Monday, October 30, 2006

Tennessee Williams

Tennessee Williams

Thomas Lanier Williams was born on March 26, 1911, in Columbus, Mississippi. His father, Cornelius Coffin Williams, was a shoe salesman who spent a great deal of his time away from the family. Williams had one older sister and one younger brother. They spent much of their childhood in the home of their maternal grandfather who was an Episcopal minister. In 1927, Williams got his first taste of literary acclaim when he placed third in a national essay contest sponsored by The Smart Set magazine. The essay was entitled "Can a Good Wife Be a Good Sport?"

In 1939, Williams moved to New Orleans and formally adopted his college nickname "Tennessee" - which was the state of his father's birth. Tennessee Williams, considered one of America's greatest playwrights, drew heavily on his family experiences in his writings. When "The Glass Menagerie" hit Broadway in 1945, it not only changed Tennessee Williams' life, it revolutionized American theater. "A Streetcar Named Desire," "The Night of the Iguana" and "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" are among his other masterpieces. Among his many awards, Williams won two Pulitzer Prizes and four New York Drama Critics Circle Awards.

In addition to twenty-five full length plays, Williams produced dozens of short plays and screenplays, two novels, a novella, sixty short stories, over one hundred poems, and an autobiography. His works have been translated into at least twenty-seven languages, and countless productions of his work have been staged around the world.

Okay, you have read this far and undoubtedly have at least wondered why this article on playwright Tennessee Williams has been posted to the Caswell County Historical Association Weblog. What connection could Tennessee Williams possibly have to Caswell County? The CCHA is glad that you asked.

Take a close look at the gravestone fragments shown below. Click on the photographs for a larger image, which should allow you to read the gravestone inscription. You must look at several of them to piece together the entire script:

These gravestone pieces not only were found in Caswell County, they were in Yanceyville. Origninally believed to have been on the property of Giles and Gertie Jones (the old Dr. Allen Gunn house property), they were found on the grounds of Clarendon Hall, which is about as down-town Yanceyville as an address can be. Here is a photograph of Clarendon Hall:

So, what do all these gravestone fragments tell us?

Here is the best guess at the gravestone inscription:

"Sacred To The Memory of Mrs. Sarah Williams wife of the late Robert Williams, Esq. of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, who was born . . . and died in Caswell County, North Carolina October 1814."

These gravestones are from the grave of Sarah Lanier (1748-1814). In 1774, she married Robert Williams (1744-1790). She was born in Lunenburg County, Virginia. He was born in Hanover County, Virginia. Source: Williams Family Website.

His parents were Nathaniel Williams and Elizabeth Washington. His brother was Joseph Williams (1748-1827), who married Rebecca Lanier (1757-1823), sister of Sarah Lanier. And, down through the generations this Joseph Williams was the direct ancestor of playwright Tennessee Williams. Here is the complete ancestral outline:

Joseph Williams m. Rebecca Lanier
John Williams m. Melinda White
John Williams m. Rhoda Campbell Morgan
Thomas Lanier Williams II m. Isabel Coffin
Cornelius Coffin Williams m. Edwina Dakin
Thomas Lanier Williams (better known as Tennessee Williams)

Well, the Caswell County connection to Tennessee Williams is a bit of a stretch. Tennesse Williams is the third great-grand nephew of the husband of the person (Sarah Lanier) who is buried in Yanceyville. At least her gravestone is there.

While not directly connected to Tennessee Williams, the following probably is more relevant for those researching the Williams family of Virginia and North Carolina:

Robert Williams, b. 4 Aug 1744, Hanover Co., Va, d. 1790. Lawyer and as Commonwealth Attorney for Pittsylvania and Henry Counties of Virginia. Married 10 Oct 1774 Orange/Granville Co., NC to Sarah Lanier Williams, b. 12 Dec 1748, Lunenburg Co., Va, d. aft 1804. Sarah Lanier Williams was d/o dau. of Thos. and Eliz. Hicks Lanier, widow of Robert's cousin, Joseph Williams, s/o Daniel Williams and Ursula Henderson. Resided near Sandy Creek of Bannister River, Pittsylvania County, Virginia. According to one source (Fran Laird), Robert and Sarah had five children (names not known at this time). Source: Williams Family Website

There are two Robert Williams' that are uncle and nephew that keep getting confused. The uncle Robert Williams that married to Sarah Lanier died in 1790. He was not the Robert Williams that was the North Carolina Congressman 1797-1803 (and appointed by President Jefferson to be Governor of Mississippi Territory)--this was his nephew, brother of John. See Williams Family Website.

According to The History of Pittsylvania County, Virginia, Maud Carter Clement (1929) at 139:

Robert Williams and his brother Colonel Joseph Williams settled in North Carolina prior to the Revolution, and married sisters, Sarah and Rebecca Lanier, daughters of Thomas Lanier, an early justice of Lunenburg County, who later moved to North Carolina. Sarah Lanier and Robert Williams were married October 10, 1774, and moved to Pittsylvania County to live, settling near Sandy Creek of Banister River. Here he practiced his profession of law and served as commonwealth attorney for both Pittsylvania and Henry Counties. He died in 1790, and the inventory of his estate showed much silver, books, and elegance of living; he left no will but in 1799 there was a division of his estate.

They (Robert Williams and Sarah Lanier Williams) "moved to Pittsylvania County to live, settling near Sandy Creek of Banister River. Here he practiced his profession of law and served as commonwealth attorney for both Pittsylvania and Henry Counties. He died in 1790, . . . ."

Also interesting is the following with respect to the formation of Lunenburg County, Virginia, and the part that Thomas Lanier (father of Sarah Lanier Williams) played in the early days of that county:

The area that today is Pittsylvania County, Virginia, initially was part of a very large county named Brunswick. However, in February 1745 Brunswick County was subdivided to create Lunenburg County, Virginia. A court for the new county was organized and held on 5 May 1745 when eleven gentlemen took the oath of justice of the peace. Thomas Lanier was one of these men.

Thomas Lanier was the son of Nicholas Lanier of Brunswick County, Virginia and grandson of John Lanier, the emigrant, whose will was proven in Prince George County, Virginia 1717, naming sons John, Sampson, Robert, and Nicholas. Thomas Lanier was born about 1722 and married Elizabeth Hicks in 1742, issue: Robert, born 1742; Molly, born 1744; Sarah, born 1748, married first Col. Joseph Williams, second Robert Williams; Betty, born 1750, married Col Joseph Winston; Caty, born 1752; Patsy, born 1754; Rebecca, born 1757, married Col. Joseph Williams, brother of Robert Williams; Thomas, born 1760; Susanna, born 1763; Lewis, born 1765; Fanny, born 1767; William, born 1770. Thomas Lanier moved to Greenville County, North Carolina, where his will was probated August, 1805. (Wheeler's "History of North Carolina").

Source: The History of Pittsylvania County Virginia, Maud Carter Clement (1929) at 48.

And, while all the above is interesting and may delight genealogical researchers, one question remains:

Why was Sarah Lanier Williams buried in Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina?

For more on the ancestry of the Williams and Lanier families go to the Caswell County Family Tree.

THE COMPLETE ANCESTRY of Tennessee Williams

This genealogy links the world-famous playwright to all of his notable cousins, including royalty, presidents of the U.S., and several state governors. Mr. Brayton traces Williams' ancestry back a full 14 generations, citing all primary and secondary sources and sometimes discussing the genealogical problems associated with each ancestor. The volume includes separate chapters on the following Williams ancestors: the two Thomas Bakers of Boston, MA; Bellar of Frederick Co., VA, and Stokes Co., NC; Bowker of King & Queen, Spotsylvania, and Cumberland Cos., VA; Carnes of Boston, MA: Evans of Prince George Co., VA; Lanier of Rowan Co., NC; Miller of Northampton Co., PA; Nickerson of Norfolk, VA; Moses White of Rowan Co., NC; and Woodhouse of Boston, MA.

Larry Neal Stogner

Occasionally it seems fitting to explore the history of the living. We spend most of our time at the Caswell County Historical Association covering people and events of the far past. Today our most-deserving subject is Larry Neal Stogner.

Larry Stogner was born 1947 in Burlington, North Carolina, to the late Earl Brown Stogner and Dorothy May Watlington. However, it is Yanceyville, North Carolina (Caswell County) that Larry calls his "hometown". Except for a year in Danville, Virginia, Larry attended school in Yanceyville, graduating from Bartlett Yancey High School in 1965.

Then it was off to college at the University of North Carolina, where his education was interrupted by the Vietnam War, in which Larry served as a member of the United States Air Force. After the War, he completed his education and graduated from UNC in 1973. First working as a reporter at WRAL in Raleigh, Larry then joined the news team at ABC affiliate WTVD (Channel 11 locally). He sat behind the anchor desk for the first time at 11 p.m. March 8, 1976. And, except for a short assignment to the Raleigh Bureau in the late 1970's, Larry has been the well-known WTVD news anchorman.

Thus, Caswell County's own Larry Stogner, who recently celebrated thirty years with WTVD, has become the senior broadcast journalist in the northern Piedmont market (Raleigh-Durham and surrounding areas). For many (almost a million each day), the evening news is not the same without Larry's presence.

When Larry was surprised on-air with a thirty-year anniversary cake, here is what his colleague Angela Hampton had to say:
Those of you who watched WTVD in March 1976 will know exactly what we're talking about. It was 30 years ago that Eyewitness News anchor Larry Stogner started his long and successful career here at ABC11.

When you think about news in this part of North Carolina, you naturally think about Larry Stogner. Before Jennings, Brokaw and Rather - - there was Stogner. Larry beat those broadcast legends to the anchor desk by five years.

Larry began his career at ABC11 on March 8, 1976. That summer, America celebrated its 200th birthday - - and in the fall, a peanut farmer from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, was elected president.

So many things about our hometowns and our world have changed since then, but Larry remains a constant, comforting presence on the 5:00 and 6:00 editions of ABC11 Eyewitness News.

When Governor Jim Hunt made his first, historic trade trip to China, it was Larry who walked side-by-side at the Great Wall. Larry reported to us when Dean, Michael and James brought back the first NCAA championship to Chapel Hill.

When ABC11 viewers gave more than $1 million dollars for firefighters' families after 9/11, it was Larry who hand-delivered the check to New York's police commissioner.
It was Larry who insisted that he be on the ground with our Fort Bragg troops as they fought the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Larry has brought us many memorable stories over these past thirty years, but mainly, we appreciate our anchor man for who he is: Native North Carolinian, working journalist, proud Vietnam veteran and our good friend.

This month, we're saying, "Thanks for the company, Larry." Here's to the years to come.

And from those of us who knew Larry from childhood, we're saying: "Thanks for the friendship and making us proud."

References and Links

WTVD Statement
News and Observer Article
Larry's Web Log

Larry and his wife Bobbi live in Durham, North Carolina.

Monday, October 23, 2006

First Baptist Church of Yanceyville Cemetery

First Baptist Church of Yanceyville Cemetery

Below is a slide show containing images of some of the gravestones in the First Baptist Church Cemetery (Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina). While you should be able to view these images here, many will be fairly small and it may be difficult to read the information on the gravestone.

These same images can be found at Flickr. There you will be able to see the photographs individually (or in a slide show), add your own photographs of gravestones in this cemetery, leave comments, choose an image size (from thumbnail to very large), download the photographs, and order prints. All that is required is that you have a Yahoo ID and that you register with Flickr. Registration is free.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Cedars Cemetery (Milton, North Carolina)

This slide show contains images of most of the gravestones in the Cedars Cemetery (Milton, Caswell County, North Carolina) as of September 2005.

These images also are available in much larger resolution at Flickr.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Obituary of Fielding Lewis Walker (1843-1924) Obituary

Adobe Flash Player Required

Adobe Flash Player

To view the slide shows posted to this weblog you must have Adobe Flash Player installed on your computer. This program is free, fairly small, easy to install, and will be useful in ways not related to this site.

Many websites display graphics generated by the Macromedia Flash program, and Adobe Flash Player is required to view these graphics. Adobe Flash Player is installed on 98% of all desktop computers that are Internet-enabled. It is included in Windows® XP (including all new Windows XP computers) and Apple Macintosh operating systems. Thus, you may already have the program on your computer.

Here is how Adobe describes Flash Player:
Flash Player is free software that lets you view web content created by Flash. This content may be interactive content such as menus that slide, or may be complex applications, games or animations. Many web browsers (Internet Explorer, for example) install Flash Player automatically, but you may need to upgrade it from time to time as Adobe makes improvements and as websites you visit update their content.
To download the program go to Adobe Flash Player.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Chew Eureka Tobacco Trade Card

C. D. Vernon & Company, Yanceyville, North Carolina, Trade Card

Note that the 1850 US Census for Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina, listed a Calvin D. Vernon, born around 1818 in Virginia. He is the son of Ann Y. Vernon. No connection has been made with the C. D. Vernon of the above trade card.

The following is from When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977, William S. Powell (1977) at 128:
In 1850 there were three tobacco peddlers in the county: Royal McKinney, Soloman Merritt, and William Whitmore. There were a dozen men, however, who declared their occupation to be that of a "tobacconist." They were Pinkney Burton, Joshua Butler, William F. Butler, Larkin S. Grinstead, William Lewis, Raleigh McLaughlin, Isley Phillips, R. H. Pritchett, James Read, Rufus Rainey, Williba Shelton, and Joseph M. Swift. In 1860 N. C. Motley and John Denny, both natives of Virginia but living in Caswell County, were described as "traders on tobacco." Sixteen tobacconists were listed: J. Q. Anderson, B. Brown, Jr., T. J. Brown, William Brown, Allen Gunn, G. W. Gunn. H. Harrell, J. H. McCaden, William D. Mitchell, H. M. Roan, W. N. Shelton. S. T. Sparks, William H. Vaden, C. D. Vernon, John L. Williamson, and A. G. Yancey.
C. D. Vernon also was appointed by the North Carolina legislature in 1877 to serve as an officer of the Yanceyville municipal government until an election could be held. Later, he was involved in unsuccessful efforts to secure a railroad to run between Danville, Virginia, and Yanceyville, North Carolina.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Mary Elizabeth Connally Report Card

(click on photograph for a larger image)

This "report card" was issued to Mary Elizabeth Connally by the Milton Female Academy, which began operation in 1820 in Milton, Caswell County, North Carolina. Mary Elizabeth Connally (1835 - after 1900) was (a) the daughter 0f George Franklin Connally and Mildred Hundley Lewis and (b) the wife of John James Lipscomb.

As Mary Elizabeth Connally was born in 1835, this report card probably was issued in the 1840's - 1850's. She married in 1867.

If the image here is unacceptable go to Report Card.

Do you know more about the Milton Female Academy, the Connally family, or Milton generally? If so, please share by leaving a comment here, posting a message to the CCHA/CCGW Message Board, or emailing the CCHA.


The standing of Mary E. Connally, in the Milton Female
Academy, during quarter ending last of September
is as follows,

Spelling & Reading Very respectable.
Geography Good.
Grammer Very respectable.
Arithmetic Very good.
Composition Respectable.

Absent from morning prayers 9 times.
Do recitation 22 do.

Deportment Unexceptionable.

Monday, October 09, 2006

New Hope United Methodist Church

(click on photograph for larger image)

The cemetery is located beside the church on the Long's Mill Road in the northwest quadrant of Caswell County, North Carolina (near Hamer and Semora). See the map below. Click on the map for a larger image.

(click on photograph for larger image)

On 26 July 2009, New Hope United Methodist Church celebrated its 230th anniversary. To see a brochure commemorating this event and including a history of the church see New Hope United Methodist Church Anniversary.


Leahurst is located on Long's Mill Road in the northeastern quadrant of Caswell County across from New Hope United Methodist Church. A tributary of Country Line Creek and Country Line Creek proper run near (or possibly through) the property that would have been associated with Leahurst.

Leahurst was the childhood home of Ann Wright Lea, who was featured as the title character in Tom Henderson's booklet Ann of the Ku Klux Klan.

William Louis Poteat (1856-1938)

William Louis Poteat (1856-1938)

William Louis Poteat was born in Caswell County, North Carolina, in 1856. He graduated from Wake Forest College with the A.B. degree in 1877, and received the A.M. degree in 1889. He received LL.D. degrees from Baylor, North Carolina, Brown, and Duke; and the Litt.D. degree from Mercer. He engaged in postgraduate studies at Marine Biology Laboratory and University of Berlin. He married Emma J. Purefoy of Wake Forest in 1881 and had three children.

Poteat played a prominent role in the development of Wake Forest College, serving on the faculty from 1878 until 1905, and as president from 1905 until 1927 - longer than any other president in Wake Forest's history. He was active in the affairs of North Carolina Baptists and Southern Baptists. He was popular as a lecturer on religion, science, temperance, and education. He was a member of North Carolina Conference for Social Service (president), North Carolina Ant-Saloon League (president), Southern Baptist Education Association (president), Council of Church Schools of the South (president), North Carolina Reconstruction Commission, North Carolina Academy of Sciences (president),, and many other movements of his day.

Photograph Courtesy:
Special Collections Department
Z. Smith Reynolds Library
Wake Forest University
Winston-Salem, North Carolina

President Taylor was succeeded by Dr. William Louis Poteat of the Department of Biology. Affectionately known as "Dr. Billy" to a host of students during his twenty-two year administration, he continued to promote the general growth of all areas of the College. Special emphasis was placed on development in the area of sciences, reflecting in part the interests of the President and also in part the need to enrich the premedical training required by the new School of Medicine.

As student enrollment increased from 313 in 1905 to 742 in 1927, there was a corresponding increase in the size of the faculty. Increased registration in religion, English, education, and social sciences required more administrative direction, and a Dean and a Registrar as well as Librarians were employed. Expansion of physical facilities included science laboratories, two new dormitories, an athletic field, a heating plant and an infirmary. Wake Forest, joining the trend of the other colleges in the state, gave more attention to sports and achieved an envied reputation in baseball and football.

Notable also during President Poteat's administration was the continued growth of the endowment. Through the efforts of Professor John B. Carlyle $117,000 was added, one-fourth of which was contributed by the General Education Board of New York. Later a gift of $100,000 in Duke Power Company stock was received from Benjamin N. Duke, and $458,000 from the Southern Baptist Convention.

Beyond these significant material advances, President Poteat brought another distinction in the form of state and national recognition. A devout Christian, an eloquent speaker, an accomplished scholar, he became a state-wide leader in education and probably the foremost Baptist layman in the state. As a distinguished scientist he was among the first to introduce the theory of evolution to his biology classes. His Christian commitment in his personal and public life enabled him to successfully defend his views on evolution before the Baptist State Convention in 1924. This was considered a major victory for academic freedom and attracted national attention. Due in part to his influence and that of the Wake Forest alumni who supported his view, the Legislature of North Carolina did not follow other Southern states in the passage of anti-evolution laws in the 1920's.

Sources: Dictionary of North Carolina Biography; History of Wake Forest.



Saturday, October 07, 2006

Forest Home

The above photograph of Forest Home is from Carl Goerch, "Caswell County", The State: A Weekly Survey of North Carolina, 28 November 1942 at 1-3 and 16-19 (Reprinted by Permission of the Publisher). Note that Our State: Down Home in North Carolina kindly granted the CCHA permission to use this photograph but reserves all rights.

To see this article, go to Caswell County 1942.

This second photograph is from An Inventory of Historic Architecture: Caswell County, North Carolina, Ruth Little-Stokes (1979) at 110 (Copyright 1979 by Caswell County Historical Association, Inc -- All Rights Reserved).

The two wings to the main structure were added by Helen Purefoy Poteat, daughter of William Louis Poteat, when she restored the house. At the time, she was Mrs. Gordon Marshall. However, her first husband was the famous playwright Laurence Stallings.
Click on the photographs for a larger image.

Red House Presbyterian Church Anniversary

Celebrating 250th Anniversary of Red House Presbyterian Church
By Lauren Chesnut/Messenger Staff Writer
Celebrating 250th anniversary of Red House Presbyterian Church

A crisp, clear morning greeted members of Caswell County's Red House Presbyterian Church who, along with more than three hundred friends, family and members of other area churches, gathered Sunday for a celebration of the church's 250th anniversary.

Attendees at the event's 10 a.m. service sat in folding chairs under a large tent that was erected on the church property site of the church's first sanctuary to listen to a sermon by minister Kathryn Summers-Bean and to gaze across Red House's beautiful cemetery as sunbeams danced on the headstones of congregation members who worshipped at Red House at various times over the past two-and-a-half centuries.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Yanceyville Mystery House

This Yanceyville house sits across the street from the Harrelson Funeral Home on property believed to be owned by the Watkins family. It is beside Blackwell's Florist and Gift Shop (formerly Buddy and Oldham Terrell's service station).

It is described as follows in An Inventory of Historic Architecture: Caswell County, North Carolina, Ruth Little-Stokes (1979) at 202:
Photo 325. House. ca. 1890. 1.5-story frame late Victorian cottage with interior brick chimney, two front doors, and crossetted door and window surrounds.
While it apparently no longer has the two front doors, this is believed to be the same house.

What is the history? Who built it? Who lived there?

Please share your information here or by sending a message to the CCHA.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Dr. Thornton House

Dr. Thornton House

This small house is thought to be the oldest structure in Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina. It is located on the south side of West Main Street at the intersection with Cooper-Rogers Road. It dates from around 1810 and probably was built by a member of the Graves family, which owned most of the land in Yanceyville at one time. The original part of the structure is the two-story westerly component. There were two rooms on each floor. The one-story easterly section was a later addition.

The following is from An Inventory of Historic Architecture: Caswell County, North Carolina, Ruth Little-Stokes (1979) at 201:
Photo 323. Dr. Thornton - Tom P. Hunter House. Early 19th century. Tiny 1.5 story frame Federal house which is apparently the oldest structure in Yanceyville. Interesting compressed arrangement of front door and flanking windows. Interior is 2 rooms, equal in size, with corner fireplaces and an enclosed corner stair. Retains ornate original woodwork.
The building has been modified and now serves as a private dwelling.

The Dr. Thornton most likely is Dr. Robert B. Thornton (died 23 February 1875). He lived in the house and had an office there. He married Susan Frances Smith. Their daughter, Donna Rebecca Thornton (1840 - 1897) was the wife of Jeremiah Graves, Jr. (1835-1901), who grew up in the Dongola Mansion in Yanceyville (just across West Main Street from the Dr. Thornton House).

At one time the Dr. Thornton House was the Samuel P. Hill law office. Samuel P. Hill represented the widow of murdered Senator John W. Stephens, who left a considerable estate.

Later, the house became the home of the Thomas Parks Hunter (1894-1943) family. A daughter of Thomas Parks Hunter and Sarah Jeanette (Nettie) Powell, Sallie Katherine Hunter, married Garnett Clements Cooper in 1942. The Dr. Thornton House remains in the Cooper family.


When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977, William S. Powell (1977) at 339.

Caswell County North Carolina Will Books 1843-1868, Katharine Kerr Kendall (1986) at 7.

An Inventory of Historic Architecture: Caswell County, North Carolina, Ruth Little-Stokes (1979).

The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 159-160 (Article #138 "Garnett Clements Cooper" by Mrs. Sallie Katherine Hunter Cooper)

Caswell County Family Tree

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Terrell Chair Identification

The two chairs pictured above are believed to be Terrell Chairs, one straight-back and one rocker. Could you help with the identification?

Leave your comments here or send them to the CCHA.