Thursday, June 15, 2006

Blanche Post Office

This photograph of the Blanch (Blanche) Post Office in Caswell County, North Carolina, is thought to have been taken just after the turn of the century (c. 1900). The men relaxing on the porch are identified as: Berkley Allen; Jimmy Gordon; Junie Walters; Giles Mebane; Bill Lea; and Elijah Graves.

See the earlier article on Blanche Lydia Moore for additional background information on this old post office, including how the Blanche community obtained its name. The post office is believed to date from 1887, so this could be the first building dedicated as the Blanche Post Office.

However, the purpose of this article is to explore the identities of the men on the porch.

Berkley Allen

Berkley Allen is Berkley Felix Allen (1895-1959). He owned and operated a country store and garage in Blanche. He purchased the store from his cousin, John Monroe Walters, and added the garage. The Allen name is of course well known in Blanche. The son of Berkley Felix Allen and Isma Vanhook married Katherine Wilkinson. For a great 1941 photograph of Felix and Katherine Allen at the Blanche Railroad Depot go to 1941 Photograph. To see a photograph of four generations (Eliza Kate Walters, Berkley Felix Allen, Felix Walters Allen, and Philip Walters Allen) go to Allen Family. The daughter of Berkley Felix Allen and Isma Vanhook, Martha Elizabeth Allen married Patrick Dowd Lassiter, another well-known Caswell County family.

Jimmy Gordon

Nothing is known about Jimmy Gordon. Can you help?

Junie Walters

Junie Walters is Joel Brown Walters, Jr. (1857-1934). He was the Blanche Postmaster 1914-1934 and may have occupied that position at the time of the photograph. Joel Brown Walters, Jr. married Emmaline Pleasants Mebane, granddaughter of Giles Mebane (1809-1899) and Mary Catherine Yancey (1817-1905) (and great granddaughter of Bartlett Yancey, Jr.). A daughter of Junie Walters and Emmaline Pleasants Mebane, Evalyn Walters, married Royal Polk Gordon. Whether this Gordon was related to the Jimmy Gordon also shown on the post office porch is not known. It is known, however, that another daughter of Junie and Emmaline, Katherine Yancey Walters, married Frank Wright Lea. He was the son of John Green Lea, head of the Ku Klux Klan when Senator John W. Stephens was murdered in the Caswell County Courthouse.

Giles Mebane

This is not the Giles Mebane mentioned above, but it is his grandson and namesake. This younger Giles Mebane (1880-1969) was at one time a rural mail carrier for the Blanche Post Office (by horse between Blanche and Yanceyville), and that might be the reason for his presence when the above photograph was taken. He did marry the daughter of the second Blanche postmaster, Daniel G. Watkins. She was Edna Earl Watkins (1885-1988), who lived for more than 103 years. She taught school for many years (Yanceyville and Cobb) and tutored students after she retired. Note that the 1950 Yan Tat (Bartlett Yancey High School Yearbook) has a photograph of Mrs. Edna W. Mebane. Giles Mebane was once the station master at the Blanche Railroad Depot, was a deputy sheriff and jailor under Caswell County Sheriff John Yancey Gatewood (father of Maud Gatewood), was Caswell County Tax Collector, served on the Caswell County Board of Education, and launched a dry cleaning business in Yanceyville.

Bill Lea

This undoubtedly was a William Lea, of which there were many in and around Caswell County. There is a William Lea buried in the Blanche Baptist Church Cemetery, but the identity has not been confirmed as the person on the porch of the Blanche Post Office. The 1910 US Census shows a William Lea, 55, living on the Blanche Road with his family: Mary A. (wife/55); Pearl (daughter/23); Willie (son/21); Myrtle (daughter/19); and Ruby (daughter/16). Note that this family is thought to have produced several school teachers who taught in Caswell County. Given the age of this Bill Lea and the fact that he lived on the Blanche Road gives support to him being the person on the post office porch.

Elijah Graves

Also living in the area at the time of the 1910 US Census was 56-year-old Elijah Graves, single and shown as a "Sewing Machine Agent". He was a boarder in the household of John D. Owens on the "Blanche and Milton Road". This places him in the right area to be the person identified as Elijah Graves in the post office photograph, but the identification is unconfirmed. However, a review of the census records a few years earlier suggests this was Elijah Graves, Jr., son of Elijah Graves and Mary E. Crump. The grandparents of Elijah Graves, Jr. would have been Captain William and Isabella Graves (also her maiden surname). His great grandparents would have been John Herndon Graves and Ann (Nancy) Talbot Slade.

Here is a sad photograph of the Blanche Post Office many years after it was abandoned for a newer building. There were six sites for this post office through the years. The "Blanch" Post Office opened 19 December 1890 and closed 28 February 2004. Service had been suspended 16 November 1991. What happened between 1991 and 2004 is unknown. The last postmaster was Annie R. Rowland, preceded by Marvin Farmer, who served for many years:

Marvin N. Farmer Postmaster 06/19/1963
Annie R. Rowland Postmaster 06/22/1985
Jeffrey G. Bullins Officer-In-Charge 07/31/1990
Ivonia L. Patrick Officer-In-Charge 03/13/1991
Glenn E. Lewis Officer-In-Charge 06/13/1991
Service suspended on November 16, 1991
Discontinued on February 28, 2004; mail to Yanceyville
(Postal Bulletin 22156)


Blanch Post Office History

The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 6 ("Blanch Post Office History" by Marvin N. Farmer)

In 1887, Mr. John F. Walters had Major Steadman establish a post office on Rattle Snake Creek, where it empties into the Dan River, beside the Norfolk-Franklin and Danville, Va. Railway, between Danville and Milton, N.C. According to records, the name Rattle Snake was changed to Blanch on Nov. 18, 1890, by the first appointed postmaster Mr. James B. Moore. He named the rural community for his daughter, a Miss Blanch Moore.

Blanch was a rural area in which bright leaf tobacco was discovered by accident on the Abisha Slade plantation by a slave named Stephen in 1839. The slave had overslept during the curing process. Upon awakening, he put hot coals into the barn, quickly causing the heat to rise which created a golden colored type of tobacco. This bright golden colored tobacco was then in great demand and has been since that time.

Blanch is known for its quality tobacco, grain and cattle farms which were the main sources of income for most of the citizens. At one time, it is said, there were more dairy farms located on the Blanch rural route than any other area of Caswell County.

The Blanch Post Office is now in its sixth location since it was established. The present location is a 1,000 square foot, brick building, built according to postal regulations in 1964. It was officially occupied on Sept. 25, 1964. The dedication ceremony was held on Sunday, Nov. 22, 1964 with the Honorable Ralph J. Scott, the 5th District Congressman, and the Postal Service Officer, Mr. Tommy O. Howell of the Greensboro, N.C. District. The building is locally owned and is leased to the United States Postal Service.

Past and present Postmasters and their date of appointments are: James B. Moore, Dec. 18, 1890; Daniel G. Watkins, Feb. 14, 1901; Robert L. Harrison, Nov. 2, 1906; Joel B. Walters, Jan 7, 1914, e died in office Mar. 18, 1934; Mrs. Elizabeth K. Watkins, acting, approx. Mar. 18, 1934; Mrs. Eugenia W. Walters, Mar. 26, 1934; Marvin N. Farmer, Dec. 31, 1961 to date, with Mrs. Annie R. Rowland, Assistant, July 1, 1952 to date.

Rural Carriers for Route 1 were Giles Mebane, Jim McCary, Roy Slade and Mr. Ross. Carriers for Route 2 were Bob Moore, Robert Powell, Harvey VanHook and E. G. Hardison. The two routes were consolidated into one route in October, 1934. The route is now 85 miles long and serves approximately 550 families. Rural Carriers since 1934 are: E. G. Hardison, M. N. Farmer, temporary, Mrs. Florance F. Taylor, temporary, Edwin W. Thompson, World War II appointment, James C. Cook, appointed May 23, 1949, J. Emerson Chandler, appointed Nov. 15, 1980 and Joseph B. Graves, appointed Oct. 1, 1983 to date.

Sources: Post Office Records and personal knowledge.

______ Marvin N. Farmer

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