lunch boxes.

Every class graduated with a theme chosen by Miss Nina. Kim Senter Johnson, who graduated in the Class of 1960 was decked out as a flower with a costume of red crepe paper sewn to fit her. She remembers her big brother, Milton, in 1958, was Little Boy Blue. So perhaps the programs ideas were repeated over the years.

Program: Kaye Howard and others in her class program. Kaye, Emily McCauley, Jimmy Williams in costume.
Program: Kaye Howard and others in her class program. Kaye, Emily McCauley, Jimmy Williams in costume.

While a number of students actually lived near the kindergarten, most parents dropped off and picked up children every day. Gail Amos Woolard said her mother participated in a car pool to provide transportation from Varina. First detailed in an interview with Jewell Ballentine Stephens, the students involved were Gail Amos, Billy Stephens, Joe Tilley, David Carson, and Elizabeth Spence. Their mothers took a weekly turn via Ennis, Clifton, Wade and Vance Streets to Main. Gail thinks Miss Jewell worked out the details because her mother was very concerned that the kindergarten was “miles” away from her home. She laughed in recalling the exact route, every turn by each house, culminating with five small wired children all in the back seat, no seat belts or anything.

Her Class of 1959 included: Ed Blanchard, Faye Ashworth, David Carson, Robin Chappell, Melick Elliott, Martha McLeod, Billy Stephens, Joe Tilley, Randall Washington, Brenda Wells, Elizabeth Spence, Milton Senter and perhaps others according to Gail’s memory.

Gail: Emily mentioned a picket fence and Gail confirmed it with a picture from her end of year program. Gail represents Sleeping Beauty in foreground. Ed Blanchard on left and Martha McLeod as Queen. Photo courtesy Gail Woolard.

Gail also recalled that Mrs. Tilley gave each student a nickel for being good that week. To receive a nickel was a great incentive for her positive responses. After school on Friday, the nickels were promptly spent by the students at the Luther Tilley Store just doors away.

An Independent commencement article by Miss Nina reported the theme was “Miss Kindergarten of 1967.” That entire program was listed with Master of Ceremonies, Bob Weuster and Mistress of Ceremonies, Angela Matthews. Three judges were Marty Barbee, Josh Williford, and Steven Burch. Escorts for the contestants were Ellis Powell, Jr, Tim Pearce, Russ Snipes, and Allen Thomas. Finally the entire list of contestants for Miss Kindergarten: Virginia Rowland, Debra Nix, Becky Powell, Amy Senter, Sarah Stephenson, Betty Lynn Walters, Mary Robin Ransdell, Christy Morton, Rebecca Houck, Jeanette Currin, Kathy Morgan, Robin Fish, Kim Collier, Lydia Mewborn, Anna Ellis, Renee Averette, Martha Jane Roundy, Rhonda Griffis, Julia Adams, and Denise Morgan. The total of 29 members was more than many remembered, the usual answer to how many were in your class has been about 20-25.

The final year of Miss Nina’s Kindergarten appears to have been 1967-68. An August 24, 1967 announcement by Mrs. Tilley in the Independent declared that kindergarten would open on September 5 between the hours of 9:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. No one had quite remembered the exact time, although many remembered carrying lunch. Kim Senter Johnson even recalled that when she broke so many glass thermos bottles, her milk was taken in a glass jar and put into Mrs. Tilley’s refrigerator until lunch.

Mrs. Tilley’s obituary says she retired in 1967 but she personally wrote an account for the Independent of May 23, 1968. The closing exercise of Miss Tilley’s Kindergarten was scheduled for May 30, 1968 at 5:00 p.m. “Back Through The Years” would be the theme with a child to represent each class. She invited the public as always and especially “every child that attended my kindergarten.” The next issue of June 6, 1968 carried a photograph by Heulon Dean of 29 children. They were not identified.

Class of 1968: Photo by Heulon Dean from Independent, June 6, 1968 pictures all the class that year. Note each child has a YEAR banner representing all the years of her kindergarten. This appears to be her swan song program.

Several persons remembered that Mrs. Peggy Gray took over the kindergarten following Miss Nina’s retirement. In an interview, Peggy confirmed that she rented the building for two years. She continued a policy begun by Miss Nina by accepting five applications from Angier each year. She recalled the kindergarten furnished the large crayons and some supplies for each child . After those two years, the building needed some repairs and Mrs. Gray went to teach at Wake Chapel School closing the institution forever.

Emily Tilley believes that Aunt Nina retired to care for Uncle Joel who was in declining health. Mr. Joel Tilley’s obituary in the News & Observer February 1, 1973 says that he was survived by Mrs. Tilley, three sisters, Miss Lida Tilley, Mrs. E. O. Fleming, and Mrs. Katie Adcock and two brothers, Luther L. and A. Lee Tilley, Jr. His funeral was held at Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church with burial in Wake Chapel Cemetery.

Emily recalled that Miss Nina lived on at the house for several years. She visited her often as did others of the Tilley Clan. In 1989, Miss Nina moved first to Arizona and then to Cooperas Cove, Texas. She made her home with her niece and husband, Charles and Laura Jane Thomas Councilman in Texas until her death in 1997.

Miss Nina’s April 26, 1997 obituary revealed that her funeral was conducted at Fuquay-Varina Baptist Church and she was buried beside Joel at Wake Chapel. The family requested that students of Mrs. Tilley’s kindergarten serve as honorary pallbearers. She was survived by many nieces and nephews of the Brickhouse generations and an extended Tilley Family but she and Joel had no children.

What information is still eluding our search? To date not even Mrs. Gray can recall the cost of attending kindergarten with Mrs. Tilley. Several students have suggested that the museums might record students in various classes if readers would like to submit names as they remember. The following came from a scrapbook page of Sandra Stephens Johnson.

Scrapbook 1950-51: Sandra Stephens Johnson contributed this scan of her scrapbook page which lists all her classmates and includes a snapshot of Nina and Joel Tilley.

An extended research of the Independent may find that many years there are accounts of the graduation exercises and themes. According to the Questers motto, “It is fun to search and a joy to find.” We hope all the former kindergarteners enjoy remembering Miss Nina.

SOURCES: Federal Census Records, Obituary Nina Tilley, N & O April 26, 1997, Obituary Joel Tilley, N & O, Feb 2, 1973, Marriage Tilley-Brickhouse, N & O, & State of NC. County of Wake, Register of Deeds, Nov 25, 1936. Interviews: Curtis and Kitty Lane Holleman, July 3, 2021; Peggy Gray, July 3, 2021; Karl Busick, July 6, 2021; Gerry Rogers, July 7, 2021; Patty Fleming, July 8, 2021; Emily Tilley, July 8, & July 13, 2021; David Holland, July 14, 2021. Independent, May 11, 1967, August 24, 1967, May 23, 1968, June 6, 1968 Emails: Gail Amos Woolard, Kim Senter Johnson, Kaye Howard Cloniger. Kathy Tilley Shaffer and others through them.

Pictures courtesy of Fred Hunt, Gail Amos, Karl Busick and Sandra Johnson.

Meet the Ballentines: Part III “William Marshall Ballentine Family”

(Shirley Simmons)

William Marshall Ballentine was the third child of William and Cynthia Ballentine. His is the family most associated with the Sunset Lake Road Ballentine family and also in partnership with J.D. Ballentine in the Varina Mercantile at the mineral spring area of town.

Born on October 8, 1834, William grew up with ambition to achieve (according to Miss Ruth Johnson.) “Uncle Billy Ballentine” (as he was known in the family) managed to outmaneuver one of the three Johnson males who were courting the three Jones girls. The middle daughter of Barnabas Jones, Betsy Ann, was engaged to a third Johnson until William Ballentine arrived upon the scene. She became Mrs. Ballentine while her two sisters married into the Johnson clan. The Ballentine-Jones marriage took place on July 12, 1856.

William Marshall Ballentine Museums Collection Courtesy Johnson Family
Betsy Ann Jones Ballentine Museums Collection Courtesy Johnson Family

Her inheritance from her father, Barnabas Jones, was wooded land to the west of the homeplace. Much of it was virgin timber. Ballentine engaged in saw milling and according to Mrs. Edith Parker, he built their house located on what is now Sunset Lake Road. The house still stands, but has been bricked over and changed greatly.

William Ballentine Family: This is older picture of William Ballentine House. Believed to show Dora on porch. Betsy and her mother, Polly, and Mr. Utley. Two children unidentified. Museum collection. Courtesy Johnson Family

Mrs. Parker recalls family lore on this marriage in her book. Uncle Billy seemed to always make sure Betsy Ann had whatever she wanted whether it be horses hitched to go visiting or care and concern for her family. A Raleigh Artist named Denmark declared of Betsy, “She doesn’t have a care of the children at home—she knows everything is being taken care of.”

William was also instrumental in assisting many other home building youth with timber from his sawmill located just north of his house. Edith recounts that Grandpa Billy had a cotton gin which she could remember seeing in operation. She said her mother told her he had a commissary (store) from which he supplied his tenants and others. Mrs. Parker attributed pretty molding, coffins and wardrobes to his enterprises as well.

Betsy Ann and William became parents to four sons and two daughters. The eldest, James Erastus was born in 1863. In 1890, he built his bride, Lillian, a home next door to the family. This house still stands with much the same appearance as originally. To date a family descendant resides there.

Erastus Ballentine House: Originally built by Erastus for his bride, Lillian, on Sunset Lake Road. Later family residents added the details on the front which exist today. Museums Collection Courtesy Johnson Family

Second was Laylin Medora, called Dora. She developed a hunchback soon after age two. Miss Johnson says they tried everything to treat and improve this condition but to no avail. Dora lived with her parents until their deaths and then with her brother, Charlie and his wife Elizabeth. until her death in 1929.

The third child, Claudius Leonard (Lennie) built a house on the northern side of the homeplace which still stands. Listed as a farmer, he married Ella Walker who taught school. The youngest brother, the sixth child, Charles Airis married Elizabeth Taylor in 1909 and continued to live in the homeplace. He married a second time to Mae Grantham in 1937. Mr. Lennie and Mr. Charlie were well known gentlemen living until late 1949 and 1957 respectively. All these Ballentines are buried at Wake Chapel Cemetery.

The fourth child and second daughter, Amorette (Ammie) married Dr. J. M. Judd. Their story is told well in the museums. The Judd house was the office of the doctor and stood near the present Judd Parkway and Main intersection. Following the death of James Judd the dwelling was demolished. The name lives on in Judd Parkway.

Judd Family: Amorette Ballentine Judd and Dr. Judd with two oldest daughters in front of house they were building when they married. It was located on Main Street near where Judd Parkway intersects. Museums Collection, Courtesy Parker Family

Dr. J. M. Judd played an important role in the early town and especially in the business district of Varina and the Bank of Varina. Amorette Ballentine Judd was a charter member of the Varina Woman’s Club. Together they donated the land for the clubhouse on Ennis Street.

The fifth child, William Joseph (Mr Joe) came home from Elon College to go into business with his father and Uncle J. D. in the Varina Mercantile at the Mineral Spring. Mr. Joe married Lizzie Barham, who oversaw the hotel begun by her parents and operated her own millinery shop at the mercantile store.

Joseph Ballentine Museums Collection Courtesy Lane Family
Lizzie Barham Ballentine Museums Collection Courtesy Lane Family

Mr. Joe added the Ballentine Funeral Home attached to Varina Mercantile. Eventually, this became Ballentine and Gilbert and then Gilbert and Sugg. Finally it was moved to Academy Street and lastly operated there as Williford’s Funeral Home. Today the building has been repurposed for office work space.

Mr. Joe was a large investor in real estate all over town. Among these were a Ballentine Service Station, a Ballentine Drug Store, and then the large building owned by Mr. Joe which became Proctor and Barbour on Main Street. They lived first in the apartments over the store, then in a dwelling located just behind the Varina Mercantile and last in the Barham House which became his and Miss Lizzie’s home on Main Street across from the spring.

Margaret Ballentine as a child. Site believed to be in front of hotel on Main Street. Museums Collection, Courtesy Shirley Hayes

The only daughter of Mr. Joe and Miss Lizzie, Margaret, married S. L. Lane who served as undertaker in the funeral home. Lane was mayor of Fuquay Springs, 1957-63. Miss Margaret was involved in all the social functions of the early town, especially the historical and social developmental activities.

Note that the Ballentine Elementary School off Sunset Lake Road associated with the family is not the Ballentine Schoolhouse Museum associated with J. D. Ballentine. This locale connection to the family of Mr. William or “Billy” Ballentine is important in defining the role of this family in our early history.

William Ballentine and the Johnson men who had married the three Jones girls were responsible for founding the Oakwood School. Originally the school was located along Sunset Lake Road, next door to the Ballentine homes. Later it enjoyed a larger building at the intersection of Sunset and Whitted Road. James Erastus became a teacher in the Oakwood School at the age of seventeen, following the tenure of his minister, Rev. Clements. The Ballentines and the Johnsons spearheaded this school for the convenience of their children and others in the country until these small schools were consolidated at Fuquay Springs High School in 1918.

Oakwood School

When James Erastus married Lillian Parker Yates of Raleigh, the Squire reported the union as “a brilliant marriage.” He referred to the groom as “professor.” James Erastus continued to teach at Oakwood and serve as Wake Chapel Church secretary. Unfortunately, he died at the early age of 42 in 1905 leaving Lillian with two children. Miss Lily continued to teach at Oakwood.

Described as very good with math figures, Lillian took upon herself the opening of a business, a creamery, on the property. Beginning with butter and buttermilk, she expanded to a full dairy operation. Her son, Lynton Yates Ballentine attended Oakwood and Cardenas schools, then Holly Springs High School 1913-17. He became a student at Wake Forest College earning a BA in political economy in 1921. Upon returning home, he assisted his mother with the dairy operation and oversaw the family farming enterprises.

Ballentine Dairy: This little creamery building was the beginning of the Ballentine Dairy. Museums Collection, Independent photo

In 1922, L. Y. married Rebecca Patterson with whom he had three children — Carolyn, Rebecca, and Yates. After divorcing, he and his son lived with his mother and sister Mabel. His daughters, Carolyn and Rebecca lived with their mother in Fayetteville. When he remarried in 1944 to Bessie Bangert Phoenix, the couple moved into the Sir Walter Hotel in Raleigh.

L. Y. , known generally as “Stag,” was active in the Fuquay Springs Baptist Church, and involved in local politics. First came terms as a Wake County Commissioner (1926-34) followed by election to the North Carolina Senate (1937-43). He was then elected Lt. Governor of North Carolina (1945-49) and finally the 12th Commissioner of Agriculture where he served from 1949 until his death in 1964.

L. Y. Ballentine: Stag Ballentine became a political icon in North Carolina. Museums Collection

His obituary details his heart attack while addressing a farm group in White Sulphur Springs. Six weeks later as he was recuperating there, he suffered a fatal attack at age 65. Governor Sanford ordered flags flown at half staff and stated, “Throughout his life, “Stag” Ballentine served the citizens of his state…..Our farms are move productive because of his work. Our farmers are living better lives and our farm economy is stronger. Citizens both in the rural area and in town have benefited. His interest in improving education has benefited every young person in the state.”

Mabel Ballentine: The daughter of Erastus and Lillian, she taught school early and then was the primary leader in the dairy operation. Museums Collection

The daughter, Lillian Mabel Ballentine, trained to teach. “Miss Mabel” taught at Oakwood for many years. After the death of her mother, she became the major force in the dairy operation. L. Y. was able to assist with contracts to sell milk to Campbell College, Meredith College and the Sir Walter Hotel as well as local customers and a route to Dunn.

Ballentine Farms Dairy Truck

Miss Mabel never married and died after a sudden attack in 1972. The dairy and estate passed to the three children of L. Y. Thus great granddaughter, Caroline Ballentine Elliott branched out into the riding academy located on the property. She was active in the Fuquay-Varina Woman’s Club and local town and church affairs. The dairy was one of the last to operate in Wake County, closing Ballentine’s dairy in 1986 and all operations in 1987.

The Ballentines of William and Betsy Ann and their descendants are the namesake for the Ballentine Dairy, the Ballentine Subdivision and the Ballentine Elementary School.

Uncle Billy was declared to be a “man of vision” by Miss Ruth Johnson and an “industrious and talented person” by Mrs. Edith Judd Parker. He was noted for his generosity to the family and his management of his many enterprises.

Thus the descendants of William and Cynthia Ballentine have left their many faceted mark upon our local history. A visit to our Fuquay-Varina Museums will provide further artifacts and archives. The Master Plan originally drawn for the museums park allocated a place to the Creamery ( First building at Ballentine Dairy) Still this little building could be saved and placed in the park to honor our Ballentine Dairy History and that early business history of our area. Many dairy artifacts are found in the museums’ collection.

Sources: Edith Parker’s written historical articles; Ruth Johnson’s Concerning our Ancestors; Obituary of L.Y. Ballentine, Interviews of Edith Parker and Carolyn Randall, archives and displays on FV museums, FVWC History.

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

by Shirley Simmons

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


by Shirley Simmons

A really sad occasion for we historians to see one of our oldest buildings razed this week. Progress is the name of the game, but there is nostalgia over the loss of the historical over one-hundred year old building which now will be only a memory! We share this history with you who might not have known the story.

In 1903, Dr. J. A. Sexton donated a lot to the Fuquay Springs Methodist Episcopal Church for their new church building. The citizens of Methodist persuasion had been worshiping at Cokesbury, or at least some members had grown up in that church. After moving into the area around the mineral spring which would become Fuquay Springs, these people were so excited to be given a lot for a church. They now joined the newly organized Fuquay Springs Baptists who used their little wooden building where Fidelity Bank now stands in 1903.

Among these Methodist charter members were J. D. Ballentine, Mr. and Mrs. Romulus Barham and daughter Lizzie, Dr. and Mrs. J. M. Judd, and Hattie Parker Jones family members, and the Sessoms family.

The diligent members paid for their little building within the first six months, opening for services in 1904. It was termed “a good one-room structure, very nice for that time.” The steeple contained a bell which could be heard for miles. Since the Fuquay Road came up the hill behind the Varina Mercantile buildings and continued south eventually in the area of Wagstaff Road, the steeple and front of the building faced that road to the south.

J. K. Sessoms provided fuel for the wooden stove and built the fire so the church would be warm for services. Dr. Judd had the pews built at the Blanchard sawmill. He had drawn off the plan for them based on the pews from Edenton Street Methodist Church in Raleigh.

At this juncture in time, there were no churches termed full-time. Some records tell us that the Baptists held preaching on the first Sunday, the Methodist on the second Sunday, and Wake Christian Church was the third Sunday. After the 1913-14 organization of the Presbyterians, they had the fourth Sunday. Mr. Chester Holland often told us about his attending different worship services on the designated Sundays.

The Methodist congregation worshiped there for a quarter century. In 1930, they completed their first brick building on North Main Street and moved out of the little wooden structure. The property was deeded by the congregation to the Ballentines. Miss Lizzie passed the property to her daughter Margaret Lane. We have been told it was rental property during these years.

In 1977, Ida Mae and Jimmy Ashworth purchased the building and Ida Mae opened her antique shop inside. By that point the steeple had been removed and a porch added to the side making the building front on Main Street. Dormers in the Main Street roof opened the attic for upstairs rooms.

Original Fuquay Springs Methodist Episcopal Church building on South Main after conversion into apartments was recently completely removed from the site in April, 2021.

When the Ashworth’s closed the shop and sold the building, it was repurchased by members of the Lane family. Following 1986, It was converted to rental apartments until this demolition. in 2021. An additional structure built in a similar style was added on the back property several years ago.

Certainly, the structure had undergone many changes and was not a modern building. Sadly we can no longer point this out as the “first” Methodist Church in Fuquay Springs. A piece of our history is gone forever! We remember these hardy Methodists which have now become two separate congregations. First Methodist members remain at the 1930 site on North Main and the Fuquay-Varina Methodists have their facilities on Judd Parkway.

Sources: Fuquay-Varina Methodist Church history, FV History, Wake County Records

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

by Shirley Simmons

Today we write about one family of them, J. D., the “Squire,” and wife Virginia, “Varina,” Ballentine. So much has been written or just told, some quoted and misquoted, some accurate or guesswork. Our article may do some of all these, but we will attempt to share the research from the Museums of Fuquay-Varina on this couple and their family which we hope to be factual.

James Devereaux Ballentine was the youngest son of William (born 1800) and Cynthia Crawley Ballentine (born 1809). Their tombstone at Wake Chapel Cemetery states, “United on earth June 1, 1926, United in heaven January 30, 1892.” This later date is the death of Cynthia. Their tombstone was moved by the Lane family to Wake Chapel Cemetery from a family cemetery someplace along highway 401 South perhaps between their home and Trinity Episcopal Church.

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

J. D. “Jimmy” to the family grew up in the house which stood just across from where Wagstaff Road intersects Highway 401 S. We are told that the youngest son by custom inherited the home place in that era, thus that may account for J. D. and Varina living there. Most of the older children had married and were already living away when J. D. returned from war, settled into the community, married Virginia and brought her there to live. We are also told that the house was such a large establishment that the mother, Cynthia, had quarters in the back portion with the Squire and Varina living in the front section in her later years.

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

Virginia Arey, known to us as “Varina” grew up in Fayetteville, North Carolina.( Arey is correct and not Avery as often printed.) Joseph Arey was born in New Jersey and listed as a special magistrate and a gentleman in the federal census in Fayetteville, N.C. Joseph married Selina C. Stuart in 1825 in Cumberland County. In the 1850 census, there is no listing of the mother of seven year old Virginia. We assume Selina to be deceased. Rachel , the oldest daughter, seems to be the sister-mother figure. There are a second sister, Elizabeth, and four brothers, Sebastian, Joseph, Edward and Charles. The second brother, Joseph, teaches common school. Virginia becomes a teacher herself in common school according to a later census.

Rachel married a Whitfield and is listed as a widow in 1870, providing a home for her children and her father. Joseph Arey died in 1872 leaving a substantial estate to his children. His estate included stores and lots known as the “Staierh Property” on Market Square and Gillespie Street, a house on Donelson Street, and fifty acres on Camden Road. Rachel Whitfield and J. D. Ballentine were executors of the estate and will.

Tradition has it that Virginia wrote to J. D., signing her name, “Varina” at sometime during the war. He enlisted October 4, 1861. There is another writer who says that she knit socks and included her name inside as “Varina.” Both stories may be true.

Company C of the 31st Regiment of North Carolina Troops was last recorded in the North Carolina official history in 1864 and came home sometime in 1865. J. D. looked up the lady he knew as “Varina” in Fayetteville and the romantic connection ensued. When they were married December 3, 1867, they came to live at the home place with the elder Ballentines. He always called her “Varina” and thus originated that name, used multiple times throughout our area.

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

The same year as the 1867 marriage of J. D. and Varina, one of J. D’s sisters, Sarah Jane Ballentine , had married Alvin Smith, according to Miss Ruth Johnson. Another sister, Mary Elizabeth Ballentine had been married since 1858 to James Madison Stephenson. Both these girls have descendants in the Smith, Sexton, Johnson and Stephenson families. The second son, Gaston had married in 1855 to Nancy Judd.

In later articles we will try to chronicle the lives of brothers John and William and their families of our area. These three brothers have greatly impacted our community history. Suffice it to recount here that John Ballentine, J. D.’s older brother, was a post master and gave J. D. experience working with him as a postal clerk sometime after he returned home.

This influenced J.D. to apply to open a post office which he proposed and named “Varina.” His application says that Old Shop on the stage coach route is no longer the major community and a new office is needed to serve the people near the Mineral Spring. A Rawls family ancestor carried mail by horseback from the Varina Post Office down into Harnett County and beyond. Henry Rawls believed the Varina Post Office to have been a small building near the home; a few sources have located it as being “in the house.” We cannot prove which to be correct but it was “at” the homeplace.

Note this Varina Post Office served all the inhabitants from Willow Springs into northern Harnett County for some twenty years (between 1880-1900). This is clearly the oldest postal address for the present town area. Ballentine applied successfully to move the Varina post office north, locating it in what we believe would be his mercantile store at the Mineral Spring in 1899. By that point the new brick building was established.

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

By 1884, J. D. Ballentine was recognized prominently as a merchant in Varina. His original store was on the spring side of the creek according to the memory of the Fuquay sisters. He also was listed as a farmer and had acquired extensive land holdings by the time of his death. A major task and the reason he was identified as “Squire” was his work as a Justice of the Peace. Documents are continuously unearthed with his signature in our research projects.

Varina and J. D. had three children. The daughter, named Selina Estelle was born Sept 4, 1869. It was at the time for her first grade education that the couple founded the Ballentine School House on the hill above the Mineral Spring. Both taught in the school, according the “Mr. Joe” Ballentine. Two sons followed. Arthur Stuart was born in 1875 and Clarence Marvin in 1879. Both of them attended the Ballentine School according to recorded remarks of “Mr. Joe.”

Virginia, “Varina” died on May 28, 1888 at age 45. “Varina’s” original gravesite was in the family cemetery near the home place. That tombstone had been saved by the Lane descendants and was given to the museums. Most visitors find this an interesting artifact. This Lane family descended from Mr. Joe Ballentine and wife and are the ones who also moved J. D.’s parents graves to their plot at Wake Chapel Church. J.D. and Varina’s new tombstone is located in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. The removal of Varina’s remains took place after the death of the “Squire” when either his second wife or his daughter had Varina buried beside the Squire in Oakwood.

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

The daughter, Selina, called “Lina”, married Nathaniel Macon Rand of Garner on February 22, 1888. She was nineteen and he was thirty-four, an established merchant in Raleigh. At the time of his death intestate on November 16, 1914, he was survived by Selina and five children: Philip B. (25) Julian Arey, (23) Gordan (18), Virginia A (13) and Nancy G. (6). When the mercantile firm of Crowder and Rand was dissolved, Selina and the children received $66,050. Nathaniel Rand was predeceased by their third child, Nathaniel Jr.( two years of age).

The Rand family are buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh very near the Ballentines. Selina lived with Gordon (who never married) in Raleigh until he died in 1942. Her death came in 1945 and she was buried beside Nathaniel Rand in Oakwood Cemetery. Julian and Nancy lived until 1959 and 1990 respectively. Virginia married Orion Russell and had one daughter before she died in 1932. The Russell family is also buried in Oakwood. To date, a limited contact has been made with a Rand Family member but no pictures have surfaced of either Varina or James D. Ballentine.

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

There are great grandchildren and great great grandchildren, descendants from Julian Arey, Virginia (Russell) and Nancy G (McInniss) who are living today but the museums have not been successful in contacting any of them. We are hopeful someone might have pictures.

Upon Varina’s death, J. D. was granted legal guardianship of the boys, Arthur and Clarence who inherited their mother’s interests in the Arey estate. They continued to live in the Ballentine home place with Cynthia and their father. In February, 1898, J. D. remarried. He was now 50 years old and his bride, Cornelia F. Betts, was 35. She was the daughter of Rev. Allen Betts and Margaret Whittington Betts of Wake County.

According to Miss Ruth Johnson’s book, Clarence attended Wake Forest College at some point. He was married May 10, 1900 to Eva V. Austin of Richmond County. They were living in Durham at the time of his death in 1939. He was listed as a retired merchant. They had no children.

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

Our Ballentine couple built their new home on Spring Street known as the Ballentine-Spence House circa 1910. This house had indoor plumbing, electricity and some unique features. It has had some remodeling by recent owners but generally is intact historically. J.D. bought one of the first automobiles in town. He wrote for the Gold Leaf under the name “Swizzle. ” We are still seeking old copies of this paper if any are found. He was involved in town government and asked to serve as mayor in 1915 which he declined to do. In early 1917 he suffered a stroke, which led to his death two weeks later on February 5. We do have a copy of the Gold Leaf featuring his obituary displayed in the museums.

The family had J. D. Ballentine buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Raleigh, NC and the cemetery records that the grave of Virginia was moved from the home place in Fuquay to this site. Cornelia and Clarence served as executors of J. D.’s will at that time. Our assumption is that the home place cemetery was moved at this time with the parents reburied at Wake Chapel Cemetery. The old tombstone was used in the Lane family yard as a stepping stone until they donated it to the museum.

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

Cornelia listed her address as Fuquay Springs when she remarried March 14, 1918. William P. Campbell (now widowed) had served as pastor at Fuquay Springs Baptist Church 1913-1914 and was then serving as pastor at Chadbourn, North Carolina. Our assumption is that the two had renewed contact with each other but Miss Ruth Johnson only recorded that Cornelia married a “Campbell.” The couple served churches at several places in the ensuing years.

The twice widowed, Cornelia, lived with her nephew in Raleigh in the 1940 census. The Campbell’s grave site is also Oakwood Cemetery in Raleigh. Cornelia, age 77, died in 1947.

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

Arthur Ballentine, unmarried, continued to live in the Ballentine house on Spring Avenue. The Dan Spence family moved into the house with Arthur who had his room up stairs. Jane Spence Person remembered that Arthur provided the Spence children with candy and goodies.

Arthur had served as clerk for the town and his death certificate lists him as a farmer. He was reported to have died from tuberculosis. Dr. W. S. Cozart, Joe Ballentine, and J. E. Howard signed his death certificate. Arthur was buried beside his parents in Oakwood with the same tombstone engraved for all three.

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

At Arthur’s death in 1923, the estate of J. D. Ballentine was settled. In 1923, the Spence family purchased the house from the undivided estate of J. D. Ballentine. Thus, the house officially became designated as the “Ballentine-Spence House” in the Fuquay Historic District.

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

Besides the home and lot which the Spence family purchased, some 748 acres on Neil’s Creek, 94 acres of woodland, and 45 acres of Smith Land were sold to J. E. Howard. The store property lists the northern section of the three-store building as part of J. D. Ballentine’s estate. Mr. Joe Ballentine would eventually acquire the entire store property.

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

The original Ballentine home place on 401 S eventually became the property of John Adcock and was inherited by the Perry family. The Perrys intended to restore the house; however, over the years it was so vandalized that it could not be saved. They instead built a new house on the site across from where Wagstaff Road dead ends into 401 on South Main Street . They have graciously given the oldest known photographs of the house to the museums. Prior to their gift the only photographs were of the deserted and vandalized dwelling.

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

J. D. Ballentine’s small office, which he used in his work as magistrate, was located across the street from the new brick store. There is reason to believe that it was a portion of his original store which the Fuquay descendants remembered. Eventually, this property contained a dwelling which remained until a hurricane sent a tree crashing through it in more recent history. The lot is now part of the Mineral Spring Park just across the bridge over the creek. Other
property including the Dodd House were all acquired by the Johnson family and are now part of the park.

Thus James Devereaux, the “Squire’,” and Virginia, “Varina, ” Ballentine the youngest son and daughter-in-law of William and Cynthia and their family have entered the historical record of Fuquay-Varina. While J.D. and Varina are the most recognized names generally, later articles will feature the oldest son, John C. and the third son, William Marshall , and the contributions of these Ballentine descendants.

Among the Sources: Interviews of several Fuquay descendants, Jane Spence Person, Rand family genealogist, and Marion Lane family. Research by Shirley Simmons in Wake County, Federal Census records, Court documents, Town minutes, and North Carolina Archives and other records. Various articles of history archived in the museums and written by different persons have been consulted. Concerning Our Ancestors by Ruth Johnson 1980 and the Gold Leaf 1917 were helpful.