Saturday, February 18, 2006

Milton Mystery Building

To the left is a photograph of the Milton business district taken in the late 1930's. Can you help identify the last building to the right, which has an open lot (large tree) beside it? Some recall that this building once housed a movie theater. Do you know more about it?

The open lot to the right of the mystery building was the site of the Ferguson house. The building to the left of the mystery building now houses Aunt Millie's Pizza parlor (once was a store operated by Frank Jones).

For a larger image click Milton Business District

Please submit your information as comments to this blog or post them to me at

Monday, February 13, 2006

Early American Artifacts in Caswell County

First-American Artifacts Identified

At the Caswell County Historical Association general membership meeting on January 15, 2006, Mr. James David Kirby helped Caswell County residents identify some of the early-American treasures they have found on their properties. The most exciting item was a mortar (photograph above) found by Mr. Owens. David estimates it’s age at approximately 5,000 – 6,000 years old and that it could be 14,000 years old. The mortar is made of granite with two grinding holes and a flat plane for crushing and rolling. David was especially interested in this piece because he found a pestle several years ago. To bring the two together made for a special day. Click HERE for a larger image.

The photograph above shows David Kirby (right) and his brother Keith Anthony Kirby and the extensive early-American artifact collection, portions of which David displays during his seminars at the Richmond-Miles History Museum in Yanceyville, North Carolina. Click HERE for a larger image. Watch this site and the CCHA Message Board for further updates on seminars and excursions David will be organizing.

Here are David Kirby (on right) and the owner of the pestle, Mr. Owens (on left). Click HERE for a larger image.

As a young boy, David Kirby plowed the tobacco fields with mules and tractors, finding these treasures as he worked. The interest generated by these first-American artifacts led him to read and study all that he could find on the subject. His father told David how he too had found arrowheads as a boy and would sell them two for a nickel to a local merchant for candy.

So, David has always had an interest in arrowheads, hatchets, and other tools that date back thousands of years. David greatly enjoys sharing his knowledge and frequently teaches classes on the subject, such as to Boy Scout troops. David has lived practically all his life in Caswell County and is fortunate enough to have farm land for afternoon excursions in the hope of finding additional artifacts.

David Kirby was born near the Caswell County/Orange County border in the Prospect Hill Community, the fifth child of ten born to John Benjamin (JB) Kirby and Mabel Inez Stanfield. After serving four years in the U.S. Navy on the USS Forrestal, he attended Piedmont College, earning degrees in Agricultural Business and Agriculture Science.

Links and References

Donald's Indian Artifacts

Indian Arrowheads of Piedmont, North Carolina

Ancient Artifacts Found on North Carolina Campus

North American Indian History Sites

The Museum of the Native American Resource Center

Native American Resource Center

American Indian Studies

Arrowheads & Stone Artifacts: A Practical Guide for the Amateur Archaeologist, C. G. Yeager (2000)

Field Guide to Flint Arrowheads & Knives of the North American Indian: Identification & Values, Lawrence N. Tully and Steven N. Tully (1968)

The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985)

When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977, William S. Powell (1977) This book is available for purchase from the CCHA and has a full chapter on the "Indians" of Caswell County. To purchase online go to CCHA Publications

A New Voyage to Carolina, John Lawson (1709) (reprints are readily available)

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Azariah Graves or Giles Mebane?

This investigation began when two people questioned whether the above framed portrait labelled Bartlett Yancey, Jr. at the Richmond-Miles History Museum in Yanceyville, North Carolina, was identifying the wrong person. These two people did not know of whom the portrait was, but were certain that it was not an image of Bartlett Yancey, Jr. As both of these people had grown up in Yanceyville and were related to Bartlett Yancey, they were secure in their positions. Click on any of the images for a larger view.

Here (to the right) is a known image of Bartlett Yancey, Jr. (1785-1828). It is a photograph of his portrait, which was passed down through the Yancey family, beginning with the will of his wife. Several prominent historians also have attested to the fact that this is an image of Bartlett Yancey, Jr. It should be obvious that these two portraits (the framed one above and the one here, above and to the right) are of different men. And the curator at the Richmond-Miles History Museum agreed but did not know the identity of the person incorrectly identified as Bartlett Yancey, Jr.

In an effort to discover the identity of the person in the incorrectly labeled portrait, the CCHA posted the mystery to this weblog and to the CCHA message board/mailing list (and passed the matter by several people knowledgeable in these matters). A descendant of the Caswell County Graves family immediately responded and provided the above image. This is a well-documented portrait of Azariah Graves (1768-1850) that had been identified many years ago by another Graves descendant, John Motley Morehead III. Compare this image to the framed one above. Most are certain that these images are of the same person, and an art historian came to the same conclusion.

These findings were taken into account by the Richmond-Miles History Museum. However, in rearranging portraits for a new display, museum personnel discovered that the mislabelled portrait (the framed one shown above) had marked on the back: Giles Mebane. Some research in the museum's donation files seemed to confirm that the portrait had been given to the museum by descendants of Giles Mebane (1809-1899) of Alamance County. Further adding to the confusion is the fact that Giles Mebane married Mary Catherine Yancey, daughter of Bartlett Yancey, Jr. And, to further scramble matters, Azariah Graves was the granduncle of Mary Catherine Yancey (brother of her grandfather, John Herndon Graves).

Thus, was the mystery portrait Azariah Graves or Giles Mebane?

The CCHA and Richmond-Miles History Museum were fortunate to have several good friends who realized that we needed an undisputed image of Giles Mebane to compare. The University of North Carolina had such an image, and these good friends obtained a copy, which is to the left. This is a well-documented image of Giles Mebane, and those associated with this image are as certain as one reasonably can be that it is indeed an image of Giles Mebane.

Does this image match any of those shown above? Compare it to the image that the Richmond-Miles Museum concluded was Giles Mebane (the framed portrait). Many have now done this, including an art historian. The unanimous concensus is that the men in the two portraits are not the same. Thus, the framed portrait that the Museum has labeled as Giles Mebane is, once again, incorrectly identified.

Accordingly, we now have (1) a known image of Bartlett Yancey, Jr., (2) a known image of Giles Mebane (from the University of North Carolina), (3) a known image of Azariah Graves, and (4) a portrait hanging in the museum that is identical to the image of Azariah Graves. Thus, unless additional information is forthcoming, we are considering the mystery solved and the matter closed.

The image set forth below is a portrait of Azariah Graves (1768-1850):

If you have anything to add, please share it.

In late February 2008, the person who donated to the Richmond-Miles Museum the portrait at issue here visited the Museum and identified the portrait as that of Azariah Graves. This donor, Dr. Giles Yancey Mebane, dismissed the possibility that the portrait was of Giles Mebane. Hopefully, this finally resolves the matter.

References and Links

From Jamestown Onward - History & Genealogy of Thirty Lines Plus, Marie Adele Kirksey Darron (1980)

When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977, William S. Powell (1977) at 142

The Morehead Family of North Carolina and Virginia, John Motley Morehead (1921)

John Motley Morehead III (1870-1965)


1. While the identity of the portrait of Bartlett Yancey, Jr., started this investigation, that identity no longer is in doubt. However, it is interesting to note that it was the wife of Giles Mebane, Mary Catherine Yancey, who inherited the portrait of her father (Bartlett Yancey, Jr.) in the will of her mother, Ann (Nancy) Graves Yancey. And, it is very possible that the portrait Mary Catherine Yancey Mebane inherited hangs today in the Richmond-Miles History Museum. Thus, Mary Catherine Yancey was involved in this matter from two directions!

2. Why the portrait of Azariah Graves was marked on the back "Giles Mebane" continues to cause head scratching. It may be because the donor, Dr. Giles Yancey Mebane, is called "Giles Mebane."

3. While not really relevant to the issue at hand it nevertheless is interesting to note that the mother of Giles Mebane was a Graves. Actually, she was a step-mother (the second wife of James Mebane). She was Mary (Polly) Graves the sister of Ann (Nancy) Graves who married Bartlett Yancey, Jr. Thus, Mary Catherine Yancey Mebane's aunt became her step-mother-in-law.