Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Caswell County: Westward Railroad Expansion in North Carolina

How Caswell County Affected Railroad Expansion into Western North Carolina

Before the Civil War

Caswell County's involvement in North Carolina's railroad history must begin with the vision of Archibald DeBow Murphey (1777-1832). Murphey was born in Caswell County the same year it became a county, being created from Orange County. By 1919, he was a lawyer and legislator who promoted education and internal improvements. These internal improvements focused on transportation, a vision that would result in the railroad movement that came to fruition after his death.

The early history of railroads in North Carolina is, to say the least, confusing. Many railroads were proposed, but few were built. A local group would petition the legislature for a charter (authorization) to create a railroad company and seek investors -- purchasers of stock in the new company. Few of these early efforts were able to generate sufficient funds to proceed. Several such early plans were floated in Caswell County, but no railroads were constructed.1

William Marshall Graves (1865-1941)

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William Marshall Graves (1865-1941)

William Marshall Graves was born March 4, 1865, in Caswell County to slaves, Bural and Henrietta Graves. Marshall along with his parents and older brother Henry, were freed by proclamation of General John M. Schofield, early in May 1865, which followed the Emancipation Proclamation 1 January 1863. Little is known about his ancestry except that his father had five brothers and three sisters, Eshman, Silence, Iverson, Joe, Sam, Mary J., Margaret and Joyce. Iverson fought in the Civil War.

Marshall grew up on the farm and along with his parents and Henry, were employed as laborers by their former slave owners, Lee and Dock Graves. He attended Martin School, later named Fitch School, located on Old 62 South of Yanceyville. His parents instilled in their sons the importance of working hard to earn a living, as well as a deep faith in God. Both parents died before Marshall reached adulthood and as family ties were strong, his Aunt Susan Graves provided a home for him. Henry also died before reaching adulthood. Marshall married Maggie Elizabeth Graves, born 1867, daughter of Gabriel and Edith Carr Graves in 1887 and they had twelve children, eight sons and four daughters: William Albert 3 December 1888, Gabriel Parker 5 September 1890, Edith Henrietta 30 June 1892, Johnnie Pleasant 1 July 1894, Henry Thomas 4 May 1896, George Abriel 29 May 1898, Burlie Owen 15 September 1900, Joseph Ezra 12 November 1902, Hattie Lou 22 January 1905, Mary Mageline 16 June 1906, Fannie Gertrude 29 November 1909, and Samuel Vinson 18 November 1911.

Marshall was a hard worker and an enterprising man. In 1907 he purchased 305 acres of land from B. S. and Mallie Graves, which had formerly been owned by Lee Graves, slave master. At that time there were two old barns on the farm. He and his sons cleared the land and cut timber to build his home in 1909. The children provided the labor also to attend many acres of tobacco, corn, wheat, other grain, to raise animals, poultry, orchards and to raise most of the food they ate. They prospered and were able in 1917 to purchase a sawmill. The business enterprise was owned jointly by Marshall and four sons Albert, Gabriel, Thomas, and George, each having a one-fifth interest, with each assigned specific responsibilities for its operation. This sawmill provided timber for the Yanceyville Bank built around 1917-1918, for the dwelling homes of Fred and Walter Harrelson in Yanceyville, the Stokes family in the Cobb Community, homes in Alamance County and four homes on his farm. The sawmill also provided the lumber for all the bridges on Highway 62 South from Yanceyville to the Alamance County line.

Misfortune struck Marshall in 1919 when his sawmill burned down about two o'clock one morning. He was able to track two sets of footprints in the lightly fallen snow, which suggested arson. The mystery was never solved but Marshall suspected foul play from an old grudge in 1909 when he had seated blacks and whites together in his dining room to eat, following a "barn raising." This violated custom. He had also won a lawsuit around 1918 against a white man in an argument about ownership of a log wagon that he had purchased during the sawmill transaction. He was considered a "smart nigger" who thought he was as good as anyone else. On the first Sunday in January 1920 he lost the house by fire his son Burlie lived in, while they were away at church. Again in 1923 a vacant house belonging to his son George, and situated on the same farm was burned completely. Marshall and sons rebuilt the sawmill but later sold it.

Albert, the oldest son was a mail carrier around 1901-1902. His route ran from Yanceyville to the Anderson area. He traveled by foot daily, with the mail bag on his shoulder. Marshall and his other sons also worked to help build the first prison camp in Yanceyville, around 1932-1933, walking about 14 miles daily round trip for $.90 per day wages; the same for labor to build the elementary school in Yanceyville. Three of his sons, Gabriel, Johnny, and Thomas served in World War I.

Church played a very important part in Marshall's life. A member of Graves Chapel Baptist Church, he helped haul the logs that built the second church, 1897. He served the church as treasurer for eight years, Sunday school treasurer, and as a deacon for thirty years, until his death in March 1941.

Like many blacks at that time Marshall was a registered Republican, but did not hesitate to vote democrat, if that candidate represented his best interests. he made sure his family voted and personally saw that they got to the polls, by taking them. he worked at the polls to help count the votes. Marshall instilled in his children the pride of ownership, the honesty of labor, the need for a closeness between man and God, and an independence of the spirit. Family prayer every morning, "Blessings" before each meal, frequent visits with relatives, strong discipline in the home, and responsibility for one's "kin," were areas he had strong convictions about. He and Maggie reared many children who were not their own.

Many of Marshall's descendants still live on the property he purchased. The highway that passes through the property was named in his honor in 1883. Secondary road number 1120 is now known as Marshall Graves Road. However, his descendants are distributed throughout North Carolina and the United States. Two of his sons, Henry and Gabriel, became ministers. Several of his grandsons are ministers, many of his descendants have become well educated by attending colleges and universities throughout the United States. They hold degrees in engineering, nursing, teaching, social work, and law. They are business person, owning and operating their own businesses, such as dry cleaners, day care centers, barber shops, and boarding homes. They are secretaries, brick masons, printers, welders, plumbers, and mechanics, and serve as managers and supervisors. Many own their homes, farms, and other property.

Source: The Heritage of Caswell County, North Carolina, Jeannine D. Whitlow, Editor (1985) at 243-244 (Article #275, "William Marshall Graves" by Ethel Fuller).

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Thomas Williams (Little Hickory) Graves (1801-1877)

Thomas Williams (Little Hickory) Graves (1801-1877). Graves Family Association Gen. #270: John, Thomas, John, Thomas, James, Thomas Williams

The following 1850 census record has caused some confusion, and this confusion has resulted in incorrect assumptions. The confusion is not helped by Ancestry making mistakes in the online transcription, including shuffling the order of the household members. Corrections and addditional information are in brackets below.

1850 United States Federal Census
Name: Thomas W Graves [Thomas Williams Graves]
Age: 49
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1801
Birth Place: North Carolina
Gender: Male
Home in 1850 (City,County,State): Caswell, North Carolina
Household Members: Name Age
Thomas W Graves 49 [Thomas Williams Graves]
Mary Graves 52 [Mary Sims Graves]
Frances M Graves 17
Franklin Graves 8 [John Henry Franklin Graves]
Franklin Graves 34
James T Graves 14 [James Thomas Graves]
John S Graves 27 [John Slade Graves]
Major H Graves 33 [Major Henry Graves]
Mary M Graves 13 [Mary Ursula Graves]
Mary S Graves 0 [40] [Mary Slade Graves]
George R Swift 17 [student; no family relationship shown]

Four younger siblings of head-of-household Thomas Williams Graves apparently were living with him at the time of the 1850 census. Their parents had died some years earlier:

John Slade Graves
Major Henry Graves [Major is not a title, but his given name.]
Franklin Graves
Mary Slade Graves

Thus, the children of Thomas Williams Graves and Mary Sims Graves Graves listed in the above 1850 census record are:

John Henry Franklin Graves
Mary Ursula Graves
James Thomas Graves
Frances M. Graves

A more correct version of the census record follows (all born in Caswell County):

1850 United States Federal Census
Name: Thomas Williams Graves
Age: 49
Estimated Birth Year: abt 1801
Birth Place: North Carolina
Gender: Male
Home in 1850 (City,County,State): Caswell, North Carolina
Household Members: Name Age
Thomas Williams Graves 49
Mary Sims Graves 52
John Henry Franklin Graves 8
Mary Ursula Graves 13
James Thomas Graves 14
Frances M Graves 17

John Slade Graves 27
Major Henry Graves 33
Franklin Graves 34
Mary Slade Graves 40

George R Swift 17 [student; no family relationship shown]

Note: Thomas Williams Graves and Mary Sims Graves Graves [yes, her maiden surname is Graves] also had a child not shown in the above census record: Barzillai J. Graves (1830-1831). Also note they may have named two sons James Thomas Graves, as one apparently died young:

Family Data Collection - Individual Records
Name: James Thomas Graves
Parents: Thomas William Graves, Mary Graves
Birth Place: Caswell County, NC
Birth Date: 1836
Death Date: 1837

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Albert Eugene Casey (1903-1982)

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Dr. Albert Eugene Casey (1903-1982)

Albert E. Casey, one of the pioneers of modern pathology in the state of Alabama, died on December 26, 1982, in his 79th year. He suffered a severe stroke several months prior, from which he never fully recovered.

Albert Casey was born in New York City in 1903, son of Eugene Joseph Casey and Anna Alma Powell. This heritage of Irish and deed Southern blood later was to inspire him to publish voluminous works, 16 in all, on family-related history in County Cork, Ireland, and Amite County, Mississippi. While the ancient records of the homes of his ancestors delighted him, he also was to apply modern anthropological techniques to the problems of human migrations throughout the globe.

Source: Edmund A. Dowling, M.D., University of South Alabama Medical Center (Mobile, Alabama).

Casey, Albert Eugene, Compiler. Amite County, Mississippi 1699-1890 (Volume #3), The Environs. Greenville (South Carolina): Southern Historical Press, Inc., 2001 (reproduced from a 1957 private edition).

The first volume of this history of Amite County contains: the censuses of 1805, 1810, 1816, 1830 and 1850; the marriages,1810-1869 (with the exception of Book 2A 1820-38); the land claims and land grants 1789-1830; "to and from" index of conveyances 1810-60, abstracts of wills, orphan's court records, and letters of administration, 1809-60, and an index of wills, 1809-1922; additional information in Volume I includes maps of Amite County, distribution of wealth and slaves, birthplace of original settlers, frequency of surnames, etc.

The second volume concerns Amite County churches 1796-1870. It contains the minutes of East Fork, Jerusalem, Line Creek, Galilee, Ebenezer, New Providence, Tangipahoa, Zion Hill, Mount Vernon, Plymouth, Mars Hill, Bogue Citto and Liberty Baptist Churches and Pisgah,Bethany, Liberty and Unity Presbyterian Churches. Records of the early Methodist Churches and stations are to be found in the abstracts of the diaries of Rev. Learner Blackman, Rev. William Winans, Rev. Jacob Young and Rev. Lorenzo Dow. The second volume also contains abstracts relating to Amite County from the minutes of the Fayette Circuit Minute Book, (Methodist), General Conferences Journal of the Methodist Church, General Conference of the Methodist Church South, Annual Mississippi Conferences of the Methodist Church, minutes of the Mississippi River Baptist Association, West Tennessee Presbytery, the Amite Presbytery, the Mississippi Presbytery, General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of the United States, General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America, Mississippi Baptist Association. Biographies of some churchmen are included.

The present or third Volume contains marriages, military records, estate papers and genealogies. The marriages are from Amite County 1820-38 (Vol. 2A) and 1867-90 and from the adjoining Louisiana Parishes of St. Helena and East Feliciana, and in the adjoining Mississippi Counties of Wilkinson, Franklin and Pike; also . . . .

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Bright Leaf Tobacco: Caswell County Highway Historical Marker #1

Bright Leaf Tobacco
Caswell County Highway Historical Marker #1

In 1935 the North Carolina General Assembly authorized the establishment of the North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program (Public Laws, Chapter 197). From that time forward, the program has been administered as a cooperative venture among state agencies. It is presently the joint responsibility of the Historical Research Office, Division of Historical Resources, Department of Cultural Resources, and the Traffic Engineering Branch, Division of Highways, Department of Transportation. The North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program is one of the oldest such programs in continuous operation in the United States.

Caswell County has fifteen highway historical markers, all of which will be discussed on this weblog in the order of dedication.

  1. Bright Leaf Tobacco
  2. Caswell Courthouse
  3. Bedford Brown
  4. Romulus M. Saunders
  5. Bartlett Yancey
  6. Red House Church
  7. Calvin Graves
  8. Solomon Lea
  9. Bethesda Church
10. Jacob Thompson
11. William L. Poteat
12. Griers Presbyterian Church
13. Thomas Day
14. Archibald Debow Murphey
15. Washington's Southern Tour

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1. Bright Leaf Tobacco

ID: G-5
Location: SR 1511 (Blanch Road) west of Blanch [Blanch Road at Bertha Wilson Road]
County: Caswell
Original Date Cast: 1936


In 1839, a twist of fate led to one of the most important breakthroughs in North Carolina agriculture history. Tobacco had always been a major crop for the region, but not until the accidental development of the “bright leaf” variety did the market for the product really start booming.

Stephen was a slave on the farm of planter Abisha Slade near the Virginia border in Caswell County. He worked as a blacksmith on the Slade farm. Another of his jobs was overseeing the curing process of the tobacco crop. On one occasion, due to the warmth created by the fire, Stephen fell asleep during the process. A few hours later, he woke up to find the fire almost completely out. To try to keep the heat going, he rushed to his charcoal pit (part of his blacksmithing operation) and threw hot coals on the fire which created a sudden, immense heat. The heat from the charred logs cured the tobacco quickly, leaving it with a vivid yellow color.

The trade press in the late nineteenth century investigated the discovery of the process, interviewing those still living with firsthand knowledge of the events. The account is one which has fascinated North Carolinians for generations.

The flue-cured tobacco became known as bright leaf tobacco and the variety became popular with smokers. Other farmers learned of and used the new process as well. Although the discovery took place on a piedmont plantation, farmers in the coastal plains soon adopted the process and constructed curing barns by the hundreds. By 1857, Abisha Slade was harvesting 20,000 pounds annually and making some of the highest profits ever. Bright leaf tobacco led North Carolina to a dominant position in the tobacco industry.


Nannie May Tilley, The Bright-Tobacco Industry, 1860-1929 (1948)

Southern Planter (May 1876); Gold Leaf, November 10, 1887, and other articles cited by Nannie May Tilley

Letters from Nannie May Tilley, December 10, 1971; O. A. Smith, January 13, 1972; Dot Slade, September 10, 1973 (marker files, Research Branch, North Carolina Office of Archives and History, Raleigh)

Point of View (PBS) website: Point of View

Monday, May 21, 2018


North Carolina Highway Historical Marker

ID: G-12
Marker Text:


Was Minister to Spain, 1845-49; congressman, judge, and legislator. Lived 1/10 mile north.

Location: NW corner of Broad and Fairview in  Milton
County: Caswell
Original Date Cast: 1938


Romulus M Saunders acted as a public official from the age of 24 until his death at 76. Saunders was born in 1791 in Caswell County, but moved to Tennessee at an early age after the death of his mother. When his father died in 1803, Saunders returned to Caswell County and continued his education at Caswell and Hyco academies until he enrolled at the University of North Carolina in 1809. When Saunders was expelled from the University in 1810 for firing a pistol and throwing a stone at a professor, he returned to Tennessee to study law, becoming licensed in 1812. After joining the bar, Saunders returned to Milton and entered politics as member of the House of Commons in 1815.

Saunders joined the State Senate in 1816, but returned to the House of Commons in 1818, where he was elected Speaker in 1819 and 1820. Saunders then was elected to the United States Congress in 1821, serving two terms until 1827. He acted as the North Carolina attorney general between 1828 and 1831, although he officially held the post until 1834, at which time the office was declared vacant because Saunders was actively holding an alternate position, which violated the North Carolina law against dual office holding. In 1833, while still technically attorney general, Saunders joined the commission on French spoliation claims, stemming from the French seizure of American ships in the early nineteenth century. Saunders’ involvement in the commission gave him a national reputation, but he returned to North Carolina in 1835 to join the bench of the North Carolina Superior Court.

Saunders served as a justice for the North Carolina Superior Court between 1835 and 1840 and again between 1852 and 1867. In between, he ran for both North Carolina governor and U.S. Senator, twice, and was defeated in each election. Saunders retained a significant position nationally, partially through his sponsorship of a resolution in the Democratic National Convention in 1844 that a two-thirds majority be necessary for a political candidate to be supported by the Party. The resolution helped North Carolinian James K. Polk defeat Martin Van Buren. In 1846, Polk appointed Saunders as minister to Spain, a post Saunders held until 1849. While serving as minister, Saunders tried to purchase Cuba from Spain, but was unsuccessful in his bids. After his resignation, Saunders returned to Raleigh, rejoining the Superior Court bench in 1852.

Saunders resided in Raleigh from 1831, but spent his early adulthood in Caswell County. From his move to Raleigh in 1831 until his death in 1867, Saunders lived at “Elmwood”, built in 1813 for Chief Justice John Louis Taylor. Saunders was one of North Carolina’s most prominent political figures in the nineteenth century, and was best known for his fierce partisanship and long political tenure.


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

Samuel A. Ashe, ed., Biographical History of North Carolina, III, 386-393

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

William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, V, 285-286—sketch by H.G. Jones

Ronald Ray Evans (1936-2018)

Ronald Ray Evans (1936-2018)

Ruffin: Ronald Ray Evans (Papa), 81, of 161 Richmond Rd., went home to be with the Lord on Saturday, May 19, 2018, at his home surrounded by his family. A funeral service will be held at 11:00 a.m., Tuesday, May 22, 2018, at Wilkerson Funeral Home. Burial will follow at the Evans Family Cemetery. The family will receive friends at Wilkerson Funeral Home on Monday, May 21, from 6-8 p.m., and other times at the home. Mr. Evans was born on November 4, 1936, in Caswell County to the late Marjorie Sue Hughes Evans and Otis Ray Evans. Ronald worked as an electrician for Cooper Electric. He retired from American Tobacco Company after 28 years of service.

He loved being outdoors on his tractor. After his retirement, he enjoyed doing many things with his grandsons. He was a very loving husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather. In addition to his parents, he was also preceded in death by a son, Rodney Lee Evans, Sr. Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Shelby Travis Evans; grandchildren, Rodney Lee Evans, Jr., David Wayne Evans and wife Lindsay and Jonathan Ray Evans, girlfriend Samantha and Amanda Bailey and fiancé Craig; daughter-in-law, Jamie Bennett and husband Mike; great-grandchildren, Alexis, Bailey, Isabella, Colten, Emily and Case, and sisters, Sandra Evans Tate and Donna Evans Handy and husband Cory. Wilkerson Funeral Home is assisting the family and condolences may be made at

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Will of Henry Turner (1721-1809) Caswell County, North Carolina

Will of Henry Turner [Written 9 May 1807]

Will of Henry Turner
Book F, Page 82
December Court 1809 (Caswell County)

In the name of God amen, I Henry Turner of Caswell County & State of North Carolina, being very infirm in bodie, but sound in mind and memory do make & ordain this my last will & testament.

I give and recommend my soul into the hands of almighty god, and my bodie to the ground to be buried after Christian like burial.

After all my just debt are paid, I give unto my beloved wife Anne Turner the tract of land including the plantation where on I now live, together with half the interest of the mill, and all the household and kitchen furniture, with the plantation tools of every kind; also three negrows, to wit, Sam; ___inney, and Abram, two good work horses, four cows and calves or with calf, four ewes and lambs, four sows and pigs and a sufficient quantity of corn and meet or provisions ___ to support her and her family and stock, for the term of one year after my decease; also I give to my beloved wife my cart of steers; all which I give to her during her natural life or widowhood; and after her death or marriage it is my will and desire that the whole of my perishable property not specially devised to any of my children or grand children, should be sold according to law and the money arising therefrom to be equally divided among my heirs. Except my sons John Turner & Henry Turner.

Item. I give and bequeath to my son Billey Turner one hundered and sixty acres of land, it being the tract of land on which I now live and including the tract which I gave to my son Henry Turner from whom he purchased the same together with half the interest of the mill, aforesaid, but not to intermelded with the mill or plantation on the South Side of the Creek till after the death of my beloved wife Anne Turner, also eight pounds Virginia currency to be drawn out of my perishable estate to his heirs and assigns forever.

Item. I give and bequeath to my beloved son Thomas Turner, eight pounds Virginia money to be drawn out of my perishable estate to him and his heirs and assigns forever.

Item. I give and bequeath to my beloved daughters, Elizabeth Lipscomb, Frankey Martin, Milly Jones and Nancy Kimbrough sixteen pounds Virginia currency to be raised out of my perishable estate, to them and their heirs forever.

Item. I give and bequeath to my beloved daughter Salley French, sixteen pounds Virginia currency to her, her heirs and assigns forever.

Item. I give and bequeath to my daughter Mary Cochran twenty four pounds Virginia currency to her and her heirs forever.

Item. I give and bequeath to my grandson Yancey Turner eight pounds Virginia currency to him and his heirs forever.

Item. I give and bequeath to my grand daughter Mary French, eight pounds Virginia currency to be drawn out of my perishable estate.

Item.I give and bequeath to my grand daughters Fanney Turner, Delila Turner & Nancy Turner, daughters of John Turner, the sum of eight pounds Virginia money equally to be divided between them to be drawn out of my perishable estate.

Item. It is my will that my property, which I have not herein devised, shall be sold after my decease by my Executors to the highest bidder and also at the death or marriage of my wife, the perishable property which I have devised to her should be sold and after the several legacies are discharged which I have devised in money. It is my will that the overplus [surplus] should be equally divised among my following children and grand children, to wit. James Turner, Thomas Turner and Billey Turner, Elizabeth Lipscomb, Frankey Martin, Milly Jones, Susannah Donoho, Sally French, Mary Cochran, Nancey Kimbrough and my grand daughters Fanney, Delila and Yancey Turner, daughters of John Turner which is to draw one share between them.

Item. It is my will and desire that my son James Turner in consequence of a purchase _____ by him from my son Henry Turner by my knowledge and consent that the said James should draw two shares instead of one ______ part.

Lastly I constitute and appoint my sons James Turner and Thomas Turner sole executors of this my last will and testament, revoking all other wills heretofore by me made and confirming this to be my last will and testament. I[n] testimoney whereas I have hereunto set my hand and affixed my seal this 9th day of May AD 1807.

Henry Turner - Will - Written 9 May 1807. Wife Anne; sons John and Henry; sons Billey, Thomas, James; daughters Elizabeth Lipscomb, Frankey Martin, Milley Jones, Nancy Kimbrough, Sally French, Mary Cochran; grandson Yancey Turner; granddaughters Mary French, Fanny Turner, Delila Turner and Nancy Turner daughters of John Turner; daughter Susannah Donoho. Exec: sons James and Thomas. Wit: W. S. Webb, William Kimbrough.

Source: Caswell County North Carolina Will Books 1777-1814, Katharine Kerr Kendall (1986) at 116.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Jesse Richardson Siler (1793-1876)

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Jesse Richardson Siler (1793-1876)

Jesse, the fourth child of Weimar and Margaret Siler, was born January 31, 1793, in Pendleton District, S.C. The following sketch of his life was written by himself:

I was brought up by affectionate, and God fearing parents, with four brothers and four sisters. My parents being religious, from my earliest recollection, I was of course restricted in my conduct. I remember very distinctly one violation of their laws. William and I were gathering grapes when little boys. He was in a tree, and I below holding a hat, which had holes in it. As he would throw the grapes in, they would fall through, which aggravated me so much, that, to my shame be it said, I used language which was a very considerable breach of the order of the family. I was aware of the crime, and of the punishment that awaited me if father found out. William availed himself of this advantage and my weakness and kept me "under his thumb" by threatening to report what I had said. So, finding I was in his power or must suffer punishment of my father, I concluded it was a bad business, consequently have never used profanity since to my recollection.

Thus passing through the scenes of childhood and school boy days, I was scarcely ever ten miles from home, until the year 1805. In the spring of that year, my father took me to spend the summer with my brother-in-law, James Lowry, the husband of my sister Esther, who was living in Buncombe county, N.C. This separation from my home, the tender caresses of my mother, and the society of my brothers, from whom I was scarcely ever absent a night in my life, was to me a great trial; but I summoned up fortitude and bore it until the winter of that year, when my father moved to Buncombe county.

In November, 1814, I commenced clerking for J. M. Smith, of Asheville. Being awkward, uncultivated and timid, and unaccustomed to confinement, I would have been much happier with my parents in the country. But having set out with the determination to succeed, I looked forward with bright hopes, and by dint of application, became tolerably expert in business. I determined not to push myself into society, but to act industriously and honestly, with the hope that I should rise by true merit to rank with those of the highest family. I still retained in a good degree, the religious impressions of my education, and, determined not to disgrace myself, or my parents by immoral conduct, I covenanted daily with my Maker, that if He would protect and direct me, and crown my efforts with success in business, I would endeavor to be useful to the church and society.

After serving four years as clerk, Mr. Smith gave me an interest in business for three years, during which time I made the acquaintance of Miss Harriet D. Patton, sister of Mrs. Smith, who became my wife June 23, 1818. At the expiration of the three years, I bought land in the Tennessee Valley, and in the fall of 1821 moved to what is now Franklin, Macon county, and commenced business on my own footing. With gratitude I acknowledge that God's blessings have been showered upon me. In 1829, I joined the Methodist church. We had no house erected for the worship of God, and remembering my promise to Him, I set to work to build a church. I proposed to give the site and build the house. The good people aided me and in 1830, it was dedicated by the Rev. John Barringer. I felt happy in being able to aid in erecting a little monument dedicated to God, where my aged parents, who had moved to Macon county, with my children and friends, could assemble together in a comfortable situation and devote a portion of their time to the worship of God; and where, in the graveyard nearby, out bodies will rest together, when time with us shall be no more.

Mrs. H. T. Sloan adds to this sketch: "My parents lived happily together nearly sixty years, and were ever faithful in their attendance at our family reunions, and while their vacant seats in our family circle cause a pang of sorrow and regret, yet we know they have gone to fairer regions, and await us in the family above."

Harriet Siler died August 19, 1877.

Source: Arthur, Mrs. N. C., Siler, F. L., Jones, Paul, Johnston, T. J., Committee Members. The Siler Family: Being a Compilation of Biographical and Other Historical Sketches Relating to the Descendants of Plikard and Elizabeth Siler and Read at the Jubilee Reunion of the Siler Family Held in Macon County, North Carolina August 28, 1901 (Addition August, 1926). Franklin (North Carolina): Franklin Press, 1906/1926, pp.6-7 [some paragraph breaks added].

"Fairview" (Milton, Caswell County, North Carolina)

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Fairview Lot (Milton, North Carolina)

Deed Book U, Page 109/Kendall #2 at 77

Bartlett Yancey, Henry M. Clay, Warner Williams to R. M. Sanders all of Caswell County, for $100, 1 acre in Milton at the northwest corner of the stable of R. M. Sanders on Water Street to the bank of Country Line Creek, said land north of the R. M. Sanders house and lot on High Street. 1 June 1822. Witness: Benjamin Oliver.

Page 111-112

R. M. Sanders of Milton to John T. Garland of Halifax County, Virginia, for $4,000, lot in Milton on High Street at intersection with Water Street, being the lot purchased at sale of W. Williams where Sanders lived with 1 acre of land adjacent the stable. 1 October 1822. Acknowledged in open court.

Elijah Graves Sale to Paul Haralson: 1839 Caswell County, North Carolina

The following deed contains a lot to unpack. The abstract apparently does not do the actual record justice as the full conveyance covered part of three pages in the official deed book.

Elijah Graves Sen, of Caswell County, to Paul A. Haralson of Yanceyville, for $1035, 93 acres partly in Yanceyville adjoining the public square, Williamson & Smith, Thomas D. Johnston, Phillip Hodnett, William Graves, N. M. Roan -- beginning at the Yanceyville public square at Williamson old store house, then south to Johnston's spring branch on Ridge Path corner, Thomas Haralson (now Hodnett) crossing Courthouse Road with Azariah Graves (now Elijah Graves), John H. Graves (now Silk Manufacturing Company), Corbit (now Poteat). 6 August 1839. Witnesses: James M. Neal, Chesley D. Turner.

Caswell County, North Carolina
Deed Book EE, Pages 419-421

The Elijah Graves Sen (1778-1855) is so designated not because he had a son of the same name, but because there were younger relatives with that name. This is the brother of Azariah Graves (built the storehouse that still stands in Yanceyville and died in 1837). They are sons of Captain John Herndon Graves (1746-1829), who apparently owned the land on which operated the Silk Manufacturing Company.

Interesting is that this purchase of 93 acres by Paul Haralson is not described as adjoining property already owned by Haralson in Yanceyville. One of the most historic houses remaining in Yanceyville is the Clerk's House just southeast of the Caswell County Courthouse. This house apparently was build by Haralson in 1836, the first Clerk of Superior Court to occupy the house. The Thomas Haralson (whose property apparently had been conveyed to Hodnett) referenced has not been identified, with identification complicated by the various spellings of Haralson/Harrelson.

Where was Williamson's old store? Who was Williamson?

The Johnston in "Johnston's spring branch" probably is Thomas Donoho Johnston (1800-1883).

What was "Ridge Path corner"?

Was "Williamson & Smith" a business?

Eubank Family Marriages (Caswell County, North Carolina)

Caswell County, North Carolina, Marriage Bonds: Eubank Family

James Eubank - Elisabeth Eubanks
1 December 1791
Clayton Jones, J. Womack

George Eubank - Dicey Malone
3 September 1799
William Burch

 Stephen Malone - Celey Parks
 1 October 1804
 George Eubank

William Burch - Betsey Eubank
21 June 1805
William Hester

Loney Malone - Nancy Eubank
27 March 1811
Philip Burch

Roward Larkin - Frances Eubank
3 March 1816
Thomas Tindil, Isaac Rainey

Stephen Bowles - Mary Eubank
16 October 1818
Miles Wells, Jr.

Jacob M. Graves, Jr. - Polly Eubank
13 September 1827
Miles Kimbrough

Thomas Eubank - Nancey Graves
16 December 1828
Abel Faulks

David Ellison - Lucretia Eubank
24 December 1818
Robert McKee

William J. McDaniel - Priscilla Newbank [Eubank?]
23 May 1832
Solomon Whitlow

William B. Anderson - Sophia Williams
14 December 1858
George W. Eubank


1. The earliest Eubank/Eubanks Caswell County marriage record is in 1791.

2. William Burch served as a bondsman or witness in the 1799 marriage bond of George Eubank and Dicey Malone; and in 1805 a William Burch apparently married Betsey Eubank.

3. George Eubank served as a bondsman or witness in the 1804 marriage bond of Stephen Malone and Celey Parks, possibly underlining the relationship between the Eubank and Malone families, which is underscored by the Loney Malone/Nancy Eubank 1811 marriage bond (with Philip Burch as bondsman/witnesses).  A Malone family is associated with Leasburg, Caswell County, North Carolina.

4. Eubank/Graves family relationship: Jacob M. Graves, Jr./Polly Graves in 1827 (Miles Kimbrough bondsman/witness); Thomas Eubank/Nancey Graves in 1828.

5. A George W. Eubank was available in 1858 to serve as a bondsman or witness in a Caswell County marriage bond.

6. Nancey is a nickname for Ann. Polly is a nickname for Mary.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

David Sledge Sartin (1933-2018)

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David Sledge Sartin (1933-2018) David Sledge Sartin, 84, of Providence, Caswell County, North Carolina, passed away on Monday, May 14, 2018. Born August 28, 1933, in Caswell County, son of the late David Henry Sartin and Mary Ema Sledge Sartin. He is survived by his wife of 59 years, Betty English Motley Sartin; a son, David Sledge Sartin, Jr. and wife, Jane; two grandsons, David Sledge Sartin, III and Daniel Motley Sartin; and sister, Ruby Sartin Hovatter and husband, Gerald. He is also survived by a number of beloved nieces, nephews, and cousins. He was predeceased by his sister, Mary Fannie Sartin Hodges and husband, James A. Hodges. David graduated from Bartlett Yancey High School where he played football and was President of the Student Council.

He graduated from N.C. State University with a BA degree in Animal Science. While in college he was a charter member and a brother of the Nu Chapter of Alpha Gamma Rho Fraternity serving as Vice Noble ruler. He was also a member of the Air Force ROTC. Receiving his officer's commission, he serve his country in Texas and Japan from 1955-58 achieving the rank of Captain. In 1962 he was named North Carolina's Outstanding Young Farmer of the Year. He was a devoted family man and friend to everyone he met. He was a partner with his father in Ole Oak Farms with tobacco and dairy cattle and later with his son and grandsons.

He was active in the founding of Piedmont Academy, and with Providence Fire and Rescue, Inc. fund raising events, supporter of local 4 H and FFA organizations. Service will be held at Providence Baptist Church, 5762 Walter's Mill Road at 2 p.m. Thursday, May 17, 2018. Military Honors will be performed by VFW Post 7316 of Yanceyville, N.C. Special appreciation is given to Doris Hamlett and Rhonda Day for their loving care. The family will receive friends at the residence, 3404 Park Springs Road, Providence, N.C. Memorials may be made to Providence Fire and Rescue, Inc. P.O. Box 93, Providence, NC 27315. Townes Funeral Home, 215 West Main Street, is serving the Sartin family.

Clay & Samuel Mill/Yarbrough Mill (Caswell County, NC)

Clay & Samuel Mill/Yarbrough Mill

Josiah Samuel in debt to Bank of Milton for $4,670, with R. M. Sanders as security, to Alexander Henderson, for $1, his interest in grist and saw mills with 100 acres adjoining on Country Line Creek, formerly known as Clay & Samuel Mill, but now owned by Samuel Yarbrough; also his interest in 100 acres where the widow of Jere Samuel now lives adjacent to Henry Roper and Craftin Williams, subject to a life estate of the widow. 3 December 1884. Witness: Archimedes Donoho.

Caswell County, North Carolina
Deed Book W, Pages 123-124

Monday, May 14, 2018

Farrar Family of Virginia: Caswell County, North Carolina, Descendants

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In 1611, Farrar’s Island was the site of the "Citie of Henrico," one of Virginia’s first four primary settlement areas under the Virginia Company of London. Later, it was part of a 2,000-acre land patent issued posthumously to William Farrar in 1637.

Farrar, who arrived in Virginia from London in 1618 aboard the Neptune, invested in the Company under its third charter. In 1626, Governor Sir George Yeardley appointed Farrar to the governor’s Council, a position occupied until 1632. He also served as a justice for two counties. Farrar family members resided on the island until they sold it to Thomas Randolph on 26 Jan. 1727.

At least two major Caswell County, North Carolina, families may descend from the William Farrar referenced above: Burton; and Willis.

Ancestral Outlines

Burton Family
1. John Farrar/Farrer m. Cecily (possibly Kelke)
2. William Farrar m. Cecily Jordan (widow)
3. William Farrar m. Mary Unknown
4. William Farrar m. Priscilla Baugh
5. Priscilla Farrar m. Robert Burton

Willis Family
1. John Farrar/Farrer m. Cecily (possibly Kelke)
2. William Farrar m. Cecily Jordan (widow)
3. Thomas Farrar m. Katherine Perrin
4. Mary Farrar m. Joseph Watkins1
5. Mary Watkins m. Henry Willis

Saturday, May 12, 2018

John De Graff Wemple (1809-1873)

Courtesy Carolina Caswell
Dr. John De Graff Wemple, D.D.S. (1809-1873) was born in or near what today is Fonda, New York, which is around 200 miles almost due north of New York City. In 1823, 14-year-old Wemple reportedly moved to New York City and served seven years as a harness-maker's apprentice. Wemple family history tells that, after completing his New York apprenticeship, 21-year-old Wemple moved to Petersburg, Virginia, where he worked one year. His occupation there is not known.

The period between 1831 and 1840 is uncertain. The earliest record of his Caswell County presence is as a witness in a February 1, 1840, deed of trust given by Richard W. Jackson to secure an indebtedness to Owen McAleer. An abstract of that deed is set forth below. Wemple would have been thirty years old.

Wemple obviously was interested in dentistry, and, according to a letter written to his cousin Fonda Wemple (also a dentist), in 1840 John Wemple studied dentistry in Utica, New York, with a Dr. Kendall. Further, according to that letter, he then moved to Caswell County, but shortly thereafter, in 1841, Wemple studied dentistry at the Baltimore College of Dental Surgery, from which institution he claimed to have graduated. In March of 1841 he married Dorothy Gwynn in Caswell County. Their first child was born July 26, 1843, in Caswell County.

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Around 1843, Wemple built what today is called the Shelton House west of Yanceyville, North Carolina.

Dr. Wemple apparently was successful in his dental practice and was able to acquire substantial wealth. The 1850 United States census shows him owning real estate valued at $2,000. By 1860, this amount had grown to $10,000, and with personal property valued at $7,000 (possibly slaves). It also is likely that his wife, Dorothy Gwynn (1813-1886) brought significant assets to the marriage (land and slaves she inherited).

John De Graff Wemple and Dorothy Gwynn Wemple had four children, three of whom achieved adulthood. All were born in Caswell County:

Maria Temperance Wemple (1843-1900)
Laura Wemple (1845-1906)
Orlando Wemple (1848-1914)
Elizabeth Wemple (1851-1851)

Caswell County Deed Book EE, Page344-345/Kendal #2 at 291

Richard W. Jackson (in debt to Owen McAleer for $63.75, for $360 on open account) to Sterling S. Kent, for $1, negro girl Milley; boy Mitchell about 10 yrs old; horse, buggy, cattle, furniture; 200 lbs cotton yarn; 210 acres on South Country Line Creek adjoining Alanson Howard, Thomas Boswell, same known as Gregory tract. 1 February 1840. Witnesses: Jno K. Graves, Jno D. Wemple.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Hamer General Store and Post Office (Hamer, Caswell County, North Carolina)

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Hamer Post Office

The Hamer community of northeast Caswell County once had a post office, albeit short-lived. On June 7, 1882, Grattan T. Hubbard was appointed postmaster at Hamer. He continued in that position until the Hamer post office was discontinued in 1904, with mail diverted to Blanch.

Grattan T. Hubbard apparently built the Hamer general store around 1875 and most likely operated the Hamer post office from that store. In later years this store was owned and operated by Doug Fowlkes.

Grattan T. Hubbard served as the first U.S. postmaster at Hamer, which was in operation from 7 June 1882 until 14 October 1904. He may have owned at one time the John Johnston House, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

The following is the summary from the National Register of Historic Places Registration Form for the John Johnston House, Caswell County, North Carolina (3 January 1997):

The John Johnston House was probably built early in the second quarter of the nineteenth century on a plantation of 375 acres that Johnston assembled at that time "on the main road leading from Yanceyville to Milton." A member of a prominent Caswell county family, John Johnston (ca. 1778-1860) was a son of Scottish immigrant Dr. Lancelot Johnston, who served with distinction as a surgeon with the American forces during the Revolution. John Johnston's son by his first marriage to Mary Frances Donoho, Thomas Donoho Johnston (1800-1883), rose to prominence as a businessman in the late antebellum period and built Clarendon Hall in Yanceyville, one of the county's finest antebellum residences. Following John Johnston's death in 1860 and the death of his second wife, Nancy, in 1872, the property had a long succession of owners, one of which, probably either G. T. Hubbard or J. E. Zimmerman, moved the house in the first quarter of the twentieth century some 150 yards southwest to a corner of the property where it served as a tenant house. In the late 1980s it was restored by local resident and historian, Hilda Broda, who received a 1995 Award of Merit from the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina for this project. The John Johnston House now provides the observer with a rare glimpse of rural life in nineteenth-century Caswell County.

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Frank Douglas Fowlkes, age 88, of Blanch, N.C., died Tuesday, March 22, 2016. He was born 1 June 1927 in Caswell County, to the late Robert Jennings Fowlkes (1888-1977) and Nancy Williamson Martin Fowlkes (1889-1952). He was one of nine children. He graduated from Bartlett Yancey High School, attended Oak Ridge Military Academy and Appalachian State University. He also served in the US Navy and was a member of New Hope United Methodist Church.

He was married to Anne Isabell Davis Fowlkes (1928-2004) for 56 years. He and his wife owned and operated Fowlkes Store for 56 plus years in Hamer where he also was a proud lifelong tobacco farmer. He is survived by two daughters, Elizabeth Anne Fowlkes Petty of Forest City, N.C., and husband, Buck, and Janet Davis Fowlkes Collie of Blanch, N.C.; two sons, Frank Davis Fowlkes II of Blanch, N.C., and wife, Debbie, and George Jennings Fowlkes of Blanch, N.C. He is also survived by one brother, Richard Fowlkes of Yanceyville, N.C.; six grandchildren, Amy Neal, Brian Collie and wife, Staci, Ethan Fowlkes, Emily Fowlkes, Davis Fowlkes and Kati Jo Fowlkes all of Blanch, N.C.

In addition, he is also survived by two great-grandchildren, Graham Collie and Adelyn Collie.In addition to his parents and wife, he was preceded in death by four sisters, Rebecca Fowlkes Stanfield, Elizabeth Fowlkes White, Francis Fowlkes Smith and Nancy Fowlkes Patterson; and three brothers, Robert Fowlkes, John Fowlkes and Charles Fowlkes. Many beloved nieces and nephews also survive.

He enjoyed spending time with his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He was an avid rook player with his many friends at the Senior Center. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m., Friday, March 25, 2016, at New Hope United Methodist Church with the Rev. Howard James officiating. Interment will be at the church cemetery. The family will receive friends from 7 to 8:30 p.m., Thursday, March 24, 2016, at New Hope United Methodist Church, 465 Longs Mill Road, Blanch, NC 27212 and other times at the residence. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be mailed to the New Hope Cemetery Fund c/o Karen Daniel, 4385 Blanch Road, Blanch, NC 27212. Harrelson Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.