Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Caswell County Bicentennial: 1977

"Everybody Celebrated In Caswell"

 By Steve Smith, Staff Writer

Yanceyville -- M. Q. Plumblee, president of the Caswell County Historical Association, panned the jubilant throng of people gathered around the town square and said "I've never in my life seen this many people in Yanceyville at one time"

Yesterday, all activity came to a screeching halt and what seemingly was the entire population of Caswell County gathered at this Carolina crossroads of the mind to celebrate the county's Bicentennial, its 200th birthday.

With people of all ages observing the gala event, Johnny Reb, who stands foursquare on his granite pedestal in the middle of the town square, seemed to embody the spirit of the townspeople -- "Bring on the next 200 years."

The day-long celebration got underway with a 45-minute parade through downtown Yanceyville around Johnny's statue delighting the crowd of onlookers that lined the sidewalks from Bartlett Yancey High School where the parade began to the courthouse several blocks away.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Proclamation Money

In his 1777 Granville County will James Yancey (1704-1779), grandfather of Caswell County's Bartlett Yancey, Jr., included the following provision:

"Item 6 - I give unto my grand-daughter, Nancy Baynes, ten pounds proc. money."

What is "proc. money"?

Proclamation Money

To get around the shortage of money, colonial governments printed paper money, and colonists used whatever foreign currency they could get their hands on — Spanish dollars, for example. Today, global trading in currency sets exchange rates, but there were no international banks to set exchange rates in the 1700s. Instead, each colony set an official value in pounds, shillings, and pence on paper money and foreign coin. Because their value was set by proclamation, these currencies were called proclamation money.

People could also simply barter or trade goods back and forth. But someone who wanted to buy a bushel of corn, for example, might not have anything the seller wanted in trade. To get around this problem, certain commodities like tobacco were used as a kind of currency. Everyone would take tobacco in exchange for other goods, because it could be easily sold again. Barter made accounting difficult, though. To manage a plantation or business, people needed to keep track of their sales, purchases, and debts.

To make accounting possible, proclamation money also set a value on “rated commodities” that were commonly used as currency. These official prices meant that exchanges conducted in tobacco could be accounted in pounds, shillings, and pence. Turning commodities into “proclamation money” also enabled cash-poor colonists to pay their taxes in goods they had available to them.

Source: Walbert, David. "The Value of Money in Colonial America." Learn NC [; accessed 17 June 2016].

A persistent lack of money prompted North Carolina and other colonies to print their own paper currencies and to rely on barter. In 1715 North Carolina's provincial government sanctioned a form of barter to sustain economic growth, approving the use of "the chief Produce of the Country" to pay public and private debts. Known as commodity money, this multitiered system had been used informally as early as 1694. In lieu of money, set quantities of tobacco, butter, tar, pitch, feathers, deer skins, beef, pork, whale oil, wheat, and other commodities could be used by citizens to pay their taxes and rents and to satisfy other expenses.

The North Carolina colony tried other means of increasing the supply of currency, or circulating medium. The legislature tried to increase the supply of coins, but North Carolina had no known supplies of gold or silver (until the discovery of gold near Charlotte in the 1830s), and Britain forbade the colonies to coin their own money. An available solution was to try to encourage the flow of coins into the province. As early as 1715, the North Carolina General Assembly declared the official value of British, Spanish, and other European silver and gold coins to be higher than their intrinsic bullion value in the hope that these coins would flow into the colony. This was not successful, however, since many British colonies were engaged in the same pursuit, and the British parliament subsequently made it illegal to rate coins at over one-third of their bullion value.

The most common and more successful solution, however, was the issue of fiat paper money, or "proclamation" money. Proclamation money was essentially a way of setting consistent values for the wide variety of currencies and commodities that served as money in the colony. To standardize this bewildering variety of currencies, the General Assembly would "proclaim" what the relative values of these kinds of money would be in North Carolina. In addition, proclamation money notes issued by North Carolina were essentially IOUs to cover the cost of necessary public works, such as fortifications. They were to be withdrawn from circulation when they were returned to the colony in payment of taxes, and the government would burn the bills they took in each year.

Source: deTreville, John R. and Fulghum, R. Neil. "Currency." NCPedia [; accessed 17 June 2016].

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Neal Watlington Honored by France

"Watlington Receives France’s Highest Military Honor"

At the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina, French Consulate General Denis Barbet presented to Yanceyville's Neal Watlington and nine other WWII veterans France’s Legion of Honor medal. Initiated by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1802, it is the highest military honor France grants. To be eligible, a US veteran must have fought in one of the four main campaigns of the Liberation of France: Normandy, Provence, Ardennes, or Northern France. Only a few medals are awarded annually, and care is taken to select veterans with the most distinguished service records.

Before the awards ceremony, both the National and French Anthems were sung. Consulate General Barbet stated: “Each time, I can assure you that I was and I am deeply humbled and moved by the opportunity to meet those Veterans and express to them officially the eternal gratitude of the French for their brave service more than 70 years ago,” During the ceremony Mr. Barbet said the veterans also were knighted in France (which is part of the Medal of Honor procedure).

“I was so surprised,” said Neal Watlington. “It was so long since I was in the war.” Neal’s wife, Katherine, added: “It was a great honor and we are so appreciative.”

Neal entered the US Army May 10, 1943. On D-Day the unit he would join landed on Omaha Beach. He caught up to that unit in France on June 29, 1944. While in France he was assigned to the 69th Infantry, Company I, 60 MM Mortar Squad. Later, after being wounded by shrapnel, he was a jeep driver and machine gunner. Neal also fought in Germany and Belgium, including the Battle of the Bulge. Neal received the Purple Heart, Combat Infantrymen Badge, American Theatre Campaign Medal, Eastern Europe Campaign Medal(with four Bronze Service Stars), WWII Victory Medal, Driver and Mechanics Badge, and Good Conduct Medal. He departed France December 7, 1945, ending his military service December 21, 1945, when he was discharged at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

After the War, Neal played professional baseball for several years. Later he and Katherine operated “Watlington’s On The Square” in Yanceyville for many years. His love of baseball did not end with his major league career. In Caswell County he promoted youth baseball, both as a coach and teacher of the game. Neal has wonderful memories of his baseball career, including meeting Babe Ruth in 1947.

Neal is a charter member (1946) of local Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7316 in Yanceyville. Fred Smith, VFW Post 7316 Commander, submitted the application that resulted in Neal's award. Accompanying Neal Watlington at the ceremony were his wife Katherine, son Stuart (and his wife Linda), and Fred and Sallie Smith.

Source: The Caswell Messenger (Yanceyville, North Carolina), 22 June 2016. All rights reserved.

Richmond-Miles History Museum (Yanceyville, NC)

"Museum Looking for Artifacts"

By Angel Solomon (The Caswell Messenger, 22 June 2016)

Sallie Smith, President of the Caswell County Historical Association (CCHA), extends an invitation to visit the Richmond-Miles History Museum in Yanceyville. Sallie explained that the Museum was founded in the early 1980s by the CCHA and is operated by unpaid volunteers. Initially, the museum was housed in the historic Caswell County Courthouse. Later, using a generous donation from descendants of the Museum's namesakes (Richmond and Miles families), the current building on the Yanceyville Square was purchased and converted into today's Museum. That building, the Graves-Florance-Gatewood House, is itself historic.

Sallie Smith credited Sally Anderson (1915-2002) and husband Zeke Anderson (1914-2005) as being the first volunteer curators at the Museum. The Andersons lived in the Paul A. Haralson House (the "Clerk's House) just southeast of the Courthouse. Not only were they active in Museum matters, but they also helped increase CCHA membership and created the Genealogical Research Room at the Museum. And, for years Sallie Anderson edited the CCHA Newsletter.

Sallie Smith has been a member of the CCHA for many years. Since retiring from the Caswell County Finance Department three years ago (working in the Old Courthouse), she has been an active CCHA board member, now serving as CCHA President.

Sallie says that Paula Seamster (CCHA Treasurer) recruited her for the CCHA board. “I just followed her lead. And now I am very much involved. Which is a good thing, it keeps me busy.  We have a lot of older folks in Caswell, and their stories just need to be told. We have a lot of history in Caswell.”  Caswell County residents can share their stories by donating/lending memorabilia to the museum. “Any artifact or memorabilia that they can loan us or they can gift it to us as a permanent item for the museum. We have the African American room, the sports room, and the Maud Gatewood exhibit upstairs. We need anything from kitchen items to military items, and even things from now; in time they are going to be history. We can rotate items when we get more. We also could use donations of display cabinets and mannequins to show off these historical items.” Family histories always are welcome.

Monday, June 20, 2016

The Teaching Chandler Sisters

"A Family of Teachers"

"The eight Chandler sisters became teachers, and they really stuck to their vocation. The eight of them have a total of almost three centuries experience. From left to right are Mrs. Mary Nelson, Mrs. Jewell Nelson, Miss Lessie Chandler, Mrs. Alice Nelson, Mrs. Lillian Mabe, Mrs. Foy Williams, Miss Elizabeth Chandler and Mrs. Bessie Scott." (Staff Photo by Jim Sparks)

Source: "Durham Herald" (undated)

1. Lessie Vie Chandler (1896-1990)
2. Foy Willis Chandler Williams (1898-1992)
3. Alice Maude Chandler Nelson (1900-1982)
4. Mary Emma Chandler Nelson (1901-1992)
5. Lillian May Chandler Mabe (1903-2001)
6. Bessie Barbara Chandler Scott (1904-1992)
7. Jewel Nelson Chandler Nelson (1909-1991)
8. Elizabeth Clyde Chandler (1912-

Parents: Lewis Garner Chandler (1867-1945) and Mollie Frances Clark Chandler (1869-1944). Three Chandler sisters married three Nelson brothers; and one of these sisters had the middle name Nelson!

Two of the sisters have importance for Caswell County, North Carolina:

1. Lillian May Chandler married Coy Ephraim Mabe (1903-1998). Coy Mabe taught thirty-five years in the Caswell County school system. Lillian Chandler Mabe was a Caswell County teacher for twenty-five years. They were married in 1928, lived on a farm in Prospect Hill, and had two sons: Coy Ephiram Mabe, Jr., and Harrell Everette Mabe.

2. Bessie Barbara Chandler married George Lea Scott (1908-1962). Bessie Chandler was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia (near Nelson, Virginia), moved to Semora, North Carolina, around 1928 and taught school for many years in the Murphey school system. The couple had three sons: George Lea Scott; John Howard Scott; and Herbert Lewis Scott.

To see larger versions of the above images, click on them.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Unearthing Caswell County History

"Unearthing Caswell County History"

Recently, while plowing his garden, my cousin unearthed an "interesting rock." To his surprise, he had found a cannonball two-hundred feet from US Highway 119 in Leasburg, North Carolina. I was "gifted" this interesting item a few days later.

After researching and consulting with a friend who is expert in early North Carolina history and historic artillery and firearms, we concluded the "rock" is a British nine-pound solid shot from the Revolutionary War. In the late 1770s and early 1780s, the land where the cannonball was found was owned by my fifth-great grandfather, William Richmond, who purportedly was a Captain in the local militia.

Could this be an artifact of the Revolutionary War? Might it have been shot by General Cornwallis's forces during the "Race to the Dan"? Interesting to think about, to say the least. Next month I will have the rust removed and hopefully learn more.

Sterling Carter
Leasburg, North Carolina
June 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016

Caswell's Politics and Crops

Caswell's Politics and Crops

Caswell County, August 9. -- The Republicans have had their convention, to nominate county candidates. Wils Carey is snubbed, and poor Tom Harrison, who has been a mere speck, is a speck no longer. Bigelow takes the place as candidate for the Legislature in place of Carey, and no reason can be assigned except Bigelow is a mulatto, a little nearer white, and the niggers evidently are tired of niggers, and Carey is what he terms a "negro." John Barnwell is the white man who takes the place of Harrison on the ticket. Barnwell is ignorant and innocent; once was elected commissioner by the negroes, but was never re-elected. Bas. S. Graves, the present Sheriff, a good Democrat, was nominated, and Maj. Jeff Brown, the present incumbent, a brother of the old war horse Bedford, was nominated for Register of Deeds.

The Democrats hold their convention on the fourth Saturday in August, and according to the present organization of the party, no doubt representative and working men will be selected. Caswell will try to redeem herself, and be no longer classed as a certain Republican county.

The late heavy and continuous rains have done considerable injury to the corp of tobacco, and corn on the bottom and creek flats, which could not have been much better, has been somewhat damaged. Tobacco in its growing state needs but little rain, an occasional shower is all that is necessary. Exceeding wet causes cessation of growth, and frequently kills. The crop with the most favorable season hence, will be late, and not an average.

Sidney L. Stephens was shot accidentally, it is said, a few days ago in Yanceyville. The gun was loaded with shot, one shot taking effect just below the eye on the nose. It was so deed the doctors declined to probe for it, thinking the probing would endanger the eye. Stephens is deputy sheriff, and was in the act of delivering Nat Powell into the hands of the jailer when the gun was discharged in the hand of Solomon Corbett. Corbett did not, after the shot, see Stephens, but it is said he was shooting at a coon. The prisoner had a shot or two, and the deputy's horse was badly shot, so much so as to disable him. Here's a chance shot that may afford a chance shot for the lawyers.


The Raleigh News (Raleigh, North Carolina), August 12, 1880, Thursday, Page 2.

Smallpox in Caswell County, North Carolina

Smallpox in Caswell County, N.C., During December, 1900.

Raleigh, N.C., January 8, 1901.

Sir: In reply to yours of the 7th instant, just received, I beg to say: The report of the county superintendent of health of Caswell County shows a total of 77 cases of smallpox with 2 deaths for the month of December, 1900. In a letter from him, dated January 4, he says: "We will not have but 15 cases under quarantine after Monday, 7th, unless more develop. I have vaccinated 600 people in the smallpox region during the last month." Farther on he says that "the citizens of Pelham township will meet the county commissioners here Monday and ask them to have compulsory vaccination ordered in certain portions of the township." I would be glad to keep a supply of the Bureau pamphlets "in stock."


Rich. H. Lewis, Secretary State Board of Health.

U.S. Small Pox Epidemic of 1900

At the turn of the 20th century, the United States had managed to avoid a major smallpox epidemic for the better part of a generation. Then a small wave of illness washed over communities of black farmers and laborers in a few southeastern states. The white community was nott alarmed however, believing the disease would stay contained to that population. As one local newspaper put it at the time: “Up to the present, no white people have been attacked and there is positively no occasion for alarm.”

Then of course the disease began spreading to white people. The smallpox virus, it turns out, was colorblind. Yet although white people did become alarmed at this point, they did not turn out in droves to get vaccines. Instead, a vocal minority argued vehemently that the vaccine was of no benefit. They were wrong.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Caswell County Education in the 19th Century

19th Century Education in Caswell County

The Milton Spectator
(Milton, North Carolina), 6 September 1854.

Office of Board of Superintendents
Common Schools for Caswell County
January 2, 1854

Those interested are hereby informed that since the first of October last or the time of the notice given by the former Chairman of the Board of the amount of funds on hand belong[ing] to each School District in the County of Caswell, a dividend has been received from the tax levied by the County, which gives nineteen dollars and forty-seven cents to each District and also the Fall Dividend from the Literary Fund of the State, which gives twenty-eight dollars and eighty-four cents to each district. The Milton District in consequence of the number of pupils receives double the aforesaid amount.

The Committee on giving orders to teachers will see that the report of the number of scholars taught, length of time, &c., accompanies this order.

Nathaniel J. Palmer, Chm'n
January 10, 1854

While the following describes the educational situation in 1835, little changed by the time of the above 1854 Caswell County report. The electorate was decidedly anti-education. Taxes of any sort were vehemently opposed.

In the State in 1835, there was not one school house for every 15 miles square, not a single high school, and only a few good academies, the whole number of the latter being certainly less than half and possibly less than a third of the number of counties. In the whole State . . . nearly every tenth white man was totally illiterate and nearly one-half the white people of every county were uneducated. The people had no thirst for knowledge; in many cases it was dreaded, despised, and hated.

Source: Hamilton, J. G. De Roulhac and Wagstaff, Henry McGilbert, Editors. "Party Politics in North Carolina 1835-1860," The James Sprunt Historical Publications. Durham (North Carolina): The Seeman Printery. 1916.

Tuesday, June 07, 2016

Caswell County Bibliography

Caswell County, North Carolina, Reference Books

Anderson, George A. and House, Robert B. Caswell County in the World War, 1917-1918: Service Records of Caswell County Men. Raleigh: Edwards ns Broughton Printing Co., 1921. Print.

Brandon, Lawrence. The Scott Family of Halifax County, Va., Caswell & Person County, 2001 (412 pages).

Brown, Deborah. Dead-End Road.

Butler, Florence Roberta Walker. The Thomas Jackson Walker, Sr., family of Caswell County, Rockingham (North Carolina): Dorsett Printing Co., 1991 (716 pages).

Byrd, William L. In Full Force and Virtue: North Carolina Emancipation Records, 1713-1860. New York: Heritage Books, Inc., 1999.

Caswell County Historical Association. Images of America: Caswell County. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Pub, 2009. Print.

Collie, Bettie Cox and Smith, Virginia Cox. The Cox family from Caswell County, 1995 (473 pages).

Black Businesses in the South: Milton, North Carolina

This item is posted because it refers to two Milton businesses. Note, however, the incorrect assertion that Milton, North Carolina, as of the early 1880s had never had a black business. The author appears unaware of the successful business of Thomas Day.  Photograph: Milton Business District.

"Most historians agree that only a small share of southern blacks experienced economic gains in the fifty years following the Civil War. Little attention has been focused, however, on the minority who successfully acquired property and conducted business during this time. In Enterprising Southerners, Robert C. Kenzer examines the characteristics of North Carolina's African-American population in order to explain the social and political factors that shaped economic opportunity for this group from the Civil War until 1915."

"What is surprising, Kenzer asserts, is that his research does not support lingering theories that the "heritage of slavery" adversely affected blacks' performance in the market economy. Instead, he blames economic barriers to development, such as lack of capital and poorly developed markets. This study not only provides a valuable history of one state's black population, but also paves the way for similar scholarship in other southern states."--Jacket.

Roxboro Meeting of Confederates

Roxboro Meeting of Confederates

On June 28, 1873, a public "Meeting of Confederates" was held at Roxboro, Person County, North Carolina. The purpose was to consider measures for preserving the record of Person County in the Civil War. The meeting was chaired by J. J. Lansdell, with John L. Harris and N. N. Tuck acting as secretaries. Five were appointed to a committee to report steps necessary to preserve the Person County Civil War records: H. T. Jordan (chairman), James Holeman, Jr., S. C. Barnett, James M. Burton, and Samuel A. Barnett.

Committee Chairman Jordan reported to the meeting:

"Whereas, we have learned with pleasure that the Sentinel newspaper published at Raleigh, and the Journal of Commerce newspaper published at Newbern, have determined to rescue as far as they may be able the record of North Carolina in the late war; and whereas, many soldiers went from Person county into the war and we are thereby enabled to contribute to the work of the Sentinel; and whereas, no battle was fought in this county, and we are thereby unable to contribute anything to the labors of the Journal of Commerce, except subscriptions to its list of patrons,

Resolved, That we heartily commend the purpose of both these useful and patriotic journals.

Resolved, That in furtherance of the plan of the Sentinel we appoint a committee of one in each school district to gather up, arrange and report all facts, names, &c, as called for by the plan of said newspaper, and that said report be made at the earliest day possible to the committee provided for in the next resolution.

Resolved, That a committee of seven be appointed to whom the district committees shall report, who shall aggregate, collect, arrange and write out in connected historical form the materials furnished by the sub-committees and prepare them for publication.

Saturday, June 04, 2016

North Carolina Railroad 1848/1849: "The Baptist Enigma"

The "Baptist Enigma"

A major issue before the North Carolina Legislature during the 1848/1849 term was funding the North Carolina Railroad. Some favored a north-south line, while others supported extending the railroad to Charlotte to open the western parts of North Carolina.

When the bill proposing the east-west route to Charlotte came before the North Carolina Senate, Caswell County's Calvin Graves was Speaker. Following is Senator Rufus Barringer's account of the episode, which effectively ended the political career of Calvin Graves as his constituents favored a north-south route that would pass through Caswell County (on to Danville and Richmond):

"The chances in the Senate were all in doubt. That body was Democratic; and up to this time, no special effort had been made to draw the old ship from its Jeffersonian moorings. And such men as Henry W. Conner, John H. Drake, A. B. Hawkins, John Berry, George Bower, W. D. Bethel, George W. Thompson, and John Walker were hard to lead and could not be driven. And above them all sat Speaker Calvin Graves, a recognized force from a county just under the nose of Danville, and devoted to Richmond. The speaker was tall, angular, and singularly ugly in feature; but his character was high; he was strictly impartial, and with all courtesy in bearing.

1835 North Carolina Constitutional Convention

Thomas Day Lost Right to Vote

On June 4, 1835, a convention called to modify the North Carolina Constitution of 1776 opened at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Raleigh. A special election was held in April 1835 to select 130 delegates to attend the convention in Raleigh. The Caswell County delegates were William A. Lea and Calvin Graves (1804-1877). And, Caswell County's Major James Kerr (1788-1848) served as temporary president (chairman) of the convention until the delegates could select a permanent president (Nathaniel Macon of Warren County).

After about five weeks of debate and votes, a slate of constitutional amendments was adopted. The main changes made by the convention had to do with elections and who could hold certain offices. Under the new constitution, free African American men, who had previously been able to vote, were disenfranchised. Elections for the General Assembly shifted from being held annually to be held every other year, and the way each chamber's membership was apportioned changed. Balloting for governor shifted from the legislature to popular vote, the governor's term was extended from one to two years, and all Christians, not just Protestants, became eligible to hold public office.

North Carolina's state constitution would not be completely overhauled again until Reconstruction (1868).

William A. Lea and Calvin Graves voted with the majority (vote: 66 to 61) to take the right to vote from "free blacks, free people of color, and descendants of Native Americans."

William A. Lea has not been identified. One possibility is William Archer Lea (1786-1843), a wealthy Leasburg farmer (and slave owner).