History of Selma page 1
A HISTORY OF SELMA, NORTH CAROLINA
A child of the Reconstruction Era, Selma developed into a community in an area that had long been settled by prosperous farmers--and some not so prosperous. These settlers had no "Indian problems," no rocky fields to clear only the great forests that served as a valuable source of revenue for the early colonists here.
A brief look at the early history of this section shows that prior to the arrival of the first settlers, Ulster Scots and Englishmen, the Tuscarora Indians were the dominant Indian tribe. However, as North Carolina became increasingly settled along the Coast, the previously peaceful tribe became hostile. In the terrible Tuscarora War of 1711 - 1713, which erupted in the New Bern area and spread over the territory, the Tuscarora were finally defeated; most of them left the colony, moving to New York to join their relatives, the Iroquois.
As the choice lands in the Albemarle region and around New Bern became scarce, colonists moved inland. Thus the Neuse River became a favorite "road" for settlers who wished to come to the area that is now Johnston County. Others came overland from the Albemarle section that already had "run out" of choice land. In 1746, the county of Johnston was created, largely from Craven, and the line which divided Lord Granville's grant from the larger territory owned by King George (by purchase of the shares of Carolina owned by seven of the eight Lords Proprietors) split Johnston County almost in half. Those living in the royal colony were ruled by royal governors, Including Gabriel Johnston for whom the county was named. Those in the Granville grant had no direct governor, since the owner had agents selling his land and collecting rents. In 1777 Smithfield was granted a charter by the Assembly sitting in New Bern.
In the Revolution the name of one man stands out, for he has descendants living here today. John Grady was the only Patriot killed at the battle of Moore's Creek Bridge near Wilmington, where on February 27, 1776, Patriots (who wanted independence) and Loyalists (who were loyal to Great Britain) engaged in a brief but fierce battle. This, the first battle of the American Revolution in North Carolina, resulted in the rout of the Loyalists. The monument at Moore's Creek Park bears John Grady's name and his descendants are the Grants of the Selma area and the Grady’s of eastern North Carolina. .
A FARM ECONOMY
During the years preceding the War between the States there were some large plantations in this section; primarily, however, the economy was based on fairly small farms tilled by people of yeoman stock. It is believed that this type of farming accounts for the fact that the percentage of Negroes in the population is smaller than that in some other sections of eastern North Carolina. Records show that in 1815 Johnston could count 2,790 slaves having a total value of nearly $600,000. In that same year the land was valued for taxation at $846,865. Thirty-five years later there were 4,663 slaves to 8,900 whites and 163 free Negroes.
Subsistence farming continued throughout the early period with the county producing fair amounts of corn, wheat, oats, cotton and wool. Tobacco is not listed in an 1850 report, although it is known that this crop had been grown in the county at an earlier period. In addition, residents added to their living by producing and selling naval stores. Thus turpentine stills and tar kilns were located at many spots throughout the county. The Neuse River was used for transporting these products to New Bern for sale. Along with naval stores, the settlers also saw in the great forests a source of income in the cutting of lumber; as a result lumber rafts floated down the Neuse in an ever-increasing stream. By the early 1900's, lumbering was a source of supplementary income for the farmer. Cash crops did not become important until the 1880's at which time the county was the fifth largest cotton-producer in the state. By 1897 tobacco began to take its place in the economy as cotton prices dropped. A look at some of the earliest residents of Selma shows that many came as a result of naval stores and cotton.
RAILROAD IS IMPETUS
The impetus for the settlement that became Selma came from a plan the General Assembly in 1848 worked out to build a railroad. The legislators promised that if citizens would provide a million dollars for this venture, the state would furnish two million. Then the North Carolina Railroad would be built from Charlotte to Greensboro; thence to Raleigh, connecting with the Raleigh and Gaston Road; and on to Goldsboro, connecting with the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad there. That section of track from Raleigh and Goldsboro was to open Johnston County to all of the benefits that "modern" transportation provides. The 223-mile railroad was opened to trains in 1856. Of the many towns, which sprang up along the route, one was Selma just eleven years later. For the first time farmers and tradesmen of this area had a "road" on which to ship out goods and produce and receive much needed supplies from other areas.
About a mile and a half west of what is now Selma, the old Louisburg to Smithfield stage road was crossed by the new railroad. At this strategic point Mitchener's Station became a focal area for shipping. Here farmers gathered not only to send and receive goods, but also to market their produce at the station itself. Miss Amma Stancill tells of hearing her mother say that she and Miss Stancill's grandmother walked from their home one and a half miles northeast of Selma to Mitchener's Crossing where they bought supplies and sold eggs, butter and milk.
It was also from this station that soldiers moved off to the War (War between the States) and later returned to their run-down farms and homes. John Mitchener, a boy of twelve at the time, reported hearing the sound of guns as they were fired in the last great battle, of the War at Bentonville, just twenty miles south of Selma. Monroe Pittman, who lived some five miles north of Selma, also told of having heard the gunfire. And Miss Flora Hatcher relates that her father, Hardy Hatcher, when returning from the war, got off a flatcar and walked home to his farm which was five or six miles north of Selma.
According to Mrs. J. P. Temple, her father John H. Parker ran away from home at 15 to join a beloved older brother who had been called into service. "Due to his age my father was put in the band where he soon earned the sobriquet of Bugler Parker." He was with General Lee when he surrendered at Appomattox Court House in 1865, Mrs. Temple states.
John Mitchener also related an interesting story con concerning Mitchener's Station, which he pointed out was built by the North Carolina Railroad Company out of long leaf pine lumber. I will state that the old building had a Confederate War record All plantations were assessed one tenth of everything raised on the farm for government purposes. This of course included apple brandy. Several barrels of this brandy were in the depot waiting for shipping orders, and all, to save room, were standing head on or head up as you may have it. Soldiers camping near there took in the situation, and with tubs, canteens, and buckets went under the floor and into the barrels above and drew every drop of brandy out, and it was not discovered until loading time and hands were setting the barrels in box cars for shipment. No arrests were made.'"
SHARP COMES TO AREA
When Col. John W. Sharp (or Sharpe), a Confederate veteran, came to this county in the fall of 1866 seeking consignments of naval stores and cotton for his firm in Norfolk, Virginia, he became interested in locating a town at the Station. However, investigation showed that the lands around the depot belonged to the minor heirs' of Agrippa Mitchener. Steps were taken to get an order of sale of the lots, but this took time because of the estate laws. In the meantime, Col. Sharp met Mr. Daniel Sellers who owned much of the land south of the railroad here, purchased 50 acres (some reports say 200 acres) from Sellers, and started a movement to have the depot moved to its present site. In spite of efforts by Thomas H. Atkinson, Sr., an uncle of the Mitchener heirs, to clear the Mitchener land titles for sale, Col Sharp was able to have the station moved. The original depot was moved to the place where it now stands as a part of the Southern freight depot on Railroad Street.
The newly purchased property was platted by Surveyor Charley Massey, and on May 1, 1867, a public sale of lots was held. This was a gala occasion as crowds came to the area for a barbecue, the sale, and a dance that night. Incidentally, very few lots brought as much as $100.00. Thus Selma was born on May 1, 1867-born at a barbecue, sale and dance held in the passenger-freight depot.
NAMING THE TOWN
Along with Col. Sharp, new residents of the prospective town were Captain A. M. Noble and Samuel Hines Hood, early merchants. Some other families moved into the area and soon decided their community needed a name. The pioneer residents held a meeting at which Mr. Noble and Mr. Hood voted in favor of naming the place Sharpsburg. Mr. Sharp said, "I'll be damned if you do." Whereupon they said.” All right; you suggest a name." Mr. Sharp thought for a minute or two. Finally he said, "Well, I'll tell you, boys. I've got a lot of affection in my heart for my old hometown of Selma, Alabama; and if you fellows wouldn't object too strenuously, I'd like to name this-here place Selma, in honor of the place where I was born." Mr. Hood said that it was all right with him, and so did Mr. Noble, and the name of Selma was officially adopted. It also has been pointed out that Mr. Sharp disliked the name of Sharpsburg because he had fought there during the War.
Among other early residents were Capt. D. H. Graves, a Union Army officer, who came South to buy cotton and to find a better climate for his wife, and whose daughter Leone, was the first girl born in Selma; Henry Millender, the first railroad agent and the first postmaster listed by the U. S. Post Office Department; Jackson Rains, a farmer and merchant whose son, Ira Thaddous, was the first boy born in Selma in 1871. Ira Rains just died in 1959.
Streets of Selma often have been named for well-known residents. Examples are Sellers, Parker, Richard's Alley, Green, Waddell, and Webb.
1869 A BUSY YEAR
By the year 1869, Selma was a busy community, according to Benson's Directory. Listed were one church, Episcopal; one hotel owned by John W. Sharp; one lawyer; John W. Sharp. Manufacturers included the Selma Iron Works, seven turpentine distilleries in area owned by Thomas Oliver and Bro., Daniel Sellers, J. G. Rose, D. W. Adams, Allen Johnson and Son, C. P. Kenyon, and William J. Beard. Merchants listed as owners of general stores were J. S. Book and Co., S. H. Hood, A. M. Noble, and C. E. Preston. J. C. Colyer was proprietor of a grocery store. The Frost Iron Mine near Selma was said to be inexhaustible. In addition, there were two saw mills owned by Wilson and Waddell and R. H. Page. J. M. Richardson ran a tannery. Miss Carrie Hood was postmaster; no physicians were listed. Some prominent farmers were David Turner,' Daniel Sellers, J. W. Sharp, A. M. Noble, J. W. B. Watson, Perry Godwin, Joseph Richardson, and Milton Richardson.
FORMAL EDUCATION BEGINS
In that same year, 1869, formal education began in Selma. A small private school was started in a shanty on the corner of what is now Massey and Anderson Streets, the present location of the James Person home. In 1871, Professor John C. Scarborough was in charge of the school, assisted by his wife. Within a short period of time several other private schools began operation. Dr. Wade Atkinson's mother, Mrs. Tom Atkinson, taught in a building where Charlie and Ellen Talton lived on the corner of S. Sumner and Noble Streets. Miss Margaret Etheredge was a pupil there at one time.
The year 1872 saw Selma developing as a real town with the chartering of the First Baptist Church (white). The 'name later was changed to the Selma Baptist Church. This first church was located on the corner of Watson and Sharp Streets. I n that same year came the chartering of the Masonic Lodge and further growth of businesses in the area; including barrooms, a government distillery located west of town, and a township clerk, Simon Godwin. Other firms and persons listed in the 1872 Directory were E. S. Moore, lawyer; W. H. Avera, S. H. Hood, and J. Rains and Brothers, general store merchants; C. H. Harriss and J. W. Vick, physicians; W. H. Avera and W. J. Barrow Co., turpentine distilleries; James H. Sasser, Primitive Baptist minister; Ray Phillips, Free Will Baptist minister; William B. Harrell, Missionary Baptist minister. The Selma Academy was also listed.
It must be noted here that when the original townships were formed, Selma Township included parts of Pine Level, Micro and Wilson's Mills. Therefore the names of merchants and farmers in these areas often are included in early township records.
February 11, 1873 was a red letter day as Selma received its charter from the General Assembly 0f North Carolina. Page 388 of the General Sessions Laws-Private-of 1872-73, Chapter XVI states: An Act to Incorporate the Town of Selma, in the County of Johnston. Section 1. The General Assembly of North Carolina do enact, That .the town of Selma, in the county of Johnston be and the same is hereby incorporated by the name and style of the town of Selma, and be subject to the provisions contained in chapter one hundred and eleven of the Revised Code Sec.2. That the Corporate limits of said town shall be as follows: one. half mile square making the railroad warehouse the geographical centre. Sec. 3. The officers of said corporation shall consist of a mayor, four commissioners and a marshal."
According to John Mitchener, the surveyor's description of Selma stated: "to find the beginning corner of the town of Selma commence at the' warehouse or depot now being moved from Mitchener depot and measure so many chains and links towards Goldsboro, and then at right angle to the road and from the center of said road 100 feet to a stake, the beginning corner of the town of Selma." Mitchener pointed out that the center of the railroad is about five inches further South owing to two changes of the gauge after placing the town, and because the depot has been moved west one-half the length of the building. Capt. A M. Noble was elected the first mayor of the incorporated town, and its slogan was" A Healthy Place to Live." This slogan may surprise those who have read early historical references to the swampy condition of the town and to railroad ditches in which people fished and gigged for frogs.
A NEW SCHOOL
The value of education continued to be uppermost in the minds of Selma residents, for in 1875 John A. Waddell moved here, built a home and established a pay school upstairs with a Miss Faison as the first teacher. Margaret Waddell, one of John Waddell's daughters, also taught here. A year later, in 1876, the Masonic Lodge granted the use of the lower rooms of its building for a pay school (expenses paid by student fees) to Ben Hatcher. Several Masons served on the Board of Trustees of that school.
Another church, the Methodist, was started in 1878 when a lot in Selma was given by John A. Waddell and his wife Susan and the Wilson Lumber Company of Wilson's Mills. Prior to this time, as. early as 1869, Methodist congregations had been meeting near Selma; however, the wooden church constructed on the lot at the corner of Sumner and Anderson Streets was the first within the town itself. Members of the building committee were Dr. J. W. Vick, chairman; John A. Mitchener, treasurer, and W. t. Graves, secretary. The present brick church, built in 1910, occupies the same lot.
According to the North Carolina Directory of 1877 - 78, Selma Township magistrates were W. J. Barrow, E. S. Moore, Theo Hinnant, Henry L. Watson, and Willis Gerald. W. A. Joyner was a Selma lawyer. Two ministers listed were 'Noah Adams, Primitive Baptist, and Ray Phillips, Free Will Baptist. Operating general stores were W. H. Avera, W. J. Barrow, A. B. Creech, D. H. Graves, S. H. Hood, R. J.
Lassiter, W. Millender, Jackson Rains, P. M. Stuart, Webb & Twisdale and John W. Wiggins. J. A. Waddell operated a saw mill and D. W. Adams, W. J. Barrow Co., and D. S. Stewart were listed as turpentine distilleries. The physicians were R. J. Noble and J. W. Vick.
WHERE VICKS STARTED
In 1880 Mr. Lunsford Richardson II, after graduating from Davidson College and teaching for four r years, came to Selma to visit his sister, Mrs. Joshua W. Vick, and her husband Dr. Vick. The visitor, who had been interested in chemistry during his college days, found here a small drugstore owned by two physicians, Dr. Vick and Dr. Noble. These doctors wanted to sell their business; therefore Richardson purchased the firm for $450.00. It was here that he concocted a salve, which was used to rub on persons with heavy chest colds or pneumonia, and he sold it in jars in his pharmacy. In 1891 Mr. and Mrs. Richardson moved to Greensboro purchasing the drugstore of S. W. Porter. As time went on he prepared different combinations until there were 13 medicines known as the Vick Family Remedies. In 1911 the name was changed to Vick Chemical Company. The name "Vick" trademarked by Mr. Richardson for his products was adapted because it was shorter than Richardson and also as a compliment to his brother in law, Dr. Joshua Vick. The trademark featured a triangle, in each corner of which appeared a picture of one of the Vick children (George, Ed, and Dora). The trademark still shows the triangle but the pictures have been removed. Today the firm is the Vick Chemical Company, a division of the Richardson-Merrill Company.
One of the most famous educational institutions in North Carolina, the Selma Academy, was built in 1880 by John A. Waddell in the oak grove where the home of the late Charlie Waddell now stands on Webb Street. The first principal and teacher of this private institution was Henry Louis Smith of Greensboro, who later served as president of Davidson College and Washington and Lee University. His brother, C. Alphonso Smith, also later taught here. Areas of preparation in the Academy included Primary, Intermediate, Higher English, Algebra, Geometry, Bookkeeping, Ancient and Modern Languages, Music, and Physical Training. Room and board were available for $10.00 per month from the families of Mrs. S. C. Waddell, Mrs. C E. Preston, and Messrs. Henry Hood, Simon Godwin, and John Allen.
A brochure describing the Academy stated that "the new school building is large, well ventilated, and commodious. It is furnished with the Triumph Study Desks," which were "carefully made with a view to obtaining the correct physiological curves of the body:' This school prepared many boys and girls for college work; at the same time it observed the Victorian proprieties of the day including a high plank fence separating the boys' 'and girls' playgrounds.
Although Selma had only 700 inhabitants at that time, the quality and reputation of the school was such that students from adjoining counties of Wake, Wayne, Wilson, and Franklin attended; and the membership at one time reached 100 pupils. Several children from Pine Level and Wilson's Mills walked daily to school.
Among those known to have attended the Academy were: Johnnie Waddell, Herbert Preston, Eddie Edgerton, Miss Leonie Graves, Miss Nannie Richardson, Miss Rosa Waddell, Miss Annie Waddell, Miss Azzie Patterson, Miss Lizzie Preston, George Vick, N. R. Pike, Nelson D. Wells, J. L. Jones, Miss Florence Moore, Vernon Howell, Edwin Moore, Clarence Graves, D. B. Oliver, Ira Rains, Misses Omega and Ida Oliver, Miss Claudia Rains, Miss Dora Vick, Victor and Ernest Graves, Fred M. Hood, Miss Louie Parker, Misses Julia and Mamie Tuck, Sidney and Claybourne Tuck, Misses Annie and Sarah Stancill and Charlie Stancill, and Miss Nancy Hocutt. I n the Raleigh News and 0bserver of June 17, 1922, Editor Josephus Daniels had an editorial, "Selma and the Smiths," in which he paid tribute to the impression made by these two brothers on the Selma community.
A SCHOOL FOR NEGROES
It is to be noted that in 1880 a two-room Negro school was started in Parker's Filed back and to the left of the present Richardson B. Harrison School site. The highest grade was the sixth, and at one time the teachers were Professor W. S. King and Mrs. Roberta Bunn. Some of the pupils who attended were Nellie Hastings, Lizzie and Luvenia Price, Bertie Chizel, Viola and Effie Smith. The boys and girls played separately as they did in most schools of this area. The water supply came from a pump and the students drank from a dipper dunked into a bucket.
In 1880 Dr. Crawford was a physician in Selma.
By 1884, Branson's North Carolina Directory listed Dr. R. J. Noble as county coroner, J. C. Hartsell as'Meth odist minister, Simon Godwin and A. ,1/1. Noble as pro prietors of Godwin and Noble hotels, and H. D. Hood as owner of a boarding house. The three physicians were R. J. Noble, J. W. Vick, and J. R. Todd. Merchants were A. B. Creech, Y. J. Lee, general stores; E. Creech, lumber; W. L Graves, insurance and sewing machine agent; D. H. Graves, hardware and general store; S. H. Hood, fertilizer and general store; Miss M. C. Hood, milliner; L. Richardson, drugs; Jackson Rains, grocery and liquor; J. W Vick, fertilizer and general store; J. W. Woodly, livestock. Manufacturies included: blacksmithing and wheelwrighting, John Graham, E. C. Hailey; contracting and building, W. S. Bain. Prominent farmers were J. A. Mitchener, W. S. Eason, J. A. Waddell, E. S. Moore, B. Thompson, B. O'Neal, William Richardson, Jesse Pulley; James Hinnant, T. T. Godwin, W. S. Elson, McNab Earp, R. Stancil, B. Creech, Daniel Sellers, J. A. Blackman, R. J. Noble, J. B. Blackman, and H. Pittman. Two years later in 1886, P. B. Kyser began Selma Drug Company here. He was the father of the famous band leader Kay Kyser, who was born after the family moved to Rocky Mount Mrs. Kyser was the daughter of Mr. Howell, the Baptist minister in Selma.
When the State of North Carolina encouraged companies to build railroads in the 1880's by excusing some of them from paying taxes and permitting them to charge rates as high as they pleased, over fifteen hundred miles of railroad were then built during that decade. Construction on the north-south railroad through this area began in 1885 when the Atlantic Coastline decided to shorten its route from New York to Florida by cutting out the dogleg from Wilson to Wilmington and constructing a short cut from Contentnea to the PeeDee.
Misses Amma and Sarah Stancill stated that several miles of this track were laid in Johnston County by two of the county's oldest citizens, Mr. Reddick Stancill, overseer, and Mr. John Underhill. A section ran through farms of Barnabas Creech, Underhill and Stancill, and from near Micro to near Smithfield. The father of Mr. Henry Lee Boney also helped to construct the railroad through this area. The Misses Stancill recalled, "There were days when not only forests had to be burned and cleaned away for the track to be laid, but when sharp-edged cattle guards and many long and short bridges were built for protection of stock which roamed at large. They had neither tractor nor bulldozer for construction work, but hard labor by hand accomplished through the use of horse, mule and oxen to lay the heavy cross ties and iron track to Selma where the Union Station holds its depot on the ACL Railroad running north and south."
In 1887 when the ACL was started across the land of John Archibald Underhill, he donated the land to the company and contracted to grade the bed across his own land and to furnish the lightwood cross ties which were hewed by hand. He also sold cordwood to the company for firewood. An amusing situation existed concerning Mr. Underhill's trips to Wilson, He would walk to Micro to catch a train rather than buy a ticket at Selma because, "I am not going to pay to ride on my own land." Mr. Underhill, who moved to the Selma area about 1874, purchased his 400-acre farm from Iradell Godwin for $8,000, or $2.00 per acre, and paid for it the first year by selling turpentine and cord wood.
The first account of a newspaper is the Selma News, which was being published in 1887. Nothing is known about this paper, although it is listed in records in the library at UNC-Chapel Hill.
The first Baptist Church was organized by Negro leaders under a brush arbor near the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad which was under construction in the late 1880's. After holding services here for quite some time, members moved the church to the present site, the land donated by Ella Smith in 1890. The Rev. Essex Blake was the pastor.
By 1892, the Atlantic Coast Line track running from Wilson to Fayetteville and Florence, S. C. had been completed, crossing the North Carolina (Southern) Railroad tracks in Selma. This made the town a genuine crossroads for major north-south and east-west traffic. For many years after this, two train stations operated: one for the North Carolina, the freight and passenger station being in the same building at present site of freight station, and one for the ACL. Passengers changing from one to the other had to walk or hire a hack to transport them and their luggage to the other station.
Education never was far from the hearts and minds of local citizens. In 1886, a pay school was in operation on Green Street with Mr. Bob Eason as superintendent. At about the same time a free school was in operation in a building on the south side of Noble and Sumner Streets. This was a three-months school with Mr. Pope as principal, Nannie Richardson, Sarah Stancill, a Mr. Dalrymple and others as teachers. Some of the students were Pat, Emma, Minnie, Louise Parker (Mrs. J. P. Temple); John, Noble, Emma, and Effie Blackman; Herman and Bill Hines; Henry, Howard, Pauline, Annie Hood; Hazel, Maurice, Robert Waddell; Joseph, Maggie, Vick Whitley; Ellen, Willie, Lomie Talton; Joseph, Jim, Winnie Peedin; Henry P. Underhill; Richard, Herman, Daisy Oliver; Kelly, Thomas, Minnie Lee Peedin; Bradley, Windley, Hughes Pearce. (These names were listed in the J. B. Waddell History of Selma.)
In 1901, the pay school, which originally faced Green Street, was turned to face Waddell Street, additions were made to the building, and it was run as a free school. During this latter period, the principals included Professors Hassell and later Frederic Archer. Later this building was moved across the railroad and became the Negro school near the site of the present Richardson B. Harrison School.
PROMINENT CIVIC LEADERS
The Biennial Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction for 1889-1890 listed H. A. Foushee as principal of Selma Academy and gave its enrollment as 65. Benson's Directory of 1890 listed town officers as J. H. Parker, mayor; Walter Preston, clerk; Joshua Creech, constable; S. H. Hood, Do H. Price, Jack Rains, and J. N. Wall, commissioners. McNab Earp was the policeman. Township magistrates were E. S. Moore, A. M. Noble, W. F. Gerold, B. L. Aycock, John H. Parker, C. F. Kirby and P. B Corbett.
The same directory lists P. L. Hermon as the Methodist minister and J. K. Howell as the Baptist. Simon Godwin and A. M. Noble each owned hotels and H. D. Hood, a boarding house. John Graham and E. C. Hailey had blacksmithing and wheel righting establishments.
Merchants and tradesmen of the period were B. t. Aycock, H. Gerold, S. H. Hood, Oliver and Futrell, B. S. Liles, Jesse E. Owens, J. H. Parker, Jackson Rains, general stores; J. H. Johnson, general store and saloon; Paul B. Kyser, general store and drugs; H. l. Nichols, depot and, express agent, telegraph operator; J. H. Parker,livery; N. V. Peele, boarding; L. Richardson, drugs, general store and fertilizer; Webb, Tisdale and Co., cotton buyers; T. H. Whitley, saloon; Winston Bros., general store and cotton buyers; J. L. Edgerton and L. H. Atkerson, corn and flour mills; J. Rains, grist mill.
THREE DOCTORS HERE
Three doctors listed were R. J. Noble, J. R. Todd and J. W. Vick. There was a change of postmasters with Miss Carrie Hood going out in 1889 and Josiah Stancill taking over that year. Mrs. J. K. Howell was principal of the Selma Female School. Teachers here during 1890 were Miss Robena Atkinson, Miss Allie Broadwell, J. H. Broadwell, R. R. 'Eason, C. F. Kirby, Miss Mary A. Atkinson, C. L. Stancill, Miss Sarah K Stancill, R. L. Atkinson, W. O. Holt and M. M. Turner.
Prominent farmers in 1890 included B. S. Aycock, J. A. Blackman, Barney Creech, W. S. Eason, D. H. Graves, S. H. Hood, N. J. Howington, J. K. Howell, C. F. Kirby, W. T. Kirby, E. S. Moore, R. J. Noble, A. M. Noble, Bridgers O'Neal, J. H. Parker, Hill Peeden, W. R. Peeden, N. Pittman, Harrison Pittman, F. G. Price, Jackson Rains, J. C. Scarborough, Reddick Stancill, J. A. Underhill, J. W. V'ick, C. B. Waddell, Robert Watson, Elisha Grant, Jr.
SIX years later, 1896, Selma's town officers were N. E. Edgerton, mayor; W. H. Hare, clerk; J. A. Hinnant, constable; T. H. Whitley, J. W. Futrell, Charles Talton, R. J. Noble, commissioners; magistrates: C. F. Kirby, A. M. Noble, E. S.Moore, Thomas Hinnant, P. B. Corbett, W. H. ,Hare (Selma), W. f. Gerald, Gibson Fitzgerald, D. B. Oliver (Pine' Level). Selma and Pine Level were still in the same township.
Ministers included E. B. Blake, First Baptist Church; J. G. Pullian, Selma Baptist; and Solomon Pool, Methodist Mrs. Page operated Page Hotel and Mrs. G. A. Tuck, Winston House. M. V. Green was proprietor of Patent Chill Cure, and Lynn Bros. operated a steam planing mill.
BUSINESS CONTINUES TO GROW
New businesses listed since 1890 included: C. C. Barbour, cotton buyer; B. H. Bunn, barber; W. B. Driver, general store and grocery; N. E. Edgerton, depot agent for ACL; Edgerton and Hare, drugs; W. H. Etheredge, general store; J. W. Land, Western Union; J. W. Lyles, general store; J. B. Massey, Southern Railway agent; J. W. Miles, general store; E. F. Pate, night Western Union; N. O. Rich ardson, general store; N. B. Snipes, general store; J. W. Spice, Western Union; Charles Talton, jewelry, J. W. B. Watson, corn and flour mill; James Holt, grist mill. Palmer Dalrymple was principal of the Selma Academy.
Teachers in area in 1896 were: Joseph R Atkinson, A. S. J. Atkinson, J. R. Atkinson, C. A. Corbett, Miss Annie Dalrympll!, H. E. Earp, Jesse Garner, Elisha Garner, James Garner, .E. A. Garner, Miss Minnie H. Moore, J. B. Mozingo, Charles Hichardson, Nannie Richardson, Cora Richardson, Miss Annie Stancill, George Stancill, Alonzo Stancill, A. e. Stancill, Miss Julia Tuck, Wingate Underhill, Laura J. At. kinson, Rose B. Atkinson, Roberta Bunn, Lougenia Lock. hart and J. A. Smith.
A major recreational feature of the time was baseball. In 1897 the team was composed of the following players: Cleon Parker, J. Sam Mitchener, John Lee, S. R. Lee, Mr. Shaemaker (a cobbler), Will Brinkley, Hugh Mitchener, Lee Fuller, Mr. Reynolds, Dr. R. J. Noble. Little Sam Mitchener was mascot of the team, which played only eight games a year. Selma's chief rival was Clayton.
Social life centered around gay parties. A society item from the Selma Journal of 1898 reports a party at Institute Hall given by the young men of Selma, honoring
three 'fair and fascinating" young ladies of Raleigh, Misses Helen Allen, Mamie and Eula Jones. Among those present were O. l. Fuller with Miss Eula Jones, "Pat" Parker with Miss Mamie Jones; E. W. Vick, Miss Helen Allen; C. Oakley, Miss Annie Hood; G D. Vick, Miss Mamie Tuck; H. H. Preston, Miss Rosa Richardson; R. A. Ashworth, Miss Julia Tuck; Misses Mabel Horner, Julia Etheredge, Hazel Waddell, Louie Parker, Foy Lynn, Dora Jenkins, Emma Parker, and a host of "stags."
BUSINESS BOOM UNDERWAY
Business continued to boom during this period just before the turn of the century. A Twentieth Century edition of the News and Observer in August 1899 included a detailed description of Selma and its businesses. A lyrical but far from objective reporter began his story: "Prosperity and peace reign supreme at Selma-Selma the coming town of this section of the State. A town of beautiful homes, intelligent and wide-awake citizens who are doing all in their power to push Selma to the front and to the observant visitor it will be seen that eventually they must be successful." Further more the people of this section are in an excellent condition, funds are ample and they do not hesitate to make investments."
This same article pointed out that the population was 1,000 and these citizens are "Law-abiding, intelligent." Four churches, white Baptist and Methodist; Negro Baptist and Methodist were noted. Concerning schools, the reporter stated: "In the matter of school facilities, Selma is thoroughly abreast with the times. In addition to a well conducted free school, the Selma institute is situated here. This institution is considered one of the best educational factors in the 5tate." Taxes were extremely reasonable, 16 2/3 cents per $100 valuation and 50 cents “on the poll.”
In this year the Selma Oil and Fertilizer Works was incorporated with a capital stock of $100,000, M. ‘C. Winston serving as president and N. E. Edgerton as ecretary. Equipped with modem machinery, the mill had a capacity of 40 tons of meal and 100 tons of ammoniated fertilizer per diam,
TOWN LEADERS FEATURED
The News and Observer featured short articles on R. J. Noble, M. D., who was then the Grand Master of Masons of North Carolina; M. C. Winston, the largest merchant; W. H. Etheredge, owner of a large mercantile establishment; J. M. Vinson, owner of a heavy and fancy grocery firm; and Hare and Eason, dealers in drugs and druggist’s sundries.
In looking at the extensive growth of Selma in these years before the turn of the Century, it is important to remember that most of the town’s business and social life still was going on south of the railroad
ENTERING THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
As the new century opened, Selma felt the effects of a turn down in the economy with cotton selling for 5 to a cents a pound. It was reported that an eighteen and a half acre farm was not acceptable as security for a $300.00 loan. However, this depression did not stop the growth of the community, for in 1901 Selma Manufacturing Company was organized and three months later declared a two percent dividend., This firm, with M. S. Winston as president, had a general wood and blacksmith shop and manufactured buggies and wagons.
According to Mr. Joe O’Neal who came to Selma in 1900, there was little on the north side of the railroad tracks. He further stated that the area of the present Norton’s Store was a very popular spot since it was known as the “showground” area. One of the most fascinating things there was a merry go round which came in with the circus season.
In that same year, 1901, social life of the community included a presentation of “Diamonds and Hearts” by the Selma Dramatics Club at Academy Hall. Taking ,part were Mrs. J. A. Spiers, Miss Fanny Jackson, Miss Nannie Richardson, Miss Lelia Parker,’ Mr. W. Hare, Mr. H. Preston, Mr. W. H. Call.
PUBLIC SCHOOL SUCCESS
On. May 8, 1901, the Selma Public School taught by Miss Nann’ie, Richardson, assisted by Miss Mallie Preston and Miss Lelia Parker, closed after a busy eight months. This was said to be the largest school ever held in Selma, with 150 children on the roll. In that same month the town elections drew sparks with the graded school as the main issue. An opposition ticket was formulated but never did get into the running. R. B. WhItley was elected mayor; Clarence Richardson, W. H. Hare, Y. D. Vinson, and W. B. Driver, commissioners. C. G. Wiggs was named constable. A vote on a graded school. Tax, 20 percent on the $100 valuation of property and 60 cents on the poll, carried 155 to 19. A week later the trustees of the Graded School met and elected Thomas Candler, superintendent; Jesse A Williams, Stella Passmore, Nannie Richardson, and Marion Preston, teachers.
Also in 1901, a three-room school building stood near the site of the present R. B. Harrison School. Ouincy Mials is said to have been the first principal and three teachers were employed.
Another highlight of 1901 was the letting of. contracts to build two tobacco warehouses which were to be finished for the opening of sales on August 1. D. H. Price was the contractor.
TELEPHONES AND TELEGRAPH
Although the local train station had telegraph facilities early in Selma’s history, the first evidence of a local telephone system is 1901 when the Selma correspondent to the Smithfield Herald complained in his column that poles and lines were in bad condition and were falling on streets and roads, tripping horses and hampering the movement of buggies by blocking roads. Thus it is apparent that the telephone lines had been up for some years prior to this date.
In 1900, according to Miss Blanche Mitchener, a line from Raleigh through Clayton connected with Selma, and the Wyoming Hotel was on this line. Mr. Ellis was in charge of the line here at first, followed by Miss Mann, Miss Essie King, and in 1905 Miss Blanche Mitchener, then by Mrs. Nannie Bailey and later by Mrs. Mozelle Bailey, who remained chief operator until the system was changed to dial. By 1905 Selma was a very important office for long lines, since every line had to be connected here. Until 1910 cutovers were made through the local switchboard; at that time AT&T moved its own crew and equipment to Selma because of the heavy load. Selma, New York, and Atlanta, Ga., were all classified as No. 1 offices. By 1932 AT&T had seven or eight men here and the local and long’ distance office had eight or ten girls at work. The dial system was installed in 1953; on January 20, Stacy Canady, president of the local Chamber of Commerce; placed the first call through the new system.
Mr. Norman Screws was in charge of the AT&T office in 1912. Others connected with the office at different times have been Messrs. john C. Diehl, Charlie W. Scales, Bernard Dubois, Howard Gaskill, James L. Mc Millan, J. S. Carty, and Ben Brantley. The AT&T office was discontinued about 1962.
ANOTHER BUILDING BOOM
A building boom hit Selma early in 1902. The board of directors of the Bank of Selma decided to begin work on a building to be finished in April. Construction also was underway on Winston’s new brick store and Charles Talton’s jewelry store. In addition, W. H. Stallings of Clayton announced plans to open a hotel in the old Hood House, stating moreover that he would keep horses for the convenience of the traveling public.” Later in the summer the committee to locate the Masonic Temple decided on the corner occupied by Raleigh Savings Bank of Raleigh as the site of their new structure. A group of citizens that same summer organized The Selma Furniture Company to make and sell furniture.
Society sparkled as a Bachelor Maid’s Club was organized, with no names of members being released to the public. They and their escorts attended a concert given by a cowboy elocutionist. In September a social event was the wedding of Miss Fannie Littlepage Jackson and Mr. William Henry Call, who were married by the Rev. K. D. Holmes at the residence of the bride’s parents.
THE YACHT CLUB
Present day Selma citizens who wish to enjoy a boat ride find that they must haul their, “yachts” to the nearest lake or seacoast. But in 1902 Selma had its own club and yacht. On July 11 of that year, according to a society note in The Smithfield Herald, Messrs. Robert Millard Nowell, capt., W. W. Hare, mate; George D. Vick, ensign, and Dr. J. W. Hatcher, purser of the Selma Yacht Club, left the county bridge over the Neuse near Selma on their yacht the Julia Fuller for New Bern.
At this time only about twelve residences were located in west Selma. The Southern Railway coal shute was in west Selma and the Southern shops and water tank were located just east of the company’s freight station. The streets were dirty and muddy after rains and planks served as stepping stones. Streets were lighted by kerosene lamps that had to be lighted each nightfall. Pigs and cows were free to roam at will. One of the colorful characters at this period was an old Negro called “Uncle Bunn,” who lighted the street lamps and sold buns and rolls.
A local resident became active in state politics when C. W. Richardson was elected to the state Senate in November, going to Raleigh in February of 1903 to look after “the interest of his constituents.”
Selma Baptist Church, which had been chartered in 1872, was the scene of an organizational meeting of the Johnston Baptist Association in 1903. In that same year tobacco warehouses were in operation on Raiford and Webb Streets, and A. B. Baxter and Company, New York brokers, opened a stock and cotton exchange under the management of E. F. Pate. The company had direct private wires to New York and Chicago.
HORSELESS CARRIAGE—A MENACE?
The first “horseless carriage” was brought to Selma early in the century, a gift to Mrs. N. E. Edgerton from her father, Mr. Wynn. This White Steamer apparently did not cause alarm for no records of antagonism toward the new machine exist. However, in 1905 alarmed merchants rose up to meet a crisis when the first internal conbustion engine automobile was purchased by Mr. C. P. Harper and Mr. Hugh L. Mitchener jointly. Accounts from that period stated that the new and noisy contraption alarmed pedestrians and frightened horses and mules. Merchants saw dark days ahead because farmers would not bring their produce to town—an egg shortage developed. The town fathers passed an ordinance prohibiting any automobile from being driven along the main business streets of Selma. Mr. Harper and Mr. Mitchener immediately hired a lawyer to see if this new ordinance could be operative; they were relieved to learn from their counsel that they could drive anywhere they liked because there was no state statute governing automobiles.
NEW BAPTIST CHURCH SITE
During the year of the auto crisis, the present Selma Baptist Church site was purchased. On March 16, the Selma Cotton Mill began operation with A. J. Rose as the first superintendent. Also in the early years of the Twentieth Century Episcopal services were started here during the ministry of Mr. Samuel Hanft, pastor of St. Paul’s in Smithfield. At first the group met at the home of Mrs. Georgianna Winston Tuck. Finally a mission was organized and a building erected, funds for the structure donated by the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Diocese. The church was called St Gabriels. In 1946 this church building was sold to O. Vernon Wiggs after the three remaming members of the congregation (Mr. Tuck, Mrs. Julia Ashworth, and Mrs. Mamie Candler) were transferred to St. Paul’s. This building is now the home of Mr. and Mrs, Wiggs on Waddell Street.
One of the BIG days in Selma’s history was July 24, 1907. According to John Mitchener, more people came to Selma that day than ever before, and the number has been exceeded only one time since. The occasion was the launching of the campaign to raise funds for the erection of a statue to Henry Lawson Wyatt of the Edgecombe County Guards, who was the first to give his life in the War between the States. He died as a result of wounds suffered at Big Bethel in Virginia on June 10, 1861. On the day of the fund-raising launching here, the Edgecomb Guards came to Selma and presented a sham battle on the grounds opposite the Baptist Church Festivities began at noon and lasted until midnight Five counties were represented at the occasion; W. A. Stewart of Dunn delivered the talk. First contributors to the fund were John Mitchener, $5.00; Col. Ashley Horne, $25.00; Gen. Julian S. Carr, $25.00; and Captain Bob Ricks, who was with Wyatt when he fell, $1,000. The movement was popular from the first and within five years, on June 10, 1912, the statue was unveiled on the capitol square in Raleigh.
A letter to Mr. Mitchener from Chief Justice WaIter Clark of the North Carolina Supreme Court on June 18, 1912, stated: “I congratulate you upon the wonderful success of the movement which you originated. The statue is generally deemed, I think, the very best piece of art in the: Capitol Square. You have also achieved the unique distinction of causing a statue to be erected to a private soldier:
RAILROAD STATION HUMS
Scenes at today’s railroad station are a far cry from those of the 1906-1910 era. At that time the station bustled with activity. Red caps called out “Hotel Wyoming” and “Hotel Merchant” to people coming into Selma on trains. Drummers loaded their sample cases on drays drawn by mules or horses for the trip to town. Then too, the station was a gathering place for townspeople to spend some time each day especially on Sunday afternoon watching trains and people come and go. This “watching the trains” is still an avocation for a few local residents although the romantic steam locomotive has disappeared from the scene.
Also from the station ran the famous excursion trains to Morehead City, to Wilmington, to the mountains or to conventions of various kinds. Many of these were just for the day and took place at all seasons of the year. Large groups of Selmaites took advantage of their proximity to good transportation to participate in these trips.
A gathering place for programs Gild large meetings was located over what is now Selma Drug Company. This large room featured a stage which still stands in the building. At one time the room was used for a dancing class.
During the latter part of this decade, Mr. Joseph Abdalla of Lebanon, began a business in Selma known as Abdalla Brothers. His brother Tom was associated with him in this firm. Later Louis came and entered business here.
A number of Presbyterians had migrated to Selma by 1907 and began gathering for prayer meetings and Sunday School in one of the parlors of the Wyoming House. By 1909 the group had grown large and moved to the up stairs over what is now the Selma Drug Company. The church was organized with Hector McNeil, T. M. Benoy, elders; John Mitchener, deacon. “
Two mills began operation in 1907-1910 when Moses Winston sold his interest in the Selma Cotton Mill and formed another company which built two mills, Ethel and Lizzie, named for his daughters. The Lizzie Mill, which began operation in 1907, is now the location of Eastern “ Manufacturing Company. The Ethel Mill plant. started in “ 1910, is no longer in use.
A PROGRESSIVE DECADE
The period from 1910-1920 was a progressive one for Selma. Far-sighted leaders began modernizing their town by installing lights, paving streets and sidewalks, and a sewer system. Some rivalries developed between the adinistrations to see which one ‘could do the most for the betterment of the town. Mayors who served during this time in the order of their service were: M F. Nordan, R. E. Richardson, J. B. Waddell, J. P. Temple, W. H. Call, and C. A. Corbett. Among the commissioners serving with these men were F. M. Hood, W. T. Woodard, C. P. Harper, W. M. Brannan, R. L. Ray, I. T. Rains, W. B. Driver, W. R. Smith, J. N Wiggs, R. A. Winston, S. P. Wood, W. W. Hare, J.. C. Avery, G. C. Wiggs, A. V. Driver, E. V. Deans, E. L. Womack, and G. W. Evans.
In 1911 and 1912 two of Selma’s prominent Negro citizens moved here. G. W. Bryant came in 1911 as a teacher and builder-carpenter; his wife also taught school. A year later Isaac E. Coley, Selma’s oldest living businessman, moved here and began repairing shoes. Later he began a harness shop and in 1945 purchased the business location. where Coley’s Shoe Shop now stands. In 1965 Coley retired, turning his business over to his son. But in the booming horseback riding business of today, Coley again is busy mending saddles and bridles.
In 1912, Mr. C. L. Richardson, who had served both as a member of the House of Representatives in 1901 and the N. C. Senate in 1903, died.
BOTTLING COMPANY STARTS
Hayo-Cola Bottling Company had its inception in 1913 when P. C. Worley organized the business primarily to bottle Worley’s Root Beer and other flavored soft drinks. In this first company, labels for bottles were printed on a hand press and pasted to the containers; the product was delivered to stores by horse and wagon. In the fall of 1921, C. P. Worley took over the firm from his father and the name was changed to Worley’s’ Beverages. The plant equipment was updated, motorized vehicles were added and Pepsi-Cola was introduced to the line already being sold. C. P. Worley, Jr. joined the firm in 1946 and during the next ten years a complete modernization program was completed with the name changed to Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Selma, Inc. The firm now operates in parts of seven different counties. Among those who worked with the company in the early years were Tom Freeman, from 1915 to his retirement in 1956; the late John Jeffreys from 1931 to his retirement in 1959; Alvin Brown, 1924 to the present.
Another indication of progress in this period was the establishment of a garage to service cars by M r. J. D. Reynolds. in a building on Railroad Street in 1914.
Selma’s landmark, now in disrepair, is the clock tower on the Town Hall which was constructed in 1916. On the second floor of this building was the Opera House, which was used for many years for meetings, programs, and entertainments of many kinds including the early movies.
In a preamble resolution presented by Commissioner F. M. Hood in February 1916, and approved by the board, the need for a “municipal building, guard house and mayor’s office, together with a market house and fire engine house combined” was expressed. An accompanying ordinance called for issuance of coupon bonds of $15,000 to pay for the structure. I n May when bids were opened, J. W. Stout and Co. of Sanford received the bid with instructions to complete the building not later than September 15, 1916. The next official reference to the new town hall was March 26, 1917 when Mayor Waddell upon motion of C. P. Harper was instructed to let Miss Mayerberg use the city hall for a play, “Little Minister” for a rent of 10 percent of the gross door receipts. And the mayor was authorized to appoint a committee to have charge of city hall to rent and secure shows or plays.
MELON, TOMATO, BETTER BABY FAIR
During this decade the Selma Melon, Tomato and Better Baby Fair became a drawing card for citizens from miles around. This fair was held several times during the period including 1912, 1914, 1915, and 1917 as old pictures and handbills prove. A program for the 1917 fair called Monday, July 23rd, “Housekeepers Day” and the 24th “Wyatt Day.”
On the first day the meeting was held in the Municipal Building with J. A. Mitchener, first president of the fair, presiding. Mayor J. P. Temple welcomed the crowd and Messrs. Massey, Creech and others presented music. Miss Nell Pickens, County Demonstrator, explained the use of a Fireless Cooker and an Iceless Refrigerator. Exhibits for the fair were on display at the Rough and Ready, which was a renovated warehouse on the corner of Waddell and Raiford Streets where Mac’s Sundries is now located.
Wyatt Day featured a parade from Union Station along all the major downtown streets and to the Exhibition Hall. The Kenly Band headed this. Others taking part in the day’s activities were Mitchener, the Rev. C. K. Proctor, Temple. H. L. Skinner, J. H. Parker, who welcomed old soldiers; C. S. Powell, who responded for the soldiers; Mrs. W. H. Etheredge, Mrs. W. M. Sander, Mrs. D. H. McCullers, and the Honorable R. H. Sykes, assistant Attorney General of North Carolina.
The final events were a report from the committee on babies, the awarding of premiums and an auction sale of prize winning articles.
According to Mitchener’s history, at the first Fair little E. C. Deans, grandson of the originator of the Fair, and great great grandson of Mr. John A. Waddell, won first prize. Other winners during the years of the Fair were Hazel Irene Waddell, daughter of ex-Mayor John B Waddell; Ruth Hood, daughter of Alderman Fred Hood and the great great granddaughter of. Mr. S. H. Hood. From 30 to 50 babies were entered from the county only and no baby over 12 months of age was allowed to compete. Cash prizes were offered first, second and third babies.
RAILROADS ADD TO LIFE
By 1917 the railroad shops and coal shute were in east Selma, which served as a servicing area for trains of the Southern and ACL. Railroad men serving on both lines found Selma a good central location for their families to reside and several moved in to the town, adding to the economic and social life of the community. Among those becoming involved in the community were: Jim Edens, Fred Holt, Joe Crooks, Dick Carrington, W. H. Fields, Harvey Blankenship, C. Y. Joyner, Bob Ashworth, Charlie Rains, Bill Smith, W. I-L Call, Walter Pridgen, John and George Hopkins, George and Oscar Jackson, Charlie Wright, Ira Batten, Troy Batten, Tom and Ballard Creech, Arther Oliver and others.