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Roxobel - Kelford

The Roxobel-Kelford communities are located in the northwest corner of Bertie County near the boundary line of Northampton and Halifax Counties. Though originally two separate communities, they have gradually blended into one area.

Roxobel, the older of the two, was originally known as Cotten's Cross Roads(1724), then Granbery Cross Roads (1756)and Britton's Store(Wm Britton from Petersburg, VA came in 1815), and finally in 1849, Roxobel.


  • Churches

  • Historic Homes

  • Families of Roxobel
  • Families of Kelford (coming soon)

    History of Roxobel Township

    Author, J.M. Brown
    The Chronicle of The Bertie County Historical Society. Vol III #1. August 1955

    On April 19, 1942, a storm of tornadic proportions struck Roxobel, several buildings were damaged, a few were destroyed, and six lives were lost. A newspaper account of this catastrophe mentioned the fact, that this community was settled before the "Revolution". That fact was enough to fire the imagination of the historian. This community is one of the oldest settlements in the county of Bertie.

    The town of Roxobel, situated in the northwestern part of Bertie, two miles from the Northampton County line and four miles from the Roanoke River is an important town to the people of this township which bears the same name. The writer recalls his uncle speaking of Britton's Cross Roads and Granby's branch many years ago. During the years it was interesting to learn of the significance of these.

    Roxobel the town is the intersection of two roads--one road from Winton to the Roanoke River, passing through St. John's; the other leading from the southeastern end of the county into the western part of the province.

    Cotten's Cross Roads

    The intersection of these roads was first known as Cotten's Cross Roads, named for the Cotten who settled in this community in the early years of the 18th century. The Cottens were from South Quay, Virginia. They owned lands from the Brown line in present day Kelford, northward embracing many hundreds of acres. Cotton's Cross Roads, our first community, probably existed from 1750 to near 1800.


    The second name, Granberys, is but a natural sequence. The Granberys settled in what is now Roxobel community in 1756. They owned much land in Bertie, Hertford, and Northampton Counties. Langley Granbery owned the site of the cross roads. William Granbery married Laetitia Cotten. This community was knowns a Granberys probably from the close of the 18th century through 1825.

    Britton Cross Roads

    Britton Cross Roads is the third name by which this center of activity in our township was known. We have on exhibit letters addressed to Britton's Cross Road and Britton's Store. An examination of these reveal the fond feeling that those who had moved on held for this Cross Road community.

    William Britton, from Petersburg, Virginia, settled in present day Roxobel as early as 1815. He purchased lands from the Granbery's, built a store and entered the mercantile business. He became a large land owner. His home was near the "Cross Roads", the site of his store. Tradition says he gave it the name of "Liberty Hall". This home was the oldest in the community, being built by one of the Granberys in 1805 and sold by the Britton heirs to Joseph Hardy in 1849. It is now the property of John E. Tyler and the house has been razed within the past year [1955].

    Britton's Store is listed in "Darby's Universal Gazateer" in 1827 as a post office in Bertie County, North Carolina, one hundred and twenty miles North by East from Raleigh. It was Britton's Cross Roads from 1826 to 1849. The writer has a letter from Dr. W.J. Sutton, Livingston, MS addressed to Joshua Brown, Roxobel, North Carolina in the year 1849.

    William Britton died in 1845 or '46; two of his sons settled in Mississippi soon after their father's death. The write found letters from them to Joshua Browne written in the year 1852.


    The present name of our town, Roxobel, was selected by Miss Frances Norfleet, a sister of S.A. Norfleet. At that time an English novel, wirtten by a Mrs. Sherwood, entitled, "Roxobel, a Village Tale" was very popular. Also there was confusion due to similarity of the names, Britton's Neck, in South Carolina, and Britton's Cross Roads. Due to the confusion and the opularity of the novel, the town took on the new name, Roxobel. A century and more later the name holds firm.


    During the early days of our country, when trasportation was slow and difficult, when roads were hardly more than trails and impassable in bad weather, the merchants of Roxobel and the farmers in the communities of Roxobel Township had access to the outside world by means of the steamboat plying the waters of the Roanoke River. The writer has in mind the steamers, "Lucy" and the "I.D. Coleman". Public landsing along the banks were provided for boats carrying farm products to market and bringing in merchandise from the seaport markets. Roxobel was supplied with river traffic until the coming of the railroads in 1888-90.

    The Roanoke and Tar (now Seaboard Air Line) and the Norfolk and Carolina (Atlantic Coast Line) railroads provided better means of transprotation and the people welcomed the change.

    The early history of the cross roads and present day Roxobel must link closely with the early merchants; some of these and their approximate dates in business are:

    Norfleet & Murdaugh (1815)
    William Britton (1823)
    Robert C. Watson (1833)
    J.L. Andrews (1829)
    Wm Britton & Son (1836)
    Britton & Thompson (1840)
    Powell & Tyler (1844)
    Wm. Britton & Bro (1844)
    Capehart & Company (1840)
    McDaniel & Tyler (1845)
    Cox & Hardy (1850)
    Cox and Andrews (1857)
    Bishop Bros & Co. (1867)
    W.J. Capehart (1870)
    Hardy & Peele (1870)
    Liverman & Tyler (1880)
    G.W. & A.T. Liverman (1890)
    Leroy Capehart (1890)
    During the days before banks came to our towns, one looking through the old account could reaidly see the merchants in the capacity of bankers. The custormers needing cash in small amounts were supplied by the merchants.

    The Bank of Roxobel was established in the early days of the 20th century, about 1905, and opened for business in the present post office building [1955]; Mr. Mullican was cashier. The tempo of business was quickened with the coming of the bank.

    By 1917, the Roanoke-Chowan Bank was established; S.J. Fore, cashier. The fact that two banks could operate successfully in a small town speaks for itself. A large volume of business is the answer. One must not overlook the fact that three banks operated in Roxobel and Kelford for many years, until the big "depression". The Roanoke-Chowan Bank is now [1955] the only bank in the township and serves a wide area.

    The town of Roxobel has many stores and filling stations. C.T. peel has the oldest business establishment, extending over a half century. Its newset additions consist of Roxobel Pure Service, Morris Equipment, and Cole's Super Market. J.L. Morris, V-C Fertilizer Company representative, has provided the township with a very active market for peanuts, soybeans, hay, corn, and other farm products.

    Early doctors of Roxobel Township
    Benjamin Hempstead, L.W. Jiggitts, Nathan Fletcher, William H. Banks, Robert T. Hall, William L. Powell, Godwin C. Moore and M.L. Brown.
    Names from 1790 Census
    (Believed to have lived in the Roxobel Township0

    History of Kelford

    by J.M. Browne
    The Chronical of The Bertie County Historical Association. Vol IV #2 Oct, 1956. Used by permission of Harry L. Thompson

    The town of Kelford, two miles south of Roxobel, three and one-hal miles from Roanoke River is a comparatively young town.

    Col. S.A. Norfleet bought 600 acres of land from Mrs. Elizabeth Sutton and the heirs of Langley Granbery in 1848-1850. The lands were on both sides of the road leading from Roxobel to Lewiston about 2 1/2 miles from Roxobel. He erected his home on this plantation. As early as 1860 this home, named by his wife, was known as Kelford. The home burned in 1885. Now the home of Mrs. J.B. Stephens is located on this site.[1956]

    The Clyde Land Corp bought 65 and a fraction acres of land from Col Norfleet just before the tracks of the Norfolk and Carolina (now Atlantic Coast Line) and the Roanoke and Tar River (Seaborad Air Line) railroads were laid in the Northwestern part of Bertie County between the years 1885-90.

    In March 1890, C.H. Haargrove, a surveyor employed by the Clyde Land Corp. made a survey of the land; streets, lots and plots were made for a town. Thus Kelford was born, taking the name of the Norfleet home.

    The Clyde Land Corp sold its remaining holdings to W.R. Browne in 1910. Kelford was incorporated in 1892 and by 1915 was a thriving town. Several stores, a bank, a Chero Cola plant, Coca-Cola plant, cotton gin and saw mill were operating.

    B.F. Renfrow was the first agent for the Norfold and Carolina Railroad.

    The first Kelford hotel was built in 1892 by W.R. Browne and was known as the Browne House. George T. Browne and C.L. L. Cobb were early operators. The Hotel ownership apssed to J.J. Browne in 1899 and was operated by him until 1903. For many years the hotel was rented. J.A. Browne, son of J.J. Browne, became the owner in 1928. He had it razed in 1936.

    The second Kelford hotel was erected and owned by J.B. Stephenson; he operated it successfully for several years.[note from:"Bob Lassiter" "The site of our house was also brought out in the history of Kelford. It was the very place the second hotel built by my grandfather James Bugress Stephenson was located. The house was owned by my father and mother (Robert and Audrey Lassiter)".

    Mr. Stephenson sold to Acree & Harrell in 1918. The ownership soon passed to A.C. Harrell. In 1925 Harrell sold the hotel and fixtures to J.E. Bowers, who at that time was opearting a successful Ford agency. Bowers lost this property by fire; now R.B. Lassiter has his residence on the site. [1956]

    Kelford's first merchants were Geroge T. Browne, W.P. Harrell, J.C. Cherry, and S.A. Norfleet, Jr. George T. Browne built the first brick store in 1908. The first postmaster was W.R. Browne.

    The Bank of Kelford opened for business in 1911. Julius Peel, of Williamston, was the cashier; followed by Cashier J.U. Norfleet and A.C. Smith. Unfortunately the bank was closed on Feb 1, 1930, an early victim of the "big depression".

    The Coca Cola Bottling Co. opened for business oct 14, 1914. The first plant's business increased immensely. It served a wide area. A.C. Johnston, became manager of the plant in 1916, and has served in that capacity since. During the year 1920, a large brick building was erected and is today the home of the Coca Cola plant. Vast improvements have been made in the plant in recent years. This plant gives employement to many people.[1956]

    Currently Kelford is not the town of a quarter of a century ago, with its hotels and depots gone, even though its 1950 population was 456.

    In the spring of 1898, people assembled in the public school house for the purpose of laying definite plans for the erection of a house of public worship; David Sloan Kennedy, Principal of Roxobal Academy presided.

    A committee consisting of C.L.L. Cobb, W.C. Evans, George T. Browne, M.W. Harrell, and George T. Parker was appointed to draw plans, solicit funds, assembly material and proceed with the building as soon as a suitable location could be secured.

    Mr. Thomas P. Clyde, of the Clyde Land Corp, generously gave the lot. Progress was slow as the promoters were tillers of the soil. A severe hail storm on May 30, 1898 destroyed the crops and the financial condition of the people was at a low ebb. By Sept 1, enough material was on the lot to start work. Samuel Woodard and son, H.T. Woodard of Harrellsville, N.C. were employed to do the work. With the help of the people rapid progress was made. A timely loan by Mr. F.B. Jacobs was sufficient to complete the work with the exception of the painting.

    On December 15, 1898, the people assembled in their house of worship to organize the Kelford Baptist Church. The meeting was called to order by the Rev. T.T. Speight; prayer was offered by the Rev. S.B. Barnes; John C. Tynes was placed in the chair as moderator and A.W. Early of Aulander was chosen clerk to the meeting.

    Forty-two persons presented themselves for membership by letter from other churches. The Rev. J.B. Newton delivered the charge to the new church and the Rev. S.B. Barnes presented the Bible. The Rev. T.T. Speight preached the sermon and the church was declared duly constituted with George T. Parker, church clerk, and M. W. Harrell, sexton.

    June 10, 1900, the Kelford Baptist Church was dedicated, the Rev. O.L. Stringfield preached the dedicatory sermon. The record shows the day a most beautiful one and the 'Church was filled to over flowing.'

    Rev. T.T. speight served the church for twelve years; he was succeeded by Rev. J.F. Cale. In 1950, the old frame structure was remodeled under the leadership of the Rev. E.C. Upchurch. The building was bricked and modernized."

    Mr. George T. Parker is the only surviving charter member. The Rev. W.J. Sheridan is the present pastor. [1956]

    In the early days of our township the rudiments of an education were taught in many private schools--perhaps the traditional reading, 'riting and 'rithmetic, taught to the tune of a hickory stick. We have records of some of these. In 1841-42? Justin Askew and W.J. Sutton were imparting knowledge to the children. Edmund Peele was principal of the Roxobel Academy in 1850. In 1851 D.O. Hannaford was instructing the Bishp and Brown children.

    The first public school house in the Roxobel community was a one room house built near the home of Wadsorth Jilcott. The next school was teh bottom floor of the Farmers Alliance Hall located back of the Sandy Run Church lot. In 1890, D.S. Kennedy became the first teacher of the Roxobel Academy as a public school. Mr. Kennedy made the people school conscious. In 1898, a hailstorm rendered useless the Alliance hall. A School house was built on the same lot. This served the community many years. The day came when the people wanted a brick building. A site was purchased, from W.R. Borwne, near the Warmack Lumber Company. This brick school served the purpose until the consolidation of the Roxobel and Kelford Schools.

    In the Kelford community the first publis school house was a tenant house on the Livermon plantation, then in a tenant house on the plot where W.E. Copeland now lives. The livermon yard was the third location for several years. A one room house built on the lot now owned by J.V. Roane, in Kelford, was the fourth location for our school. in 1910 a four room school house was built on this location and four teachers were employed; later another room was added and a fifth teacher added. In 1926, the Kelford school joined with Roxobel in forming the present consolidated school.

    From these schools have come men who have gained recognition in their fields of endeavor. I will name but a few of these: John E. Tyler, Educator and poet; Carl R. Livermon, Inventor; E.R. Tyler, Solicitory of the 3rd Judicial District; Rev. Charles E. Parker; Judge Joseph W. Parker.

    We must not overlook the fact that Judge John Henry Rogers was born in our township, Oct 9, 1854, son of Absalom and Harriet Rice harrelll Rogers. His family moved to Mississippi and he gained recognition in Mississippi and Arkansas. Here are the high points of his career. "Copnfederate army, first a private, then first lieutenant in the Mississippi Infantry, 1862-1865. Center College, KY. Univ of Miss (Law) 1868; taught school, admitted to Bar in Miss. Moved to Ft. Smith, Arkansas, 1869 and continued to practice law. Married Mary Gray Dunlap, Danville, KY. Circuit Judge of the state 1877-82, Congressman 1883-91; delegate to Democratic National Convention 1892. U.S. Judge of the Western District of Arkansas 1896. Died 1911. He was a half brother of the late Hiram P. Harrell, who was one of Roxobel Township's early College graduates.

    It is an historic fact, that the farmers of Eastern Carolina, during the period of 1835-1850 went throught an economic depression due to worn out lands. During that period many substantial citizens moved to the lush lands of the South.

    J.W. and Whitmel Rutland settles in Alabama. Wells Rutland, W.J. Sutton, Lewis W. Thompson, and William Brittain settled in Mississippi. William and John Granbery settled in Tennessee. Dr. W.J. Sutton wrote Joshua Brown in 1852, there are more Bertians in Madison County, Mississippi than in Bertie itself!

    Roxobel Township in the 20th century is far different than a century and more ago, as the lands are sufficient for a livelihood, for all its citizens. Most of land area a Norfolk loam, much drainage is necessary due to the flat terrain. The highest land in Bertie is the "White House" hill near Roxobel town limit, being 97 feet above sea level. The farmers have learned to use commercial fertilizers, the importance of conservation crops, and the rotation of crops.

    First Silent Movie

    Contributed by Pete Austin
    Mr. Charlie Roberson built and owned the very fist silent motion picture house in Kelford. This theater was located just behind "red" Archer Outland's Standard Oil Co of New Jersey Service Station. My daddy [Hobart Garrett Ausin] was one of the very first to operate one of those new motion picture projection machines in the Kelford Movie Palace. All the movie films were photographer and projected onto the screen in black and white. They were silent, which meant they had no audio, all the conversation by the actor was presented in print across the bottom of the screen so that the audience could follow the story line of a movie such as the Keystone Cops. The larger city theaters had a live band to funish the mood and background music but Kelfor only had a piano player to create the excitement. Nobdoy ever shot him, but my father said they "booed" and "hissed" him at times. After the theater closed the building was amde into a City Hall and two individual prison cells were built on opposite sides of the screen in the stage area. The theater closed due to the Depression and the building was later sold and relocated north at the very end of Front Street.

    Social Life of Kelford - 1950's

    My daddy [Hobard G. Austin] retired on his 50th birthday (1950) and sold his Wholesale Confection and Tobacco business to "Little" Jake Jacobs. He stayed active the rest of his life until he died in 1970 at age 71, with various volunteer organizations, i.e. Auxiliary Policeman, Voluntary Fiermant, Rotarian and several private clubs. At least two or three times a week someone would have a big "feed" at one of the many Plantation Clubhouses that were located throughout Bertie and Martin Counties. There could be from 15 or more guests at one of these get-togethers. The Smith Douglas Fish Muddle could attract several hundred people. My father was usually in charge of preparing the meat such as Barbecue Chicken, pork, beef, raccoon, rabbit, squirrel and deer, plus whatever they could think up to cook for a get-together and have a feast. All meat was usually cooked on an open pit using live hickory wood coals. Tom Norfleet Wilkins, Roxobel, was responsible for the brunswick stew and Wison Shoulars from Rich Square looked after the cold slaw, bread, etc.

    Families of Roxobel

    • Joseph Jere Jilcott on the Bertie County Obituary Page.

    Charlie Peele's Store

    From 250 Anniversary of Bertie County - Sept 28, 1972 -Bertie Ledger. Used with permission

    The country store in the 1900's sold everything from horse collars to the finest velvets -- and Charles T. Peele's store in Roxobel was that kind of store. Charlie Peele's store, which he built for $2,800, was the shopping center of the district. Area residents could "go off to the big cities shopping, return empty handed and find exactly what they needed at Mr. Peele's.

    One of Peele's daughters, Mrs Margaret Wood, had tried to keep the store the way it was when her father was living. She admits that since she does not buy large quaantities, many salesmen have quit coming to the store.

    According to Mrs. Wood, her father and two other men, Ed Bryant and Will Ainsley, worked in the store. Ainsley slept in a small room upstairs in the store. Both of the clerks were treated as part of the Peele family. Mrs. Wood feels that it was remarkable for these three men to get along as well as they did.

    Hardware, horse collars, men's suits, oil cloth and even velvet material and ribbon were sold in the store. A milliner had a shop upstairs in the store. Here a lady would design, make, trim and sell women's hats.

    At Christmas, the store was probably the busiest. Mrs Wood compared it to a Sears Roebuck store at Christmas today. Several additional clerks were hired to help at this time of the year.

    The Peele store was the "hang out" for the community's loder men. Each night they would sit around the pot-bellied stove, start a lively game of checkers and discuss the events of the day. Some nights it would be as late as nine or 10 p.m. before the gathering would break up.

    Today, the time of the community meeting has changed but the place remains the same. Mrs. Wood, Irene Outland, store clerk, Sara Biship and Dr. E. P. Norfleet meet at 1 a. m. to have a Coke.

    Charlie Peele was a friend to many people. Salesmen have been known to say that seeing Peele was more of a visit, rather strictly business. He is noted for helping area residents during the depression. One Roxobel native refers to Peele as "an extremely good man."

    Peele died in March 1956. Mrs Wood, who had never enjoyed clerking when she was young, did not know one thing from another in the store. Plow points and other farm implements completely bewildered her. But she soon learned, and decided to keep the store in the fashion of an old country store.

    The show cases are the same ones that her father bought for the store when he built it. Mrs. Wood has had antique dealers who wanted to buy the cases, but she "just couldn't put a price on them".

    The clock hanging on the back wall of the store was Mrs. Wood's father's and she says that "it still keeps good time." Mrs. Wood has not purchased a cash register since she has been running the store. She and Mrs. Outland use a money drawer. There is a money drawer at each counter, but only one is used now.

    Scales are hanging in the back of the store and wooden cracker boxes are under a counter. Mrs Wood recalls when her father sold penny cakes and crackers which were keep fresh in the cracker boxes. On one counter is a champion knife improved. This knife, which resembles a paper cutter, was used to cut plugs of chewing tobacco.

    Other reminders of a country store are the early 1900 slogans and advertisements of manufacturers. They include:

    	Purity strength, Bee Brand flavoring extracts -- 10 cents and 25 cents.
    	Clark's spool cotton -- George A Clark, Best in the World.
    	Shumate -- written gaurantee with each razor.
    	Treasures -- Humming Bird silk hosiery.
    	We recommend Dill's Extracts and Home Preparations.
    	Extra mildness, extra coolness, extra flavor with slower burning Camels.

  • Families of Roxobel

    Pete Austin

    Joseph Jere Jilcott was the child of John Johnson Jilicott who married Pemilia Cox the Widow of a Mr Tynes. Pamila Cox was the daughter of Samuel Cox. The Cox House is now a part of Hope Plantation

    The father of John Johnson Jilcott was Jeremiah Jilcott who married Matilda Johnson near Norfolk VA.and had five children of which Joseph Jere was the youngest.

    Jere married Martha Livermon and had ten offspring. [a].Minnie was wife of Dancey L. Cale that lived in Poticasi and had daughter Martha, [b]. Paul married Julia Watson (gave Samuel Cox house to Hope) and had twins William "Bill" wounded in WW II and Frances that lived on SR 1249 towards Teaster Shack.

    Neighbors were Solicitor Ernest Rudolph Tyler who lived at the now historic home place and served as solicitor, third judicial district of NC 1936-1958, with his wife Ethel Leigh Pierce and their only son John "Little Jack" Tyler who married Margaret Ridley Long (born 03-26-1917 - died 03-30-1991). Both "Jack" and wife Margaret have helped so much with the Hope and King-Bazemore restoration.

    Ernest Tyler had a sister Mary Elizabeth who married James Paul Johnson and sister Helen Capehart Tyler who was the wife of James Thomas Jilcott (1874-1963) the son of Joseph Jere Jilcott that is given above and his wife Martha Frances Livermon.

    Helen Tyler and James T Jilcott had four children that are given under the Jilcott section below.

    Solicitor Ernest Tyler had a brother Edward Leroy Tyler (03-16-1876 - 09-24-1957).

    "Little Jack's" grandfather was John Edward Tyler "Big Jack" was the husband of Martha Adelia Capehart.

    John Edward had a brother Luther Rice Tyler who married Susan A. Capehart. They had two issue Betty Tayloe Tyler and Charles Cotton Tyler.

    John E. also had a sister Sarah A Tyler who married 1st Thomas Watson and 2nd James P Bush the former husband of Emeline R. The Bush's had a child named Fredonia A. Bush that was born 11-25-1854.

    "Little Jack" Tyler's great grand parents were Perry Cotton Tyler (who married 1st Elizabeth Harrell and had six children: Joseph A., Parthenia, Sarah Ann, William P., Napoleon Bonaparte, and Elizabeth Sutton. Elizabeth Sutton married Hiram Powell Harrell.
    By Perry's second wife Celia "Creesy" Rice Raby (01-16-1807 - 04-01-1892) Celia "Creesy" Rice Raby who was the widow of Blake D. Raby with whom she had three children: Harriet Deborah, Henrietta Celia, and Cader Monroe. Celia and Perry Cotten Tyler had two children: Luther Rice and John Edward (Descendant: Anthony Roane (Tony) Dees

    Perry Tyler was the son of Mosses Tyler who married Helen Cotton. She was the daughter of Arthur Cotton and wife Elizabeth Rutland. Elizabeth had a brother Whitmel Rutland Esq who married Mary L.(?).

    Mosses father was John Tyler who married Susannah Perry from Perquimins Co NC.

    Ernest's brother Edward Leroy Tyler married 1st Mable Bishop (born 02-22-1873 - died 04-20-1926). Edward's 2nd wife Carrie Lee Savage was the former wife of George Burton Hearn.

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