Monday, September 24, 2018

Clarendon Hall Chain of Ownership

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Clarendon Hall Chain of Ownership

Phil B., a member of the Caswell County Historical Association's Yahoo Group (message board), spent time at the Caswell County Register of Deeds office and developed the following Clarendon Hall ownership history, which we will explore here:

1.  Thomas Donoho Johnston and wives Sarah Grimes McAden and Adaline Hannah Williamson

2.  Willoughby Newton Shelton and Mary Frances Johnston Shelton

3.  William Blair Graves

4.  Heirs of William Blair Graves

5.  Thomas Oldham Jones

6.  Sarah Hundley Lipscomb Jones

7.  Heirs of Sarah Hundley Lipscomb Jones

8.  The Historic Preservation Fund of North Carolina

9.  Susanna R. Gwyn, Meyer E. Dworksy, and S. Revelle Gwyn

10. Benjamin Forrest Williams and Margaret Ann Click Williams

11. TBD

Thomas Donoho Johnston
First Sale: 1878

Architectural historian, Ruth Little (formerly Ruth Little-Stokes) reported the house was built in 1842 and the first owner was Thomas Donoho Johnston (1800-1883). At the time, Johnston's wife was Sarah Grimes McAden Donoho (1807-1844). She died soon after the house was completed, leaving behind five children. As was not unusual for a widower with young children in the mid-1800s, Johnston soon remarried. In 1845, he married Adaline Hannah Williamson (1820-1885), with whom Johnston had another five children.

Pursuant to a Caswell County, North Carolina, deed dated September 9, 1878, Thomas Donoho Johnston and his second wife Adaline Hannah Williamson Johnston sold the Clarendon Hall property to their son-in-law Willoughby Newton Shelton (1828-1891), husband of Johnston's daughter Mary Frances Johnston (1833-1916)(by his first wife). The purchase price was $8,323.88, and included the main tract of 650 acres (more or less) and another tract of unknown acreage south of Country Line Creek. The transaction apparently involved the forgiveness by Shelton of notes he held on Johnston.

Paul Anderson Haralson Letters

In the mid-1800s, Paul Anderson Haralson (1798-1852) corresponded with his wife, Leannah Herndon Graves Harlson (1803-1848). He was in Yanceyville, North Carolina; she was in Newton County, Georgia. Fortunately, much of this correspondence survives. Here are descriptions of items in the letters relating to Thomas Donoho Johnston:

Paul A. Haralson, Clerk of the Court:

Yanceyville, N.C., Christmas Day, 1842
--James Graves has sold his land to Tho. D. Johnston for $3000.00 and in the trade takes Furgeson's house at $500.00, where he will move to next week. So we will have James L. Graves a citizen of Yanceyville the next year.--

Yanceyville March 5th 1843
--Johnston expects to get in his fine house in about 4 or 5 weeks.

Yanceyville, 19th September 1843
--Ths. D. Johnston has got into his new house, and has a good many boarders--
--Johnstons family all well & Sally [Sarah Grimes McAden Johnston] desires to be remembered to you most affectionately.--
--Johnston has a full store and is doing a large business--

Thanks to Tommy Booker for sharing the Haralson letters.

Second Sale in 1884

The first sale, described in an earlier post, was in 1878 by Thomas Donoho Johnston (1800-1883) and his wife to son-in-law Willoughby Newton Shelton (1828-1891). A few years later in 1884, Willoughby Newton Shelton and wife Mary Frances (Fannie) Johnston Shelton (1833-1916), sold the Clarendon Hall property (at least part of it) to William Blair (Billy Hickory) Graves (1827-1894) for $3,000. Thomas Donoho Johnston had died the previous year. Graves paid $2,000 cash and gave his note for the remaining $1,000.

However, the property being sold was only two-hundred acres (more or less) (but included the dwelling house). This was substantially less than the acreage purchased by Willoughby Newton Shelton from Thomas Donoho Johnston in 1878. Unknown is what happened to the remaining acreage north of Country Line Creek and the tract south of Country Line Creek. It is possible, but not confirmed, that Willoughby Newton Shelton and wife Mary Frances (Fannie) Johnston Shelton retained a substantial portion of the property purchased in 1878. Note the difference in prices paid: 1878: $8,323.88; 1884: $3,000.

William Blair Graves
Third Sale in 1907

The circumstances surrounding what appears to be the third sale, in 1907, may not be fully understood. The William Blair (Billy Hickory) Graves (1827-1894) who purchased the property in 1884 died October 14, 1894. He was survived by his wife Sarah H. Lea Graves (1844-1907)(being his second wife) and by five children: Barzillai Shuford Graves (1854-1942); Harriet Rebecca Graves (1856-1894); William Lea Graves (1864-1929); Nathaniel Kerr Graves (1876-1899); and Sallie Ella Graves (1881-1910).

Whether William Blair (Billy Hickory) Graves had a will is not known. However, it is possible that he died intestate (without a will), thus leaving his property to his wife and children. His wife, Sarah H. Lea Graves, died June 7, 1907. This may have resulted in the property now being owned in common by the remaining siblings (and their spouses). Two children who survived their father, William Blair (Billy Hickory) Graves, died before the death of their mother. A "Special" Caswell County Superior Court proceeding styled W. L. Graves and wife Belle Graves and Others Ex Parte may have been brought by the remaining siblings to partition the property, or, in lieu of a partition, to sell the property. The named parties were William Lea Graves (1864-1929) and his wife Cora Belle Harrison Graves (1864-1910).

As a result of this court proceeding, sale of the property was authorized. And, after due advertisement, the Clarendon Hall property was sold at public auction "at the Court House door in Yanceyville" September 9, 1907. The "last and highest bidder" was Thomas Oldham Jones (1856-1909), who paid $3,005. The Caswell County deed memorializing the transaction described the property as follows:

"[T]hat certain parcel or tract of land, situate in said County, immediately adjoining the lands of Mrs. Nannie W. Neal, B. S. Graves, Mrs. Sallie W. Wiggins, J. H. Kerr, Mrs. E. K. Kerr, Mrs. Mollie Palmer & others, containing 184 acres more or less and being a part of the 'Thos D. Johnston place' -- A Map of said land is attached hereto and for the purpose of giving the metes and bounds of said land is made a part of this deed."

Note that the deed was not recorded until May 6, 1908.

Fourth Sale in 1981

The third purchaser of the Clarendon Hall property, Thomas Oldham Jones (1856-1909), died December 16, 1909. At the time he was married to Sarah Hundley (Sallie) Lipscomb Jones (1869-1952) and had eight children. A ninth child, Giles Powell Jones (1910-1985), was born after Thomas Oldham Jones died.

Whether Thomas Oldham Jones had a will or died intestate is not known. However, his widow and children moved to the Clarendon Hall property at some time after his death. Sarah Hundley (Sallie) Lipscomb Jones may have owned the property solely or in joint ownership with her children. However, with respect to the next transfer of the Clarendon Hall property in 1981, the ownership detail is not important.

Sarah Hundley (Sallie) Lipscomb Jones died in 1952, leaving to her children the Clarendon Hall property. Whether this was by will or intestate succession is not known. Moreover, if Sarah Hundley (Sallie) Lipscomb Jones owned the property jointly with her children, there was no need for a will or any intestate succession proceedings.

Pursuant to a Caswell County deed dated September 25, 1981, the remaining Jones heirs, Gertrude Rite Jones (1893-1991), Margaret Carr Jones Shelton (1893-1991), Mary Jane Jones (1907-1998), Giles Powell Jones (1910-1985), Jesse Thomas Terrell (1930-1990), Robert Jones (Buddy) Terrell (1932-2005), and Giles Oldham Terrell (1935-1999), sold the Clarendon Hall property for $10 to The Historic Preservation Fund of North Carolina, Inc. (the "Fund").

The purpose of the transfer of the Clarendon Hall property to the Fund was to attach to the property certain restrictive covenants to protect, among other things, the historical integrity of the property. Contemporaneously with the transfer of the Clarendon Hall property to the Fund, the Fund sold the property to (a) Susanna R. Gwyn (one-half undivided interest) and (b) Meyer E. Dworsky and his wife S. Revelle Gwyn (one-half undivided interest), as tenants in common.

The acreage transferred was 54.7. However, the actual purchase price paid is not known as it was set forth in a document we do not have. This is a deed of trust issued by the Fund to the Jones heirs, the obligations with respect to which were assumed by the purchasers.

Note that local lawyer William Osmond Smith III represented the Jones heirs in this transaction, including drafting the relevant documents.

The following is found in Bishir, Catherine W. "North Carolina Architecture: Portable Edition." Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2005. Originally published for The Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina, Inc., in 1990.

"In Memory of:

Susanna Elizabeth Ray Gwyn (Susanna Revelle Gwyn and Meyer E. Dworsky)"


Note that a Meyer E. Dworsky is a medical doctor in Huntsville, Alabama (possibly moved to Florida).

Susanna Elizabeth Ray (1924-1983) married Allen Holt Gwyn (1920-1996). Possible, but not confirmed, is that they had a daughter, Susanna Revelle Gwyn who married Dr. Meyer E. Dworsky. If these are the same people memorialized in the Catherine W. Bishir book referenced above, they (or at least the mother) had an interest in North Carolina architecture.

Definite Clue: The house in which Dr. Meyer E. Dworsky lives (Huntsville, Alabama) was built in c 1858!

Margaret and Ben Williams
Fifth Sale in 1988

By a deed dated January 6, 1988, Meyer E. Dworsky and wife, S. Revelle Gwyn of Birmingham, Alabama, sold the Clarendon Hall property to Benjamin Forrest Williams and wife, Margaret Click Williams of Raleigh, North Carolina:

"[C]ontaining 54.70 acres, and depicted as Tract No. 3A on that plat entitled 'Plat of Survey for T. O. Jones Heirs," dated February 2, 1981, as compiled from an actual survey by John R. Bradner, R. L. S. L-1179."

The mother of Susanna Revelle Gwyn had died in 1983.

Before the research shown above was completed here is all we knew:

Set forth below are our notes on Clarendon Hall's chain of ownership. Obviously incomplete, all input is welcome (as would be a volunteer to spend some time at the Caswell County Registrar of Deeds office):

Thomas Donoho Johnston (1800-1883) built Clarendon Hall, purportedly in 1842. He died in 1883, and his second wife Adaline Hannah Williamson Johnston died in 1885. No will has been located, but with what may have been a complicated estate and many living heirs, it may have taken several years to settle matters.

However, while not confirmed, some claim that William Blair (Billy Hickory) Graves (1827-1994) and his second wife, Sarah H. Lee (844-1907), purchased Clarendon Hall "after the Civil War."

The next owner is Sarah Hundley (Sallie) Lipscomb Jones (1869-1952). After her husband, Thomas Oldham Jones, died in 1909, Sallie Jones purportedly purchased Clarendon Hall and moved her family there from near Milton, North Carolina.

When Sallie Jones died in 1952, she had at least six living children: Gertrude Rite (Gertie) Jones (1893-1991); John James Jones (1894-1964); Margaret Carr Jones (1898-1991); Sallie Lipscomb Jones (1905-1963); Mary Jane Jones (1907-1998); and Giles Powell Jones (1910-1985).

At some point one or more of these Jones siblings purchased the Dr. Allen Gunn house (now demolished), moved into that house, and used Clarendon Hall for storage. Whether or not correct, ownership of Clarendon Hall became associated with Miss Gertie Jones and her brother Giles Jones.

In the 1990s, Clarendon Hall was purchased by Benjamin Forrest Williams, Jr. (1925-2017) and Margaret Ann Click (1930-2017). The property now is offered for sale at $450,000.

In 1943, the Clarendon Hall property apparently was owned by the "T. O. Jones Estate." This reference is found in a 1943 deed whereby Giles Jones sold the Allen Gunn house to his mother Mrs Sallie H. Jones. The lands of the "T. O. Jones Estate" were referred to as adjoining the Allen Gunn house property.

Map and Parcel: 00Y7F046
Tax Number: 1007.00.06.0046.0000
P O BOX 247
Parcel Address: 53 MAIN ST
District Code: 5100
Deed Book: 604 Pg: 1512
Taxed Acreage: 48.5
2nd Deed Book: 287 Pg: 390
3rd Deed Book: 17 Pg: 272

Updated 12/31/99


Technical assistance has been given for the restoration of numerous properties in Caswell County, including projects supported by federal or state grants such as the Caswell County Courthouse, Union Tavern (a National Historic Landmark), and the Milton Main Street Store, as well as for smaller projects. Technical assistance has been given for the Moore-Gwyn House, the Sally Martin House, and Clarendon Hall at the request of their owners.

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