The Jonathan Worth House and Lot

Jonathan Worth (1802-1869) is usually cited as Asheboro’s most famous former resident, on the basis of his two terms as Governor of North Carolina from 1865-1868.  There is little in Asheboro to remind us of him, however, except a state historical marker, and that has been moved from the site of the original courthouse to a spot in front of the current courthouse.  (It still says ‘located one block south,’ which is now inaccurate).

This past winter and spring, one of the last living witnesses to Worth’s life and residency was lost.  The oak tree located in front of the Frank McCrary house on Worth Street was once located in the front yard of Governor Worth’s house.  After suffering storm and insect damage it was gradually removed over a couple of weeks, and now no trace of it remains. It was estimated to be more than 200 years old.

The Randolph Room in the public library has no photograph of the front, or North side of Worth’s house, but we do have a vintage view of the eastern side, that faced Main Street.

It belonged to Governor Worth’s grandson Hal Worth, and County Historian Laura Worth, Hal Worth’s widow, made notes all over the back of it.  “Home of Jonathan Worth in Asheboro, NC, 1824-1864. Located on site of C.W. and J.F. McCrary houses.  Picture made at a family gathering for the Silver Wedding anniversary of David G. and Julia S. Worth, who had moved from Asheboro to Wilmington.”  Julia Stickney, a native of New York, came to Asheboro to teach in the Female Academy. She and David Worth were married in June 1853, after his graduation from UNC-Chapel Hill, so the picture must date to the summer of 1878.  David Gaston Worth was the only son of Governor Worth and his wife, who also had seven daughters, and many of them can be assumed to have been present for the photograph.

Thirty persons have been caught by the photographer, and most of them are unknown.  Miss Laura notes that the lady seated in the center of the detail above, wearing a white bonnet and shawl, is Sarah Dicks Worth, wife of John Milton Worth, who must be the dark-bearded standing man two persons to her left- slightly out of focus since he must have moved during the exposure.  The standing group to the far right of the detail, who are to the left of the large tree in the original, are noted by Miss Laura as “Mrs. Elvira Worth, seen with the Walker children.”  The young man to her right must be Herbert Jackson, her son by Governor Worth’s law partner Samuel Jackson who died in 1875. Evelina then married Samuel Walker, who died just three months later, leaving her with three step-children. (She would later marry once more, in 1883, to Eli N. Moffitt.)

The couple to the right of the tree is not identified, but given the occasion the man and seated woman could be the anniversary couple David and Julia Worth.  They had eight children, of whom only sons Charles (b. 1861), George (b. 1867) and James (b. 1869) survived to adulthood. the 8 and 10-year-olds may be the boys seated on the grass in front of the couple, while the young man in uniform could be 17-year-old Charles. Another  young man in uniform standing behind Sarah Dicks is probably Hal M. Worth, grandson of John Milton Worth, the son of his only son Shubal, who died in the Civil War. The uniforms with U.S. Army-style kepi caps are almost certainly those of the Bingham School in Mebane, which had become a military school in 1873. The Bingham School was operated by Robert Bingham and his wife Delphine Worth, another daughter of Governor Worth. The Binghams and their two daughters and two sons are probably one of the other couples in the photo.

The odd structure in the left foreground is an ice house where pieces of ice cut from frozen ponds during the winter months could be stored below ground, packed in sawdust.  Here is a diagram of one from Fredericksburg, VA–

 

 

As interesting as this single photograph can be, it tells us very little about the Worth property.  Jonathan Worth was a successful lawyer in Asheboro for 40 years, and owned several other farms Randolph and a plantation in Moore in addition to his Asheboro home.  His home survived only a few years after this picture- Sidney Swaim Robins says in Sketches of My Asheboro that he saw it burn one winter night, around 1885.

For additional information we can turn to an advertisement posted in various North Carolina newspapers when Jonathan Worth began his move from Asheboro to Raleigh to take up his duties as State Treasurer in 1862.  It reveals, in great detail, that the house was only one part of a community of buildings and structures that encompassed an entire block of downtown Asheboro- from Worth to Academy Streets, and from Main to Cox Streets. Early Asheboro, as an antebellum southern courthouse town, was a village of clustered farmhouses rather than an urban collection of townhouses. The ad provides an insight to daily life in early Asheboro that no photograph can adequately coney.

VALUABLE PROPERTY FOR SALE.

THE undersigned baring recently undertaken public duties, incompatible with proper attention to the property hereinafter described, will sell at Auction, for Cash, (currency) at 12 o’clock M., on the 29th Jan’y next, (unless sooner disposed of at private sale,) his Tract of LAND in Moore County, on the Fayetteville and Western plank Road, about half way between Carthage and Asheboro’, containing about 507 Acres, of which some 50 or 60 acres is probably cleared, and well fenced. and some four acres good Meadow. It has on it a comfortable DWELLING, Kitchen, Smoke House, Barn, Store House, spacious Stables, &c.

The sale will be made at the premises, and immediate possession will be given to the purchaser. He will aIso sell, at private sale, his Lots and Residence in the town of Asheboro’, with, or without Two Farms near the village. One of the farms about a mile from the village, contains about 100 acres, 80 acres of which is in cultivation. It has on it some 8 or 10 acres of good meadow. About 40 acres is seeded, in good order, with a superior variety of wheat and with rye and winter oats. The remainder is in a good condition for a corn crop. Three-fourths of the outside fence of this place is built of stone. The other tract, about 3 miles from the village, contains about 305 acres;– about 60 acres in cultivation, some 16 acres of which is seeded in Winter oats– the rest intended for corn next year.

The property in Asheboro’ consists of several contiguous lots, containing about 10 acres, all of which is in excellent condition; has on it an orchard of more than 200 trees, in bearing condition contesting of choice varieties of apple, peach, pear, cherry and other fruit trees;– about 3 acres of highly fertilised and productive meadow.

The dwelling is 62 x 20 feet, with a wing 18 x 26 feet, both two stories high. The rooms of the main building are all plastered in plain hard finish style; four of them spacious and with good, fire places; one a dormitory, without fire place, and one a library room, fitted up with moveable shelves, &c. The wing has two rooms with fire places, a dining room and one room without a fire place, with fixed wardrobes, and a spacious and dry cellar under the building. The out-buildings consist of a kitchen, three negro houses with two rooms in each of them, four of the rooms having each a fire place, and one of them a stove; well house with pantry, a large smoke house, carriage house, wood house; two offices each with two rooms and one fire places; a framed barn 54 x 80 feet, with stable room for 8 horses, space for sheaf wheat enough to produce 600 bushels; two ceiled garners capable of holding each 600 bushels of grain, with a basement story to shelter cattle; and also separate cow houses; a stone milk house supplied with a constant stream of cool spring water. The buildings are all in excellent condition, and have been recently painted.

Persons desirous to make further inquiries, can apply to me at Raleigh, to my son or brother residing in Wilmington or to my brother in Fayetteville, or to my son in- law S.S. Jackson in Asheboro’, who is duly empowered empowered to make a sale.
As I am about to remove lo Raleigh l can give immediate possession.
JONATHAN WORTH.
Dec’r 27 1862

 

Advertisements

One Response to “The Jonathan Worth House and Lot”

  1. margoleewilliamsbooks Says:

    Quite an extensive property for being in the village/Town. I would have expected such further out. This really is an interesting look at what life included for a successful professional/business man. I can’t help but be struck by his “largesse” re the three “negro houses.” Although I know he worked with the manumission society I’m not sure I would have expected 2 room cabins. Again, very interesting.

    As you know I have a personal connection. In 1851 he wrote a letter outlining steps that needed to be taken to complete the probate process after my ancestor, Miles Lassiter died.

    As always great information! Thanks for posting!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: