Friday, December 23, 2016

The Letter From Arkansas: Elijah Jacobs

The Letter from Arkansas

Three things cannot be long hidden: the sun, the moon, and truth.  -Buddha-

Set forth below is the November 2016 account by Mary Linda Winstead Janke of her family's search for a long-lost relative, Elijah Jacobs/Elephelit Coleman:

Elijah Jacobs/Elephelit Coleman
The 1860 Letter (paragraphs added):

Fort Smith, Arkansas, March 9th 1860 To The Post Master at Yanceyville, N Carolina

Dear Sir.  Some time in December last a gentleman by the name of Benjamin Jacobs came to this place in company with his wife Catherine Jacobs and an infant son Elijah Jacobs.  He had two Negro Boys with him as I understand and stayed with a man by the name of Samuel Edmondson, alias Ginger.  Soon afterwards himself and wife was Boath Taken Sick and died.  I am almost certain there was Foul Play.  I think they was Poisoned.  This Pious old Ginger took the Negroes off and sold them.

I had taken out Letters of administration on the Estate of the Said Jacobs and yesterday I called on Edmondson for the Purpose of Taken an Inventory of the Property and find Nothing But two trunks of Clothing and one watch.  I find the Deguaritipe of Some Friend of theirs.  I learn the lady Said it was her Brother.  I have that and a lock of the lady's hare.  Edmondson has a bill of sale for the Negroes but I am Certain it was forged.  Because if he had bought the Negroes and paid for them there would have been money on hand.  There was not a Dollar.

 I have hired a nurse for the infant.  I find a receipt for Eighty Dollars in a bill of Sale from E. Jacobs to Benjamin Jacobs for a Negro Boy aged about 14 years which I suppose must have been one of the Negroes Sold By Edmondson.  What induced me to write to you is I find the Envelope of a letter that was mailed at Yanceyville, N.C. To Benjamin Jacobs, Dubuque, Marion County, Arkansas and from that infer there must be Some of the Relatives of himself or wife in that Country.  Please find out if you can and inform me Immediately.  I will do the best I can for the Child So help Me God.

Farewell Please attend to the above and if you find any of the Friends let them Correspond with me Immediately.

H. L. Holleman
Fort Smith Ark.

This letter, written in a strong, even, script, has been passed down in my family for 155 years.  Its watermarked paper has darkened from the original cream to tan; the ink has faded from black to brown.  Written on one sheet of paper, back and front, there was once an envelope where it rested between perusals.  That is long gone, but the letter and its poignant message remain.  It has been read so many times that the paper has given way in the folds; read over and over to see if maybe, this time, there will be something new to be discovered, something missed before.  Long ago my grandmother mended these separations with cellophane tape so that no precious part of it would be lost.

Always, when someone reads it for the first time, they ask the same question: "What happened to the child?"

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Anderson High School (Caswell County, North Carolina) Class of 1954


Front Row: Geneva Campbell Byrd; Didama Hooper Simmons: Ervin Simmons: Larry Terrell.

Second Row: Lona Nell Rice; Rachel Huffines Page; Dean Page Mansfield; Betty Jean Boswell; Kathlyn Rice Aldridge; Lois Massey Hall; Betty Lou Oakley Page.

Third Row: Franklin Simpson; Winford Page; Naomi Montgomery Cates; Marie Clark King; Johnny Strange.

Source: The Caswell Messenger (Yanceyville, North Carolina), 21 December 2016.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

North Carolina World War I Service Cards Database

Click to See Larger Image
World War I Records

Nearly 100 years ago, thousands of North Carolina men shipped out to Europe to serve in the Great War. Who were they? Where did they come from and how did they serve? Who were the men and women who served at home and overseas?

A searchable database of North Carolina's World War I service cards, compiled after the war, is now available online at Family Search ( and can help answer those questions. Using data from cards maintained at the State Archives of North Carolina, the database, searchable by name, includes place and date of induction, residence, and place and date of birth for officers, enlisted men, nurses, medics and chaplains who served in an official military capacity during World War I. Branches of service include the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The actual service card is viewable through the database and contains additional information such as rank, unit, overseas service date and date of discharge from active military service.

“These service cards serve as a fundamental resource for those wishing detail about 80,000 North Carolinians who served their country during World War I,” said Matthew Peek, Military Collection archivist at the State Archives. "The searchable database created by Family Search makes our records freely accessible to everyone as we head into the 100th commemoration of American’s entry into World War I.”

Monday, December 19, 2016

Milton Bridge Toll Pass

Milton Bridge Company, Milton, Caswell County, North Carolina

This version has been retouched. The original is shown below.

Original version.

Milton Toll Bridge

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Caswell County Place Names

Caswell County Place Names (some still used; others long obsolete)


Bigelow Road
Blackwell's Store/Blackwell
Brown's Store
Buzzard Roost

Camp Springs
Centre Hill
Cherry Grove
Cobb's School
Collin's Hill
Cross Roads

Dabb's Store
Dan River
Dixton, Dixon


Fitch's Store/Fitch

Gentlemen's Ridge

Hell's Half Acre



Locust Hill

Miles Store
Mineral Springs
Moore's Store


Oliver's Store

Park Springs
Pea Ridge
Pine Forest
Piney Grove
Pleasant Grove
Prospect Hill


Rabbit Shuffle
Red House
River Bend

Slade's Store
Sommer's Store
Stoney Creek
Summer's Grove
Sweet Gum Grove

Taylor's Store

Union Ridge

Walters's Mill
Well Grove
West Castle
West Yanceyville
White House
White's Store
Williamson's Store


Many, perhaps most, of Caswell County's early communities grew up around a country store. And, the name of this store owner was given to some communities. As the population grew and could support churches, they were added, as were mills if near a stream. Eventually, some communities (even small ones) would have an officially designated US (and, for a few years, CSA) post office (often located in the country store).

Blackwell/Blackwell's. This community is named for the Blackwell family -- probably Captain Robert Blackwell (1742-1813) and his descendants.

Camp Springs. The name Camp Springs purportedly comes from early horse traders, who once traveled from place to place selling horses, camping at the spring for several days each time they visited the area. Others claim the area is so named because, during the Revolutionary War, Lord Cornwallis rested his troops there for several days.

Cherry Grove. Cherry Grove was named for the large number of cherry trees in the area. A post office operated there 1882-1905.

Covington. Named for Edward Green Covington (1827-1916) and his descendants.

Fitch's Store/Fitch. Named for the Fitch family. Post office operated there 1876-1926.

Hamer. Origin of name is not known. A post office operated there 1882-1904, probably from a store that stood at the intersection of NC Highway 62 N and High Rock School Road.

Hightowers. Hightowers is located in the southeastern part of Caswell County at the crossroads of NC 86 and NC 119. The community purportedly is named for Daniel Hightower who moved to the area from Virginia. A post office was established in 1833 and served the community until 1935.


Matkins. Named for the Matkins family. No known post office. Burlington Industries purchased the estate lands of Lemuel Gibbons Matkins (1879-1960) from his children in 1964. In 1966, a textile weaving plant known as "Williamsburg" was built on this land. Burlington Industries was in need of a location for their postal address, and "Matkins" was chosen due to the continuity of the Matkins family on this land since 1793.

Source: Whitlow, Jeannine D., Editor. The Heritage of Caswell County North Carolina 1985. Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Company, 1985 (Article #466: "Matkins in Caswell County, N.C." by Clarence C. Matkins, Page 371).

Milesville. When James Miles (1784-1848) and Elizabeth Burnett (Betsy) Gunn Miles (1786-1873) were first married(1807), they built and lived in a one-room log cabin with a half-wooden, half-dirt floor, which was located south of Yanceyville, North Carolina. At that time, they were unable to afford a completely wooden floor. They later bought the Judge Thomas Ruffin farm in Stoney Creek Township, consisting of 1700 acres, for 50 cents an acre. Much later, the farm was divided among the twelve children. James Miles gave the name Milesville to the location where he settled and for years there was a general store and post office at the site. Source: The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 382-383 (Article #489 "The Miles Family" by Alice M. Reavis). Post office operated there 1882-1907.

Milton. Milton, incorporated in 1796, purportedly was so named because Asa Thomas operated a mill nearby. A post office has operated there since 1818.

Pelham. Pelham came from the name given to the railroad depot, itself named 1863 in honor of Major Pelham who fought (and died) in the Revolutionary War. The Pelham post office was established in 1865, changing the name from Graves (which had operated since 1845).

Pleasant Grove.

Prospect Hill. Prospect Hill is named for the Warren plantation. It generally is in the area around the intersection of NC Highway 86 and NC Highway 49. A post office was established there in 1823.


Rabbit Shuffle. "Rabbit Shuffle" is a community overlapping a north portion of Anderson township and a southern part of Yanceyville township. It is impossible to identify its exact boundaries. They change to suit the occasion. Even though many denials may be made, it adjoins and probably overlaps "Buzzard Roost" to the north. The origin of the name has so many versions that it has become legendary. Most of the versions seem to center around an old and intoxicated man using much profanity while chasing rabbits.

Source: Plumblee, Millard Quentin. From Rabbit Shuffle to Collins Hill: Stories of Southern Caswell County, North Carolina. Burlington (North Carolina): Full Service Printing, 1984, page 75.

Red House. Tradition tells that the Red House community is named for an inn or tavern located on the Hillsborough stagecoach road, which was painted red.

Ridgeville. Once known as Pea Ridge, Ridgeville is believed to be one of the highest elevations in Caswell County. The origin of Pea Ridge is not known. A post office operated there from 1870 to 1876 as Pea Ridge, and from 1874 until 1948 as Ridgeville. Note the apparent two-year overlap, which is not understood.

Semora. This community apparently is named for the post office, established in 1877, which was named for Semora Stella McAden, the six-year-old daughter of the first postmaster. This is not the only Caswell County post office named for a postmaster's daughter. See Blanch.

Slade's Store.

Stoney Creek.



Yarbro. In 1887, a post office was established in honor of Captain Joe Yarbrough. However, oddly, it was named Yarbro.

First Ladies of Caswell County 1985

First Ladies of Caswell County 1985

Jame Armistead Scott [Mrs. Archibald DeBow Murphey]
Mary Lee Varner Carter
Ann (Nancy) Graves (1786-1855) [Mrs. Bartlett Yancey]
Janet Leigh Harris Cobb
[Mrs. Bedford Brown]
Mary Skipwith Brown
[Mrs. Romulus Saunders]
Maud Florance Gatewood
[Mrs. Solomon Lea]
Ann Newman Gunn Everitt
Mrs. John Kerr
Bea Gatling Gwynn [  ]
[Mrs. Thomas Day]
Dorothy Yarbrough Zimmerman
Henrietta Jeffries
Helen Payne
Lizzie Lownes
Helen Little
Ida Isabella Poteat
Geneva Williams Warren
Mrs. Barzillai Shufford Graves

Palmer Store (Caswell County, North Carolina)

Palmer Store (Intersection of Yarbrough Mill Road and Highway 57 -- Between Milton and Semora). The last of the Palmer family to operate the store was Sewell Palmer, son of Reverend Benjamin Boswell Palmer (1845-1915). Last use may have been a barber shop.

Nicholas Longworth Dillard (1906-1969) Monument

Nicholas Longworth Dillard (1906-1969)

Nicolas Longworth Dillard challenged his students to face life with the determination to succeed and to write their name on the face of time. The Caswell County High School Class of 1966 did just that as they worked on a memorial to the man who was a principal for 37 years; a man that changed the lives of African American children in Caswell County and made an impact throughout the world. On Friday, as over a hundred graduates from the school gathered, the monument to N.L. Dillard that now stays in Yanceyville’s Square was unveiled.

The granite monument is a symbol of the hard work, respect and love of Dillard’s former students who raised the funds and collaborated with designers to make their dream a reality. In December, Tresca Byrd and Betty Graves approached the Caswell County Commissioners with their plans for a class project. “We are graduates of Caswell County High School, Caswell County Training School Class of 1966 and for the past five years Tresca and I have been serving as chairperson and vice-chairperson of the class. We are getting ready for our 50th class reunion and we would like to leave a class gift,” said Graves. That gift, she explained, would be a monument to Dillard who “worked hard and his dedication affected the entire community and county and his ability to work with people to improve as a county.” Byrd added that the committee had been working for years on the plan, “We have worked with people at the national level and local level.” In fact, the stone is made from Virginia Mist Granite which is the same stone used in the Korean War Memorial in Washington, D.C.