Archive for the ‘Religion and Practice’ Category

Odd Fellows Cemetery

February 15, 2016

01faf35181a311ae44b06bd8480ef79e329e97b57cThis is the “Nomination for Cultural Heritage Site” I submitted to the Randolph Count Landmarks Commission that was approved in January 2016. It’s long, but it speaks to an entire segment of local history that has been lost, overlooked, or intentionally buried.

For the past several years the abandoned and overgrown cemetery has been cleaned up and made accessible once more by volunteer groups spearheaded by Don Simmons, owner of Magnolia 23 restaurant in Asheboro.  Don and I made a concerted effort to local any surviving Odd Fellows, but as Ross Holt discovered, the last one died years ago.  The City of Asheboro is now in the process of buying adjoining land and adding the entire tract to the existing Mt. Calvary public cemetery.

The best access to the Odd Fellows Cemetery is via the driveway entrance to Mt. Calvary cemetery adjoining the “Soul Saving Station” at 1124 Cedar Falls Rd., Asheboro. Follow the driveway to the end of the maintained cemetery grounds and the beginning of the wooded Odd Fellow tract.

015462fd5ccafe60ab0f4b2195e4426323dc49acdeIn February 1953, Mrs. Addie McAlister Keeling, the daughter of Col. A.C. McAlister and grand-daughter of Dr. John Milton Worth, deeded a parcel of land south of Cedar Falls Road to the Town of Asheboro; the lot was evidently already in use as a cemetery “for the Negro population of the Town” (DB 400, PG 637).  The cemetery was described as lying east of “Mt. Calvary Drive,” a private road which was also deeded to the Town, which also provided access to the “Odd Fellows Cemetery” (DB400, PG638).  For more than 60 years the City has maintained the Mt. Calvary cemetery property deeded to them, but the private “Odd Fellows Cemetery” area to the South, known for generations as “Potter’s Field” or the “Colored Cemetery,” was never officially deeded to the City and gradually became overgrown.  It comes as no surprise that the legal history of these tracts are a tangled mess, as in the post-Civil War period neither white nor black citizens took much care to preserve cemetery records.  This report attempts to gather together what can be found about this tract of land, and the fraternal order that it is associated with.

P1080271Before 1865, black and white citizens lived together and worshipped together.  Negroes, both free and enslaved, lived in and around the homes of the white population where they served, with blacks segregated on the Sabbath into the balconies of both the Presbyterian and Methodist Episcopal buildings.  Likewise, there were apparently no separate cemeteries.  In the old Asheboro Cemetery on Salisbury street, at or near the site of the original Methodist Episcopal Church, there is a marker headed “To the Memory of our Colored Friends.”  Presumably the names inscribed on that granite block are those of Negro citizens buried alongside white citizens  and whose original wooden or  rock grave markers had vanished.P1080272

Even after  churches separated, it isn’t clear that burials became segregated.  What appears to be the first church just for African Americans in Asheboro was “Bulla’s Grove,” an African Methodist Episcopal congregation located at or near the site of the present 801 South Fayetteville Street, on the southeast side of Bulla Street intersection.  The church was built on an acre of land deeded on January 15, 1869 to David Worth, Jesse Lytle, Donald Steth and J.H. Hoover by local attorney Bolivar B. Bulla and his wife Tibitha.  (DB/P- rec. 1-31-1877).  It is not known that a graveyard was established around the Bulla’s Grove church; even when the church was rebuilt in 1885 it is unclear if there was an actual Negro residential community around the church or if it was an unsuccessful attempt to create a new African- American neighborhood on what was then the far southern outskirts of the Town, far from both whites and blacks.[i]

In 1921 the Bulla family traded the South Fayetteville location for a new lot on the southeast corner of Burns and Greensboro streets, and Bulla’s Grove took on the name of St. Luke Methodist Church.  The history of the church states that the move was “due to the shifting of the Negro population,” but the area on North Main and Greensboro was much closer to the traditional center of Asheboro’s Negro community.  Free black citizens had apparently clustered in the North Main area even before the Civil War; the first school for Negro children in Asheboro was established there after 1865.[ii]

The area from Salisbury north to Burns Street and East to North Main, including Greensboro Street, was the subdivision of the Burns family, who lived in a large house on what is now the parking lot of First Methodist Church.  Earlier in the 19th century that site had been the home of Benjamin Elliott, whose surrounding farm including all four corners of the Salisbury Street/ Plank Road intersection, and ran North east to what is now Greensboro Street.

Allens Temple AME

Allen’s Temple AME Church, Summit Ave., Asheboro (destroyed)

The new Burns real estate development sold primarily to black families in the same way that that Bulla Street area was earlier developed for the same purpose by B.B. Bulla, and the Old Cedar Falls Road/ Glovinia/ Franks St. neighborhood of “East Asheboro” was developed by the McAlister family.  The fourth Negro neighborhood in late 19th century Asheboro was centered around Allen’s Temple A.M.E. Church on Peachtree Street just north of Bossong Hosiery Mill.  That church was organized in 1896, but is now gone and only marked by what remains of its graveyard.  All but the East Asheboro African- American neighborhoods have been gentrified out of most of their connection to African-American history.

St Luke Meth Ch

St. Luke Methodist Church, Burns St.

North of Abram’s Creek the African-American community in 19th century Asheboro spread out over the hill crowned by St. Luke’s church, down to the point where North Main forded the stream.  The town’s first public school for Negro children was halfway up the hill, established about 1882 and run by William Ernest Mead, a white Quaker missionary from New York.  Sidney Robins remembered him

“as master of ceremonies at a Colored Schools Commencement in the Court Room of the old courthouse of an evening.  I recall that the white people of the town had been invited, even urged or asked, to be present.  Again he was quite in evidence as master of ceremonies at large, with capable Negro teachers managing their classes or prompting their pupils.  It was a gala occasion, nothing left out except these gowns for graduates of lower schools that we see nowadays… the Colored schools, or the Negro people of Asheboro, outgrew Uncle Mead or his kind of leadership…. But the thing is natural enough anyhow.  I suppose that as our Negro people began to rise, they began to want to do their own flying.  They began to want to have teachers and officers of their own race…. He eventually resented a little their graduation in sentiment from his leadership,and that was natural too.  They came to seem to him not appreciative enough of that sort of missionary work to which he had given his life.  I wonder if all missionaries do not come to share this feeling of his in proportion as they have been successful.  If we succeed at all, we make self-starters and democrats out of our pupils.” [iii]

Feb09c 041

Cornerstone of the 1911 Colored Graded School on North Main Street, now in the foundation of Central High School.

Swaim’s gentle and gentlemanly explanation that the African-American community wanted “to do their own flying” may be the cause that more and more separate black inhe hillside after 1885.  But it could also have been the hidden hand of Jim Crow, excluding blacks from membership in white institutions.  African-American congregations may well have felt more comfortable with black ministers and black teachers in black churches and black schools.  But segregation decreed a separate school system for black children, a system which was not funded on an equal level to the white system.

East Asheboro Public Library

Summer at the East Asheboro branch of the public library, ca. 1950.

Similarly, “fraternal institutions” and “benelovent societies” such as the Masons and Knights of Pythias began as all-white organizations, and when African-Americans sought membership, spun off independent black lodges.  Prince Hall, a former slave living in Boston, joined the Masons in 1775, and in 1787 the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons were established there as the first African-American masonic lodge.  With freedom came the ability to freely associate, and more and more African-American institutions came into being.  Far from being mere social outlets, African-American fraternal lodges provided burial insurance for members, college scholarships, and assistance during times of illness or death.  From 1870 to 1920 these societies were the primary providers of mutual benefits, financial support and care to members and their communities in the days before public assistance and welfare.  The most prominent and active African-American fraternal organization in 19th-century North Carolina (and in Randolph) were the now almost-forgotten Odd Fellows.

Odd_Fellows_Lodge_Museum_of_HistoryThe name “Odd Fellow” indirectly derives from medieval merchant, trade or craft guild membership practices.  “Fellows” were masters of the “art and mystery” or their craft who, in larger communities and cities, banded together in professional associations such as the goldsmiths,  glaziers, masons, carpenters and textile workers.  In smaller communities where there were too few Fellows of any one trade to form a guild, “Odd Fellows” arose to join together in a “lodge” or union of miscellaneous workers to work together to protect and improve their position in society.

The Odd Fellows order is said to have been established by knights meeting in a London pub in 1452, but the earliest surviving records, dated 1748, are of “Loyal Aristarcus Lodge No. 9”, meeting at a London inn.  Unofficial lodges are said to have existed in New York in the 18th century, but American Odd Fellowship is agreed to have been founded in Baltimore on April 26, 1819 with the creation of Washington Lodge No.1, chartered by the Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows in England.  Their stated purpose was to “Visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.” The Odd Fellows were considered one of the most liberal social organizations, and in 1851 became the only fraternity in the United States to include both men and women. [iv]

Peter-Ogden

Membership in the American lodges was limited to whites only, despite quite a bit of interest from black citizens.  African-Americans in Weldon, N.C. had begun meeting as indepenent Odd Fellows in March 1841, with a second informal lodge formed in Wilmington soon after. In 1842 members of the the Philomathean Institute in New York petitioned the British Odd Fellows to grant them a charter directly.  They sent an African American sailor named Peter Ogden to Manchester, where he received a warrant authorizing black Americans to form lodges.  The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows was organized in Philadelphia in 1842. Membership has always been open to people of any race, though it has remained a predominantly African American Order. That same year the white American lodges declared their independence from the British lodges, forming the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  The whites only clause was not removed by the IOOF until 1971.  The African American Odd Fellows lodges never separated from the English order.[27] 

FvilleMasonsParks

Franklinville Masons, circa 1890.

The period from 1870 to 1920 has been called the “Golden Age of Fraternalism” in America,[v] and Randolph County was no exception.  The county’s first  white Masonic group met at Hanks’ Lodge in Franklinville starting in 1850 (Hanks Lodge #128 of the Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons), with Balfour Lodge #188 established in Asheboro several years later.  By 1880 there were masonic lodges in Ramseur (Marietta #144); Coleridge (Deep River #164); Erect (Mt. Olivet #195); and Liberty? (Oakland #501).  The “Pride of Randolph #380,” established in Asheboro around 1880, was apparently the first African-American lodge of Masons.

April Misc 121

Hanks Lodge, Franklinville, built 1850.

Another popular national lodge, the Fraternal order of the Knights of Pythias was established as a white organization in 1864.  The African-American “Silver Star Lodge #29” of the Knights of Pythias was only established in Asheboro after 1890.[vi]  The K.O.P.  Met on a lot near St. Luke Church on “the street leading to the Colored Graded School,” a/k/a “School House Street” and now known as Burns Street.[vii]  In addition to those fraternities Randolph County in 1907 had lodges of the Loyal Order of Moose, the Woodmen of the World, the Junior Order of United American Mechanics (Trinity,  Caraway, Randleman and Franklinville), the “Royal Arcanum” (founded in Boston in 1877 to provide “Widows and Orphans Benefits”);  the C.M.A. or “Coming Men of America” (a secret society for boys, founded in 1894 under the motto “Our Turn Next”);  and the Improved Order of Red Men (Minnehana Tribe #64 met in Ramseur).  Just to confuse things more, there was also an Asheboro lodge of the all-white Odd Fellows, Randolph Lodge #272.[viii]

The Odd Fellows, with large black and white membership, were the largest of all fraternal organizations. From 50 active lodges in 1863, the African-American GUOOF expanded to 2,253 lodges and 36 Grand Lodges in 1897.  Although still in existence, membership in the US has declined, due to the mainstream IOOF no longer being segregated, and the decline in fraternal membership in general.  The national headquarters of the GUOOF is still in Philadelphia, but since 1981 the national headquarters of the IOOF has been in Winston-Salem.[ix]

grand-unitelodge-of-odd-fellowsA Grand Lodge of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows was organized in North Carolina in 1843, but  the first GUOOF lodge of record in the state was the Republican Star Lodge No. 1383 in Elizabeth City established on May 10, 1869 by the Free Virginia Lodge No. 963 from Portsmouth, Virginia. In Raleigh, the Vitru (also seen as Vitro and Virtue) Lodge No. 1616  first met on January 12, 1874.[x]

An un-named GUOOF Lodge (“#43”) purchased property in Liberty in 1895[xi],  and another (#6737) settled in Randleman in 1908[xii] but the best known and longest-lived Odd Fellowship in Randolph was  Diamond Star Lodge No. 3711, organized in Asheboro before 1894. In that year they purchased a lot and building on the west side of North Main Street, just north of the Ross and Rush livery stable.[xiii]  Before that time they were said to have been meeting in the upper floor of the McAlister store.  In an unusual move, in 1897 the state legislature passed a bill to officially incoporate the Diamond Star Lodge of Odd Fellows in Asheboro. [xiv]

Only a little information can be gained from deed records regarding the philanthrophic activities of the Odd Fellows in Asheboro.  In 1921 the Odd Fellows sold a half interest in their property to the “Pride of Randolph #380” Masons[xv]; this may have generated funds that allowed the Odd Fellows to purchase a lot on  Greensboro Street “adjoining the School House and Holiness Church,”[xvi] which they sold to the Asheboro Graded School District in 1925.[xvii]  This may have been a trade that ultimately resulted in the construction of the new Central School building that replaced the old school on Greensboro Street.

01025343713f03bb50e0ecf5c3bb9c92ea8bd2c1baAt some point in the early 20th century the lodge apparently acquired a lot south of Cedar Falls Road and north of what is now Martin Luther King Street for use as the first African-American cemetery in Asheboro.  When the cemetery was read by the Randolph County Genealogical Society, it was noted as “Oddfellow Cemetery (Also known as McAlister/ Potter/ Oddfellow Cemetery).  This cemetery is located behind Mt. Calvary City Cemetery.  McAlister Cemetery stars at the fence and goes about 50′. Oddfellow has 1 acre started at the end of McAlister and goes to the next street.  Potter is the area next to the brick house on the North end, per Mr. Buddy Matthews.  This is a Black cemetery.”[xviii] There were 81 marked graves found in the first two sections, with another 33 unmarked burials discovered from death certificates.  “Potter’s Field” is an ancient term for the burial site of paupers and indigent people, the phrase coming from Matthew 27: 3 through 27:8.  After Judas Iscariot had hanged himself, the Jewish priests used the 30 pieces of silver paid him to purchase the Akeldama, a pit  where potter’s clay had been dug, for use as a stranger’s burial site.

01e360035f35de0939601ab86136203dd3140c3443There is no deed on record for the Odd Fellows cemetery, nor the McAlister or Potter’s Field sections; early African-American deeds and wills were often lost before registration, and there is an example of the Odd Fellows themselves obtaining a new deed “to replace a deed that has been lost.”[xix]  But as early as 1932, a map of the Burns estate depicts an adjoining “colored Cemetery” between the Cedar Falls Road and the “Road to Franklinville.”[xx]  The area shown was generally within the property owned by the John Milton Worth heirs, and known as the “McAlister Estate” after the death of Col. A.C. McAlister.  When the Odd Fellows sold their lodge property in 1936, was it to pay for the cemetery?[xxi]  In 1953 Addie McAlister Keeling deeded a tract on Cedar Falls Road to the City of Asheboro that was named Mt. Calvary Cemetery, and has since that time been the primary burial ground for African-Americans in Asheboro.[xxii]  Its access driveway easement stated that it runs “to the Southwest corner of the Odd Fellows Cemetery.”[xxiii] There is a deed on record to the Odd Fellows from Addie McAlister Keeling, but it is for a lot on Vienna Street that was subsequently sold in 1989 in the last recorded legal transaction by the Trustees of the Odd Fellows.[xxiv]

Who were the local Odd Fellows?  From the deed records cited, the known trustee members of the Diamond Star Lodge from 1894 to 1989 are Henry McSwain, George Staley, Ches Thrift, Zachariah Franks, Wilson B. Baldwin, Charles T. Reed, Allen Garner (1921); George W. Staley, Isaac Craven, Hal Cranford, James T. Morrison, Jr. (1940); John Green, H.B. Cranford, H.L. Leak, John Jiminez (1946); Gladys B. Matthews, Grady Lane, Thomas Ritter (1989).   There were likely many more actual members than just the trustees, but unless lodge records surface, their names are not known.  Were they a mysterious, secret society like the Masons and Illuminati?  How were they regarded in the local community?

Gladis Buddy Matthews

Gladis “Buddy” Matthews, whose obituary in 1999 listed him as the last surviving member of the Diamond Star Odd Fellows Lodge.

One of the only published accounts of the public activities of African-American fraternal organizations is a rather biased, condescending and probably racist article published in 1894, largely describing the activities of African-American social organizations in New Orleans and Mobile.  I believe it is worth quoting at length for the vivid details it brings to life which are not otherwise available:

The negro now… has become a member of various societies and organizations, generally of a benevolent character, and to these he devotes all the surplus energy of his nature. They have taken the place of politics especially in the thoughts and aspirations of the city negro, and to ride on a gaily caparisoned horse as marshal of his society, wearing a dress suit and a silk hat, with a bright colored sash across his breast, and a truncheon decked with ribbons in his hand, is to reach the summit of the hopes and ambition of many an aspiring descendant of Ham. For one of the main ends and objects of these associations, Odd Fellows, Knights of Tabor, Heart of Hearts, Sons of Zebediah, Daughters of Deborah, Brothers of Lazarus, Sisters of Martha, is to have an annual parade and excursion or picnic. These exhibitions of pomp and pageantry generally take place in the summer, and it is a sight for men and angels to see a procession of colored brothers marching up and down the principal streets of a Southern city on a hot day in July or August, clad in broadcloth and stovepipe hats, with regalia gorgeous enough to call forth the admiration of the white enthusiast in mystic matters… The brass band blares, the horses of the marshals curvet and prance and whisk their plaited tails, and the men in regalia try to keep step to the music with the proud consciousness that the eyes of thousands are upon them. For this great day they have saved and stinted during the whole year, and there is pride and joy in every drop of perspiration that oozes from their foreheads. Crowds of colored people, principally women and children, accompany the procession on the sidewalks and cast admiring glances upon the members, while from hotel, restaurant, barber shop and private residence, members of other societies come out to view the parade critically with emulation in their eyes, and condescension in their approval…. [xxv]

Mention has been made of colored Odd Fellows. Their lodges are not recognized by the white Odd Fellows in this country. It is said that they received their authority, observances, ritual, &c, from an English source. It is certain that in their parades they carry the British flag alongside the stars and stripes. There are quite a number of them in the South. One of the largest processions witnessed by the writer last spring in New Orleans was that of these colored Odd Fellows. It seemed as if they would never get done coming up St. Charles avenue. But these societies are not confined to cities. They exist also in the country, and the negro house servant or laborer, male and female, would sooner go hungry than fail to pay his or her monthly dues. The etiquette in these country societies is very strict on one point, and that is that the members shall never fail to give the titles of “Mr.,” “Mrs.” and “Miss” when they meet or address each other. Occasionally they have candy pullings and other festive gatherings, but the most momentous occasions with them are when the funeral sermon of some member is preached after he or she has been dead some six months or more. For the negro enjoys the luxury of melancholy. His favorite melodies are plaintive, and the songs that colored children sing in their games are in a minor key.[xxvi]

Odd Fellows Masks 1900

Masks used in Odd Fellows Parades

That this kind of celebration was not limited to the urban South is found in an account in the Asheboro newspaper of the Fourth of July, 1907:

Patriotic Exercises Among the Colored People of Asheboro. 

                Although the morning of the 4th looked gloomy, at a very early hour numbers of people began to assemble, the first feature of the day being a game of ball between Mitchell and Asheboro.  The score was 11 to 18 in favor of Asheboro.  At half past seven o’clock the arrival of the Thomasville brass band was announced to the delight of all.

                At 2:00 in the afternoon a game of ball was called between Biscoe and Asheboro.  As usual the score stood 37 to 1 in favor of Asheboro.  The last but not least was at half past six when the band marched to [the] Public Square and played Abernathy and Victory Forever.  The music was enjoyed by both white and colored.

                The day passed off quietly.

                At 12 o’clock the band met the northbound train and escort the crowd to a point where the procession of [GUOOF] Diamond Star Lodge 3711 of Asheboro was formed, after which the band led a march to the First Congregational Church, East Asheboro, where the corner stone was solemnly placed, C.T. Reid acting as master of ceremonies.  This was very interesting to all present.

                At half past seven o’clock strains of sweet music were heard in the McAlister-Morris building- a high time for the Odd Fellows.  This was another marked occasion, everything being in good order.  Am glad to say we are advancing toward higher civilization.  May the work of God prevail amidst white and colored.

                Yours for good, H. DAVID, Pastor, First Congregational Church.[xxvii]

The overgrown cemetery adjoinging Mt. Calvary in East Asheboro is the last surviving remnant of  Diamond Star Lodge # 3711, the Asheboro chapter of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows.  It is emblematic of the charitable and beneficial work of what may be Asheboro’s first and oldest African-American frateral order.  Its history sheds light on a lost world of 19th century African-American culture.

 

[i]               Allen’s Temple AME Church was apparently the second Negro congregation.  It was located at the intersection of Chestnut and Peachtree Streets, approximately at the location of 301 Peachtree Street.  Allen’s Temple was consolidated with Bulla’s Grove to create St. Luke United Methodist Church.

[ii]               The trustees and members of Bulla’s Grove were a Who’s Who of African American Asheboro:  William Lytle, George McCain, Benjamin Smitherman, Jordan McCain, John Bell, & Andrew Smitherman; Charlie Reid, Harry Cox, Wesley Brower, Adam Brower, Jeff Hoover, and Thomas Carter.  Female members Harriett Hoover, Della McCain, Mattie Pitts, Delphinia Hill, Louisa Bell, Jennie Reid, and Cornelia Brower were responsible for placing the first organ in the church.

[iii]    Sidney S. Robins, Sketches of My Asheboro (Randolph Historical Society, 1972), page 27.

[iv]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_Order_of_Odd_Fellows

[v]               https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_age_of_fraternalism

[vi]              Silver Star Lodge #29, Knights of Pythias bought from Jesse Lytle land on East side Fayetteville street at the intersection of the street leading to the Colored Graded School (162/288, 1915) and a year later, another lot on “School House Street” (183/264, 1916) (This is now Burns Street).  The trustees of the Knights of Pythias were M.S. Brewer, Albert Henley and Ed Lynn).

[vii]             Randolph county Deed Books 162, Page 288 (1915) and 183, Page 264 (1916), purchased from Jesse Lytle. When the property was sold in 1930 (DB227, Pg 421) the KOP Trustees were M.S. Brewer, Albert Henley, and Ed Lynn.

[viii]             The Courier (Asheboro), 27 June 1907, “Odd Fellows Elect Officers”  C.A. Hayworth was elected Noble Guardian.

[ix]              https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Independent_Order_of_Odd_Fellows

[x]               See the RALEIGH HISTORIC LANDMARK DESIGNATION, 1985, of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (GUOOF) Building, 115 East Hargett St.  http://rhdc.org/sites/default/files/Grand%20United%20Order%20of%20Odd%20Fellows%20Landmark%20App_web.pdf

[xi]              Randolph County Deed Book 90, Page 369.

[xii]             Randolph County Deed Books 125, Page 207 and 138, Page 247.

[xiii]             Randolph County Deed Book 86, Page 106.

[xiv]             House bill passed 1 March 1897, cited in Warrenton Gazette, 5 March 1897.

[xv]             Randolph Deed  Book 208, Page 316 (1921).  Trustees of the Masons: Gilmer Davis, J.W. Brown, George Phillips.

[xvi]            Randolph County Deed Book 190, Pg. 559 (1921)

[xvii]            Randolph County Deed Book 220, Page 212 (1925)

[xviii]           Randolph County Genealogical Society journal, date, pages 200-205.

[xix]             Randolph County Deed Book 327, Page 125 (1940)

[xx]             Plat entitled “Map #3 of the Burns Estate”, Randolph County Deed Book 268, Page 461 (15 March 1932)

[xxi]             Their Lot on N. Main Street behind what was the livery stable was sold to B.S. Morris at Randolph County Deed Book 278, Pages 84 & 232, 1936.

[xxii]            Randolph County Deed Book 400, Page 637 (25 Feb. 1953)

[xxiii]           Randolph County Deed Book 400, Page 638 (Right of Way for Mt. Calvary Drive, 25 Feb. 1953)

[xxiv]           A 7752 Square foot lot purchased from Addie McAlister Keeling & h/ Jeffrey “on East side Vienna St.” (Deed Book 354, Page 543, 1946); sold to Matthews  in 1989(Deed Book 1249, Page 232).  The last named Trustees, were Gladys B. Matthews, Grady Lane, and Thomas Ritter.

[xxv]            Ledyard, Erwin. “Social Life of the Southern Negro.” The Southern States: An illustrated Monthly Magazine Devoted to the South. Baltimore: Manufacturer’s Record Publ. Co., August 1894; p.299-300. http://digital.ncdcr.gov/u?/p249901coll37,12204  (accessed August 11, 2015).

[xxvi]           Ibid, p. 301.

[xxvii]           The Courier (Asheboro, NC), Thursday July 18, 1907, page 8.

Hoover’s Mill (aka Rush’s Mill, Arnold’s Mill, Skeen’s Mill)

October 31, 2011

Every historic site has both a public and a private history.   In the case of this mill site on Covered Bridge Road in Tabernacle Township, I have a thirty-year personal association that gives me an intimate knowledge of it.  In the summer of 1975 I participated in the archeological excavation of the Mt. Shepherd Pottery which is located about a mile southeast of this site.  At that time the Skeen’s Mill Covered Bridge still stood on Covered Bridge Road, and I convinced some friends to join me in an expedition up the Uwharrie to see if we could discover if there was actually a mill anywhere around the Skeen’s Mill Bridge.  Over the course of an afternoon we not only found a site of surprising natural beauty, but well-preserved evidence of an elaborate mill seat.  And a “For Sale” sign.

Not knowing anything more than that, I convinced my parents to return with me the next weekend, and eventually prevailed upon them to purchase the tract which included the entire junction of the Uwharrie and Little Uwharrie Rivers.  After graduating from college and returning home, I actually lived in a trailer perched high above the site of the dam for two years while researching and writing my architectural history of Randolph County.   The property is still owned by my family.  But for two hundred and thirteen years previously, it had been owned by a parade of other people, and it has taken me years to piece together not just the history of this one tract of land, but the story of the surrounding neighborhood, part of what has been called the “Uwharrie Dutch” community, where this mill and the Mt. Shepherd Pottery were commercial landmarks.

Map of the "Uwharrie Dutch" region from MESDA Journal

The historic layout of the property took some time to puzzle out.  State Road 1406 runs from Hoover Hill Road on the East to Tabernacle Church Road on the West; and the one-hundred-foot-long Skeen’s Mill Covered Bridge (Tabernacle Township Site 18 in my architectural history) spanned the Uwharrie River about twenty feet north of its modern replacement.  It was built before March 1900, when C.T. Hughes was paid $11 for “repairing the bridge at N.R. Skeen’s.”  The bridge was one of only three remaining in North Carolina when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the 1960s, but it was unappreciated and neglected by its nonresident owner and was destroyed by high water about the year 1984.

The mill was located to the South of both the covered bridge and modern bridge, about 150 feet from the road.  The foundations trace the footprint of a building thirty by fifty feet in plan, with its western side built into the side of a hill where the miller’s house  stood about fifty feet above and 200 feet southwest.  What was initially very confusing is that the mill race ran in the opposite direction that it should have if the dam was located anywhere near the covered bridge.  The tail race obviously flowed back into the Uwharrie River downstream from the bridge, but the head race was dug into the side of the hill, ending at least twenty feet above the mill perfectly situated for an overshot water wheel.  But the race ran south, curling around the hill at the foot of the miller’s house until it bent into a horseshoe shape and began running in a canal paralleling the Little Uwharrie River, where we finally found the evidence of head gates and a dam.

Only iron bolts drilled into the river bed indicate the location of the dam, which ran diagonally across the Little Uwharrie at a 50-degree angle to the flow.  Water was funneled into the head gates, and then ran in a horseshoe-shaped canal approximately 1,340 feet around the hill to the site of the mill, a very impressive engineering achievement for some unknown millwright.   Parts of two sets of mills stones were then in evidence, made of the individually-quarried blocks set in plaster that were characteristic of “French Buhr” stones.   The road which crossed the Uwharrie at the covered bridge stopped at the mill and then continued South, parallel to the river, in deeply-cut double tracks, one wide enough for a horse and wagon, the other just wide enough for a horse.  The tracks converged to cross the Little Uwharrie at a ford just northwest of the confluence, and then continued south west.

Research into previous ownership was the first order of research, beginning with the most recent and going backwards.  The recent history of the entire neighborhood was clear:  the surrounding lots had first been sold  in 1963 as part of the “Thayer Plantation” subdivision (See Plat Book 10, Page 116, Randolph County Registry).   Lee C. Thayer was the operator of a sawmill located on the railroad in Trinity, and owned hundreds of acres in Trinity and Tabernacle townships.  He lived in the Queen Anne style Victorian house at the northwest corner of Covered Bridge and Thayer Roads which was the center of a tract totaling more than 350 acres.  When the business hit bad times, the land was sold , roads were pushed out into the woods and hundreds of small lots were sold at auction.

The Thayers acquired the mill tract in 1943 (DB 386/PG 340); for the previous  thirty years it had been owned by the family of Julian Pearce, who bought it at auction in 1910 (DB134/PG276).  The auction had settled the estate of J.R. Skeen, son of Noah R. Skeen for whom the covered bridge was named.   The Skeen Mill tract consisted of 52 acres on both rivers, and included a tract “bought by N.R. Skeen from John Hill known as Boy Hill in the forks of the two prongs of Uwharrie River just below the Skeen Mill…”

Reaching back into the 19th century the information grew sketchier, but Skeen acquired the mill about 1890 from Penuel Arnold, who bought “Rush’s Mills” from the Estate of Nineveh Rush in 1881 (DB58,P352).  An article from The Courier of 1934 described Rush’s Mills: “the Little Uwharrie came down on the top of a hill just west of Big Uwharrie.  And 120 rods before it emptied into the bigger river it was forty feet higher on a level than the big river.  So Rush, with the help of his slaves, built a small dam on the hill, plowed and shoveled a canal or race around the hill and landed the water on a 20-foot wheel which operated a long saw placed so as to give it speed up and down.”  The grist mill was forty feet further down the race, where “two sets of stones were put in, one for wheat and one for corn.  When it rained enough they could run the saw and the grist mill at the same time.  When rains let up they could not run either one.”  (R.C. Welborn, “First Saw Mill in Tabernacle Dates Back to 1820”)

Rush bought the mill and 300 acres in February 1826 from the Estate of Jacob Hoover (DB16, P319).  Jacob Hoover (b. 1754) had acquired 35 acres, including “the mill seat where Jacob Hoover now lives… in the fork of the Uwharrie”  in October 1794 from the estate of his father Andrew Hoover (DB7, P263).  Andrew Hoover was the anglicized name of Andres Huber, who had purchased 275 acres on both forks of the Uwharrie from Henry Eustace McCulloh in February 1763, when the area was still part of Rowan County (see Rowan DB5, P343).

Andreas Huber was born January 23, 1723 in Ellerstadt, now part of the German Palatine.  As the ninth child of a vintner, Huber saw little opportunity at home, and at age 15 he arrived at Philadelphia.  He lived with a brother in Lancaster County until age 22, when he married Margaret Pfautz and moved to Carroll County, Maryland.  By 1763 he and his large family had settled on the Uwharrie.   After the Revolution he turned the mill at the forks over to son Jacob and moved further down the Uwharrie to the Jackson Creek area, where he died and is buried in the Hoover cemetery. (See Genealogy of the Herbert Hoover Family by Hulda Hoover McLean, published by the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, 1967).

Nothing much was heard of Andrew thereafter until 1928, when his 3rd great- grandson Herbert Clark Hoover was elected President of the United States.  Though Herbert Hoover had been born and bred in Iowa, his distant cousins and proud Republican brethren of Randolph County didn’t miss the opportunity to turn the President’s ancestor into a modern folk hero.  A 1928 story by T.M. Pridgen published in the Charlotte News (“Myths of Prowess of early Hoovers along Uwharrie”) declared that Andrew Hoover was a Quaker and neighbor of Daniel Boone, and Hoover’s mill was “an important granary of the Revolution.”  “The story goes that Andrew Hoover was not afraid of man, beast or devil; that he climbed to the top of Eagle Nest Rock when others were afraid to; that he swam the raging Uwharrie to save the lives of his horses; and he set out to face the headless horseman on the Uwharrie trails, and braved the other ghostly figures that moved like lost souls down the valley.”

It is doubtful whether any of those florid claims are real.   Far from being supporters of the Revolution, the Hoovers were part of the German Pacifist community that clustered around this area of the Uwharrie during the 18th century.  I have written about this before in my article on the Mt. Shepherd pottery [http://www.archive.org/stream/journalofearlyso0601muse#page/20/mode/2up/search/21 ]  Historian John Scott Davenport has extensively researched the area, and asserts that though President Hoover was a Quaker, “the Uwharrie Dutch were predominately Dunker and Mennonite.  The Uwharrie Dunkers [German Baptists] were the largest settlement of that sect in North Carolina, 1778-1782.  Their minister was Jacob Stutzman, who bought Ramsey’s Place from Henry Eustace McCulloh in 1764, and led the congregation until he moved to Clark County, Indiana Territory, in 1801…. Dunkers did not have meeting houses until the mid-19th century; hence Mast’s Old Meeting House [across the Uwharrie just east of Hoover’s Mill; see DB10, P5) was a Mennonite church.  Mennonites, called “Dutch Friends” by the Quakers, fellow-shipped with Quakers, appeared occasionally as witnesses to Quaker weddings.  The Dunkers would have nothing to do with Quakers.  Land problems, brought about by their rigid pacifism during the Revolution, and the influx of Quakers into the Uwharrie following the Revolution, were largely responsible for the removal of the Dunkers from Randolph County.”  (Letter dated November 12, 1976, in the Hoover files of the Randolph Room)

Jacob Hoover (1754-1821) married Elizabeth Stutzman, a daughter of the Dunker minister, and it is likely that his mother Margaret Pfautz was also a member of the congregation.  But Andrew’s family must not have been as strict as others, as their numerous deeds were all properly sworn to and recorded.  It is said that disastrous floods in 1795 and 1798 caused all of Andrew’s children but Jacob and Jonas to move west to Indiana.  Jacob ran and rebuilt the mill, which was alternately washed away by a flood and destroyed by fire, until he was crippled in an accident during a flood.   It seems likely that the unusual configuration of the present mill race stems from a desire to protect it from flood waters; a breach of the dam on the Little Uwharrie would never wash away the mill on the other side of the hill.

Finally, we can take one additional step further back into history:  the 1733 map of North Carolina by Surveyor General Edward Moseley (A New and Correct Map of the Province of North Carolina) depicts both Deep River and the Uwharrie, but the only landmark noted in the whole area of the county is in the forks of the Uwharrie: “Totero Fort.”  This is a reference to the Tutelo Indian tribe, which appears to be far south of where they had been visited in September 1661, when Thomas Batts and Abraham Wood led an expedition from Fort Henry (Petersburg, VA) to Totero Town (approximately where present-day Salem Va. is located).   In 1701 John Lawson visited the Keyauwee tribe living nearby on Caraway Creek at Ridge’s Mountain, but said nothing about any Tutelos.   It may be that attacks by the fierce Iroquois tribe forced the Tutelos to move South, but in 1714 the Occaneechi, Saponi, Eno, Totero and others relocated to Fort Christanna in Lawrenceville, Va.   More research is needed to confirm or deny this single tantalizing reference, but the location- the hill above the bottomland in the forks of the rivers- would be a natural defensive position for a palisaded village.

With a variety of documented stories spanning nearly 300 years, the Hoover Mill site is certainly a landmark of Randolph County history.

Franklinville Methodist Cemetery

May 24, 2009

Franklinville M.E. Church Cemetery, ca. 1900; taken by George Russell?; author’s collection.

On this Memorial Day weekend I am speaking to the good people attending the Homecoming Services at the Mount Tabor United Methodist Memorial Chapel in Jackson Creek, and in a few days I’ll post pictures of that interesting little church and cemetery.

Appropriately, Memorial Day was originally (in 1868) begun as a way to honor the Yankee war dead, as family members “decorated” their graves with flowers. I’m offering here my favorite historic photograph of a cemetery, to illustrate the MASSIVE changes that have taken place over the past hundred years in our attitudes about honoring the dead. (The name wasn’t changed to Memorial Day until 1882, and for historical completeness I will note that Confederate Memorial Day in North Carolina occurred each May 10th, the anniversary of the death of Stonewall Jackson).

This photo shows the Franklinville Methodist Church Cemetery, part of the original 1830s village. It now crowns the hill top across from my home, the Coffin-Makepeace House, built originally by Elisha Coffin and for generations the home of George Makepeace family (for a thumbnail sketch see http://macwhat.googlepages.com/franklinvilleresidences – someday I’ll have a much longer post).

The “Factory House” in Franklinville was in full operation by March, 1840 [ Southern Citizen, 21 January 1840]; also in operation by that time was the Franklinville Methodist Church. On August 14, 1839, Elisha Coffin deeded a 1.64 acre tract to Phillip Horney, Alexander S. Horney, Elisha Coffin, Bethuel Coffin, and J.M.A. Drake, “Trustees for the Methodist Episcopal Church…who shall erect thereon a house or place of worship.” [Deed Book 24, page 190, Randolph County Registry]. The Quarterly Conference of the Randolph Circuit was held in the Franklinville Church on March 2, 1840, the church having been rapidly completed over the winter.  The congregation was five years old before a cemetery became necessary.  The oldest known burial is that of William Arnold (1786-1844), just east of the brick cemetery.  That grave, however, was not included in “half an acre laid out for a burying ground” deeded from Elisha Coffin the Phillip Horney, Alexander S. Horney, Benjamin F. Coffin, John M. Coffin, John Miller, John Hendricks, Joshua Pool, Trustees of the Franklinsville Methodist Church, on November 2, 1844.  The next oldest known burial is that of “Marcara” McCuiston Coffin (1778-1845), wife of Elisha Coffin.  Mrs. Coffin’s grave was specifically included in one-quarter of an acre deeded by Elisha Coffin to members of his family on July 5, 1848, and now known as the “Brick Cemetery”.

The Brick Cemetery, enclosing the grave of Marcara McCuiston Coffin, the Horneys, and the Makepeace family.

The Brick cemetery (a 4-foot-tall brick wall about 15 by 30 feet) isn’t visible in the historic photograph, but it is an example of the first rule of pre-20th century cemeteries: they were all enclosed with walls or fences, to keep out the horses, cattle and swine which ranged free across the landscape up to the time of the enclosure votes of the 1890s. The “Stock Law” votes reversed the ancient custom of stock ranging free on the ‘common lands,’ and thereafter livestock were required to be kept inside their owner’s fence. The wooden pale fence that still enclosed the entire Franklinville cemetery in 1900 is visible in the upper right background, and was the only part of the cemetery that was maintained by the church; by the 1920s it had been removed.

Maintenance of a cemetery has always been the responsibility of the “owner,” but the conception of who owns a cemetery has changed during the 20th century. At the time of the photograph, Franklinville residents would have said that the family of the deceased owned the plot that their loved one was buried in. Therefore, it was the family’s responsibility to keep the plot properly maintained. This picture shows us what proper maintenance looked like in the 19th century: 1. Each burial plot is individually marked with both headstone and footstone; 2. Each burial plot is properly mounded with dirt, to hide the inevitable sinking of a plot as the coffin and its contents decomposed; 3. The marble markers are kept clean and polished; 4. No weeds or grass are allowed to desecrate the surface of a grave.

At least once a year, but especially around Decoration Day, families would assemble in the cemetery to whitewash the fences, straighten the stones, repair or replace wooden markers (since only the wealthy could afford store-bought marble and granite), haul in extra dirt to top off the mound, and hoe out the invasive grass and weeds. That grew into a tradition of returning to the old family church for Homecomings and Dinners on the Ground, a tradition of country churches all over the South now coupled to Mothers Day or Fathers Day instead of Memorial Day (now more the starting gun for summer vacation than for remembering our war dead).


Franklinville Methodist Cemetery, May 24, 2009. Taken by the author from the same position as the historic photo above. The camera position is just off the southwest corner of the brick cemetery, looking west from the driveway separating the brick cemetery from the Victorian section of the grave yard.

As Americans became more mobile in the 20th century, families no longer lived in the community and attended their traditional family church. Gradually the church itself began to assume responsibility for maintaining the cemetery, and maintenance by committee revolutionized the look of country cemeteries. The first and the biggest change was in the grass- or actually, in the end of the complete and total lack of grass. Modern cemeteries are maintained, a great expense in time and energy, in the same fashion as 20th-century lawns came to be maintained- as open monocultural fields of non-native perennial grass. This resulted in shaving away of the mounds of dirt above each plot, and the loss of all footstones, so that lawnmowers didn’t have to negotiate these hazards. (Such things aren’t allowed on a golf course, so obviously they shouldn’t be allowed in a cemetery- right?) And as push mowers became riding mowers, and as riding mowers became bigger and bigger, even headstones were considered hazards. (This is why modern “memorial parks” require headstones flush with the ground, so mowers can ride right over them), and examples of these can be found right beside the brick cemetery).


More and more, headstones in cemeteries are considered obstacles to traffic, and only certain approved types of markers are allowed. The cast iron, painted wood and pottery markers that many Randolph County cemeteries once sported are long gone (some of the pottery markers have been preserved in museums, ironically).

Another change began in the 1980s, as shrinking small engine technology produced light-weight string trimmers (a/k/a “weed eaters”). This has also been deadly to tombstones, especially the oldest slate and soapstone markers, stones which were chosen because they were soft enough to be easily carved in the days before mass-market marble and granite. In any contest between soft stone and weed eater, the centripetal force of the nylon string will win. Early string trimmers ran between 3000 and 5000 RPM; 21st century trimmer commonly turn 10,000 or more RPM.


The result is ancient monuments being worn away where the base meets the ground surface, until they look like sharpened pencils. Then the weakened stones become even more vulnerable to riding lawnmowers driven like bumper cars.

There are of course people who argue against treating historic cemeteries like golf courses; the National Park Service recently hosted a national conference about cemetery preservation (http://www.ncptt.nps.gov/index.php/cemetery-landscape-preservation-workshop/ ). But even well-meaning people can go off track: I think of a large church cemetery north of Franklinville which raised money to sandblast its collection of headstones. It cleaned the mildew and moss off the marble, making them pearly white in the sun. But sand-blasting eroded the carving so that many markers are now almost impossible to read. Discolored marble can best be cleaned with a mild abrasive hand cleaner, a plastic bristle brush, a bucket of water, and some effort. Lichen and mildew can be killed by brushing a Chlorox solution on the stone.

I know of no historic cemetery which has been ‘restored’ in the way buildings have been, but it’s not impossible. We would just have to recover an appreciation for what our ancestors considered respect to the dead and responsibility to our ancestors. Instead we homogenize our cemeteries to remove all of their historic character.

NOTE:  Here is a blog showing the ongoing restoration of the old First Presbyterian cemetery in Greensboro, now the back yard of the Greensboro Historical Museum.  It is a fascinating read, and just the kind of thing I wished to see above.  The restoration company, Stone Setters Gravestone Repair [ http://www.stonesetters.biz/index.html ] are doing fantastic work.  I wish I had the money to set them loose on our Franklinville Methodist cemetery! (August ’09)

SANDY CREEK BAPTIST CHURCH

April 12, 2009

Sandy Creek church from the Southwest

Sandy Creek church from the Southwest

Liberty Township; east side Ramseur-Julian Road.

[Sandy Creek Baptist Church was this month approved to be designated as a county Landmark; the description below was written years ago, but I updated it to take note of the recent loving improvements done by members of its congregation.  It is not yet listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it is not only deserving of that designation, it should by all rights become Randolph County’s first National Historic Landmark.  For a a look at the complete Landmark application, check it out on the Landmark Commission page on the county website.]

Sandy Creek Baptist Church is both the oldest organized church and the oldest surviving religious structure in Randolph County. A recognized landmark in religious history, it is noted by the nearby state historic marker as the “Mother of Southern Baptist Churches.” The congregation at Sandy Creek was founded by the “Separate Baptist” minister Shubal Stearns (1706-1771), a Boston native who led a group of eight families into the area in 1755. Most colonial or “Particular” Baptists were members of the Philadelphia Association and advocated a strict Calvinist theology of “what will be, will be.” Separate or “New Light” Baptists broke with this practice and proposed active campaigns to win converts with Sunday Schools, revivals and missionary work. Stearns’ efforts to awaken the religious impulses of the back country were wildly successful, with his original congregation of eight families mushrooming into 606 members by 1770.

In June 1758 Stearns formed the Sandy Creek Association, an organization including not only the original church but three nearby offshoot congregations. The association soon grew to include members all over the South, and as far west as the Mississippi. Baptist historian Morgan Edwards noted in 1772 that “It, in 17 years, is become mother, grandmother and great grandmother to 42 churches, from which sprang 125 ministers, many of which are ordained and support the sacred character as well as any set of clergy in America.” In 1830 the Sandy Creek Association backed the creation of the new Southern Baptist Convention, and the two organizations soon combined. Sandy Creek Church itself, centered in the area of most active opposition to the colonial government, suffered greatly during the War of the Regulation. Edwards estimated that 1,500 families left the region after the battle of Alamance in 1771. This combined with the death of Rev. Stearns in November of the same year, soon caused the membership of the church to dwindle to a mere fourteen.

Nationally, the Separate Baptists combined with the Regular Baptists in the early 19th century, but the merger was not popular. In 1836 discontent was so profound at Sandy Creek that part of the congregation broke away and formed the nearby Shady Grove Baptist Church, leaving the old building to the ‘Primitive’ (or anti-missionary) Baptists who maintain it today.

The existing Sandy Creek Church is the third building to house the congregation. The first building burned about 1785, and the second, built across the road, was blown down by a storm. The third, according to strong local tradition, was built in 1826. The log building is approximately 20 by 25 feet in size.

Interior looking west toward Bible rail

Interior looking west toward Bible rail

The church is one of the best examples of antebellum meeting houses left in North Carolina.  It still features the original pulpit, or “Bible Rail,” and some original benches.

Interior looking northwest

Interior looking northwest

Raked “galleries” or balconies around three sides of the interior were removed in 1936, but have recently been expertly reconstructed.

Detail of Corner Notching

Detail of Corner Notching

The log church was weatherboarded in 1870 and covered with asphalt siding in 1953; both coverings were removed in 2007 when several rotten structural timbers were replaced.   It is good to see one of the county’s most important historic landmarks is being well maintained by its congregation.

Historical Markers: Sandy Creek Baptist Church

April 10, 2009

Located on the south side of Old Liberty Road (NC 49A), just east of its intersection with the Ramseur-Julian Road, at what is called the “Melancthon” intersection (because it’s just north of the Melancthon Lutheran Church).

Three different churches are clustered together just east of the Sandy Creek cemetery which grew up around Elder Stearns’ grave, now marked by a marble obelisk.

The graveyard itself is located just across the street from the Northeast Randolph Middle School built in the early 21st century.

4

The oldest church, subject of another post, is marked by this bronze plaque: