RECOLLECTIONS OF WOODVILLE
The following are excerpted from Dr. Charles Smallwood’s undated papers that were found in the Lewis Thompson Collection. Charles Smallwood died 6/1900.
Woodville proper in the olden times embraced all the land from about St. Frances church on the north to Canady’s Hill, the late residence of Thomas Whitmel Thompson – and from Jack’s Branch Road on the east to the Lewark swamp on the west. It is one of the most desirable locations for a Village or town in Eastern NC, mostly a high sandy ridge with few exceptions, and about half way between the Roanoke River and Cashie Swamp, the headwaters of the Cashie River. The drainage is excellent. The village was originally built by farmers who ran large farms on the Roanoke River in the Indian Woods, mostly for the purpose of locating their families in a healthy place for the social advantages denied them on widely separated farms and for the convenience of sending their children to a good school.
Two places have been pointed out to me when at different times the children of the village went to school. One of these was on the road leading to Hills Ferry near an oak in front of residence of Mr. G.P. Hale. The other was on the property of Mrs. Phelps, a granddaughter of one of the old residents, Mr. Wm. Pugh. These were never used after the old Bertie Union Academy was built in 1828. It consisted of two buildings – one for the males and the other for females. The male department still stands a landmark of bygone days. A small school is now taught there.
There was no church in Woodville in those days. The nearest being the Old Jumping Run Church or Chapel, about a mile distant at Turner’s Cross Roads, now Lewiston. Two marriages I remember at Jumping Run Church – Miss Willie J. Ruffin and Dr. John Hill of Wilmington…. And my own to Miss Harriet J. Clark one cold day the 20th of March 1850.The Chapel was first built as an Episcopal Church, possibly in Colonial Days and then was used by all denominations, mostly the Baptists. It was torn down years ago and a school house built of its timbers, but has since been moved to the Baptist church in Lewiston. The nearest Methodist church was at Mount Olive, called Robbins Chapel, about 4 miles from Woodville.
When the Methodist Church was built in Woodville, the Woodville people transferred their membership from Robbins Chapel, which was then sold to the colored congregation at Mount Olive. Grace Episcopal Church was built around 1850 by Mr. Saunders from Edgecombe Co., who afterwards married Celia, the daughter of H.H. Hardy. They afterwards went west where she died many years ago.
Mrs. Betsy Smith lived above St. Frances Church near the Roanoke and Tar Railroad Depot until her death. One of Mrs. Smith’s daughters, Frenza, married Luke Raby, who was an overseer for Mr. W.M. Clark; he died and left one child, John, a wild lad who went to the old Academy. John, for fun , told the younger scholars he owned a porcupine and would sell his quills for a cent each if the boys would give him a cent he would on the next bring them the quills. We gave him the money, and patiently waited the appointed time. When Monday came, he had some excuse why he could not catch the porcupine and it continued thus, always evading our questions in regard to the coveted quills until we gave them up. John went, when quite young to Mississippi; afterwards to the Choctaw Indian agency, married it is said, and the divorced wife of an Indian and was killed by her husband. Mrs. Raby lived for many years, died at the residence of her brother Dr. Stark Smith in Windsor, and was buried in the old Silas Smith graveyard in Woodville.
There used to be several loafers who hung around Woodville many years ago. Robert Blackstone – the village shoemaker, Jerry Simpson – the well digger, Billy Cino , Norfleet Acrie and little Jack Ruffin, after whom Jack Branch Road on the road to Windsor is named. Blackstone used to come out to the store and get very drunk. Starke Smith would paint his face in streaks, with circles around his eyes and mouth and turn a large crate over him. When he waked up and tried to get up, he would look like some wild animal in a cage, trying to get out. They did little but hunt, fish, and drink apple brandy when they could get it. Whit Pugh and I sometimes went fishing with them in the marshes. I remember after one of these fishing trips on waking up next morning I could hardy move and calling my mother. She found my back with blisters as I had gone in naked to net the fish I was in much pain whenever my shirt touched the blistered part.
Old Jerry Simpson died after I commenced the practice and was one of my first patients; he unfortunately died and Mr. Lewis Thompson said I deserved a new diploma, as I had done what no other doctor could do – killed old Jerry. He left 2 children, _K___ and a girl. He has a grandson, K__, married to a white woman living near Woodville. Their children are gradually growing up – going to school and to Sunday school with the children of Woodville and after one or two more generations the mixing may pass into oblivion. Miss Nancy Tucker – the sister of old Jerry’s wife, lived for many years near Woodville, and died in a ripe old age, a true Christian, I hope.
On the Hill’s Ferry Road lived Mrs. Johnson and Robert Blackstone. Old Jerry Simpson and Nancy Church (or as she prefers to be called, Nancy Churchman) and Nancy Tucker lived on the road leading to Taylor’s Ferry. Mr. William King and Humphrey H. Hardy lived near Turner’s Cross Roads and carried on a general merchandise store there.
In later years, the town of Lewiston had been built on what used to be known as Turner’s X Roads. It had suffered badly from fire, but seems slowly recovering. Quite much business is transacted there. The Norfolk and Tar River Rail Road has a depot nearby in Lewiston which gives a daily mail, and facilities for shipping produce.
Mrs. Frances Byrd was the sister of Mrs. Robert C. Watson and lived at the old Tavern. She had several children of whom only Martha, Mrs. P.H. Winston, is now alive. One of her sons died in Rich Square. Frank was a gallant Confederate soldier. He entered the army, I think, as a lieutenant in a company from Bertie which was one of the famous Bath Regiments, was made Captain and was killed at the head of his company in the Battle of Reams Station. His body was brought home and buried in Windsor. One would be surprised to know that Martha, the venerable, gray haired lady, the mother of so many stalwart sons, was in her youthful days the head and front of all that tended to fun and enjoyment. Fleet of foot and action, she could outrun and out jump all the girls at the Academy, and but very few of the boys was a match for in any athletic sport. Time has dealt gently with her and that she may live many years to enjoy in her old age the blessings of a well spent life, and the honors and distinction won by her sons in the different professions in which they are engaged.
There is one incident of my childhood days connected with Mrs. Winston which I can never forget. She and my sister were great friends and visited each other often. One occasion while at my mother’s house, whether prompted by her loveliness – or perversity, which is inherent in all of Adam’s race - I attempted to kiss her, which she was unwilling, I should do, so I took by force the kiss. After reporting this to my mother, my mother then and there gave me a severe whipping, which no doubt soothed Martha’s feelings and impressed the circumstances on my mind for a lifetime. Martha married Patrick H. Winston of Granville County and was a lawyer of prominence.