Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Life Magazine 1941 Yanceyville Article Correspondence


Dear Sandy:

Thank you so much for researching our request and getting back to me. However, the Caswell County Historical Association is a non-profit organization operating in one of the poorest counties in North Carolina. $500 to them might as well be $1 million.

Although the CCHA is over fifty years old, it did not have a website until this summer when I (from Florida) built one for them.

Is there any way Life Magazine could see fit to waive the fee? We would give full attribution and be very grateful.

We also could place a link to any site that you wish in an effort to generate more business for you.

That link would go at:

Otherwise, we will just quote a short part of the article under the fair-use rule, still of course citing the source and giving full attribution.

Thanks and best personal regards.


Richmond Stanfield Frederick, Jr.

PS I have not been successful in finding anyone who claims any copyright in the Walter Sanders photographs.

PPS I now have two copies of the December 8, 1941 issue, with one in mint condition. It was a very collectible issue because of the date and the fact that Douglass MacArthur was on the cover. The issue obviously went to press before the events of December 7, 1941.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Hyco Lake Power Plant Area History

"Colonial Commerce Once Thrived Through Area Where Power Plant And Its Lake Will Be Built"

The Bee (Danville, Virginia), 13 April 1963

Roxboro, N.C. -- A region in Person and Caswell counties, favored by commerce in this nation's early history, is again emerging as one of prominence.

Hyco River, which wends its way through the two counties to the Dan, is the scene of one of the locale's biggest economic moments, construction by Carolina Power & Light Company of a huge steam-electric generating plant and 3,750-acre cooling lake. The project eventually will cost some $325,000,000 and add 3,800,000 horsepower to the state's power supply.

The proposed plant will be situated northwest of the little community of Ceffo in Person County, an area referred to in the early days as the "Big Woods." The dam will be to the northeast, near historic McGhee's Mill where waters of the Hyco ground corn and wheat long before the Civil War.

Water will rise behind the earth-filled dam to form a lake 10 miles long. It will be used to cool condensers at the coal-fired plant, the first unit of which will go into service in 1966.

In Colonial days, McGee's Mill (formerly spelled McGehee's) was a way station on a stage line that angled northeast to Virginia and westward through Semora to Hillsboro and beyond.

The remains of the old McGehee home, built about 1765, stand overlooking this route. Across the road, in a tangle of briars, is the family graveyard, resting place for pioneer Mumford McGehee, his wife Sarah, their daughter, Elizabeth and her husband, Revolutionary War Captain Robert Moore.

A few miles west of the McGehee homestead, at Semora, stands perhaps the only log post office in North Carolina. Mrs. Caroline McAden Winstead has been postmaster since 1942.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Thomas Brothers Oil and Gas, Inc.

Thomas Brothers Oil and Gas, Inc.

Thomas Brothers Oil and Propane 100 Year Celebration is set for Saturday, June 19, 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. at it’s location at the intersection of Main Street, Yanceyville and Rt. 158. The Open House will feature free BBQ and a raffle. All are invited.

History of Thomas Brothers Oil and Gas, Inc.


Walter Lea Thomas, Jr. (1900-1966) started the business in 1921 in the Town of Milton. A small general store was provided by his father and his brother Edmund Dixon Thomas (1902-1973) was given several farms in Caswell County.

His business was incorporated as Caswell Oil and Gas Company with his father, Walter Lea Thomas, Sr. (1895-1929) as a stockholder.

His first petroleum supplier was Esso, and he got his fuel by train delivered to two 8,000-gallon tanks on a rail siding near the Milton train depot (close to the Dan River).

The Esso deal was short-lived, and he moved to Texaco as a supplier. The two fuels he sold were kerosene and gasoline.

Kerosene was the best-selling product as sawmills were his largest customers, and they used kerosene to run their tractors and stationary engines. Gasoline was used to start these engines and as they warmed up, the kerosene tank was turned on for normal operation. Gasoline sales increased as more automobiles and trucks came with improved roads.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

Short Sugar's BBQ Restaurant (Reidsville, NC)

Short Sugar's BBQ Restaurant
Reidsville, NC

Their first location was a few yards north of where they've been for most of their existence. The first place was a former service station on S. Scales Street at Northup Street. I remember going there soon after they opened in 1949 with my parents and eating inside the car. It had limited parking for curb service, so it wasn't long before they built their present facility with a faux chimney at the south corner of the building with an addition later on which put the chimney more in the middle of the present building. The real chimney is on the northside of the building. That "chimney" used to house a phone booth.

No visit to Reidsville is complete without a meal at Short Sugar's. I have yet to taste barbecue in Florida that comes close to Short Sugar's and have often thought if they opened a place in Jacksonville that they would do well.

Source: Thomas Gunn Facebook Post 25 June 2021


Along with his brothers Clyde Overby and Eldridge Overby, John (Johnny) Overby founded Short Sugar's BBQ Restaurant in Reidsville, North Carolina.

Legend has it that Eldridge Overby, who was on the short side, got his nickname in the late 1940s when his girlfriend, hearing her favorite song playing on a jukebox shouted, "I want to dance with my short sugar." From that day on, Eldridge Overby was known as "Short Sugar."

He and his brothers, Johnny and Clyde, went on to build Overby Brothers Drive-In. But just two days before the opening, Eldridge was killed in a car wreck. Johnny and Clyde decided to name the place after their departed brother, and Short Sugar's Drive-In was born.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Semora Mystery Graves: "Roots" Connection?

"Three Open Graves Remain Mystery"
The News Leader (Staunton, Virginia), 31 March 1982

Danville (AP) -- On a cool winter night, two coon hunters and their dogs topped a hill in the woods at Semora, N.C., a few miles south of Danville, and stumbled onto three open graves. A fine mist was falling.

Although he has hunted those woods for five or six years, Charles Lawson of rural Providence, N.C., had never run across the old graveyard before that eerie night. [Click image to see a larger version.]

Flat stones with no inscriptions, no names, no dates, mark about a dozen graves on the wooded hill.

Three of the graves had been exhumed to a depth of four or five feet. The open graves were nearly six feet long and two feet wide.

Two nights later, the moon was shining when Lawson showed the open pits to Det. Keith McKinney of the Caswell County, N.C., Sheriff's Department.

"It was an eerie feeling," McKinney said.

The defective took photographs but had been unable to find any record of the graves or any information that might explain their exhumation.

Who was buried there?

Why were they disinterred?

What did these unknown culprits find that would cause them to dig for so long and so deep?

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Southeast Film, Inc. Bankruptcy Proceedings 1997


The Caswell Messenger July 16, 1997

Officers of Southeast Film, Inc., pose in front of the US Bankruptcy Court in Greensboro, NC, after a federal judge gave them the go-ahead to restart the movie studios in Yanceyville.

Left-to-Right: Darrell Russell, Lee Farmer, Arnold Rogers, Tom Kirkpatrick, and Carlyle Wimbish.


Southeastern Film Inc. was once called Magder Entertainment Corp. Canadian filmmaker Zale Magder turned 315 acres in downtown Yanceyville, less than an hour's drive from Greensboro, into four large sound stages meant to attract the likes of Jodie Foster and John Travolta.

All this commotion arose in a rural county with no movie theater and one hotel.

Magder Entertainment opened in April 1996. In less than six months, after ``Last Lives,' a movie that went straight to video, and nine commercials, Magder Entertainment went belly up, with $52 left to spend and more than $2 million to pay.

Tom Kirkpatrick, shown above, was hired to turn around the bankrupt Southeastern Film, Inc.

Below is an aerial view of the studio buildings.

Zale Magder's Yanceyville Studios 1995


BY CHRISTINE TATUM Rockingham Bureau May 29, 1995 Updated Jan 25, 2015  0

Film producer Zale Magder doesn't want his new studios to change the face of Yanceyville.


Without bothering to remove a lit cigar from his mouth, film producer Zale Magder reaches for the ringing telephone. His greeting is curt and gruff.``Magder.'

The name speaks for itself among certain circles in the film industry. Magder, who gave Canada its first post-production studios nearly 20 years ago, was at one time that country's largest independent motion picture producer.

And now he's spending around $5 million to build film production studios in rural Caswell County - a county that doesn't even have a movie theater.

That beats all, said Caswell native Wilma Carter.

``I hear that man has more money than he knows what to do with,' Carter said, lowering her voice to a polite whisper. ``He must if he'd pick this place to start up such a whopper of a business.'

Around Yanceyville, the county's seat of about 2,000, few people link the Magder name to those four massive warehouse-like buildings that have recently popped up on the fringes of downtown. Many folks just say they're the doings of that wealthy Canadian who hopes his 315-acre estate will attract movie stars and movie makers worldwide.

Monday, June 21, 2021

Caswell County Midwives

 Caswell County Midwives

Discussed here and elsewhere is the 1913 trial of Henrietta Phelps Jeffries (1857-1926). In a Caswell County Superior Court she was convicted of practicing medicine without a license due to her activities as a midwife. The judge famously set aside the verdict.

Many have speculated that others in Caswell County also provided midwifery services but were never identified. Midwives did, and do, assist women in childbirth.

It appears that a Semora woman functioned as a midwife. She is Addie Sallie Royster (1884-1944). The 1940 United States Federal Census describes her as a negro/black female, 60 years old, with the following as her line of work:

Occupation: "mid Granny"

Industry: "Births"

Worker Class: "In Private Work"

Note that the above is not entirely legible on the original census form. She lived on the Semora-Milton Road with a household of fifteen people. Earlier censuses gave her occupation as "Home Laundress," which presumably meant that she did laundry in her home.

Friday, June 18, 2021

Stoney/Stony Creek Post Office (Caswell County, NC)


The Stony Creek Post Office operated from 15 April 1836 until 15 May 1905 when mail service was discontinued and shifted to Union Ridge in Alamance County. Why the US Postal Service used "Stony" instead of "Stoney" is not known. Perhaps others can help.

Postmasters: James Kerr; John Baynes; Hosea McNeill; George Leath; Jackson G. Pinnix; Confederate postmaster not identified; and Jeremiah A. Lea.

The location of the post office is not known, but, like many others of the time, probably was in a general store in the neighborhood. And, many who operated stores also were farmers. We know, for example, that the last "Stony Creek" postmaster, Jeremiah A. Lea, was a "Dry Goods Merchant," which meant he ran a general store.

I do not know the location of the Jeremiah A. Lea store, but this most likely was the site of the  "Stony Creek" Post Office. I do know he lived in the old James Kerr house near Kerr's Chapel Baptist Church and is buried in the church cemetery.

Semora Commercial Enterprises (Semora, Caswell County, NC)

Semora Commercial Enterprises (Semora, Caswell County, NC)

With respect to some we only know they existed, with no additional information available. Below the list are available relevant photographs. Click on an image to see a larger version.

Adams & Co. Store
Allen's Store (northeast corner of Highway 119/Highway 57 intersection)
Barker's Snack Bar (two locations)
Barker's Store (southeast corner of Highway 119/William Barker Road)
Barker's Store (Thomas Woody Barker 1930: merchant/general grocery/own account)

Brann/Fleetwood Store (near Highway 119/Highway 57 intersection -- southwest corner)
Brooks Funeral Home (north side of Highway 57 just east of Highway 119/Highway 57 intersection) 
Brooks Store (north side of Highway 57 just east of Highway 119/Highway 57 intersection)
Campbell's Store
Hamlett's Store

Hinton's Store (east side of Highway 119 generally across from current Semora Post Office)
Jessie Elmore's Store (east side of Highway 119 south of Highway 119/Highway 57 intersection)
Ma Barker's Store (northeast corner at Highway 119/Highway 57 intersection)
McSherry's Store
Millinery/Florist Shop

Nelson Store (Samuel B. Nelson, 1920, general merchandise)
Owen's Store and Tea Room
Red House Tavern
Semora ABC Store (two locations)
Semora Garage/Blacksmith Shop

Semora Lumber Mill
Semora Post Office
Semora Railroad Depot
Semora Supply Co. (known to be in operation 1919)
Taylor Store (Robert Stickney Taylor/retail grocer)

Winstead Store (Oscar Harris Winstead/general merchandise)

List compiled by Richmond S. Frederick, Jr. (June 19, 2021)

Monday, June 14, 2021

Signs of the South: Original and Archival Photographs (Caswell County, NC)

Curtis, Charlie. "Signs of the South: Original and Archival Photographs" in Southern Cultures, Vol. 6, No. 2 (Summer 2000, pp. 30-39. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

Click image to see a larger version.

Caswell County Photographs

Friday, June 11, 2021

 Independent Weekly, April 13, 2005


The passionate art of Maud Gatewood is on display in a new film

By David Fellerath

The paintings are alternately vibrant, serene and joyful, hundreds of them produced over a long lifetime in Yanceyville, located in rural Caswell County, N.C. Many of the images are strikingly oblique glimpses of attractive young women at leisure: blow-drying hair, roller-skating or poised on a tree swing. But as immediately appealing as the paintings are, they also manage to be evocative and emotional without being sentimental. Highly distinctive yet often heedless of international art fashions, the work of Maud Gatewood represents a singular and private sensibility nurtured among the pines and red clay of North Carolina.

Rather quickly and unexpectedly, Gatewood succumbed last fall to a pair of strokes at the age of 70, but she survived long enough to see a newly completed film about her life and work. This weekend, Gatewood: Facing the White Canvas will play in area theaters, while a small memorial exhibition continues through Aug. 11 at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

Like such Southern literary homebodies as Eudora Welty, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and Reynolds Price (who appears in the film), Gatewood was hip to the goings-on in New York and Paris and London, but chose to practice her art in the land where her creative spirit felt at home.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Person County, North Carolina, Creation Petition

Petition to Create Person County, North Carolina 

I began a transcription of the petition. Any help would be greatly appreciated by anyone. The names of the signatories are difficult. I placed the document online:

Person County Creation Petition


Petition to Establish Person County [edited a bit to make more understandable]

To Honorable Mr. Speaker and Gentlemen of the House of Burgesses

We your humble petitioners of Caswell County labor under the ill conveniences of an ill situtate county, it being near forty miles in length and near twenty wide, which renders it very ill convenient to attend courts, general musters & other publick duties. We therefore pray an equal division.

And your petitioners as in duty bound shall every pray.

1. John Paine

2. David Whipple

3. William Rutherford

4. John Bell

5. Alexander __________

6. __________

7. Beverly __________

8. William __________

9. John Bowles

10. Thomas __________

Saturday, June 05, 2021

Caswell County Historical Association Projects: Missed Opportunities


The Caswell County Historical Association (CCHA) was formed in 1956 to document and preserve the history of Caswell County, North Carolina. It was a few years later that the CCHA acknowledged the importance of genealogy.

The CCHA owns and operates the Richmond-Miles History Museum in Yanceyville, Caswell County, North Carolina. See image to left. Click it to see a larger version.

Unfortunately, over the past few years the CCHA has fallen on difficult times, primarily through a lack of leadership.

In an effort to assist the CCHA ,the CCHA Webmaster at the time, Richmond Stanfield (Rick) Frederick, Jr., provided advice. He identified problems, instructed how these problems should be addressed, and offered his expertise and money to get the job done. Here is a link to a comprehensive memorandum Rick Frederick prepared and submitted to the CCHA Board of Directors:

CCHA Projects and References

Unfortunately, the CCHA for the most part ignored this advice. And, not only did the CCHA ignore the advice, it launched personal attacks against the former webmaster, Rick Frederick. This was a sad chapter in the history of an otherwise proud organization.