Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Kirk Holden War (Alamance County, NC)

North Carolina Historical Marker

The lynching of Wyatt Outlaw on the courthouse square in Graham in 1870 continues to reverberate across the generations. The consequences for North Carolina were profound, leading to the first impeachment of a governor in U.S. history. Outlaw’s death, like that of State Sen. J. W. (Chicken) Stephens in the Caswell County courthouse, in part precipitated the “Kirk-Holden War.”

Carole Troxler, Elon University professor, has examined the historical record concerning Outlaw. Biographical details, gleaned from Congressional investigations into the 1870-71 Ku Klux Klan “outrages” and transcript of the impeachment trial of Gov. W. W. Holden, are sparse. Outlaw, likely the offspring of white merchant Chesley Faucett and Jemimah Phillips, a free black, served in the Union army, in the 2nd Regiment U.S. Colored Cavalry, first in Virginia with a later posting in Texas along the Rio Grande. On his return home, he opened a woodworking shop on North Main Street in Graham, repairing wagons and making coffins, in addition to specialty trimwork. (Troxler believes it likely that he trained with Thomas Day of Caswell County.) In 1866 he attended the second freedmen’s convention in Raleigh and soon after organized the Union League in Alamance as well as a school and church. Gov. Holden in 1868 appointed him as a town commissioner in Graham and he was elected to the post the following year. That board in 1869 organized an armed night patrol in response to the activities of the Klan.

On Feb. 26, 1870, Outlaw became the target for a Klan mob of 70-100, selected because he was an effective leader, able to work with both races. Seized in his house (over the cries of his young son), Outlaw was hanged from the limb of an elm tree which pointed to the courthouse. His mouth was slashed and a note pinned to his body: “Beware you guilty both white and black.” Another target of intimidation left town that night. Gov. Holden, acting on authority of the Shoffner Act, declared Alamance and Caswell to be in a state of insurrection, setting in motion a sequence of events leading to his impeachment and removal in 1871. In 1873 eighteen men were charged with the murder but ex-Gov. Holden, among others, pleaded for their release and charges were dropped. Albion Tourgee used details from Outlaw’s life in composite characters in his Reconstruction novels.


Jim D. Brisson, "'Civil Government Was Crumbling Around Me': The Kirk-Holden War of 1870," North Carolina Historical Review (April 2011): 123-163

Carole Watterson Troxler, “’To look more closely at the man: Wyatt Outlaw, a Nexus of National, Local, and Personal History,” North Carolina Historical Review (October 2000): 403-433

Otto H. Olsen, Carpetbagger’s Crusade (1965)

Horace W. Raper, William W. Holden (1985)

On this Day in History

On February 26, 1870, Graham town commissioner Wyatt Outlaw, an African American, was lynched by a band of Ku Klux Klansmen.

Outlaw served in the 2nd Regiment United States Colored Cavalry during the Civil War. In 1866, he attended the second freedmen’s convention in Raleigh and soon after organized the Union League, an organization that aimed to promote loyalty to the United States after the Civil War, in Alamance County, as well as a school and church. Outlaw became the target for a Klan mob because he was an effective leader, able to work with both races.

With Klan violence mounting following Outlaw’s murder, Governor William Woods Holden declared a state of insurrection in Alamance and Caswell counties in July 1870. A militia force under George W. Kirk of Tennessee suppressed the Klan in those counties.

Nearly 100 Klan suspects were arrested during the “Kirk-Holden War,” but most were released on technicalities and none were ever tried. White supremacists gained control of the General Assembly in elections that November and impeached Holden for using the militia against the Klan. He was cast out of office in March 1871.

Superior Court judge Albion Tourgee indicted 18 Klansmen for Outlaw’s murder, but an amnesty bill from the legislature resulted in their never going to trial.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Green Mill Dance Hall (Pelham, Caswell County, North Carolina)

Green Mill Dance Hall

In the 1930s and early 1940s a beer joint named the "Green Mill Dance Hall" operated on what now is old US Hwy 29 near the intersection with Holland Road in Pelham, Caswell County, NC. It was across the railroad tracks road from the quarry. At one time the building housed Sheldon Baptist Church.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Stokesland Baptist Church (Danville, VA)

Stokesland Baptist Church, formerly known as State Line Baptist Church, was the outgrowth of a bush arbor revival held by C. C. Chaplin at a school house not far from the site of the first church building located near the rock quarry at Pelham, Caswell County, NC, on old Route 29 South. A congregation was constituted October 18, 1874, through the ministry of the First Baptist Church of Danville. The land for the church and a one-room building was donated by William D. Coleman, granduncle of Kenneth, Herbert, Grace, and Bertie Coleman. State Line Baptist Church joined the association with other Baptist churches in 1876.

Fifty years after the church was founded a stone company began blasting at the quarry. As this was a great risk to the church, in 1924 the membership decided to move to what then was known as "Stokesland Village" and changed the name to Stokesland Baptist Church. The two lots used for the church remain in use today. One lot was purchased, and the other was donated to the church by Mrs. Ella Coleman Gatewood, aunt of the Coleman's in 1925. A frame building of one large room and two small rooms (at the rear of the pulpit) were built. The current church dates from 1956. A fellowship building was erected in 1978.

Source: Stokesland Baptist Church History (1993), which was written as part of the 200th anniversary of churches in Danville, VA.

Friday, February 14, 2020

George Pierce McKinney Family

The group photograph is the family of George Pierce McKinney (1854-1931) and Elizabeth Brooks Oakley (1855-1926), parents of Benjamin Franklin Beauregard Sylvester McKinney (1893-1933). Bottom row second from left: Sara Elizabeth (Sallie Bett) McKinney (1897-1978), who married Marcellus Preston Robertson (1892-1938):

Marcellus Preston Robertson was Alamance County Sheriff at the time of his death 7 December 1938.

Sheriff Robertson and Patrolman Sonny Vaughn, of the Burlington Police Department, were shot and killed by two escaped convicts while responding to a burglary-in-progress at a service station at the corner of North Church Street and Trade Street. Both were met with a blaze of gun shots from the darkness as they entered the station. A third officer returned fire through a window killing one of the convicts as they tried to escape through a back door. The other convict escaped. Both convicts had escaped from an Anson County Prison Camp on October 22, 1938. Sheriff Robertson was killed on his second day in office. He had previously served with the Burlington Police Department for eight years.

George Pierce McKinney and Elizabeth Brooks Oakley McKinney had eleven children. The youngest is Samuel Dewey McKinney, born 1899 (the little boy bottom right). Thus, the photograph probably dates from the early 1900s. 

Missing probably is daughter Nancy Jane McKinney (1877-1897), who died in childbirth. Thus, if you discount the grandchild and one of the grandchild's parents, there are 10 children. B. F. McKinney most likely is one of these (would have been around 10 years old, and may be the son to the far left, second from bottom row). The woman with the baby probably is Mary Frances McKinney (1880-1955) who married Julius Fletcher Madren. She would have been the oldest living daughter at the time of the photograph.

Note that the father of Elizabeth Brooks Oakley, Elder Francis Linden Oakley (1828-1908), once was a pastor at Bush Arbor Primitive Baptist Church. He performed the wedding ceremony for his daughter.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

Milton Stores: Brandon Brothers

Milton Stores: Brandon Brothers

Three Brandon brothers operated stores in Milton, Caswell County, North Carolina: William Smith Brandon (1906-1964); James Hunter Brandon, Jr. (1908-1964); and Dudley Wilson Brandon (1912-1992).

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It appears that William Smith Brandon and then Dudley Wilson Brandon operated a general store at the west end of the main commercial block in Milton. This store is to the far left in the photograph.

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James Hunter Brandon, Jr., operated a service station and cafe in what now is Milton Tire. See photograph.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Caswell County Churches

Caswell County Churches

* = No Church History Known
** = No Church Building Standing

Allen's Chapel Missionary Baptist Church (5630 Ridgeville Road, Ridgeville)
Allred Memorial Baptist Church*
Allred New Mission Baptist Church (244 Kerr's Chapel Road, Anderson)*
Ashland Baptist Church [same as Ashland Road Baptist Church?]*
Ashland Road Baptist Church (1744 Ashland Road, Ashland)

Baynes Baptist Church (1757 Baynes Road, Baynes)*
Berea Christian Church*
Bethel United Church of Christ (595 Baynes Road, Anderson)*
Bethel United Methodist Church (2741 Ridgeville Road, Prospect Hill)
Bethesda Presbyterian Church (216 Bethesda Church Cemetery Road, Casville)
Beulah Baptist Church (1834 US Hwy 158 E, Leasburg)
Beulah Baptist Church (3027 NC Hwy 119, Leasburg)*
Blackwell Missionary Baptist Church (4777 Hwy 158 W, Locust Hill)*
Blanch Baptist Church (5931 Blanch Road, Blanch)
Brown's Arbor Primitive Baptist Church (570 Underwood Road, Camp Springs)*
Brown's Chapel Baptist Church (461 Brown's Chapel Road, Matkins)*
Burton Chapel Baptist Church (5277 Burton Chapel Rd, Hightowers)*
Bush Arbor Primitive Baptist Church (101 Cherry Grove Road, Jericho)*

Saturday, February 01, 2020

Ivy Bluff: This Week in the Archives (December 2019)

Ivy Bluff 1959 AP Photo
Dec. 24, 1959

A Watauga County man who was one of 20 convicts who escaped from the Ivy Bluff Prison in Caswell County gave himself up to Watauga County and FBI officers in late December 1959, the Watauga Democrat reported.

Law enforcement officers had been searching for the man and two other convicts who were still at liberty since Dec. 8. The prison break resulted in the dismissal of several prison officials, including the superintendent, the newspaper reported.

The Watauga County man was reported to have gone to West Virginia after the break, where he hid out in barns, before stealing a station wagon in Virginia and heading back to North Carolina. Sheriff’s Deputy Emmett Oliver and FBI Agent Bob Moore found the man in a station wagon on a rural road, and when Oliver tapped on the car's window with his gun and ordered the man to come out, the man reportedly put the car in reverse in an attempt to run over Moore and escape. Moore shot through the rear window and the escaped convict surrendered without reaching for the loaded .38 pistol in his right jacket pocket, the newspaper reported.

"The pistol was identified as one stolen from the prison during the mass break," the article stated.

Ivy Bluff, according to a 2017 feature in the Raleigh News & Observer, was once called "Little Alcatraz" and, with steel walls, steel doors and concrete walls, was thought to be "escape proof." But that was before Charles "Yank" Stewart, who had already escaped confinement six times, led the group of 20 felons through the gates at Ivy Bluff — "a breakout still unequaled in state history," the News & Observer article stated.

"In December of 1959, he sawed through three bars with a smuggled hacksaw, passing the blade to a fellow prisoner. As the blade made its way down the row of cells, Stewart called a guard for some toilet paper. When the guard passed, he squeezed through the hole he had cut and grabbed the guard by the feet, forcing him into a cell as the other freed inmates joined in," the newspaper recounted.

"With the guard's keys, the prisoners passed through three more doors, then jumped two more guards to pass through two more. Using three captured guards as a bargaining chip, the escapees forced a sergeant to call the officers manning the towers down for a cup of coffee. And once Stewart found himself in charge of the entire prison, he invited every inmate to leave. A truck carted 20 prisoners away," the story continued.

Stewart was found a few days later, and would spend another 12 years behind bars, "including a stint in the real Alcatraz, where he painted landscapes and the Last Supper. He finished life as an elderly gardener for the city of Wilmington, tending roses until he died in 1985."

Source: Oakes, Anna. "This Week in the Archives," Watauga Democrat, 26 December 2019.