Help Me Write – The Story of the Kyser Drugstore Family

“It was frustrating to gather bits of disconnected information without understanding how it all fits together.”
― Wendy Percival, Author

 

I readily identify with the Percival quotation as I begin to write about the Paul Kyser family. Because I don’t know enough, the storyteller that lives within me wanted to create my own tale. With a fascinating historical backdrop, (the 1890’s when Paul Kyser moved to Rocky Mount, I could carry on from there. We have some idea of the manners and fashion of that decade. I could write a whole chapter about the 1890s through 1905 as part of the Edwardian era, also known as the Gibson Girl era. Dana Gibson created the iconic Gibson Girl look with extra wide puffy tops and blouses paired with a curved corseted waist, A-line skirts, voluminous Gibson hair topped with a large flower and feather hats. Men’s style was still formal from the Victorian era but growing more relaxed. You see how easy it is to set the stage for the beginning of our Kyser story.

Did you ever play one of my favorite games of making up the beginning of a story and dropping out, letting the next person continue on, and the next and next? It’s great fun with children, but this time I am going to play the game with you. I’ll give you some details about Paul Bynum Kyser (1856-1937) and his family, and from what you’ve been told, who you might have known, please help me understand how it all fits together. ThePaul Kyser family keeps on giving with multiple generations of interesting people who left a great mark on Rocky Mount. Connected by marriage in ways you may not have known or forgotten, this has the making of a long tale. Help me with it.

(Use the COMMENTS section below: to write what your contribution. Thank you!)

Recently I wrote about Andrew Clark, Investor, who is renovating two commercial buildings on Main Street. The Kyser Drugstore building is pictured here at 135 S.E. Main St. In 1979, Kate Meams wrote in a Central City Historic Buildings Inventory about this building.

“The Kyser Drugstore was established in the 1890s by Paul and Emily Kyser* and moved to its present location c. 1912. Mrs. Kyser has the distinction of being North Carolina’s first licensed woman pharmacist, though family tradition states that she never practiced. The building, altered somewhat over the years, retains two cast-iron pilasters manufactured by Mesker Brothers, a firm well-known for this type of ornamentation. The building also possesses one of Rocky Mount’s earliest neon signs, recently put back in working order.”  *Emily Royster Howell 

This photograph says: Main Street looking North, showing the Kyser Drug Co. Rocky Mount, NC. (Corner of Main and Tarboro St. )

The Kyser home at 219 Sunset Ave

Two notable chapters in this story are Paul Kyser’s son and youngest child, James Kern “Kay” Kyser, who became a noted entertainer, which included musical comedies. His daughter, *Virginia Kyser, who married Walter Carleton Noell. Walter became one of the first franchisees of Hardees Foods, and with his two nephews, Nick and Mayo Boddie began  Boddie-Noell Inc. The downtown Carleton House Motel and Restaurant were named for Walter Carleton Noel.   *Virginia Graves Kyser + Walter Carlton Noel

Below: This is what The Carleton House once looked like. An important place marker in Rocky Mount. It has been bought by Jesse Gerstl and his investment group and once underway will be saved. There are exciting plans and hopefully, it won’t be long until we are headed to the restaurant again as in earlier days.  We will raise a glass of sweet tea to Walter Carleton Noell and to his wife Virginia and the Kyser family.

After Paul Kyser’s death, one of his sons-in-law, James Stanley Pierce I (1897-1965) took over management of Kyser Drugs, which was probably the 135 Main St location.

PLEASE ADD ANY DETAILS YOU CAN IN THE COMMENT SECTION BELOW

Charles Dunn -Way Back When Provided This Clipping

 

Dang and Blast To The Tarboro Housing Street Project – Something Fabulous Is Happening – The Preservation of the First National Bank – Soon to Open Larema Coffee

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about coffee at Larema Coffee Shop?”
A. A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh, and S.F. Houghtlin

I’m in the doldrums over this wrong solution for more affordable housing. When people have told me I can’t stop it, I refuse to believe it. Of course, I can! Can’t I? Move the cluster housing to Crossroads at 64,  In the now famous words of Lige Daughtridge, “We can build a grocery out there.” He is a much nicer person than I am. In the mood I’m in, I would edit his funny, logical, wonderful line to say, “We can build a damn grocery for heaven’s sake!” His reasoned line sounds nicer, BUT, I’m a  little? emotional when it comes to promoting what I believe to be the right solution. Save our neighborhoods by restoring the affordable housing we have that longs to be a useful and safe home to the singles, couples, workforce, retired, elderly and those new to the area.

The only thing that will help all of us in this moment of anger over another ‘decided upon and wrapped with a bow’ project is to celebrate together a great thing that IS happening on MAIN STREET. A gorgeous commercial architectural building has been reclaimed, history and all. I’m celebrating this investment, this new business, and the new owner, Kevin McLaughlin’s belief in the revitalization of downtown, which is the purpose of this blog. Though I can’t refrain from crossing the threshold into politics, political junkie that I am, my part in the chorus that we have talked about, is to proclaim the Good News of a coffee shop and community space in downtown Rocky Mount, North Carolina. The Coffee house is named, Larema, a word Kevin learned in Uganda which means, “my friend.”  Don’t you love it already?
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Kevin says “The vision is for a safe, welcoming space for people to come together, see and be seen, hear and be heard, and enjoy delicious, hand-crafted beverages and foods. It is my belief that exposure to and appreciation of people and perspectives different than our own is essential to our growth as humans. This belief is what planted the idea in me over 10 years ago, and has caused me to seek out cafés everywhere my travels take me. I want to create a dynamic space which fosters these kinds of connections and conversations in Rocky Mount, a diverse city with a rich history – presently on the cusp of a rebirth.”

 

Constructed in 1910, the building housed First National Bank, prosperous furniture and undertaking businesses, and an underground pool hall speakeasy. Most recently, the building was used by Edgecombe Community College for classes prior to opening a new campus across the street.

 

I took these three photos when Jesse Gerstl (our investment her0 and really good guy) took me through this building. The other photos I lifted from the Larema Facebook Page. You are going to elevate off the floor when you see the interior of this building, What a place to gather. Saving this building is like winning the lottery for Rocky Mount. Here is FYI on THE VAULT: From centerpiece of the bank to the focal point of the coffee shop. The original vault’s interior space will be made available for the community to hold meetings at Larema. The vault was manufactured by Diebold Safe & Lock Co., founded in Cincinnati, Ohio (Larema owner Kevin’s birth city) in 1859. Made popular in the wake of the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, Diebold vaults and safes have an unparalleled reputation for protecting valuables from threats like hurricanes, fires, and bank robbers. Once used to keep the money safe, the vault will now be a safe space for conversation and collaboration.

Glass blocks lining the sidewalk are not only beautiful and one of a kind in Rocky Mount, but they also allowed light to enter the basement for liquor production during prohibition. Kevin says this is something to think on – and sit above – as we share a cup of coffee outside. Don’t you think it would be ‘way cool’ to have a prohibition party once a year with appropriate clothing and music? Our coffee will be laced with the new friendships Kevin is serving.

 

I assume these are Kevin’s boots ready to take the step from the past into the future. It is a preservation dream come true for all of us. This is the kind of restoration that is a positive economic driver for Rocky Mount. Welcome, Kevin hardly says enough. Thank you is a good start.

 

 

 

‘OUR’ NEW FRIEND

Tarrick Pittman – A Fine Man For Ward 1 and Rocky Mount – Things You Need to Know

 

 

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”                                                                                          ~ John Quincy Adams.

 

 

Do you remember the Hallmark card advertising line, They cared enough to send their very best? I hijacked the idea years ago when I came to believe, that in my life, God has always sent his very best.  It has happened again. Tarrick Pittman and I had lunch at Chew and Chat, our first face to face meeting. I’m proud to write that he reads the blog and I have already written about him in the ‘Change Candidates’ piece. I discovered quickly that I was keeping company with an authentic, honest, self-contained man that feels deeply, believes deeply, and has discovered that his call is to live so others may live better. It was a privilege discovering these things about Tarrick.  I thought you might enjoy being included (after the fact) listening to some of the things he talked about. You will see why I think Rocky Mount has hit the Jack Pot with new leadership for Ward One and continuing his work for the entire community. This is a special man, Main Street readers. There is more to write about him and I will.

I am not running for City Council to dethrone my opponent. I’m running because I believe in my City and Ward 1. I have been contemplating running for years and one day I awakened frustrated at the current political environment in our community. I proceeded to pray and God let me know that it was time. I’d like to be an example for other young people in the community;  to fight for what they believe is right, to stand tall with no fear in their effort to bring forward change.

I’m not much of a talker, I’m a person of action. The idea that I’m running for the City Council out of anger over a court battle is not true. I have been entangled in this dispute while serving as the President of the Downtown Merchants Association. I have always been a champion for Downtown. I have continued to meet and work to bring progress to the city with the same people I have been battling in court. My personal business has never come before the citizens in my community. God has always allowed me to separate the two and focus on the greater good of our City. It hasn’t been easy but through the help and support of friends and family and my faith, I have always been able to overcome.

I believe in ONE ROCKY MOUNT. Working together in a transparent and collaborative effort in order to redevelop our neighborhoods, grow small businesses, combat crime, and to develop a comprehensive plan around job readiness skills and training for our youth. Creating creative spaces for our youth to collaborate and develop. Relationship building has always been a strong suit of mine. In my 25+ years of managing people I have learned that when you have a lot of unilateral power in a government system or any system for that matter that doesn’t lend itself to collaboration, it tends to lend itself to corruption or the appearance of it. I have always been known as someone who listens to everyone from all walks of life. This has allowed me to build a solid foundation for my business. I’ve become known as someone who listens to everyone and guides the community toward collaborative solutions. I’m very proud of that track record.

We all know that some still view the world through Jim Crow glasses, both blacks and whites in our community. It isn’t easy to navigate through this perception of things in order to build a solid community. In order for us to bring development to some of our predominantly African American communities, we must do better for ourselves. As African Americans, we must take ownership of the communities we live in and not point the fingers at others but look within ourselves.

Now is the time to usher in new leadership who will think outside of the box for creative solutions to some of the problems that plague us. I have no fear or worry what some may think when it comes to working on our problems. The goal is to find new and better solutions, not more of the same old same old. I’m talking JOBS, Collaboration, Caring for out neighborhoods and one another.  I am willing to sacrifice things in my personal and business life in order to give back to others because I accept God’s intention for my life, which is to serve others. 

Tarrick enjoying one of Stepheny’s downtown benches to sit and talk.

Celebrating 3 Years With You On Main Street Rocky Mount

When I write for this blog, I often think of us sitting together and talking on one of the benches along Main Street under the shade of the maturing crepe myrtles. It amazes me that later in July, it will be the beginning of three years when I started the blog. The very first post (and second-anniversary post too) was about Evan Chavez who has always been the poster child for me when I think of the theme of the blog…honoring the past and building a future. That is still what Evan and the other incredible builders, planners and dreamers are doing out at Rocky Mount Mills.

After moving here five years ago, I fell in love with a rather silent Main Street, unaware of its stories, the people who remain in the memories of the community, of its significant architecture, of the historic districts, of everything really. I had no idea who was already busy with revitalization plans and the amount of work being done. I wanted to do something about Main Street. I heard the Lord whisper in my ear, you’re a writer, you could help that way. I took myself off to meet John Jesso, Downtown Development Manager. and asked him if a positive blog would be welcomed. I’ve never forgotten what he said, “Help me change the narrative of Rocky Mount.”

This anniversary post is written for  John Jesso with my deep admiration and affection. I don’t know when a community has been so lucky to have John and his amazing wife, Stacey, arrive on their doorstep. I attended the State of the City address this year where the Mayor touted Rocky Mounts accomplishments. We have no one to thank more for this than John. He has been the positive face cheerleading for all those who have come to consider an investment or starting up a business. He has been the real estate man, the networker, the bus tour spokesman. He has cast a net far and wide to draw people here to take a look at what we’ve got. He has walked the street, opened buildings, sat face to face or talked on long phone calls, all because he believes in Rocky Mount and has made believers out of countless other people. John came from a successful business career. In business, it is what you get done, what you accomplish that is credited with success. Unfortunately, in politics, that isn’t always the case. I’m grateful for John’s support with the blog, sharing his excitement with each new success, suggesting someone I would love to know. When I left John’s office that first day, I was like a fledgling the mother bird shoves out of the nest. I know lots of stories now and am beholding to others who have taken me under their wing and talked and talked and talked. I will speak of them too in the bye and bye. But today, as I kick off this week with a 3-part series on taking an architectural inventory, my heart and admiration belong to John Jesso on behalf of all of us who owe him so much every day. Thanks, everyone for keeping me company on Main Street. If you’re not FOLLOWING, please do.

CLICK HERE TO READ -John Jesso -Saluting Rocky Mount’s Codega

 

 

Douglas Block Stories: Honoring Earl Carnegie “Doc” Burnette (1907-1976)

 One of the important pieces of the puzzle from the ‘Revitalization Rocky Mount Puzzle Box’ is the historic Douglas Block named for Dr. Junious Douglas, an African-American pharmacist. The Douglas Block was home to shops, restaurants, entertainment centers, and medical services owned and operated by African-Americans. Today it is home to people who believe in the revitalization of the historic downtown district and are doing business where the original black community will always be remembered

We have Di Riceratore to thank for research that helps us pay tribute to an important and distinguished family in the community. We honor Earl Carnegie “Doc” Burnette.  Come and stand with me on the sidewalk in front of The Prime Smokehouse, and look kiddie-corner across the street to the Burnette Building, part of the Douglas Block restoration. You have to let the scene come to you, the privilege of looking back at a time and place that is integral to the Rocky Mount story. With eyes to see, you are looking at the Burnette Drug Company established by Baker Burnette (1878-) who obtained a medical degree but worked as a pharmacist. His nephew, Earl Carnegie “Doc” Burnette, who we honor in this post, worked in the Burnette Drug store early in his life and later became the owner, and in the 1960s co-owned the business with Fred S. Biggs.

Earl Burnette was born and raised on the family farm near Hamilton and Oak City, in Martin County. Earl’s father sent him to live with an uncle in Rocky Mount to obtain the best available education. Earl was in the first graduating class at Booker T. Washington High School (established 1927.)Rocky Mount at that time was in a boom phase, driven by a profitable tobacco market and the Atlantic Coastline Railroad Emerson Shops.

Following in the footsteps of his two uncles, Earl attended college, earning a BA at Shaw University. Only 5’7″ and 168 pounds, nonetheless, he enjoyed a reputation as a powerful center on the football team. He then obtained a Masters’s degree from NYU. He pursued further education at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University and Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN. Though he apparently did not obtain a medical license, he acquired the nickname, “Doc.”

Mr. Burnette also pursued a teaching career. He was on the faculty at Patillo High School in Tarboro (1933-9), and in Rocky Mount at Parker Junior High and Booker T. Washington High School. He coached football at both Patillo and BTW, and won a championship while at Patillo.

Mr. Burnette married Juanita Exum (1920-2005.) also a teacher. Juanita met Earl when she began teaching at the former Lincoln Elementary School in Rocky Mount in the late 1940s In her later years, she taught at Baskerville Elementary in Rocky Mount. They had one child, Francine Elaine Burnett who continued the family tradition of education obtaining degrees from George Washington University (BA Speech-Language Pathology, 1979) and the University of North Carolina (MA, 1980.)

Earl Burnette died on March 15, 1976, after an illness. His service was at Metropolitan Baptist Church, where he had been active in leadership roles for decades. Mr. Burnette is buried in Rocky Mount’s Northeastern Cemetery, next to his wife.

If you have further information about “Doc” Burnette, please add it in the comment section below for everyone’s enjoyment. Thank you.

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Main Street Rocky Mount Blog Honored – Sharing My Good News


By LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer
Monday, March 27, 2017
A local blogger has received state recognition for writing about downtown Rocky Mount.

Stepheny Houghtlin was named a Main Street Champion, which are individuals who have gone the extra mile in working to make their downtown successful, announced N.C. Commerce Secretary Anthony Copland.

Houghtlin has a tremendous love for downtown Rocky Mount, said John Jesso, the city’s downtown development manager.

“If you do not subscribe to her blog Main Street Rocky Mount, you don’t know what you are missing,” Jesso said.

Houghtlin blogs about the opportunity and need for the community to get involved, Jesso said.

Downtown districts are important economic engines in North Carolina, Copeland said.
“The men and women we’re recognizing today are the people who keep those engines running, generating prosperity for communities all across North Carolina,” Copeland said.

Houghtlin blogged: “It is never too late to have a grand passion.”

Houghtlin has several passions. One is architecture. She grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and was exposed to the magnificent architecture of the Windy City. Her interest in architecture was renewed when she came to Rocky Mount.

“Rocky Mount is a community rich in history and with a vast architectural inventory,” Houghtlin blogged.

Jesso said Houghtlin deserves the recognition because she doesn’t just talk about making a difference, she rolls up her sleeves and engages the community in sharing their stories.

“This year’s champions represent Main Street board members and volunteers, elected officials and city employees, developers, entrepreneurs, artists and leaders in the local food economy,” said Liz Parham, director of the N.C. Main Street and Rural Planning Center.

Houghtlin and 35 other Main Street Champions across the state who have advocated for downtown revitalization were recognized for their commitment at a recent awards ceremony breakfast in Shelby. This year’s group of Main Street Champions brings the total number to 639 since Champions were first named in 2000. Today, the Main Street Center celebrates its 37th anniversary as the state’s leading resource in downtown revitalization.

Since 1980, the N.C. Main Street program has generated $2.5 billion in private and public investment. More than 22,400 cumulative NET new full-time and part-time jobs and 5,500 new businesses have been created in North Carolina Main Street districts since the program’s inception.
More information about the N.C. Main Street and Rural Planning Center and its programs is available online at nccommerce.com/MainStreet.

Houghtlin’s blog can be found at https://mainstreetrockymount.com/tag/main-street-rocky-mount/.

Romancing the Brick – Osman Bennett Barnes – Part 3

I admit that the 1984 action-adventure, romantic-comedy entitled, Romancing the Stone, sounds better than the title for this post, Romancing the Brick, but I couldn’t help myself. I have had a long-standing romance with architecture that includes lots and lots of brick. img_3591I grew up in the beautiful Colonial Revival style brick home pictured here. It sits on the corner of Asbury Avenue and Lyons Street in Evanston, Illinois. You might say I grew up with bricks. When I find lovely brickwork, I often place my hand on the surface as if to commune with it. There is a lot of handsome brick on Main Street Rocky Mount and beyond. We must consider what to do about the brick that in some places has fallen to the ground and needs our attention.

Bus Station at Rocky Mount
Bus Station at Rocky Mount

When you are in need of a brick fix, go to the Bus Station. I hope you will read, A Bus Station That Is Good For the Soul. Peter Varney first took me there and didn’t seem to mind that I touched the brick along the way. Don’t forget the brick at the Imperial Center. Both restorations are an ‘amazing sight’ as Corduroy the Bear says in the children’s story. Peter Varney has done his share of romancing and preserving bricks in Rocky Mount with just these two projects for starters. Do you know about the bronze statues throughout revitalized downtown Greenville, SC? When it comes time to raise money for our own famous folks, I want to head up the campaign that raises money for Peter Varney’s bronze. Start putting your quarters in a jar marked (Varney Statue and others) that will one day appear on the Rocky Mount Art Walk.

If you want to know anything about brick, ask Osman Barnes’s grandson, William Kent Wheeless. He told me just enough to send me off researching again, but it wasn’t half as interesting as listening to him tell me that…..”St. James Brick is stamped on the bricks used in the wall at Wesleyan College and that most bricks you see around Rocky Mount are Nash Brick.Of course, you want to know something about this.

Nash Brick roots can be traced to 1902 when W.E. Jeffrey’s sold one-half interest in 59 acres of land to R.H. Rick’s, and they formed the Jeffreys-Ricks Clay Works. The original location was within the city limits of Rocky Mount. In 1914 it became the Tar River Brick Company with officers as follows: S.S.Toler, President; T.W.Coleman, Treasurer; and, W.C. Woodward, Secretary. On March 2, 1948,  T.W. Coleman’s sons, T.B., W.R. and E.W. Coleman formed a new corporation with three equal stockholders and called it NASH BRICK COMPANY. The company still exists today, relocated from Rocky Mount to its present site at Ita in 1957, where approximately 55 employees produce 28 million bricks per year, mostly for residential construction. The next time you meet a brick you like, be sure to put your hand on it and enjoy! Think of Mr. Barnes, a brick mason, his wonderful family, and the many projects he has left his mark on in the Rocky Mount area.

Below: The home Mr. Barnes built for his family in 1937 at 616 Ambler Ave, Rocky Mount. It stands today, the brick looking as handsome as it did 79 years ago.                           (Photos of the home provided by Mark Wheeless)

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These three posts have been written in honor of Mr. Barnes and for those who have come after him…in thanksgiving for the work of his hands and the beauty he has left behind.

Who Was Osmon Bennett Barnes? – Part 2

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“History is the essence of innumerable biographies.”
Thomas Carlyle

Osman Barnes’s granddaughter, Melissa Barker, took me to Pineview Cemetery to spend time with members of her family that are buried there. It is a deeply moving experience, where generations of families are gathered across time, yet able to tell a story of Rocky Mount and beyond. The story is ever-changing depending on which family member is doing the telling. Visiting Pineview is a powerful witness to the fact that our families continue to go before us even after they are gone. (Photo provided by Mark Wheeless)

In the revitalization of Rocky Mount, I know it might sound bazaar, but I wish we could take people to Pineview Cemetery who are considering moving here, whether to start a business, raise a family or to live an individual dream. It is an inspiration to hear stories of the people buried there like the tale of the brick mason, Osmon Barnes. Prospective newcomers would hear Mr. Barnes and all the others say, “Throw your lot in with us. Build upon the honesty, loyalty, the perseverance, and hard work we have left behind. Embrace the importance of family, of service to your community and church. Here is a place where you can remain unapologetic for the faith of your fathers.” I believe the names woven through the tombstones in a silent, yet eloquent way, are saying,”Here is the past you can build your future upon.”

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img_0666-2Important names & dates – Osmon Barnes: Born January 7, 1897, on a farm in Nash County, NC, he was the 3rd of 9 children born to Joseph Francis ‘Frank’ Barnes and Alice Jordan Williams. His father became a conductor for the Atlantic Coastline Railroad. On August 4, 1917, he married Thaney Bell Taylor, born on September 7, 1902, to John William ‘Bill’ Taylor and Mary Elizabeth ‘Bett’ Daughtridge. Osman and Thaney had four children. Mr.Barnes became a brick mason and worked with his father-in-law. In 1929, when Mr. Taylor died, he took over the business and ran the brick masonry business until he retired about 1980. As a sideline, Mr. Barnes ran a small gas and grocery store, from about 1935-1957 known as the ‘Ragged Nine’ on the northeast corner of Branch Street and Ambler Avenue in Rocky Mount. Mr. Barnes died on October 25, 1987, while still living in the home he built in 1937 at 616 Ambler Avenue. We honor Mr. Barnes and his family through the continuing generations. Think of him as a man who liked to fish and whose hobby was wine making, a man who made his work his art.

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 JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR ROMANCING (NOT STONE) BUT BRICK

Who Built The Wall at Wesleyan College and so much more? – Osmon ‘Os’ Bennett Barnes

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“Every man is called to give love to the work of his hands. Every man is called to be an artist.”      Wendell Berry

I grew up without a grandfather. My maternal grandfather died when my mother was a young child and my paternal grandfather lived somewhere on the edges of my life hiding in the family story where my father never granted him pardon. I can honestly say I didn’t suffer any repercussions from these missing figures unless you find meaning in the fact that I do set great store by grandfathers. I live with a wonderful great grandfather, and I know zillions of other men that mean everything to their grandchildren. When Melissa Barnes Barker mentioned her grandfather to me, I jumped at the chance to write about him. I’m proud to start out the New Year in his company. (Photo provided by Mark Wheeless)

Osmon Barnes could not possibly have imagined that in December 2016, four of his grandchildren would gather in his name, along with a fabulous great-grandson, Taylor Barker, to talk about the man they call Papa. Granddaughter, Melissa Jean Barnes Barker arranged our time together and invited her sister, Amy Barnes McCotter and two cousins, William Kent Wheeless and Mark Wayne Wheeless. It is obvious how important Osmun Barnes, remains to them. It will take several Main Street RM posts to honor ‘Os’ Barnes, but that’s okay; how better to spend our time in the next few days than with a man like Mr. Barnes and where that leads us.

Osmon Barnes’ story includes his family, of course, but his work as a brick mason is important to the overall Rocky Mount story. I hope you admire the lead photograph of him as much as I do; an iconic photo of an American workman that could have been published on the cover of Life Magazine in the day.

img_4770Everyone that lives in Rocky Mount is connected to ‘Oz’ Barnes through his work. Mr.Barnes is the answer to who built the mile-long serpentine wall and main entrance at Wesleyan College. And let’s not forget the regular brick masons in this story –  William A. ‘Billy’ Wheeless, Jack J. ‘Mookie’ Taylor, Frank Eveland, Jack J. ‘Snookie’ Taylor, Jr., Thomas Kirby and Nelson Blount.  The following partial list of Mr. Barnes projects will provide a link to find yourself in this story with your own memories of the places mentioned. (Please share below in the comment section your link to Mr, Barnes, and his projects.) For example, on Sundays, I often sit in the pew behind beautiful and regal Marie Gardner (Mrs. Jim.) We’ve never spoken of this, but you know I am always saying that one thing leads me to another. Now I know that Marie’s father, Arthur Tyler was the benefactor behind the Wesleyan brick walls.  Stay tuned for Mr. Tyler’s story.

Here is a  partial list of projects where you may find yourself:  Wesleyan College’s main entrance and wall, Rocky Mount Art Center on Nashville Rd., #1 Fire Station on George St., Carolina Office Supply, Conversion of Fanny Gorham School, Addition to Benvenue Country Club, Replacement of the top border of the ‘old’ Planters Bank on Main St., Additions to Oakdale Baptist Church, Parkwood Baptist Church and Williford School, Bank of Rocky Mount on Church St., Englewood Baptist, Ramada Inn (at Gold Rock) now Gold Rock Inn and Suites, Theater on Fairview,  D.S. Johnson School(Fairview School),

JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR WHO WAS OSMON BARNES?

 

Who Is Elijah Gaddis? – Setting The Stage – Part 1

As part of some research I’m doing for a new novel, I am in love again! or should I say, as usual. This time it is a man named Chris Rose who once worked for the Times Picayune in New Orleans. He wrote a series of columns in 2005-06 recounting the aftermath of Katrina, and published them in a book, 1 Dead in Attic. Rose is out of the “Studs” Terkel tradition who is best remembered for his oral histories of common Americans, and for hosting a radio show in Chicago. Rose is that good! One of the many Katrina stories Rose tells is about a man that started collecting magnets off the ruined refrigerators that had been hauled to the curb for pick up. Rose wrote …there is also something noble about archiving the personal details of our citizenry, particularly when those details were otherwise bound for the dump. 

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You ask, what does this have to do with  Elijah Gaddis? He may not be collecting magnets, but he collects stories, and is a young man with a noble calling. He is from rural Cabarrus County, NC in the heart of textile country. Growing up, he heard little about the surrounding mills nor did his schooling provide any education on the matter. Yet today, his imagination and heart are captivated by the history and stories connected with the Rocky Mount Mills. He is Projects Manager for gathering your information.

Trained as an oral historian, his academic background has prepared him for the work that brings him to us through a program Capital Broadcasting has initiated at RMM. With a degree in English, a MA in Folklore and soon a PhD in American studies, both from UNC, he has worked as a public historian for the last ten years. His work connects communities to their own histories and helps them share this valuable information with broader publics. Some of you have already had the pleasure of meeting with Elijah to share your Mill memories.  Here is the link to an earlier post about this story gathering.

Coming tomorrow -Part 2: What Are Oral Histories All About?

Visit: http://communityhistories.org/rmm/oralhistory/                                                                 OR contact Elijah Gaddis at elijah@unc.edu