Cary Me Back

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

  • 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 land owner, Englishman Francis A. Jones, who received considerable land near Crabtree Creek through a grant from Earl Granville, earlier known as Lord Carteret. Fanning and his nephew 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 brother 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)

    Maggie Sears shared in an interview with Friends oral historian Peggy Van Scoyoc in 2012:

    I’m not sure when it [the High House] burned down either, but it was when my father was young, because it was still there when his oldest sister when to college at Meredith [around 1910?]. Of course, that’s not the same Meredith grounds that it was then. But they would have to go down on the horse and buggy to pick the girls up when they went to school. He said whenever they got close to the old High House, the horse wanted to get spooked. I think it spooked him as [much] as it did the horse, so they were sort of glad to get by it.

    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.

  • 09 Oct 2020 4:29 AM | Barbara Wetmore (Administrator)

    Author's note: Excerpts of this blog were taken from a comprehensive document put together by Friends of the Page-Walker, Marla Dorrel and Pat Fish in 2009. Read Mysteries and Secrets: Exploring Hillcrest Cemetery.

    Join us, with a spirit willing to be haunted by the stories and the images, the mysteries and the secrets, we’ve found in Hillcrest Cemetery. If you were to close your eyes and imagine the perfect, idyllic small-town cemetery, you might very well conjure up Hillcrest. True to its name, Hillcrest Cemetery is at the top of a hill. It’s surrounded by homes and appears to serve the adjacent neighborhoods as a passive park. It’s not unusual to see people walking their dogs through the cemetery (notwithstanding a town ordinance against this) or children riding their bikes along the peaceful, paved paths. Hillcrest is located just a few blocks from Cary’s downtown historic district, easily within walking distance. Nevertheless, it remains one of Cary’s hidden secrets.

    Let’s start, then, by sharing a secret. Finding Hillcrest.

    Finding Hillcrest is easy, if you start from one of Cary’s most notable landmarks: Old Cary Elementary (now the Cary Arts Center).Go west on Dry Avenue, crossing South Harrison, to Page Street.Turn left and the rest is really simple – Page Street ends at the cemetery gate. The cemetery opens daily at 8:00 am and closes during the winter months at 6:00 pm; during the summer, it’s open until 8:00 pm.

    Hillcrest is owned by the Town of Cary, but that was not always the case. According to the Town’s records, the Hillcrest Cemetery property was first owned by R. O. Heater, who conveyed the first tracts, commonly known as the “old section,” to the Hillcrest Cemetery Association on June 11, 1945. Ten years later, GeorgeTurner conveyed additional tracts to the Association. These tracts were conveyed to the Town of Cary in 1970; in1977, more tracts were deeded over to the Town.

    The map from the Town of Cary shows an aerial view of Hillcrest, with many of the grave sites identified. Wake County land records show the cemetery property to cover 4.9acres. 

    Earliest dates on gravestones

    We wondered which graves were the earliest and, based on the cemetery census, here’s what we found. The earliest recorded date of birth is that of Henry Jones, born on January 29, 1766. He was the son of Nathaniel Jones of Crabtree and the husband of Nancy Jones, daughter of Nathaniel Jones of White Plains. The house Henry and Nancy lived in, built in 1803, is still standing on Chapel Hill Rd. and is a Cary Historic Landmark. Learn about the Nancy Jones House.

    The earliest recorded date of death is also among the Joneses – Nathaniel Jones, who died on August 31, 1840 – just 40 days before the death of Henry Jones. This Nathaniel Jones, however, is not Nathaniel Jones of Crabtree or Nathaniel Jones of White Plains. Nathaniel Jones was a popular name back then!

    MYSTERY: Who is buried in the ten graves whose headstones are unreadable?

    A cemetery census conducted by Shirley Olson in 2005, and updated by Karen Freeman in 2008, identified ten unreadable or unmarked headstones in Hillcrest. We may never know what secrets lie buried in these places.

    Markers and Headstones

    Hillcrest presents an interesting assortment of grave markers, both old and new. Here are just a few of the interesting shapes we found.


    While most of the graves have the traditional monument headstone, there are a number of examples of more distinctive markers. The box tomb; the headstone and footstone - in this case with a ledger marker (the moss-covered,concrete pad) and the obelisk.


    Hillcrest also displays a wide array of artistic designs, some of which give us clues about those who are buried there. The book, “Stories In Stone, A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography,” opens its chapter on Flora by reminding us, “Flowers have served as symbols of remembrance ever since we began memorializing the dead.” Engravings of flowers adorn many of the gravestones at Hillcrest.


    There is some unusual artwork to be found among gravestones inHillcrest, in both the older and the more contemporary markers.


    And quite interesting are these two footstones. For the father, with a mortar and trowel, and the mother, with a rake and hoe.

    MYSTERY: What is this symbol? What does it mean?

    The bent arm on the monument of C.M. Baucom pictured to the right is taken from the emblem of the Order of Railway Conductors, Scottish Rite.  The lantern (which looks more like a grenade on the monument) is easily identifiable on the emblem; the tool remains unidentified. C. M. Baucom was a Seaboard freight conductor. He also served in the Spanish American War and WWI.

    Religious Symbols are also widely used in Hillcrest. Here you see, in the upper left corner, the praying hands; beneath them, the crown, symbolizing victory, leadership and distinction, but more often in funerary, the crown represents the sovereignty of the Lord. On the right, the Latin cross shown here with a heart, likely symbolizing the love of Christ; and below it, the Star of David. In the center is the Celtic cross. The initials, IHS, in the center, are derived from the first three letters of Jesus’ name using the Greek alphabet: Iota, Eta, and Sigma.

    Walking through Hillcrest, you are reminded of those who served their country in the military. From reviewing cemetery surveys, we’ve identified some 62 gravestones that speak of the role these brave men and women played in defending our country and standing for their ideals. The records reflect service in five wars, all branches of the military, and rankings at all different levels. Here are two of the more elaborate gravestones that speak of the service record of those they memorialize. The prominent flags on these monuments memorialize the service of the men buried here to their country.

    Before we leave symbology, we must mention the secret societies, clubs and fraternal organizations symbolized on the grave markers at Hillcrest. The most prevalent symbol in Hillcrest is that of the Masons. More than a dozen markers carry the Masons’ symbol, the square and compass. It is said that the square and compass represents the interaction between mind and matter and refer to the progression from the material to the intellectual and spiritual. The letter G in the center – some say this stands for ”God” while others say it stands for “geometry.” According to the book, “Around and About Cary,” Cary Lodge No. 198 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons was chartered on November 17, 1857 - 14 years before the town was incorporated. A great deal of secrecy surrounds the organization – and those are secrets that we couldn’t tell you, even if we knew them.

    Other clubs, societies and organizations are also represented in Hillcrest. Here are more of the emblems we found. The emblem of the Eastern Star (far left) is frequently seen on the marker for the wife of a Mason – rightly so, since the Order of the Eastern Star is the female counterpart toFree masonry. In the center is the emblem of the American Legion, primarily an association for military veterans. The emblem of Woodmen of the World (right) is one of the best-represented in cemeteries, because until the 1920s, each member was provided with a tombstone. Other organizations represented at Hillcrest, but not pictured here, include Sons of the American Revolution, Daughters of the American Revolution, Rotary International, Shriners and Boy Scouts of America.

    To tour Hillcrest is to take a stroll through Cary’s history.

    Hillcrest is the final resting place of 15 of Cary’s mayors, the earliest of these being JPH Adams, Cary’s second mayor, serving in 1871; J.P.H. Adams, Mayor in1884; and Robert J. Harrison, Cary’s mayor in 1903. But mayors aren’t the only notable citizens we found at Hillcrest. You’ll recognize many of them, because they have also been memorialized in other ways throughout our community. Here is just a sampling:

    Captain Harrison P. Guess, 1827 – 1919

    Captain Guess was among the first “railroad men” to arrive in Cary. His position was recorded as “road master.” His name is familiar to many of us, because it graces the historic pink Guess-Ogle Home in downtown Cary. “Around and About Cary” tells us that the home takes its name from Captain Guess due to the fact that in 1880, he and his wife, Aurelia, purchased 16 acres of land from Frank Page, including the site of the Guess-Ogle Home.

    Dr. J. M. Templeton 1855 – 1932

    One of Cary’s earliest doctors, Dr. Templeton is described in “Around and About Cary” as a man who searched for the truth, lived by principles and practiced charity. He crusaded for Prohibition, public education, good roads and economic justice for farmers. In addition to being a doctor and surgeon, he ran a lumber business and also farmed. His gravestone carries the following inscription: A country doctor who served his nation in the time of war, his community in the time of peace, the rich and poor alike. There is a small secret here – Dr. Templeton volunteered for the Army when the United States entered World War I. But it seems he quit after 6 months, supposedly because the Army insisted that he stop wearing civilian clothes. Nevertheless, the statement is true – he DID serve his nation in the time of war. You can see Dr. Templeton’s uniform in the Cary History Museum.

    Marcus Baxter Dry, 1871 – 1946

    Marcus Baxter Dry was Principal of Cary High School for 34 years, from 1908 through 1942. He also served as Superintendent of the Cary School District. Under his leadership, North Carolina’s first state-supported high school, Cary High, became a model for all that followed. It is said that his success as an educator stemmed from his genuine interest in each student and his ability to embrace new ideas over the course of his career. Dry was instrumental in the construction and modernization of Cary High School’s buildings during his tenure. In 1913, under Dry’s leadership, a brick building was built on the school’s site. The current building, which now serves as the Cary Arts Center, was constructed just a few years before Dry’s retirement.

    Dry’s residence was just east of the school and, today, is a contributing structure in the Cary Historic District. It is fitting, then, that both his house and the school are located on what is now called Dry Avenue.

    Dr. Frank Yarborough, 1895 – 1957

    Another of Cary’s earliest doctors, Dr. Yarborough first practiced with Dr. Templeton. He also practiced at Rex Hospital when it was located on St. Mary’s Street in Raleigh. His home, where he established his own practice, stands today in the Cary Historic District, and still retains the two side entrances for his patients. One entrance was for those who were white, the other for those who were black. In Cary’s oral history book, “Just a Horse Stopping Place,” there is the following account, recalled by Dr. Yarborough’s son: “He (referring to his father, Dr. Yarborough) built the office at the present location on Park Street that was connected to our home. He practiced there for the entire time that I can remember him practicing medicine. The cars would line Park Street on both sides of the street from morning until night. And when I say night, I mean eleven, twelve o’clock. When I’d come home from school in the day, it was just a line of cars like a big procession going on. His office hours at night were Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The rest of the nights, and even when he got out of the office, he would make house calls.”

    Hillcrest Cemetery also holds many stories of tragedy and great sadness. Among these is the story of Dr. Yarborough’s daughter, Mary. Mary Ray Yarborough was said to be “the apple of her father’s eye” and family members recall that she called him “Daddy Blue Eyes.” When she was 11 years old, she contracted meningitis, and, unfortunately, the medical treatment she received was unable to save her. It was said that the anguish of her death tore the Yarborough’s marriage apart. Their love for her is there at Hillcrest for all of us to see, in the bust of Mary that marks her grave in the family plot.

    R. S. “Dad” Dunham, 1905 – 1987

    This well-known teacher at Cary High School owned a 30-acre tract of land on Kildaire Farm Road, which was described as “the closest thing Cary had to a botanical garden.” Mr. Dunham’s agriculture students at Cary High received much of their forestry training on these grounds, which later became the site of the Glenaire, among the earliest of Cary’s continuing care retirement communities. It was the Dunhams desire to see their land used for this purpose. If “Dad” Dunham’s name looks familiar to you, it may be that you’ve visited the popular neighborhood park on Walnut Street that was named after him.

    Tammy Lynn Pierce, 1957 – 1971

    Described on her gravestone as, “Cary’s Angel Unaware,” Tammy Lynn Pierce sustained a brain injury at birth and lived all of her 14 years in the family’s home on Kildaire Farm Road. At that time there were no custodial homes in North Carolina for children with developmental disabilities, and her family refused to place her in a state institution. Prior to her death, Tammy Lynn’s parents joined two Raleigh couples in similar circumstances to create a foundation that would lead to the establishment of the Tammy Lynn Center for Development Disabilities. Today, the Tammy Lynn Center offers education, residential, and family support services to children and adults with special needs. The Center's goal is to provide the individuals it serves the opportunity to maximize their abilities in a loving, nurturing environment.

    Fascinating Inscriptions

    We couldn’t leave Hillcrest without sharing with you some of the fascinating inscriptions found on the grave markers. And, yes, there are a few mysteries and secrets waiting for us here. Inscriptions provide the opportunity for those who are deceased to continue to speak to us. Or, in some cases, the message is from loved ones, telling us about the one who has passed away. Some inscriptions give us advice and others recite Bible scriptures that tell us of the person’s religious devotion. The book, “Sticks and Stones: Three Centuries of North Carolina Gravemarkers,“ tells us that an influx of British stonecutters arrived here in the 1830s to work on the new state capitol in Raleigh and other major masonry projects. In 1837, North Carolina’s first resident funerary monument firm was established in Raleigh. Once rail lines were complete, more commercial stonecutters set up marble yards along the rails. While the railroad caused the proliferation of small marble yards, it also led to their demise. In the early 1900s, small marble yards were absorbed by larger ones and the ease of shipping monuments by rail led to the rise of the mail-order monument business. New stonecutting technology allowed for the use of granite, instead of marble, and within a few years, the artistic role of the stonecutter changed from sculptor of the overall monument to mere engraver of the inscription. Today, stonecutters still work in North Carolina, but most of their business is sandblasting inscriptions onto blanks. With only a few exceptions, gravestone carving is a lost art.

    We identified interesting and intriguing inscriptions at Hillcrest. Some are serious, while others add a touch of humor. Here is a sampling of those we found and liked:

    • Love makes memory eternal
    • She hath done what she could
    • Redeeming love has been my theme . . .
    • To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die
    • Always Giving Never Asking
    • Your legacy of love and laughter lives on through your family
    • Mom to All Who Knew Her
    • She was too good, too gentle and fair to dwell in this cold world
    • Under The Dew, The Sun And The Stars, I Wait For You

    We were also touched by the simplicity of this hand-engraved marker.

    One of the most loved inscriptions – and the one that made us really smile – was found on the back of the gravestone of Shirley Faye Tharpe.

    Lasting Farewell

    It is time to leave Hillcrest, with our invitation to you to visit this beautiful, peaceful and intriguing Cary treasure on your own. We think you’ll fall in love with it, as we have. As we depart Hillcrest, we’ll also leave you with this sage advice from one who is buried there.

    Remember friends as you pass by

    As you are now so once was I

    As I am now, so you must be

    Prepare therefore to follow me.

    Join Us on a Live Tour of Hillcrest Cemetery
    We're going to take you to the White Plains Cemetery via live streaming on our Facebook page later this month. And because it's October and we're visiting a cemetery, there might be a few spooky surprises.  Follow us on Facebook to learn more.

  • 18 Sep 2020 1:21 PM | Carla Michaels (Administrator)


    It’s the autumn of 1937. A boy is walking through woods on the outskirts of Cary and comes upon a long-abandoned cemetery. He pauses long enough to etch his name into the stone obelisk – Charles Dellinger, 11/2/37, age 15.

    Fast forward to 2020. The abandoned cemetery is White Plains Cemetery, the burial ground of the Revolutionary War Patriot, Nathaniel Jones. It is now a well-cared for historic site within the town limits of Cary and is surrounded by a housing development. Olivia Loyack, a young lady who lives next door to the cemetery, takes an interest in the etching and uncovers one of the untold stories of an “old Cary” family, their connection to the Revolutionary War, and their sacrifices during World War II.

    The Dellinger family was originally from Lincoln County, NC. Henry Dellinger fought in the American Revolution along with his brother, who had signed the Tryon Resolves in 1775. Several generations later, a descendant, Charlie Lee Dellinger, a railroad employee who worked in Greenville, SC, met and married a local Greenwood SC girl, Ella Pinson. After living and working in Hamlet, NC, a railroad hub, the family moved to Cary with the railroad in the late 1920s. They settled near Ephesus Baptist Church, where Charlie, along with his railroad position, worked as a custodian and cemetery caretaker. Over the years the family grew to include children Charles, Howard, Frances, Eugene, Katherine, Ruth, and Cecil.

    Charlie Lee had a patriotic spirit. At age 16, he attempted to volunteer for World War I, but was declined due to his young age. Years later, he attempted to volunteer for World War II after Pearl Harbor was bombed, but was declined again due to his older age and seven children. In raising his children, he passed on his love of country. His oldest child, Charles went to Baltimore after graduating from Cary High School to work for Martin Aircraft. After several deferrals due to his important work for the aircraft industry, he entered the Army in 1943. After training, he was assigned to Italy. In letters that his mother saved and are now treasured by family, Charles wrote home for two specific items: his camera and the book “Rules of Baseball” which speaks of his love for the All-American game. Charles and his brother Howard were talented baseball players, and the family story is that Charles and Howard were pulled out of grade school at Mount Vernon to pitch games for Cary High School! Along with Charles’ letters, the family also has the photos Charles took with his camera in Italy. During fighting in the fall of 1944, Charles was injured and was given the option to return home or rejoin his unit. He returned to his unit, but was killed on January 5, 1945 as American forces broke through “The Gothic Line” on their march to Florence. He was 22.

    The story continues. The second Dellinger son, Howard, enlisted in the US Marine Corps in 1943. He suffered from high blood pressure so it took several attempts to pass the physical to enlist! After training at Parris Island and Quantico, he was assigned to Okinawa where he was killed in fighting, just a few short months after his older brother Charles, on June 5, 1945, after US forces had officially captured the island. The three remaining sons, Frances, Eugene and Cecil followed their brothers by serving in the military, and with their two sisters, Katherine and Ruth, lived long, successful lives.

    The Dellingers, descendants of a Revolutionary War Patriot…a family with a great love for country…paying the supreme sacrifice for the freedom we enjoy today…their story unearthed through graffiti on the obelisk marking the burial spot of another Revolutionary War Patriot. The story has come full circle.

    Author's note:  A special thank you to Jane Wydra, niece of Charles and Howard Dellinger who supplied valuable details in a phone interview with Carla Michaels and to Charles and Howard’s siblings, Ruth and Cecil, who kindly gave permission to use family photos in this article.

  • 11 Sep 2020 12:14 PM | Barbara Wetmore (Administrator)

    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. This is the case with the White Plains Cemetery, resting place of Nathaniel Jones, his first and second wives, and seven of his children.

    Besides being the owner of 10,000+ acres of land in what would become eastern Cary, Jones (1749-1815) was a Revolutionary War Patriot and served as a Wake County Commissioner, Justice of the Peace, Sheriff, Clerk of Court, member of the General Assembly and delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Hillsborough in 1788.  Learn more about Nathaniel Jones.

    Descendants of the Nathaniel Jones family visited the cemetery in 1971 during the Town of Cary's centennial celebration. They made their way through the woods that would one day become the Maynard Oaks neighborhood and found the neglected cemetery on a small plot that would one day be situated on Tolliver Ct. in that neighborhood. The Cary Historical Society was formed in 1974 and although there was interest then in conserving the obelisk that marked Nathaniel's burial spot and the box tomb that marked that of his second wife, Rachel Perry Jones, it wasn't until 1986 that Town of Cary staff worked with the Historical Society and Sunsouth Homes, Inc. (the developers of Maynard Oaks and the owners of the cemetery at the time) to put together a proposal to conserve them.

    Important Information Recorded by Two Cemetery Surveyors

    In the meantime, Ann Burns and Irene Kittinger recorded the cemetery in 1981 for the Wake County Cemetery Survey Project and made a return visit in 1982. As they described, the slab atop Rachel's box tomb was no longer intact and Nathaniel's obelisk was leaning.  Six or seven plain marble markers were counted inside the cemetery and five slender unmarked stones were found. The foundation was still there for what once held a wall, or perhaps an iron fence, but the fence was gone.


    In 1983, Ann and Irene visited two sisters who were third great granddaughters of Nathaniel Jones of White Plains and Nathaniel Jones of Crabtree, and who provided a Bible record of Nathaniel Jones of White Plains and a copy of typed family records. These sources, along with obituaries, provided the information to determine who was buried in the White Plains Cemetery along with Nathaniel and Rachel. Keep in mind, with the exception of Nathaniel's obelisk and Rachel's box tomb, no gravestones in the cemetery bore any legible writing. But with the obtained information, it was determined that Nathaniel's first wife, Millleson Blanchard Jones, was also buried in the cemetery. She died three days after the birth of one of their children. Two of their other children are also buried in the cemetery; both died young, one at age 7 and one at age 2. These two young children both died during the same year, 1780, and are the first members of the family to be buried in the cemetery. The remaining graves contain five of Nathaniel and his second wife Rachel's children, ranging in age from 34 to 76.

    Before the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, there was the Nathaniel Jones Obelisk

    In June 1987, the Cary Historical Society engaged David C. Fischetti, P.E. (who went on to play a significant role in the relocation of the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse) to provide an assessment of the Nathaniel Jones obelisk, with an action plan for the obelisk's stabilization and conservation. An archaeological study of the cemetery was completed by the N.C. Office of State Archaeology. The Town of Cary and the Cary Historical Society, with support from the Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel, donated funds for conservation work on Nathaniel Jones’ obelisk. They also erected an iron replacement fence around the gravestones. In addition, they restored the collapsed sides of Rachel Perry Jones’s box tomb and covered it with a temporary stone top because the original ledger stone had been displaced and was in pieces scattered throughout the cemetery. The conservation work was completed in 1989 and Sunsouth Homes deeded the site to the Town.


    In 2009 - 2010, with funds donated by the Cary Historical Society, the Town and the Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel installed a permanent granite ledger stone for Rachel's box tomb. The ledger stone was engraved with the original inscription, having been recorded in February 1981 by Ann Burns and Irene Kittinger before the original ledger stone was broken into pieces and eventually lost. They also added small marble tablets behind four unadorned fieldstone head markers, behind one unadorned marble foot marker, behind three damaged marble head markers that are missing sections bearing the deceased's attributes (name, date of birth, death of death, epitaph, etc.), and at the head of the one unmarked grave. In addition, they installed an interpretive sign outside the fence. The fieldstones and damaged marble tablets are original to the cemetery and its period of significance. The nine new marble tablets are approximately 2-feet tall, and are comparable to the height of the fieldstones and the lower section of the original marble tablets that mark the various burial locations.

    Family Descendants Return to Find Restored Cemetery

    In 2011, Jones family descendants were joined by Town representatives, Friends of the Page-Walker Hotel, Cary Historical Society members, Maynard Oaks residents and Daughters of the American Revolution to celebrate the conservation of the White Plains Cemetery. They laid bouquets of white flowers on each of the graves to honor their ancestors. Watch a video slideshow of the ceremony.

    In 2012, the Yates Mill Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution held a commemorative grave marking ceremony and mounted on the gate leading into the graveyard a bronze plaque in honor of Nathaniel Jones. This plaque honors Jones' service as a Patriot during the American Revolution.

    Forty-six years after the descendants of Nathaniel Jones trekked through the woods to find their ancestors' cemetery in a state of disrepair, the fully conserved cemetery became an official Cary Historic Landmark in 2017. The Town of Cary designates Cary Historic Landmarks as a way to preserve buildings and sites that are historically, architecturally, or culturally significant to our community. The White Plains Cemetery is certainly that.

    You can visit the White Plains Cemetery at 100 Tolliver Ct. in Cary.

    Watch for More Posts and a Livestream Visit to the White Plains Cemetery
    This month we're trying something new and are bringing you weekly posts with more information about Nathaniel Jones and his family and about the cemetery in which they are laid to rest.  And we're going to take you to the White Plains Cemetery via live streaming on our Facebook page.  Follow along in this blog during September as we present new information about Nathaniel Jones, and tune in to accompany us on a visit to this Cary historic landmark on September 14 at 6:00 p.m. 

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