Cary Me Back

Visit Cary's past through blog entries posted by our history loving members.

  • 07 Jun 2021 11:41 AM | Carla Michaels (Administrator)

    Part 1: Early Streets and Cary Families

    Street signs help us find our way around our area, but street signs in downtown Cary can also teach us about the history of our town. So, grab a downtown Cary map or use the one below as you read along and learn about some of the stories of Cary’s past. This is part of a Cary map published in 1962 that shows the streets we will explore below.

    The Road to Hillsborough

    Let’s start before Cary was Cary. Cary was incorporated as a town in 1871, but it existed well before that date. A road from Raleigh to Hillsborough ran through our area very early on and is captured in this 1798 Price-Strother map.

    On this part of the map, you can see a notation “Bradford’s Ordinary”. An ordinary was a combination tavern/hotel/inn for travelers. According to the history books, a man named John Bradford ran the ordinary. John Bradford owned land in Wake County, but there is no proof that he ever actually owned the ordinary or the land it sat on, but we are fairly certain that the house stood on Cary Town Hall grounds. So you might say that the road to Hillsborough was the first Cary street. Today there are remnants, perhaps, of this route along Hillsboro Street (Hillsboro Rd on the map above), which runs from N Harrison Avenue west toward Morrisville.

    Here is another map of future downtown Cary that dates to the mid-1850s when a new railroad route through the area was being proposed. The North Carolina Railroad sent out survey parties to map the right of way along the route from Goldsboro to Charlotte, and as a result, included the route through Cary.

    You can see part of what has become “downtown Cary”. Pharis Yates, who later owned and operated Yates Mill in Wake County, bought this land from his father Eli Yates of Chatham County in 1841. The road running in front of his homestead is Hillsborough Road. The proposed railway route is marked by the large pink band, and someone has penciled in the name Cary. The actual train track was laid much closer to the Yates Homestead than this map indicates.

    Railroad/Cedar Street

    From the map above we can see that the road and the railroad coexisted very early on, and the road and railroad still run side by side in downtown Cary. The street was originally named Railroad Street, for obvious reasons, was later renamed Cedar Street, and was the main street of Cary.

    In this birds-eye sketch on display at the Cary Museum in the Page Walker Arts and History Center, Jerry Miller captured Railroad/Cedar Street in its heyday as Cary’s main street, with businesses lining Railroad Street between Academy and Walker Streets. Today Cedar Street is an almost forgotten street and serves as an alternative route to Chatham Street, which today is considered Cary’s main street in downtown.

    West Chatham Street

    West Chatham Street was a continuation of the business district located along Railroad/Cedar Street. Chatham Street took its name from its destination, Chatham County and the Chatham Railroad that was planned to service important coal fields there. The name Chatham Street dates to as early as the late 1860s in early deeds of central Cary.

    East Chatham Street

    East Chatham Street from Ashworth’s Drug Store going toward Raleigh was a country lane in its early existence. It was lined with primarily residential properties and open land used for pastures. But in the 1920s, the Capitol Highway, US#1, was built along this country lane. Instead of heading into Cary down Railroad Street, the highway bypassed Railroad Street and routed traffic along what had previously been a mainly residential street into downtown Cary. This photograph shows the intersection of Walker and Chatham Streets looking east when the area was largely undeveloped.

    Prominent Citizens Lend Their Names

    As Cary grew from a wide place in the road to a village, more streets were developed and named after landowners or prominent citizens of Cary.

    Dr. Samuel P Waldo

    One of the earliest doctors in our area was Dr. Samuel Pierce Waldo, and he gives his name to Waldo Street that runs beside the First United Methodist Church in downtown Cary.

    Dr. Waldo was born in 1845 in Hamilton, Martin County, east of Rocky Mount on the Roanoke River. 

    He studied medicine after the Civil War ended, graduating from the Washington University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland in March 1868. After graduation, he moved to the Oxford, North Carolina area, and married Alice Owen, the daughter of a local doctor, in December 1868. He located to Cary around 1874 with his wife and, by that time, three sons.  He owned a drug store on what the deed described as “Main Street or Railroad Street”. He was a highly respected figure in the community and his early death in 1891 at the age of 46, after a year of failing health, was a great loss to Cary. His family home stood at 114 Waldo Street behind the post office, across from the Methodist Church. The house has been saved and restored, and it stands today south of its original location and serves as the bridal suite for the Mayton Inn.

    Walker Street

    Another early family of the area was the Walker family. If you are familiar with the history of the Page Walker Hotel, you know that half its name is derived from Jacob and Helen Yates Walker. Here is a picture of Helen as a young woman. Helen Yates Walker was born and raised in the Cary area. Jacob was a section master for the railroad.

    The Walkers bought about 26 acres from Frank Page in 1868, three years before Cary was incorporated, and this property ran along the east side of Walker Street from the railroad tracks heading south.

    When Frank Page decided to sell off his property in Cary to move to Aberdeen, the Walkers bought the hotel and about 3 acres of land on the north side of the tracks for $3000 in 1884.

    This early photo of the hotel dates to about 1916.

    The couple ran the hotel until Jacob’s death in 1915. After that Helen alternately tried to rent the hotel and run it as a boarding house. She died in 1922, and the hotel property passed to her grandchildren, children of Rev. A. D. and Irene Walker Hunter. The Hunter family leads us to the next street name.

    Mary Irene Walker was the only child of Jacob and Helen Walker. She married a prominent local Baptist minister, Rev. Alsey D. Hunter whose first wife had died, leaving one daughter.

    Rev. Hunter and Irene had four children. Sadly, Irene died in 1905, leaving her four young children and the one step-daughter. Rev. Hunter married again, to Betsy Rodwell, but not long afterward, Rev. Hunter died, leaving Betsy a widow with a child from this last marriage and the 5 children from his previous marriages.  The best known of the children was Dr. John Hunter.

    After graduating from Cary High School, John attended Wake Forest College, in Wake Forest, NC at the time and graduated with a medical degree. He practiced medicine in Cary for the rest of his life, from 1920 to 1959. He lived on Academy Street in the brick bungalow beside the new park. One of Cary’s remaining in-town chicken coops still stands behind the house. Dr. Hunter was also the president of the Cary Chamber of Commerce, and served on the Cary Town Board and the Wake County Board of Education. 

    Another child of Rev. Hunter and Irene, John’s older sister LaRue Hunter, is important to our story, too. After graduating from Cary High School, she studied at the Durham Conservatory of Music. Before her marriage to George Isaacs of Durham, she is known to have taught music lessons in the hotel, in one of the upstairs rooms.

    Templeton Street

    It’s easily overlooked at just one block long, but Templeton Street is named for another important Caryite. Dr. James McPherson Templeton was born in 1855 in Iredell County, and grew up around Lincolnton.

    He attended lectures at the University of the City of New York and went on to graduate in 1882 from Baltimore Medical College. He was in Cary by 1884 and married Rachel Jones, the granddaughter of Nathaniel Jones of White Plains, one of the earliest landowners in the area. Dr. Templeton had a large two-story home behind Cary Academy, facing what is now Kildaire Farm Rd.

    As well as being a town doctor, he was appointed by the state to coordinate the planning of the “Great Central Highway” route through the area. We learned earlier that the 1st five blocks of East Chatham Street were built as part of the project which re-routed this highway down Chatham instead of Railroad Street. He also served as President of the Wake County Good Roads Association. Dr. Templeton was a member of the Methodist Church and followed fellow Methodist Frank Page’s example of being a prohibitionist. He ran as a prohibition candidate for Congress and for governor of North Carolina. He served on the Board of Directors of Cary High School and was a member of the Cary School Committee. He also farmed AND owned a saw mill. Amazingly, he also served as a doctor in World War I at the age of 61.

    His military uniform is on display in the Cary Museum at the Page Walker. His grave marker in historic Hillcrest Cemetery reads, “A country doctor who served his nation in the time of war, his community in the time of peace, the rich and poor alike,” a fitting tribute.

    Now that we know about the marriage of Rachel Jones to Dr. Templeton, it’s an easy transition to talk about a little street that disappeared and has now reappeared in a slightly different spot in downtown.

    Jones Street

    One of Frank Page’s earliest land sales in Cary was to Rufus Henry Jones, the grandson of both Nathaniel Jones of White Plains and Nathaniel Jones of Crabtree. 

    Frank sold Rufus Jones Lot #1 in Cary in 1869 in the 200 block of W. Chatham Street.  Jones Street ran beside the current day Barnes Family Properties office and then turned a sharp corner to join Academy Street. You can see the original location of Jones Street on the above map.

    Rufus grew up in the area. His mother was Nancy Jones of the historic Nancy Jones house. He graduated from UNC in 1843 and established an early school in the area. In 1873, Frank Page sold a 1/3 interest in his Cary School to him, and he became principal of the school. Later, in 1886 Page sold his remaining interest in the school to Rufus’s daughters, Sarah and Loulie Jones. Rufus also had a very full civic life in addition to his contributions to education. He was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons in 1848, was named a town commissioner on the original Cary Town Council in 1871, and was an early and influential member of the Methodist Church. Rufus also served as Wake County’s Superintendent of Common Schools and as a Wake County Commissioner. That’s just part of the history of this illustrious Jones family member. Jones Street on the north side of W Chatham Street disappeared when the Fidelity Bank took over the entire block and built their multi-story building and parking lot. But Jones Street has returned, close to its original location. Look for the street sign in front of the historic Ivey Ellington House.

    As you navigate your way through and around downtown Cary, we hope you will look for these street signs and have a renewed appreciation for Cary's long history. We will continue this series soon with other street names that tell more of the story of Cary.

  • 06 May 2021 11:03 AM | Pat Fish (Administrator)

    Herbfest-10 Years and Counting

    Eleven years ago in 2010, the Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel’s Special Events committee worked on a plan to develop an event, featuring herbs, that would celebrate and promote the beautiful herb gardens located on the grounds of the Page-Walker Arts & History Center.  The Board members readily supported the idea and Herbfest was born!  The annual event is co-sponsored by the Friends and the Town of Cary and is held in early May.   As Kris Carmichael, Operations & Program Supervisor-Historic Resources for the Town of Cary, wrote in a news release for our 2017 Herbfest: “The beautiful gardens at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center are a downtown treasure.  While the historic center hosts other events, classes, and programs throughout the year, Herbfest highlights this green amenity and its educational herb garden when it is at its most beautiful-the spring.”


    Our first Herbfest was hosted on May 15, 2010.  We welcomed 10 vendors who sold herbs and a variety of garden-related crafts.  Three other vendors offered herb-related demos, such as cooking with herbs and natural health & beauty aids. We initiated our plan to share and celebrate our Herb Gardens, which were named the Anne B. Kratzer Educational Gardens in 1995 in honor of the Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel’s beloved founder and creator of the gardens, Anne Kratzer, with our guests at Herbfest.  Volunteers from the Friends and the community co-maintain the garden with the Town of Cary (Please see Volunteer Opportunities on our website if you would like to become a garden volunteer).  We asked Anne Kratzer, who served as the chairman of the garden committee for years, to have her volunteers available at the Herbfest to share information and answer questions about the herbs.  Participation of these garden volunteers have provided a key contribution to the success of Herbfest every year.  They also educate our guests about the historical significance of the Smokehouse that has proudly sat in the middle of the herb garden since 1977.  The 1850’s Page Smokehouse is the only structure that remains from the homeplace of Allison Francis “Frank” Page, the founder of Cary.  The Page home property was purchased by Frank and his wife, Catherine Raboteau in 1854, and was located on the present Cary Town Hall site.  


    There is little doubt why the Anne Kratzer Educational Gardens are a “Signature” component of Herbfest when you read Marla Dorrel’s (current chairman of the garden committee) following colorful description of our bountiful garden and what it means to have it included in Herbfest.

    “Thanks to our dedicated corps of volunteer gardeners, the Anne B. Kratzer Educational Gardens share their beauty year-round.  But it’s during Herbfest that we emphasize the educational aspect of the gardens.  On that day, volunteers are on hand to answer questions and encourage visitors to explore all four of the garden categories: Culinary, Industrial, Medicinal, and Ornamental.

    The Culinary bed holds many familiar herbs found in contemporary kitchens – oregano, rosemary, basil, and several varieties of thyme.  Lesser-known Comfrey straddles the Culinary and Medicinal beds, an appropriate location of this plant that is used in salads and teas, but also heals infections, relieves bronchial problems, and gastric ulcers.  Many of the plants throughout the garden have uses that fit multiple categories.

    The Industrial bed offers several plants that were traditionally used to make dyes for textiles.  Herbfest is the one day each year that you will find samples indicating the colors certain plants produce.  One might question finding Chamomile in the industrial section.  While we are most familiar with its use as a tea, it is located in our industrial bed due to its use as an insect repellent and yellow dye.

    As visitors peruse the Medicinal bed, it may come as a surprise to find Beebalm, which most of us think as strictly ornamental.  However, the garden brochure (available year-round at the gardens) tells us that this plant has been used to produce an infusion to treat coughs, sore throat, and nausea – who knew?  The brochure also tells us that the soft leaves of Lambs Ears have antiseptic properties and have been used as bandages for minor wounds.

    Ornamental beds give the gardens exceptional color and interest.  At the time of Herbfest, they are just beginning to develop their blooms, reminding visitors to return throughout the summer as they put on a spectacular show. And keep an eye on the bamboo “teepee” closer to the street.  This is the home of our ornamental Hyacinth Bean crop.  Seedlings are carefully nurtured in volunteers’ homes until ready for planting.  They might struggle at first, but late in the summer there will be lush vines and purple blooms, promising seed pods to gather in the fall. 

    Herbfest gives us the opportunity to educate, inform, and delight.  We can’t imagine a better way to celebrate the arrival of spring.”

    Anne B. Kratzer Educational Gardens


    Following our first Herbfest, we sent notes to our vendors sharing that we had heard lots of praise from attendees about them.    Anabela Anca Mendes, one of our vendors (Bela Imports) wrote: “I am still thinking about the Herbfest.  It was a lovely event. When asked to make suggestions to improve the festival, Anabela wrote “Whichever direction you go it will be successful because you will make it pleasant to those attending”.  Thanks to all of our vendors, volunteers, the staff at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center, our community who attended the festival and our partner, the Town of Cary, who all  made the festival such a huge success, the Friends were excited and ready to launch Herbfest as an annual event!

    Over the next nine years, Herbfest has been celebrated each May.  The beautiful grounds of the Page-Walker Arts & History Center in downtown Cary are covered with white tents where vendors sell items related to gardening, herbs, native plants, perennials, nature and cooking.  Guests can stroll through these craft and herb booths and enjoy learning about herbs in the beautiful Anne Kratzer Educational Gardens.  In addition to visits to the Gardens, over the years the Friends have added other key events at the festival.  In 2011, in an effort to make the festival fun for all ages, we began offering an activity for children—deciding on a craft item that would be fun and would also serve to educate the kids about nature in tune with our festival theme.  Jennifer Hocken, Program Specialist-Historical & Cultural for the Town of Cary, and a member of the Page-Walker Arts & History Center’s staff, is our lead for this activity.  She chooses a craft each year that the kids will really enjoy; and with the festival always being held in early May, the crafts can also make wonderful Mother’s Day gifts.  Over the years, kids have made Herb Buddies, butterfly seeded cards, lavender sachets and corn husk dolls to name a few.                                           

    Suzanne Tilton of Butterfly Lady LLC volunteered to be a participant in the festival in 2011.  Suzanne’s company’s special interest is butterfly gardening and rare butterflies; and she offered to do a presentation for the children attending the festival— butterfly releases.  The releases are such a special experience for everyone, children and adults alike, and, although the Butterfly Lady was not able to join us again, the committee discussed how the Friends might be able to host our own butterfly releases-an opportunity to create another “Signature” feature for Herbfest.  We researched the option of ordering the butterflies online and found an ideal choice, Fragrant Acres Butterfly Farm located in Georgia.  We have been so happy with this company that we have ordered from them every year since.  We just order the number and type of butterflies we want and two special boxes in which the butterflies are shipped. Our order arrives at the Page-Walker the day before the festival where the boxes of butterflies must be kept in a cool environment (air-conditioned room or refrigerator).  One and a half hours before each scheduled release, the box of butterflies is moved to a warmer environment (75-80 degrees) to prepare the butterflies to do their magic and take wing out of their box to everyone’s delight. 


    “Painted Lady”  Butterfly


    Our special hosts for the releases over the years have included Brent Miller, Lois Nixon and Kris Carmichael.  Brent shares his Herbfest experiences and what the butterfly releases mean to him in the following: “It’s been an honor and joy to fill the role of the “The Butterfly Lady” and “Mr. Monarch” over the years at Herbfest.  As you might know, for many years, we’ve performed two butterfly releases during Herbfest.  We procure “Painted Lady” butterflies and then gather around the smokehouse in the Anne Kratzer Educational Gardens and release them after a short educational session about the life cycle of these amazing and beautiful creatures.  It’s wonderful to see the butterflies take wing, but the best part about the event is watching the anticipation of the children as the butterfly box is opened and  their sheer joy and amazement as the butterflies take wing, and occasionally land on someone!”


    “The Butterfly Lady”  -Releasing the Painted Ladies


    For Herbfest 2019, we joined the Town of Cary’s initiative as the Town Council named 2019 as the “Year of the Monarch Butterfly” in Cary.  The initiative featured the efforts from the National Wildlife Federation to challenge communities to get the word out about the threatened monarch butterfly.  The Town took the National Wildlife Federation’s Mayors’ Monarch pledge to increase native habitats and romote pollinator conservation in Cary.  Herbfest joined this important commitment by dedicating our tterfly Releases to help educate our guests about the plight of Monarch butterflies, and the steps that ery household and community member can take to support the future survival of the Monarchs.  We also commissioned local artist, Wade Carmichael, to design and create a beautiful set of butterfly wings to be worn by our release hosts.  Brent Miller, aka Butterfly Lady, debuted the wings this year and became “Mr. Monarch” in honor of this year’s special designation.


    For seven years, 2013-2019, the Friends sponsored a silent auction at Herbfest.  Thanks to the generous efforts of Peggy Van Scoyoc and Nancy Ryan, the auction’s gracious hosts, the event was very successful.    Peggy and Nancy worked tirelessly to create beautiful and unique garden-related items each year for the auction.  Items such as birdcages, wind chimes, filled baskets, planters, decorative chairs and tiled tables, to name just a few, graced the auction stage each year.  These elegant decorative and gift items adorn many homes in our community - a gracious and ongoing reminder of Herbfest!                        

    A number of years ago, the Young Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel was created to engage teens in Cary by hosting new youthful events that incorporate the cultural arts and local history.  The teens are under the advice and supervision of the Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel.  In order to raise funds for the teen organization’s events, the Young Friends hosted their first Bake Sale at Herbfest in 2015, and it has been a big hit every year – a fantastic addition to the festival. Tables are filled with luscious home- made baked goods-breakfast, snack and dessert delights.  The Young Friends have used the proceeds they have earned over the years to sponsor their “Paint the Page” event for teens at the Page-Walker Arts & History Center.



    During our 7th annual Herbfest in 2016, we helped celebrate the opening of the new Pollinator Garden at the Page-Walker.  The garden was created through a unique partnership between the Cary Woman’s Club, the Cary Garden Club, the Friends of the Page-Walker and the Town of Cary.  It is a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat that features native plants.  Pollinators, including insects and animals, such as bees, butterflies, wasps and birds, are anything that helps carry pollen from one flower to the another.  Almost all of our fruits, nuts and vegetables that we eat need pollinators to produce our food. Native plants are the best source of food for pollinators; and some of the plants in our garden include milkweed, goldenrod, butterfly weed, lantana, yarrow . columbine and aster.  With some pollinators in decline, the Pollinator Garden not only provides an ideal habitat for pollinators to flourish, but also serves as an educational resource for the community.  The partners of the garden “…hope you will learn and get ideas from our garden, and then consider planting a pollinator garden-even a small one-at your home to provide nectar and host plants for the pollinators that call Cary “home” “.  Herbfest provides a wonderful opportunity each year to visit this special garden and learn all about the pollinators and their critical work from our garden volunteers.



    Guests at Herbfest are treated to another special opportunity—a visit to the historic Page-Walker Hotel (now known as the Page-Walker Arts & History Center).  Allison Francis (Frank) Page, the founder of Cary, built the hotel around 1868 to serve railroad passengers after the railroad tracks were built through Cary in 1854.  This important building is located on the National Register of Historic Places.  You are invited to tour the site by using the fact and picture filled self-guided walking tour brochures available in the Page-Walker.  Your tour is not complete without visiting the Cary Heritage Museum located on the third floor.  The museum chronicles the history of Cary using timeline exhibits and contains significant artifacts and many educational exhibits.


     On May 4, 2019 Herbfest celebrated its tenth anniversary.  The Friends are so grateful to everyone in the community that has contributed to the success and growth of the festival over the years; and we offer special thanks to all of our supportive vendors.  Several of our vendors have joined us for years.  Mildred and John Michael of J &M Garden Art have participated since our first festival in 2010.  They create beautiful copper garden art and are located in Gibsonville, NC.  You can learn more about their crafts on their Instagram account at Jandmgardenartshop.  Carolyn Dean, owner of Lyn’s Garden Creations in Apex, NC, sells beautiful homemade cards, baskets and many garden inspired creations:   Carolyn graciously shared her Herbfest experience in the following: “The Cary Herbfest is the Market that always creates an open, relaxed and educational environment for the entire family.  We enjoy sharing and celebrating the community’s love of gardening.  The leisurely day outdoors at the Page-Walker Arts and History Center creates a social vibe that a person can carry home and spread within their own garden—indoors and out.  We so look forward to the 2022 Herbfest and visiting with our fellow gardeners again.”  Sandra Reynolds, owner of Peak Olive Oil Co. in Cary, NC, sells an extensive variety of herbal olive oils and balsamic vinegars: .  Sandra shares her vendor experience in the following: “Herbfest as a vendor has meant community to me.  It’s been a fun event to attend as a vendor but also as a customer.  I enjoy seeing the different venues and wares.  A nice variety of High quality plants and many gadgets and gizmos to browse through. The butterly release is always a hit for both kids and adults to experience.  I enjoy seeing new and repeat customers and sharing experiences using fresh herbs and herbal olive oils and vinegars.  We learn so much through community and Herbfest.”

    We are excited and hopeful at the prospect of hosting our 11th annual Herbfest in May, 2022.  We look forward to welcoming back our vendors and sponsors and all of you, our community supporters.  Please watch our website and follow our social media next spring for news about the festival.  And we invite all of you to join us on the lovely grounds of the Page-Walker Arts & History Center next May to stroll through craft and herb booths, visit and learn about our beautiful herb and pollinator gardens, enjoy home-baked goodies at our Young Friends bake sale, and experience our must-see butterfly release.  And we are especially excited about a new feature we plan to introduce to the festival next year—Trolley rides in downtown Cary.  We invite all of you to help us celebrate the 11th annual Herbfest!

  • 09 Mar 2021 4:20 PM | Peggy Van Scoyoc (Administrator)

    In the past, Cary has been called “the little town that had nothing by grocery stores.” Here is why:

    Cary’s founder, Frank Page and wife Catherine arrived in 1854, bought 300 acres of land with a house near the newly laid railroad tracks where Town Hall stands today. They converted the house into a home for their growing family. The following year, when there were only little more than 200 people living in the area, Frank built and opened the first general store, probably on Railroad Street, now called Cedar Street. By 1866, Frank had found a unique way of bolstering his store profits, by preserving the peaches from his trees and selling them.

    Notice in the Daily Standard on January 26, 1866

    Advertisement in the Daily Standard on January 26, 1866

    Around the turn of the 20th century, John Wesley Booth Jr. opened a general store on his farmland on Reedy Creek at Harrison Avenue, north of the Cary town limits. He and his family ran it for decades.

    By 1900, when Cary’s population had grown to 316, another general store owned by Wiley Jones opened on Railroad Street. And soon after, Captain Guess and Mr. Cole opened their grocery store on the corner of Academy and Jones Streets.

    The Scott brothers opened a grocery store in a wooden building at 123 West Chatham Street in the early 1900s. Years later, the Cary library was started in an upstairs room. That building was demolished in 1980.

    Drawing of Scott’s Store at 123 W. Chatham Street, courtesy of Jerry Miller

    The early 1900s was a boom time for grocery stores in Cary. Within a few decades, the Jones Brothers grocery store, M.J. Jones grocery store, J.H. Wilder grocery store, and W.T. Lynn grocery store all opened along Chatham or Cedar Streets. But by far, the largest general store of all was owned by the Gray brothers on the corner at 100 West Chatham Street and Academy Street, where the large Fidelity Bank is today. The store was the center of the community for four decades, until it closed in 1939.

    By 1930, there were seven grocery stores open and operating on Chatham Street. Why so many grocery stores? Because, beginning with the Highway Act of 1921, U.S. 1 and 64, and later U.S. 70 and 54 as well fed into and down Chatham Street, right through Cary. Businesses sprung up all long Chatham Street for the motorists passing through, as well as gas stations and places to eat and spend the night. Remnants of those businesses still exist today.

    At about the same time, Terrell’s Grocery Store was operating on Chapel Hill Road, across from the VFW building today. This store catered to many African American families in Cary. The building is no longer standing.

    By 1950, Ken-Ben’s 5 & 10 store on the corner of Academy and Jones Streets continued to operate through 1960.

    Cary’s 1939 telephone “book,” which was a one-page list, included Branton’s Groceries, Hobby’s Cash Grocery, and W.L. Rogers Grocery stores. These were the only ones with a listed telephone number.

     Lemuel Rogers started his early career buying produce at Raleigh farmer’s market, then selling it all around the area from his pickup truck. In 1939, he then expanded and opened a grocery store at 107 W. Chatham Street, adjacent to Adams (now Ashworth) drugstore. Just two lots west of Rogers Grocery store, at 117 W. Chatham Street, was Hobby’s Cash Grocery store. Directly across the street, at 122 W. Chatham Street was Denning’s Market. So there were three grocery stores on the same block for a decade or so, all competing for the same customers.

    Today at 105B W. Chatham is the door for the stairs to the second story above Ashworth Drugstore. Adjacent to the stairs is 107 W. Chatham Street, now Douglas Realty.

    Billy Rogers, Lemuel’s son, was still a boy when he began delivering groceries on his bicycle that had a large basket in front. People would call the store, some on a daily basis, and put in an order to be delivered. Those customers lived as far as a bicycle could reach on the same day as the order. Lemuel carried credit for many of his customers by running up a tab for them that they would pay off at the end of the month when they got paid. When Herb Young was a boy, he caught rabbits and traded them for candy at Rogers’ store. He was not the only one to make such trades.

    117 and 119 West Chatham Street, south side, today

    Glenn Hobby had done very well during World War II, because he was able to attract more customers through allotments. He would put cartons and baskets of produce out on the sidewalk in front of his store at 117 West Chatham to attract customers. He was a good businessman. He later bought the lot on the southeast corner of Academy and Chatham Streets, moved the house where Mr. Catronis, the shoe repair shop owner, had lived and built the building where the Kitchen and Bath store is now. He leased it to Piggly Wiggly, and the first supermarket in Cary opened in June of 1950.

    When Piggly Wiggly opened, Billy Rogers stood outside his father’s store trying not to cry as he watched all their customers cross the street to the new supermarket. Not long after, Lemuel Rogers sold his grocery store in 1952, and in 1954, he opened a restaurant down the street.  

    In the 1920s, G.H. Jordan opened a store at 122 West Chatham and Jones Streets. In 1941, he sold the store to Milton Denning who opened and ran Denning’s Market there until 1946, when he closed it due to failing health. In 1951, Milton’s son Joe bought the same building and opened his own store he called Grocery Boys. Joe and his wife Doris lived upstairs for years and had two of their three children, both sons, while living there. Since both Joe and Doris worked long hours in the store, they put a playpen behind the meat counter, where the boys could be watched by both parents and Grandpa Milton, who was their butcher.


    Drawing of the original Grocery Boys store at 122 W. Chatham Street, courtesy of Jerry Miller

    Right to left, 122, 124 and 126 West Chatham Street, north side, today

    The Dennings also delivered groceries from phone-in orders, using their truck. They also carried credit for their customers.

    Before 1958, Winn Dixie came to Cary and opened the second supermarket in the building at 220 W. Chatham Street where LaFarm Bakery is today. Then in 1958, Winn Dixie built a large building at 365 W. Chatham Street near the corner of Dixon Street. They moved from today’s LaFarm Bakery building two blocks west in August of 1958. That building no longer exists.

    The News and Observer, August 5, 1958

    In 1964, C.Y. Jordan built the building at 200 East Chatham Street, on the south side, where the Perfect Piece store is today. He leased the completed building to the A&P market.  

    200 E. Chatham Street when the A&P Opened in 1964

    Finding themselves surrounded by supermarkets, Joe and Doris Denning realized that if they were going to stay in the grocery business, they needed to open one of their own. So in 1964, they bought the lot at to corner of Chatham and Maynard, and built a new building where the Patel Brothers are today. When completed, they moved Grocery Boys there as an expanded supermarket. They also ended carrying credit or making deliveries. Their gamble paid off, the store was a success.

    While on vacation in Florida in 1966, the Dennings discovered what was called a “convenience store” there. Thinking this concept might work in Cary and be a successful second business of them, they built and opened one on Blue Ridge Road in Raleigh near Rex Hospital that they called Grocery Boy Jr. It was one of the very first convenience stores in Wake County, and was an instant hit. Four more Grocery Boy Jr. stores soon followed, from 1967 to 1969.

    In 1966, Joe and Harry Stephenson, owner of Cary Old Company, were friends. One day, Harry approached Joe with an idea to put a gas pump in front of his convenience stores. Joe agreed to give it a try, and the first pump was installed at the Grocery Boy Jr. on Blue Ridge Road. This initiative was also successful. Eventually over time, there were eighteen Grocery Boy Jr. stores scattered throughout Wake County, and each one had gas pumps out front. When Joe and Doris retired, their three children took over running the business.




    Dad, Milton Denning, started Denning’s Market in 1941, on the corner of N. Jones and Chatham Streets. In 1951, Joe Denning, a son, took over the store and ran the store until 1964, when smallness was no longer the way to go in the grocery business. Seeing that Cary was in the need for a locally owned supermarket, Joe and Doris Denning opened the GROCERY BOYS. This supermarket, located on the corner of Maynard Road and Raleigh Highway, has continued to grow and expand its service to its customers. In 1966, seeing that areas in Wake County were in need of a locally owned convenience store, Joe opened the first GROCERY BOYS JR. on Blue Ridge Road. This proved a good decision, and the second GROCERY BOY JR. was opened in the Macedonia area in 1967. With quick succession, three other GROCERY BOY JRs were opened… Number three on Lake Wheeler Road in 1968; Number four on the corner of Jones Franklin Road and Athens Drive in 1969, and Number five on Highway 64 East at Hodges Road in 1969. 

    Today, there are no grocery stores in downtown Cary.

  • 12 Feb 2021 1:27 PM | Carla Michaels (Administrator)

    Known today as a destination for hotdog specials and old-fashioned lemonade and ice cream treats, the location where Ashworth's Drugstore currently sits started out as "Uncle Bob's Corner."  Who was Uncle Bob and what was his corner? To answer these questions, let’s travel back to the early days of the town of Cary. Frank Page, the founder of Cary, bought much of what comprises downtown Cary in 1854 and started selling lots to local citizens and out-of-towners to develop and populate his new town. In 1879, Frank Page sold a prime corner lot at the intersection of Academy and Chatham Streets to a lady named Alice G Harrison, the wife of Robert J Harrison, owner of Harrison Wagon Company, inventor and future mayor of the town of Cary. The southwest corner of the intersection became the home of the Harrison family and was conveniently located close to the wagon works.

    Over the years, the wagon company was wildly successful, with good quality wagons sold far and wide. However, the company eventually succumbed to the advent of the motor car. According to Tom Byrd’s “Around and About Cary”, “the company declined after 1900 and closed about 1913.”

    That wasn’t the end for Robert J Harrison in Cary, though. Mr. Harrison ran a café and store on this corner in a two-story wood sided building that was built on the property that Alice Harrison had bought many years before. “Uncle Bob”, as he was known to students from Cary High School, was a popular figure at the school and in town. We don’t know how many years the café/store had been in existence, but it had been long enough to develop a loyal following among students at the school. A “sketch” from the 1917 CHSite yearbook of Cary High School describes him this way:

    Soon after the sketch appeared in the CHSite, “Uncle Bob”, who had been a widower for a number of years, married a lady from Alamance County and moved away to live near Elon College. Harrison sold the property shortly after his marriage. The purchaser was J M Templeton, Jr, a son of the beloved town doctor, J M Templeton.  

    Harrison’s second marriage was of short duration and ended in his wife’s death in 1919. His only living child Robert C Harrison died in 1923. After these sad milestones, “Uncle Bob” went to live in the North Carolina Soldiers Home in Raleigh. He was admitted for residency on February 3, 1926.

    North Carolina Old Soldiers’ Home

    Photo courtesy of North Carolina Archives and History

    He lived out his remaining days there, and he retained his genial nature to the end. He traveled across the south east attending Confederate Veterans conferences as far away as Biloxi, MS and Dallas, TX. He also stayed active while a resident at the Home and was known for selling North Carolina factory made socks in Raleigh, including at “State College”, now North Carolina State University. These two articles points out his enthusiasm for and pleasure in making sales, just as in “Uncle Bob’s” shop keeping days!

    Because he was one of its oldest relatives near the end of the facility’s life (the home closed 1938), he was celebrated on his 85th birthday along with two 90 year old veterans. Here are photos of Robert J Harrison, one taken in earlier days and one taken in 1928 of the three “birthday boys”! At age 85, Mr Harrison was a little grayer but still recognizable.

    Robert Johnson Harrison died at the North Carolina Soldiers’ Home on February 8, 1933 and is buried in historic Hillcrest Cemetery in Cary near the son who predeceased him.

    Before Harrison’s death in 1933, the Cary Masonic Lodge built its new building on the site of Uncle Bob’s Corner. A newspaper article from 1931 detailing the laying of the cornerstone for the new building mentioned that it was being “built on the ground where the home of R J Harrison formerly stood.” The article doesn’t make clear if the Harrisons had lived above the café/store or in a separate house on the site, but it does give a description of the new brick building:

    Over the years, the property changed hands several times, eventually being purchased by Henry R Adams of Cary. Mr Adams was the son of J P H Adams and Cora Reavis Adams, long time citizens of Cary. He was educated at Cary Elementary School and Trinity Park School in Durham. Henry's sister, who owned a drug store in Durham, is said to have influenced his decision to study pharmacy. He studied in Massachusetts, and when he returned to Cary, he bought property on the southwest corner of Academy and Chatham to open his drug store. The drug store continued to be a local hang-out and source of employment for Cary High School students just as in Uncle Bob’s day. When Ralph Ashworth purchased the store in the late 1950s, he retained the soda fountain, which continues today to offer a walk down memory lane to a simpler time and place.

    An added note: February 25, 2021

    In reviewing the "Cary's 100th Anniversary" booklet today, I ran across this anecdote from Russell O Heater, who described Uncle Bob's Corner this way: "a rather tall building which was the usual type of soft drink joint and operated by old Uncle Bob Harrison - Mr. R J Harrison of the former Harrison Wagon Company. He operated this for a long time and it was the hang-out for the Cary High School boys who came down to the "pop joint" for their cold drinks... potted meat and crackers that came out of a barrel." This anecdote adds another level of detail that brings Uncle Bob's historic corner alive!

    From the Friends of the Page Walker Hillcrest Cemetery Walking Tour brochure: "Russell O. Heater (Jan. 20, 1895-Jan. 10, 1971) was one of Cary’s earliest and most prolific developers, building Sunset Hills, Veteran Hills and Russell Hills. Known as “Mr. Cary”, he also started Heater Drilling Company, the Cary Recreation Corporation (now the Cary Swim Club) and served on the Cary Town Council and Wake County Commission. He was a leader in the Methodist Church, Boy Scouts and the Masonic Lodge. He tended Hillcrest cemetery for 25 years." Mr Heater knew firsthand the fun to be had in Uncle Bob's Corner.

    Photo credits:

    1. Photograph of Uncle Bob’s Corner – 1917 CHSite yearbook

    2. Tribute to Robert J Harrison – 1917 CHSite yearbook

    3. Photograph of North Carolina Old Soldiers’ Home courtesy of North Carolina Archives and History

    4. Newspaper clipping #1 of Robert J Harrison as sock salesman from The News and Observer, Tuesday, June 26, 1928

    5. Newspaper clipping #2 of Robert J Harrison as sock salesman from The News and Observer, Sunday, February 12, 1928

    6. Photograph of Robert J Harrison taken from the publication “Cary’s 100th Anniversary”, official publication of the Cary Area Centennial Corporation, May 1971

    7. Photograph of Robert J Harrison at age 85 from The News and Observer, Sunday, January 15, 1928

    8. Photograph of Robert J Harrison grave marker – author’s own

    9. Newspaper clipping of Masonic Lodge from The News and Observer, Wednesday, July 22, 1931

  • 19 Dec 2020 6:51 PM | Kerry Mead (Administrator)

    The Friends of the Page-Walker invite you to bring the entire family and find hidden history in downtown Cary this holiday season! AND - when you participate, you’ll have the opportunity to win a gift basket! 


    1. Park your car in the library parking deck and stretch your legs as you walk along Academy Street and hunt for history! All hidden history sites are outside along Academy Street, between Chatham and Dry Streets, in downtown Cary.

    2. Use the following Challenge clues to find each site.

    3. Take a selfie with the site.

    4. Post the photo to your Facebook page and be sure to tag @pagewalkerhotel and #pagewalker to be added to the drawing! For each post you correctly make, you will be entered to win an extra time. 

    Posts must be made by 9 p.m. on January 3rd to qualify for the drawing. Each correct posting and tag enters you into the drawing to win the gift basket. Good luck!

    Challenge 1 
    From the park, glance behind the 1925 house of brick
    Built for Dr. Hunter’s family.
    Catch a glimpse of times gone by
    Where chickens ruled the roost.

    Challenge 2 
    Behind a white picket fence,
    A doctor’s office with two side doors,
    a sign of divided times.
    One is still a door, the other now a window.

    Challenge 3
    A federal building when it was built,
    Opened in 1965 and reopened in 1988,
    While mailing a letter, take your photo with two presidents.

    Challenge 4
    Home to many businesses,
    From doctor’s office to library
    To tasty sandwich shop,
    This charming little date spot has cozy brick walls.

    Challenge 5 
    The group that built this 1931 building,
    Served the town before it was a town.
    Secret handshakes were exchanged here.
    Look high to find the letter G.

  • 15 Dec 2020 10:59 AM | Kerry Mead (Administrator)

    Some of our Friends of the Page-Walker board members share their favorite Cary Christmas memories:

    Anne Kratzer:
    For the past 29 years, the Open House at the Page-Walker and the lighting of the Cary Holiday Tree have been favorite memories of mine.

    The magnificent star-filled evening of December 8, 1991 featured the dedication of the first floor of the newly restored Page-Walker Arts & History Center followed by the Cary Holiday Tree Lighting. Strains of Handel’s “Hallelujah” chorus went through the minds of the Friends of the Page-Walker as they prepared for the first open house. Mike Thompson, on behalf of the Cary Town Center, donated a tree for the gallery which was trimmed by the Friends with handmade Victorian ornaments. The Lady Slipper Garden Club helped the Friends decorate the mantles and windows in the gallery and parlor, and art works by the Cary Arts Guild graced the walls. Carolers and a brass quartet, under the direction of Larry Speakman, added a Dickensian flavor. After a moving devotion by Dr. Harvey Duke and speeches by Wayne Mingis, representing Town staff, Mayor Koka Booth, Representative David Price, former Mayor Harold Ritter, and Myrick Howard of Preservation NC, summarized the pride that all felt with the culmination of a long, but very worthwhile effort. In the words of our Town founder and builder of the 1868 Hotel, Allison Francis Page, “Well done, my friends.”

    The Holiday Open House tradition has continued. A warm, welcoming, beautifully decorated historic treasure filled with stunning artwork by Cary residents, holiday music and delicious treats welcomes Cary visitors. And recently, the evening is topped off with Brent Miller donning his top hat to assist visitors onto the horse and carriage rides. What could be finer?!!

    Bryan Craddock:
    I remember buying the family Christmas tree at the Cricket Texaco gas station in downtown Cary. There was a small grassy area between the gas station and E. Chatham St., and the Texaco station sold beautiful Fraser fir trees there for about $6 each.  I can remember the string of clear light bulbs that would stretch overhead, to illuminate the tree lot.  As a child, it was magical to run around, in between the trees, checking them all out.  And as soon as we bought a tree and took it home, we would sit the tree in a bucket of water to keep it fresh.

    I remember riding around Cary, looking at yard and house decorations about a week before Christmas.  It was a tradition to load up the car with a few family members, and play Christmas music as we rode around town.  If we had time, we would drive over to Capitol City Lumber Co., near the fairgrounds, to see the Santa and reindeer wooden cut-outs on top of their warehouse.

    And I certainly remember the early years, back in the 1970s, when almost everyone in Cary put out luminaries on Christmas Eve.  It was beautiful to see all those candles in the little white bags along the neighborhood roads.  It reminded me of an airport runway!  And I'm pretty sure that on more than one occasion, we turned our car headlights off, as we drove around checking out the lights.  Of course, the bags/candles had to be cleaned up on Christmas morning - but that was a small price to pay for such beauty on Christmas Eve.

    Barb Wetmore:
    I have had the good fortune to live in the Trapper's Run neighborhood near Bond Park where for the past 25+ years, our friends and neighbors the Freemans, have been drawing visitors and spreading cheer with a light show that rivals the Griswolds!  They have amassed a large collection of holiday lawn decorations, including traditional vintage figurines in the form of lovely angels and cheery snowmen and some more modern not-so-traditional decorations in the form of an inflatable, singing fish and my favorite, the green alien.  I earned the special privilege of placing the alien for many years and looked forward to the day I got the call, “Barb, the alien is waiting for you!”  What fun to find a place for this unusual Christmas misfit in the holiday landscape, sometimes hanging out in a circle of lit-up Santas, sometimes posing as a caroler singing along with the plastic choir boys beneath the plastic lamp post. The Freemans have been written up many years for having one of the most lit up yards in Wake County.  You can get a glimpse of the twinkling wonderland in this 2017 video story from WRAL:

    Another holiday activity I am adding to my Christmas memory bank (and missing this year) is annual attendance at the "White Christmas" movie at The Cary.  You cannot spend a couple of hours with Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby in spectacular technicolor on the big screen, throwing “snow” confetti in the air every time the word snow is mentioned, jingling a bell every time the word Christmas is mentioned, and singing along with the audience to “I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas” and not come out of the theater filled with tremendous Christmas spirit!  It gets me every time! I love it!


    I also remember Christmas shopping and taking my kids to see Santa at the Cary Village Mall.  There were days you could not find a parking spot and the traffic waiting to get into the mall parking lot would be backed up down Walnut St. all the way to where Cookout is now!  After we visited Santa at the Cary Village Mall, we'd head over to see his reindeer at South Hills Mall.  I'm talking about real reindeer!  Living, breathing reindeer!  That was something very unique.  And while there, we liked to go inside and watch the model trains.

    Of course, there are the horse and carriage rides at the Page-Walker Holiday Open House, with horses wearing Santa hats clip-clopping around Ambassador Loop.  And the Christmas parade through downtown.  And finally, I remember my young husband and my young self attending the very first Cary Christmas tree lighting ceremonies in the early-to-mid 1980s.  There was no entertainment then, no Cary Town Band, just a group of Cary citizens, joining together in song like the Whos down in Whoville.  In particular, I remember one tree lighting ceremony when we all held lit candles while we sang. Here's where my memory fails me.  I want to say we were holding a vigil in honor possibly of the Iranian hostages, but I am not at all certain of that and 1980 seems a bit early. If anyone reading this remembers that candle-lit tree lighting ceremony, please reach out and let us know when it was and for whom we lit the candles! Thank you.

    Jimmy Gibbs:
    My favorite memories are still visiting friends’ homes on Evans Road and looking at their Christmas decorations and tasting their homemade desserts. My aunt Ann lived on Ferrell Street and made cookies and cakes; it was always fun to stop by during the holidays to visit. Our holiday tradition for over 45 years was spent with The Burt Family who lived on Boundary Street on Christmas Day for a day of eating and relaxing, they in turn spent Thanksgiving at our home.

    Carla Michaels:
    I was blessed growing up in Cary in the 1950s and 1960s. My three living grandparents lived on East Chatham Street, and virtually all my other relatives lived in the one square mile that was Cary long ago. So it's natural that  family Christmas celebrations revolved around these nearby relatives. One of the family highlights of the season was the birthday celebration of my paternal grandmother, Annie Beasley Jordan, who was born on Christmas Eve. The Jordan family gathered for a Christmas dinner in the early evening of Christmas Eve to celebrate the double occasion of "Nana's" birthday and the anticipation of Christmas Day itself. In preparation for Christmas, although not seen in this photo, the fireplace mantle was decorated at both ends with matching Christmas trees made from multi-colored, round glass ornaments of graduated sizes threaded onto a long upright metal spear. With greatest care, Nana and I would thread the ornaments onto the spear, one by one, starting with the largest balls and working our way up to the top and ending with a glass finial. What a joy to share that time with my beloved Nana. 

    Going back another generation in the Jordan family, my great grandmother Ida Yates Jordan and her daughter Lily Jordan decorated this freshly cut cedar tree in Ida's home on Railroad Street (now Cedar Street), probably cut from land Ida owned in the area. Her house was located on the Bond Brothers Brewery property. The cedar tree is dripping with tinsel and presents are already piled under the tree. I remember coating our family trees with tinsel, each family member having his or her own technique, ranging from placing each single strand carefully on the branches all the way to draping handfuls of tinsel at the time!  Does anyone put tinsel on their trees any more?

    Kerry Mead:
    Christmas in Cary started for me in the 1980s, when I would travel to Cary every year to visit my in-laws. From that very first Christmas, I helped light the luminaries in front of my in-law’s house, a tradition that my mother-in-law said started in 1973 with my husband’s Boy Scout Troop, #208. When we moved to Cary in the 1990s, we started lighting luminaries in front of our house, too, and have done it every year since. I especially love seeing the lights stretch down the street, the candlelight dancing in each bag. 2020 will be the first year we haven’t had luminaries, with our local Troop skipping this year due to Covid.

    Another fond Christmas memory I have is volunteering at Cary Towne Center at the Cary High School Marching Band gift wrapping booth. Both of our children were in marching band, so we had many opportunities to participate. What I loved the most about this were the folks that specifically came by the booth to support the band, having either had children in the band or were past band members themselves. We would even have folks stop by and simply donate money, without having any gifts wrapped. Sadly, the mall is closed now, so these memories are a thing of the past.

    And finally, what would Christmas in Cary be without the Jaycees’ Christmas Parade each year?! We started taking our children to the parade when they were toddlers, and they both participated in the parade as they went through Karate, Tae Kwon Do, Boy Scouts, and Marching Band. Many years, we would come home with pockets stuffed with candy thrown by parade participants. We even brought home a CD of Christmas music that was thrown by a float one year!

    John Loyack:
    My favorite Christmas memories come from the open house held at the Page-Walker Hotel each year. The Hotel is always covered in its Christmas finest, both inside and out. The scent of warm cider hits you as you enter the Hotel. Children and parents go from room to room discovering this historic treasure and enjoying goodies and fun activities. Out on the front porch, visitors line up for an authentic horse drawn carriage ride and listen to Brent Miller as he shares stories of the founders of the hotel and the history of Cary. On occasion, we even receive a bit of snow during the event which makes things seem even more festive. Those are my favorite memories of Christmas in Cary.

    Pat Sweeney:
    Life in Cary during the 1950s was pretty typical of small towns around all the major urban areas of the state and, I dare say, the country. Times and culture would morph through that decade as the returning military men began their new lives in the postwar period. Military service broadened all eyes and minds to the diversity and ingenuity of life in all parts of our country and the world at large. Lifestyles, manners and mores were seen anew due to the cross-cultural experiences the war brought to all. And, of course, the ballooning of science and technology that hastened globalization was "Pandora's Box" that continues to give the world new vistas and visions...much of the excitement was centered around Raleigh in the 40s and 50s. We were just a little town then but we had lots of special times.

    My dear friend, Anne Turner Bland, (a picture of her Grandmother's hosue - the house she grew up in - hangs in the Page-Walker, I think) gives a super description of Cary Christmases in the 1940s/50s.

    Pat's friend, Anne Turner Bland:
    Much of my Cary memories were church related. I don’t know when we had a parade in Cary...too much competition for Raleigh. There were bags of goodies passed out by Santa that consisted of oranges, apples, candy, and nuts. This was at our not sure what the Methodists did. Back then, there were only two churches in Cary.

    We had Christmas caroling up and down the streets. Both churches got together in the school auditorium and sang carols, then we walked down to the small town hall and had the lighting of the Christmas tree in the yard of the hall. Then we had goodies, I'm sure.

    I recall the arrival of Santa via helicopter in Devereux Meadow in Raleigh, and a mainstay was Santa and his sleigh and reindeer on top of the Capitol Lumber Company building across from the state fairgrounds.  It was there for many years.

    Then of course, there was the special sleepover at my house. With everyone on the floor...lots of Krispy Kremes!  I loved that time...we drew names...I can still recall who got my name and what I got!! So many special times at my house. Mother didn’t cook except at Christmas time.

    Lots of people came by to check the tins of fudge, date nut bars, ice box fruitcake, wedding cookies, chocolate dipped nuts, and more.  It was such a fun time at our house.  

    These are the things I recall without going into presents. I was always amazed at your parents giving you money for after Christmas sales. That must have been fun!

    Well that’s all I can recall for now.  Always the Raleigh Christmas parade was never missed. Our grandmother took us to it every year. June and I loved it, especially the jolly old Saint Nick who was always the last in the parade.  Many years, it was really cold, but we never missed it due to the weather.

    As for decorations in Cary, I never remember them...don’t think we had them when we were little. I do recall the main middle Christmas display at Ivey Taylor’ was Shirley temple playing an organ...not real of course. She was so pretty.

  • 12 Dec 2020 3:45 PM | Kerry Mead (Administrator)

    For a walk down memory lane, check out these top Cary Christmas memories we rounded up from Cary residents.

    1. Luminaries

    One of the most beloved Cary traditions, a local Boy Scout Troop started the Cary luminaria tradition here in 1973, a time when Cary was much smaller, and neighborhoods worked together to light luminaries in front of their homes. These magical lights have been lining our streets on Christmas Eve ever since. In addition to the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts and American Heritage Girl troops now participate in this annual tradition.


    Starting in 1989 and continuing throughout the 1990s, a live reindeer exhibit became a big part of Cary family Christmas traditions. Five reindeer (with antlers!) travelled all the way from Oregon each year to delight area residents. As South Hills Mall became known as the place with the reindeer, the mall created a mascot, and Rodney the Reindeer was born!

    3. Tom’s Train Station at South Hills 

    While at South Hills Mall to see the reindeer, families would then walk inside to Tom’s Train Station to see the miniature trains on display there! Tom’s was open from 1997 until 2015, delighting young and old alike.

    4. Downtown Fountain Light Display

    Lit red and green for Christmas, the water fountain in the town’s new downtown park is quickly becoming a must-see Christmas tradition. The park plaza and fountain were built and opened in 2017.

    5. Jaycees’ Cary Christmas Parade

    Started in 1979, the Jaycee parade has been a not-to-be-missed Christmas activity on the second Saturday in December of each year. Filled with local dance groups, Boy Scout troops, marching bands, and businesses, this is a favorite of families with children, who have fun catching candy being thrown by passing floats. Once Santa has passed, you know the parade has ended and it’s time to head home, pockets stuffed with candy. This year, the parade went virtual!

    6. Cary Tree Lighting

    Cary got its first official Christmas tree in 1984. The 37-foot cedar was lit on December 13 of that year. Ever since, Cary has held a special tree lighting event featuring local talent to kick off the holiday season. This year, the Friends of the Page-Walker’s very own board member, Brent Miller, honored with the Hometown Spirit Award this year, had the privilege of lighting the tree.

    Watch the 2020 virtual tree lighting here:

    Town of Cary Christmas Tree

    7. Victorian Christmas at the Page-Walker

    Our beloved Page-Walker Arts & History Center in downtown Cary, is well-known for its annual Christmas celebration that includes Victorian carolers and horse-led carriage rides. The Victorian Christmas began as a Holiday Open House in 1991, once the restoration of the Page-Walker was complete, and is held in conjunction with the annual Christmas tree lighting on the Town Hall campus each year.

    Although cancelled for 2020, check out the Victorian Christmas at the Page-Walker webpage in 2021 for next year’s celebration:

    8. Cary Theater’s “White Christmas” Sing-a-long

    Started in 2014, this popular sing-a-long was started to make a classic Christmas movie into a fun, interactive, community-based event. Each participant gets a “goodie” bag with snow, Christmas bells, a song-booklet and a candy cane.  Participants get a run-down of the instructions before the film starts and the patrons take it from there!  This event has become a yearly staple at The Cary and we have enjoyed seeing multi-generational attendance.  The joy and laughter on people’s faces has truly been magical. Although the sing-a-long is canceled for 2020, there are holiday movies The Cary is streaming this holiday season.

    9. The Gifting Tree Project

    Have you noticed the many beautifully decorated Christmas trees along Academy Street in downtown? Local families, schools, and organizations compete in this fun event each year to win a donation they give to a nonprofit organization. The Gifting Tree Project is in its ninth year this year!

    10. NC Chinese Lantern Festival

    Beginning in 2015, area residents have enjoyed Chinese lantern lights at Booth Amphitheater. Although Booth Amphitheater is closed this year due to Covid, a number of these beautiful lanterns are available for you to see for free, spread out throughout downtown Cary!

    NC Chinese Lantern festival, 2016

  • 09 Nov 2020 10:46 AM | Carla Michaels (Administrator)

    As we approach the upcoming 150th anniversary of Cary’s founding on April 3, 2021, it may come as a surprise to many that classes at Cary High School started before the town was incorporated in 1871! Today, Cary High School stands at the intersection of Walnut Street and Maynard Road, but Cary High School’s origin was the “school lot”, now known as the Cary Arts Center. Let’s explore this important piece of property in Cary’s history.

    “The Early Years”

    Let’s look at the history of this significant property by exploring the three school buildings that have educated children on this site. We’ll start with the first building, a wooden structure that served as the school building from 1871 to 1913. To set the stage, prior to 1870, children were taught in the home, at small “common schools” dotted around the county to teach the “Three R’s”, or, for students whose parents had some means to pay, at small, local academies. It took the vision, land and building materials of Frank Page, the founder of Cary, to construct a proper schoolhouse in Cary itself “on four acres of land…well shaded by a grove of oaks.” The site of this original school house is now known as the Cary Arts Center.

    A newspaper advertisement, dated December 1869, announced the first session of Cary High School in January 1870. The principal is shown as Abraham Haywood Merritt, a graduate of the University of North Carolina. Merritt was the brother-in-law of Rufus H. Jones, who was one of the original town commissioners and a colleague of Frank Page. Professor Merritt was on the Board of Trustees of the Methodist Church in Cary and also served as an original town commissioner, so he would have been well known and approved of by Frank Page to head the school in Cary. Frank Page’s children, most notably Walter Hines Page, future United States Ambassador to England during WW I, attended the school.

    The two story, four room wooden school house was finished in January 1871 to accommodate ongoing classes. We know from early Cary history that the economic downturn of 1873 affected Frank Page financially and that he left Cary for the Moore County pine forests to remake his fortune. As he was making the transition to Moore County, Page sold a 1/3 interest in the school to his colleague Rufus Jones. Continuing the Page family influence at the school during this time was Frank’s brother, Rev. Jesse Page, who served as principal from 1873 to 1877.

    The school’s goal from the beginning was to provide “a “high grade” education, firm discipline and thorough instruction”, but in these early years, the school appeared to search for an identity. Early on, the school was advertised at various times as a combined male and female school, a female school, a female seminary, and a Teachers Institute.

    The early years also saw a number of principals. Rev. Solomon Pool, a former president of the University of North Carolina served as principal for several years in the early 1880s. Other principals we know of are Rev. W. B. Bagwell of Wake County, and Professor W. L. Crocker, a graduate of Wake Forest College. By 1886, the Jones family had purchased the remaining school property from Frank Page. Loulie and Lily Jones, daughters of Rufus Jones and both graduates of Greensboro College, ran or taught at the school in the 1890s. Although we know the names of many of the principals, the exact years that some of them served are lost to time. In the 1920 CHS yearbook, the student editors noted that the earliest records of the school were preserved largely by tradition.

    Stability came to the school with the arrival of Professor E. L. Middleton. He came highly recommended for the position after successful tenures at the Wilson Male Academy and Durham Female Institute, and his arrival coincided with the purchase of the school by a board of stockholders from the Jones Family. The school was officially incorporated at this time by the State of North Carolina on July 24, 1896. Professor Middleton was the leading force at Cary High School from 1896 to 1908. His energy and enthusiasm for high quality education increased the school’s growing reputation. As the reputation of the school grew, so did the student body. Classroom wings expanded the physical size of the school, and dormitories were added on campus to accommodate boarding students from outside the Cary area. Professor Middleton was keen to develop not only the intellect of his students but their moral character as well. Catalogs of the day indicate that although it was not a sectarian school, a “broad and liberal Christian spirit (was) encouraged”.

    Professor Middleton was the leading force at Cary High School from 1896 to 1908. His energy and enthusiasm for high quality education increased the school’s reputation. However, he had a passion for establishing Sunday Schools in Baptist churches, so he left the high school to become the first Sunday School Secretary of the North Carolina Baptist State Convention. His departure ushered in a new era for Cary High School. In 1908, Marcus Baxter Dry was selected as the next principal of Cary High School. 

    Before we explore Professor Dry’s tenure, here is a photograph of the first school building, the wooden one, near the end of its life. The school not only provided a superior education for its students, but it was a gathering place for the community. Picnics and barbecues were regular events at the beginning of school terms, and important visitors to the town used the school as a large venue to perform or speak in.

    Have any of you ever heard of Noodles Fagan? Let me tell you his remarkable story and his visit to Cary. His given name was Lawrence Clinton Fagan, and he had an impoverished childhood in the Bowery of New York City. He started out at a young age selling newspapers on the street. One day a charitable person bought him a bowl of noodle soup which he promptly spilled down his coat. That earned him the nickname “Noodles”. His circumstances didn’t hold him back, though. He became a successful newspaper seller and went on to own real estate, several newspaper stands, and even became a vaudeville star. His goal was to speak to every child in America with this message: be polite, be honest, and hustle (which I take to mean work hard). Don’t miss one school session, don’t drink, don’t chew, keep your hands clean and your character clean. He traveled around the world three times, met King Edward of England, King Alfonso of Spain, and President Taft.

    A previously undated photo of the school in the Cary High School Archives has recently been discovered to commemorate Noodles' visit to Cary in 1912. In this close up view of the photo, he was surrounded by delighted children. In many early school photos, children wear stoic faces, but in this photo their faces are beaming, as is Noodles’. Even Professor Dry has a smile on his face! What a day for those lucky schoolchildren to remember.

    Now let’s turn our attention to the longest serving principal of Cary High School, Professor Marcus Baxter Dry. Mr. Dry was born in 1871 on his father’s farm in Union County in western North Carolina. He attended Wake Forest College and returned to Union County to serve as principal for 12 years of the newly established Wingate High School. In 1908, when Professor E. L. Middleton retired from Cary High School, Professor Dry was elected to replace him. Under his direction, Cary High School rose to prominence in the state.

    “A Modern Brick Building”

    The wooden building that had served the school so well for 40 years became outmoded and inadequate for the growth and expansion of school programs. Professor Dry wrote a letter to the Wake County School Board appealing for a new, modern, school building. The wooden structure came down and the first brick building was built in its place. Work started in the fall of 1913 and the new building was dedicated in April 1914. Quite a turnaround!

    One newspaper article recounted the that the building had “every whim of modernity”. The article went on to say that the original 4-room schoolhouse had been renovated or extended 12 times. It had definitely served its purpose. However, not all was lost! Part of the old building was upcycled to become part of the boys’ dormitory. During its long history, it’s fortunate that the wooden school building itself never burned. However, fire destroyed the wooden boys’ dormitory in 1916. When the new brick dormitory was built, the boys acted with gallantry and turned over their new home away from home to the female students. In 1920, a dormitory of similar design was built for the boys who had been housed among local families.

    Professor Dry was a firm believer in quality education that suited the student, not a “one size fits all” approach. He believed in superior academic training and college prep for students who wanted to go on to further their education after high school, but he also recognized the importance of vocational education to equip young men and women to work in their communities. Because the new school building had space to grow, Professor Dry created several vocational departments in the next few years, the most notable being the Farm Life School.

    Even the space in the new brick school building proved inadequate for the expansion of the curriculum. By the early 1920s, a vocational building was built through a local bond issue that the town fully embraced. It was named for Walter Hines Page, Cary’s most famous son who believed in “the free public training of both the minds and hands of every child born of woman”. Around the same time, a full commercial department was instituted, with six manual typewriters representing the high tech instruments of the day.

    For a short while, Dry introduced teacher training at Cary High School to meet the increasing need for teachers in Cary and beyond, but the program was phased out when colleges in the state were able to train teachers in sufficient quantity to meet demand. Dry also pioneered vocational training for mentally handicapped children. His "Betterment Association”, forerunner of the Parent-Teacher Association, enabled him to provide hot lunches for children. Other programs he instituted include: student council, public school music and band, and physical education (establishing the first rural high school gymnasium in the state). School ledgers from the 1920s show that young men and women from outside the county and from as far away as Virginia and South Carolina attended the school along with local children. Under Dry’s direction, Cary High School became a model for the development of North Carolina's public school system in the 1920s. It’s entirely appropriate that the street that runs in front of the former Cary High School is named for this champion of education, Marcus Baxter Dry.

    The big event of 1929, the stock market crash and the ensuing Depression brought challenges to the school. The high school yearbooks, which are important sources of details about student life, were discontinued and didn’t resume until after WWII. School newspapers tried to fill the gap, but few exist from this time period, so our understanding of school life during these hard years is limited.

    The community pulled together to help each other through the hard times, and the school played a central role. The Fall Festival, a community event like a mini-fair, with exhibitions and judged competitions, offered a source of entertainment and community involvement to Cary-ites. Local businesses sponsored the printed booklet, which records businesses of the time. Here is the cover to one of the booklets and some advertisements naming local businesses. The cover features a likeness of the Templeton Gymnasium, named For Dr. James M Templeton, a respected local doctor and member of the School Committee.

    The high school’s character began to change with the introduction of school buses in the county. Here is a photo of the wood sided buses all lined up, waiting to transport students.

    Because bus transportation allowed former boarding students to attend new regional schools closer to home, enrollment at the high school consisted mainly of local students, and by 1933 the dormitories closed. The girls’ dormitory, which had been named the Frank Page dormitory, was converted into “The Teacherage” that had apartments for married teachers and single rooms for unmarried teachers. 

    “A Bigger and Better Building”

    To help communities struggling through the Depression, the Works Progress Administration, or WPA, funded projects around the country, and this program funded yet another school building for Cary. The school had outgrown the first brick building, and the Federal Government stepped in to build what is now known as the Cary Arts Center. The old brick building was razed with a wrecking ball in 1938 and all the students were squeezed into existing buildings for the duration of construction. A rare construction photo shows work on the building that now houses studios and ceramics kilns in the basement and classrooms and exhibition space in the upper floors. In the background is the teacherage on the left and Professor Dry’s house on the right. Because of ongoing construction, the 1939 graduation exercises were held in various venues throughout the town.

    A photo of the 1939 graduating class on the steps of First Baptist Church on Academy Street signals the make-do efforts of the school.  In a newspaper article, J. M. Broughton, who was running for governor, came to deliver the commencement address at the church for the graduating class. He made his speech, which he thought was a good one, and sat down. There wasn’t the faintest suggestion of applause, so he thought his speech had flopped. Later, as he observed the graduates receiving their degrees without any audience response, a school board member whispered that an unwritten rule of the church was that absolute decorum was to be observed. No clapping in the sanctuary! It is said he swore off making commencement speeches in Baptist churches from that day forward.

    The new brick school building was eventually finished, and in the dedication address, the State Superintendent of Public Instruction said in his knowledge Mr. Dry was the only man who had literally worn out a school building!

    Not long after the new building was completed, America was shaken by Pearl Harbor and our country's entry into WW II. A number of Cary High School graduates answered the call of their country; some did not return. The Cary VFW post is named after two men from the area who died during the war. One was William Perry Sloan, Class of 1937 and another, Carl E Franklin. From the school archives, a poignant letter accompanied by a newspaper clipping from Iva Stuckey, mother of David Stuckey, a 1941 CHS graduate who lost his life in the South Pacific in 1943 reads:

    My dear Mr. Cooper, I am mailing under separate cover the flag presented to me at the re-burial service of my son, Private David Warren Stuckey. I consider it an honor and a privilege to thus pay tribute to Cary High School in memory of my son who made the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. Yours very truly, Mrs. Iva A Stuckey.  The newspaper clipping gave details of the many awards that Stuckey received for his service. It is unclear what happened to the flag, but we have a record of Private Stuckey’s gallantry and courage to inspire and move us all these years later.

    In 1942, another era came to an end when Professor Dry stepped down as principal of the high school. He served for 34 years in Cary and 51 total years in education. It is hard to overstate the impact he had on education in Cary. His innovative approach to academic and vocational training was admired and copied across the state. Here is an image of Professor Dry in the student newspaper, the Echo, at the end of his long career. With his passion for education, he couldn’t stay out of the classroom! He continued to teach until he developed health issues in 1944. He passed away January 1946 and is buried at Historic Hillcrest Cemetery.

    The school continued to educate and graduate students during the war years, but by 1944, enrollment had dropped to its lowest point in about 30 years. However, after the war ended, life at school and in the community gradually returned to normal. Over the next 10 years, enrollment almost doubled. The yearbook resumed publication in 1945, and in 1948, the name of the yearbook was changed to YRAC, and that name has stuck through the years.

    After Professor Dry retired, two men assumed the principalship of CHS in rapid succession: Thaddeus Frye and Earl R Franklin, who had been a student, teacher and assistant principal at the school. Paul W Cooper was selected as the next principal, and he served from 1948 to 1967.

    To round out the high school years on this property at the head of Academy Street, let’s focus on three teachers who served the school and school children for many years. The first is Miss Irma Ellis, the granddaughter of Henry B Jordan, a trustee of the Methodist Church, founding Cary Town Councilman, and a mayor of Cary. “Miss Irma” attended the State Normal College, now UNC-G, for teacher training and began her teaching career in Cary in 1907. She retired in 1950 at the age of 70, having had an impact on virtually every child in Cary who entered first grade here. Along with her work with children at the Methodist Church, which extended past her retirement as a school teacher, she influenced countless children in Cary. Known both as a strict disciplinarian and beloved teacher, many long time Cary residents still remember her.

    Rufus Sheldon “Dad” Dunham was another long serving teacher. He was from Bladen County, graduated from NC State in 1930 and worked as a teacher of agricultural studies at CHS for 40 years. He didn’t change much over the years and it’s apparent why he was nicknamed “Dad”! Not only was he a respected teacher at the school, but he was a deeply admired Sunday School teacher at First Baptist Church. He was also known for a dry sense of humor! PTA minutes from 1953 tell that “Mr. Dunham acted as Master of Ceremony and “in clever doggerel introduced each teacher.”! His wife Rachel, a former boarding student at Cary, married “Dad” after she returned to Cary after teacher training. The Dad Dunham Park on Walnut street was named in his honor.

    Another teacher who had enormous impact on students was Claire Marley, who taught junior and senior English and dramatics. Senior class plays were a community highlight each year. Mrs. Marley involved all her students in some capacity, both on and off the stage.

    The costumes, sets AND the programs were designed with amazing detail. The Flora McDonald play from 1951 had a hand colored cover and was cut in the shape of a book. The program for "The Robe" had original student art work on the cover. Both attest to the care and creativity Mrs. Marley instilled in her students.

    Cary High School has long been known for its excellent music program. From its earliest days, piano and violin instruction were part of the curriculum. In 1922 a marching band was established. According to minutes of the school committee, the committee granted band members “the privilege of selling refreshments at commencement” in 1923 to raise money for equipment.

    Under the direction of band directors Harold Burt, Jack White and Jimmy Burns, the marching band gained local, national, and international acclaim. Harold Burt was hired as an Industrial Arts teacher and began the band program part time. He taught at Cary for five years before replicating his success at numerous other schools in Wake and Johnston Counties. He was known as Cary’s “Music Man”. Jack White, a jazz trumpet player and charismatic band leader, went on to serve as the Elon College band director until his retirement. Mr. White won numerous local awards for his service to the school and community, and he began a Cary tradition known as Cary Band Day in the late 1950’s. Jimmy Burns built on Jack White’s success and propelled the Cary High School Marching Band to national and international acclaim, taking the band to the Rose Bowl Parade and to Switzerland, among other successes.

    Twenty plus years of heavy use and school growth took its toll on the third Cary High School building. A new Cary High School was planned, and in May of 1960, the third Cary High School building saw its last high school graduation. The campus then became Cary Elementary and Junior High School. Before we leave the old campus, here is an aerial view of the “old” Cary High School campus, showing the quadrangle design of the campus and all the buildings that many “old Cary” folks fondly remember! The Class of 1960 was the last class to attend all their grades, from 1st to 12th, on one campus.

    “Way Out Walnut Street”

    Let’s take a moment to summarize some important events that happened in the more recent past at the “new campus”. The new Cary High School was built “way out Walnut Street” on land owned by Luther Maynard, whose family is the namesake of Maynard Road. Luther Maynard was a farmer and saw mill owner and had furnished wood for football field light poles at the old site.

    It was at the campus on Walnut Street that Cary took lead in the desegregation of Wake County Schools during the 1960s. In the early 20th Century, James P H Adams and Arch Arrington of the African American community had been friends and worked alongside each other, setting an example for how the two communities could come together harmoniously. James’s son Henry Adams, owner of Adams Drug Store (now Ashworth’s Drug Store) and member of the Wake County school board, learned from their example and promoted desegregation in Cary Schools.

    On Aug 30, 1963, six young African American women integrated Cary High School. Although the difficulties these women encountered were enormous, support from key members of both the black and white communities in Cary ensured that the process was ultimately successful. Over the next few years, the schools were fully integrated.

    Over the years, the current Cary High School has grown and changed. In a photo from the 1962 yearbook we see the modest size of the campus and lack of development around the school. This shows that the school really was “way out Walnut Street”!

    This newspaper photo of students doing a landscaping project shows that even in 1970, the surrounding area was largely undeveloped. The house and field in the background are now occupied by Bank of America and Outback Steakhouse!

    A photo of the campus in 1996 shows campus expansion and development around the campus. Even more buildings have been added to date. The campus is no longer considered “way out Walnut Street”! Why, it’s now conveniently located “inside Maynard Road”!

    In 1996, the school celebrated the 100th anniversary of the school’s incorporation by the State of North Carolina. Mr. Tom Byrd wrote an 88-page synopsis of Cary High School history and Jerry Miller created new artwork to celebrate the occasion. Class reunions, a parade, and other celebratory events also marked the milestone. 

    Today, Cary High School continues to fulfill the mission started 150 years ago: to provide quality education, preparing students for success in life and their chosen field of interest. Unlike the first years, CHS is a diverse community reflecting the growth and cultural expansion of the Town of Cary itself. We wish Cary High School another 150 years of academic success.

    As we draw our overview of the history Cary High School and the "school lot"  to a close, we encourage you to further explore the Friends of the Page Walker website. We welcome volunteers and contributions to help promote historic preservation, education and the cultural arts in Cary.

    We also strive to preserve historic documents and photos in our digital archives. If you have items of interest regarding Cary and Cary High School, please contact us!

    Many thanks to Principal Nolan Bryant who graciously allowed the Friends of the Page Walker to digitize the Cary High School Archives recently and has allowed us to use the images to promote Cary and Cary High School history. Thank you, also, to Mr. Tom Byrd who researched the history of Cary and Cary High School which has told the story of Cary and Cary High School in a compelling and thorough way.

  • 03 Nov 2020 9:47 AM | Barbara Wetmore (Administrator)
    Photo of the High House taken around 1887. These are likely members of the Williams family.

    Robert Hoke Williams writes in his account The Ghost of High House:

    Before the occupation of High House by Nathaniel Green Alford and wife Nancy Liles Alford, and the Williams family, [the house], located in Western Wake County, just beyond Cary, North Carolina, was the scene of petty women, fast horses, and plenty of spirits, as I have been told by my Dad. This house was built several years before the Revolutionary War of (1775 - 1781), and was the gathering place of the sportsmen of that time. Horse racing and whiskey were plentiful, and as will be at such gatherings, plenty of fist fights and shootings were displayed at times.

    The house Robert Hoke Williams talks about was one of the earliest houses built in the western part of what would become Cary. One of its earliest known owners, Fanning Jones, was the grandson of Cary's first white settler, Englishman Francis Jones, who received considerable land near Crabtree Creek through a grant from Lord Carteret. Fanning and his cousin Henry Jones owned similar houses not too far away from each other. One was built around around 1803 and still stands on the south side of Chapel Hill Rd. just past the Maynard Rd. intersection; and one was built around 1760 and stood until the early 1900s near the southwest corner of the Maynard Rd. and High House Rd. intersection.

    The house on Chapel Hill Rd., now on the National Historic Register, is known as the Nancy Jones House, named for Henry's wife who outlived him by 35 years and ran the house as a stagecoach stop between Raleigh and Chapel Hill. Nancy, by the way, was the daughter of Nathaniel Jones of White Plains who owned a considerable amount of land in what would become the eastern part of Cary. Henry was the son of another Nathaniel Jones, not related, who was called Nathaniel Jones of Crabtree to distinguish him from the other Nathaniel Jones to the east! If you're confused, think how these families and townspeople must have felt back then!

    The Old Tory Driven from the Neighborhood

    But enough about Henry and Nancy, the Nathaniel Joneses, and the Nancy Jones House. What we want to talk about is the High House, named for its tall physical presence and its location atop a hill not too far from the old Ralelgh to Haywood Rd. (We think this aligns in parts with the current Old Apex Rd.) Robert Hoke Williams describes the house and property when his father, William Adolphus (Dolly) Williams lived in the house in the 1860s timeframe:

    The house was so named because it was situated on a hill, and as the architectural designs of that period called for, the main body of the house was connected to the kitchen by a walkway. It was set back by about 400 feet from the road with a few oaks in the front. The backyard contained one house for the house slaves, and during my Dad's time, Uncle John and Aunt Jennie held the honor of being the servants for the family. Between Uncle John's house and the orchard was a big well and water trough for watering the horses that was not to be placed in the stable lot. Beyond this were other houses for other slaves.

    Back view of the High House.

    Fanning Jones, an earlier owner of the house, was the son of Tignal Jones. Tignal was the brother of Nathaniel Jones of Crabtree, who built the Nancy Jones house. It's possible that Tignal built the High House. Though built earlier than the Nancy Jones house, the High House was similar in design to the Nancy Jones house and the two houses stood not too far from each other, as the crow flies.

    Fanning seems to have been quite the character. He likely would have been one of the ones racing horses and drinking whiskey, and getting into fist fights, according to the legends Robert Hoke Williams' father told. Fanning tried to sell his house and land for several years and finally turned them over to an attorney in 1822 and headed for Tennessee. Tom Byrd in his book Around and About Cary gives us a possible reason why:

    The name “Fanning” once struck terror in the hearts of North Carolinians because of David Fanning, “the most perfect scoundrel in the history of the state.” He led a band of Tories during the Revolution that murdered, pillaged, and even kidnapped Governor Thomas Burke and handed him over to the Britiish. David Fanning was a native of Wake County but fained his notoriety after moving to nearby Chatham. His connections, if any, with Fanning Jones are a mystery. Hope Summerell Chamberlain in her 1922 history of Wake County wrote:

    There stands . . . a desolate house with vacant windows and grinning rafters, a high four-square old house, dating from the Revolutionary time, but which has been deserted many years. It stands near the town of Cary, to the west, and its story was told to me by an old lady who remembers traditions, and was somewhat kin to the former owner, Fanning Jones, but who was not proud of the relationship.

    Whether his name means a relationship or connection with the notorious Tory Leader who stole the Governor, or whether it is merely a coincidence, no one can now declare, but he is said for some vague reasons to have forfeited the regard of his patriotic relatives, and to have been driven from the neighborhood for that reason. “The Old Tory,” they called him.

    Another possible reason Fanning left for parts west is that his father, Tignal owned 2,100 acres of land in Tennessee and Fanning either desired to move there or found it convenient to to relocate there after being “driven from the neighborhood.” Fanning lived out the rest of his days in Tennessee and swapped the High House plantation land in North Carolina for land in Tennessee with John Ray and James Peters before he died around 1830.

    New High House Owner Left Out of His Father's Will

    John Ray and James Peters of Tennessee sold the High House plantation to Green Alford in 1833 (Wake County Deed Book 11, Page 176). Green Alford, often referred to as Nathaniel Green Alford (perhaps because his father fought under General Nathanael Greene in the Battles of Cowpens and Guilford Court House), was apparently somewhat of a character himself. His father, James Lodwick Alford left him out of his will, and Lodwick Houston Alford might have found the reason why, as he explains in EUREKA: PROVING AN ANCESTOR IN WAKE COUNTY, NC:

    Meanwhile bits and pieces of information kept coming in . . . mostly from descendants of the nine daughters of Green and Nancy Alford. Most all agreed that Grandpa James Lodwick left Green and his children out of his will because he just did not like their mother Nancy Rose. But there seemed to be a curious absence of why Nancy might not have been liked by her father-in-law. You can imagine how the tongues of those nine daughters of Green and Nancy Alford wagged and passed on family lore to their children and descendants. There were hints that Green had become a notorious slave trader and mistreated his own slaves. Sometime after the death of his father in 1820, Green appeared to be in the money. Where and how did he get it?

    It was not until a few years ago that some of the mysteries and questions surrounding Green Alford and his family began to clear up. Two excellent researchers. Elizabeth Dees and Madlyn Jamison found and began to publish "Bastardy Bonds and Records" in "Wake Treasures," the journal of the Wake County Genealogical Society. There before my bugged-out eyes in bold print was the name of my great grandmother Nancy Rose Liles. In the spring of 1813 she was observed, shall we say delicately, as being with child. The sheriff was directed to haul her up before some justices of the peace who demanded to know who the father was.

    Green Alford then at age 26 had been sitting in judgement as a JP on other unhappy females in the same predicament. But his name does not appear in the record on the day Nancy was hauled up and there is no indication of who she named as the father. Twelve days later Nancy Rose Liles was back before the justices with two gentlemen who went her bond of fifty pounds and this time Green Alford was present. Five weeks later on 26 July, 1813 Green Alford and Nancy Rose Liles were married leaving us to guess who was the father of the child born about two months earlier. Now we had something specific to suggest why Major Tanner [James Lodwick] Alford might not have cared much for his daughter-in-law Nancy Liles Alford.

    Green and Nancy went on to have 11 children, nine daughters and two sons, all raised on the High House plantation, with several of them inheriting the land and passing it on to future generations.

    High House Passes to the Williams Family through Daughter Penina

    After Green's death in 1848, one of his daughters, Penina, inherited a piece of Green Alford's land, Lot 3, as shown in this picture from the Wake County Wills, Inventories, Settlements Book 26:

    Penina went on to marry Robert E. Williams and the Williams family came to be the owners of the High House until it was apparently abandoned in the early 1900s. We are working to determine how the Williams family came to be the owners of the house, as the house likely sat on the large lot labeled “Widows Dower.” Nancy, Green's wife, died three years after he did in 1851, and she left a share of her Widows Dower lot to Robert and Penina, so it's possible and likely that the house stood on that share of land.  We think we've been able to confirm this through tax records, but if any descendants of the Williams family know the details, please let us know!

    Family Cemetery on the Land

    Though the Friends of the Page-Walker had heard of a family cemetery that stood near the High House, we had never been able to find it . . . until a recent comment on our Facebook page included a map that showed us the way. While looking at the map, I realized that the location was very near my house, and I convinced my neighbor on one of our evening walks to go look for it with me. When we got to the intersection where the map indicated the cemetery should be, we saw a lovely little park with a tiered fountain, but no cemetery. We speculated that maybe there was nothing left to mark the cemetery and so a park was placed there instead. Still, I decided to get down on my hands and knees to look under the hedges along a fence toward the back of the park and when I did, I thought I saw a gravestone! Yes! It was a gravestone! It bore the name Stedman.

    There were broken remnants of several headstones and one intact inside a modern fenced-in area. None were standing. They were lying flat on the ground, scattered around the ground, or propped up against a tree. The three legible gravestones bore the names:

    Stedman, Ada L., b. 3 Jun 1866, d. age 29yr 7mo 18da, dau. o. Jos. B. & Mary D. Stedman

    Stedman, Mary D., b. 24 Feb 1829, d. 7 Nov 1886, age 57yr, w. o. J. B. Stedman

    Stedman, William A., b. 14 Nov 1860, d. 22 Jun 1890, s. o. Jos. B. & Mary D. Stedman

    William Stedman's gravestone was the only one intact, though no longer standing.

    Who were the Stedmans? One of Green's other daughters, Mary (also known as Polly), inherited Lot 5 from her father before she married Joseph B. Stedman. He fought in the Civil War and served on the first committee to establish public schools in Cary after the war. Mary also inherited a share of the Widows Dower lot after her mother died. This explains the presence of the three Stedman graves in the family plot.

    Further investigation revealed that the developer of the neighborhood encountered the cemetery back in 2003 and was able to determine that at least 18 grave sites were in the cemetery, perhaps through an archeological survey. We are working to track that down. In a March 25, 2003 newspaper article in the Raleigh News & Observer, the developer, Michael Dean Chadwick, stated that once he knew there were at least 18 confirmed grave sites, he decided not to move the cemetery, but to leave it where it was and to build around it.

    Who else is buried in the cemetery? Several family accounts state that Green Alford and his wife Nancy, along with other family members, and enslaved persons, are buried in the family plot that stood not far from the High House. There is a Find-a-Grave record and a record that state that Green and Nancy are buried in the family plot along with their grandson, George Benton Alford near the Leslie-Alford-Mims house in Holly Springs, but we feel this is not correct, as George Benton Alford did not purchase the Holly Springs house until 1860 and would have been only 3 years old when his grandfather, Green Alford died. It is far more likely that Green and Nancy are buried in the family plot that stood near the High House, as family stories indicate, along with other family members and some of their enslaved persons.

    Drowning, Death by Turkey Hunting, and a Wife Not be be Trusted

    Combing through old newspapers, we found some interesting things happening on the High House land, or at least to the people associated with it. Among the many newspaper clippings we found was one about the unfortunate demise of Corbin Edwards (brother-in-law of Martha Alford Edwards), who drowned while attempting to cross the swollen Yadkin river while traveling to pick up his young son in Tennessee after the son had been visiting relatives. According to an eyewitness account from a family that was unable to rescue him, the struggle was “observed from its beginning to its awful close when man, horse, and buggy all disappeared beneath the unrelenting waves.” The Salisbury Watchman reported that “a half empty flask of whiskey in the unfortunate man's pocket left no room for doubt that intoxication was the cause of his death.”

    Another family member met his end while hunting turkey. According to the newspaper account, Eldridge Austin, a relative of Martha Alford Edwards' through marriage, “had shot and broken the wing of a wild turkey and was running for his game when the sad catastrophe occurred.” Though the newspaper clipping does not give the details, we assume the sad catastrophe was likely a mishap with his loaded gun that resulted in a self-inflicted fatal wound.

    But by far, the most eye popping clipping we found was this one by Penina Alford Williams' husband, Robert, who was clearly upset with his wife at the time for apparently spending too much of his money:

    Mysteries and Hauntings

    The intrigue surrounding the High House continues with a mystery about a buried treasure. In Around and About Cary, Tom Byrd recounts that Margaret Williams told of a treasure hunt by her father Leander Williams, who was born in the High House in 1883. After the family moved away, Williams had a dream about valuables buried in the hearth. When he learned the next morning that his mother had had the same dream, the two of them rushed to the house, only to discover that someone had already torn the hearth apart, brick by brick.  Perhaps the source of these dreams was this account in Tom Byrd's book of an encounter at the High House by General Sherman's troops near the end of the Civil War:

    When the soldiers arrived at High House, they found an old black man apparently crippled by gout and with a heavily bandaged foot resting on the hearth.  What the soldiers never knew was that the foot concealed a removable stone under which valuables were hidden.

    As for being haunted, there are stories of the ghost of a woman who has appeared both on the grounds and in the house when it was still standing. Robert Hoke Williams in his account The Ghost of High House tells of a legend that two men were in love with the same girl and one day while attending a horse race, one of the men in a fit of anger, during a quarrel with the girl, grabbed her and strangled her to death before he could be stopped.

    One other tale of a sad and tragic death of a woman involves a possible first wife of Fanning Jones. This passage is from High House Mystery:

    Some of the old fireplace brick remains, and a cemetery is located nearby. Only a few tombstones remain, so it is not known if Mrs. Fanning Jones is buried there. She died a tragic death only a few years after her marriage in 1799. The Raleigh Register September 8, 1806, reported that Mrs. Jones "... was found in a grove far from the house, depraved of all reason, where it is supposed she had been praying (having been very religious for some time past). She remained in the deplorable condition till her death... (on July 27, 1806)." (p.3)

    The Founder of Holly Springs

    Not all the stories surrounding the people who lived on the High House land are dark in nature. Green Alford's grandson, George Benton Alford went on to become the founding father of Holly Springs and is the Alford for whom the historic Leslie-Alford-Mims House is named.

    George was the son of Green Haywood Alford, who married Rebecca Jones. She is known for thwarting “Sherman's bummers” by throwing scalding soup in their faces as they scouted the area ahead of Sherman's advance into Wake County. George had the story proudly inscribed on his mother's tombstone; the inscription reads:

    A devoted Christian mother
    Who whipped Sherman's bummers
    With scalding water
    While trying to take her dinner pot
    Which contained a ham bone
    Being cooked for her
    Soldier Boys.

    Rebecca's tombstone can be seen in the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church graveyard southeast of Holly Springs.

    Picnics and Teas

    On a further pleasant note, articles from the Raleigh News & Observer in 1924 and 1925 report that the faculty at Cary High School, including principal Marcus Baxter Dry and his wife, met at the High House property for a “gypsy tea” and a picnic where they gathered around a bright campfire and ate steak, wieners, bacon, and corn before being entertained with old-fashioned melodies. Another article tells of the Girl Reserve Club of Cary High School taking along provisions on a 2-mile hike before settling around a huge bonfire to toast bacon and hot dogs and hear historical events connected with the site. They declared it one of the best and most “wide awake” outings the club had ever had.

    Whatever Became of the High House?

    While the articles about the picnics and teas talk about the High House property in the 1920s, they do not indicate whether the house was standing at the time. However, another article by Paul Matthews in 1925 talks about “the outbreak of ghosts in those dilapidated premises,” implying the house was still standing, though apparently not in the best of condition.

    Robert Hoke Williams tells us in his account:

    I was about thirty years of age (1930) when I saw the site of the old place for the first time. I stopped over one day to see my half brother (William Ladd Williams) who at that time lived in the vicinity of the High House, and he drove me over to where the house once stood. All that was left of the old place were big rocks used for the chimney and pillars of the house. A short distance away was the family cemetery where my Great Grandfather (Nathaniel Green Alford) and Great Grandmother ( Nancy Liles Alford) along with other members of the family, and also a few of the slaves, were buried.

    So it seems that sometime between 1925 and 1930, the house met its demise. Kris Carmichael, director of the Page-Walker Arts & History Center, remembers an older gentleman stopping into the center one day and telling that the house burned down sometime in the 20th century. Perhaps one of those campfires or bonfires got out of control. :-) If anyone knows the details of what happened to the house, please let us know!

    Remembered by its Name

    We frequently point out that long after the wooden structures, houses, barns and out buildings comprising the farms and plantations of the 1700s and 1800s are gone, all that often remains are the hardened gravestones and iron fences marking the spot where the owners and family members are buried and laid to rest. In the case of the High House plantation, we do have the remnants of a cemetery still standing. But we also have a road that bears its name. The next time you travel down what is now the busy High House Rd. extending from W. Chatham St. all the way to Rt. 55, think back on the early history of Cary when the High House was built, and on the many intriguing stories of the families who lived there.

    Watch for a Live Stream Tour of the High House Family Cemetery Plot

    The High House family cemetery plot is now privately owned. We obtained permission to visit the cemetery and plan to live stream a visit to the cemetery from our Facebook page on Saturday, November 7 at 2:30 p.m. so you can see it, too. Tune in . . .

    Acknowledgements:  Thank you to fellow Friend, Carla Michaels, whose extraordinary research revealed important details and interesting anecdotes about the High House and its inhabitants; and to one of our Facebook Followers, Emily Brooks, whose personal interest in and research on the High House led us to the family cemetery plot and to remarkable family stories about the inhabitants of the house.

  • 18 Oct 2020 7:03 PM | Carla Michaels (Administrator)

    Each marker in a cemetery contains a story, and the grave marker for C. M. (Claudius Monroe) Baucom is no exception. His marker in Historic Hillcrest Cemetery is impressively large and contains images that tell part of the story of his interesting life. However, one image on the marker remained a mystery for many years and has only recently been deciphered.

    C. M .Baucom was born in Apex in 1880 and raised in western Wake County, as generations of his family had been. One of his ancestors, John Baucom, Sr. was a Wake County Revolutionary War patriot. Following in the senior Baucom’s footsteps, C. M. enlisted in the army as an 18 year old and served during the Spanish American War as a part of the mounted cavalry. He traveled to the Far East in the military, seeing the Philippines and participating in the China Relief Expedition during the Boxer Rebellion. After returning to Wake County, he worked for the railroad as many men did in the area in the early 1900s, married a local girl, Patty Page, and raised a family. A physically active man, he enjoyed the outdoors and had a “jolly outlook” on life, according to family members.

    His sense of duty and honor called him once again when World War I broke out. He volunteered for service at the age of 38, entering the military this time as an officer. Near the end of the war in the fields of France, he survived a gas attack, but as a result, experienced gradually deteriorating hearing and vision loss. As someone who had taken great pride in being independent and active, these losses affected him deeply and caused him to worry about how he could provide for his family. Tragically, he took his own life in 1925, leaving behind a loving wife and 5 children in Cary.

    His impressive marker in Hillcrest contains obvious symbols of his life – the crossed rifles and flag allude to his military service. The masonic logo points to his participation in this fraternal organization. An oval shape on the left contained a portrait of Mr. Baucom, long missing, put in place by his loving family. But what about the mysterious logo at the bottom of the marker? What does it mean?

    After much research, the image has been identified as the emblem of the Order of Railway Conductors, Scottish Rite, which speaks to his employment with the Seaboard Railway. The lantern (which looks more like a grenade on the monument) is easily identifiable based on the accompanying logo; the tool remains unidentified. It may be a specialized tool used by railwaymen. This image provides the last clue to what Mr Baucom considered important in his life – his family, his livelihood, his community, and his country.

    A final note: In 2017, the family received the medals he earned in the two wars and richly deserved.

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