Wealth of Our Community

PARADISE FOUND:  Willie Brady and his Carambola Gardens

by Gordon Brady

With Introduction by WT Cox

I am amazed at the impact and contributions that many Ramseur natives have had on society, not only in North Carolina but national and international. People who grew up here in our small town have impacted our world in a lot of different ways. This is a story of Ramseur native Willie Brady and his life experience that has gone from a small town to the Peace Corps during the time of the Viet Nam War and to a small island in Central America that eventually would become his home. Willie’s life is documented from his time growing up on Liberty Street in Ramseur to his transition to builder and conservationist on his adopted island home or Roatan.  His Carambola Garden is a mixture of botanical wonders and nature trails that entice cruise ship passengers as well as travelers from around the world. Willie has managed to improve the lives of countless people and give back to nature at the same time. His story is told by his childhood friend and Ramseur economist Dr. Gordon Brady, who has a story of his own that we hope to tell in future issues. 

This mini-biography of William Parks Brady (“Bill” aka “Willie”) is a “labor of family pride.” It is based on discussions with Bill, his family, and my somewhat “rusty” reflections and impressions of events and people over 70 years. I recently had the privilege of a 5-day visit with Bill at his family home in Roatan, Honduras. Aside from growing up on Liberty Street, we are descendants of Jesse Alfred Brady (1867 – 1943), elected for two terms as sheriff of Randolph County (1922-24 and 1924-26).

Part of growing up in the 1960s was watching each episode of “Gilligan’s Island.” The story goes — caught in a storm on a three-hour cruise, seven castaways washed ashore on a tropical paradise. Its 99 episodes (1964-67) focus on the efforts of an unlikely mix of characters trying unsuccessfully to leave their island paradise – Bill Brady’s story is the reverse. Bill is the professor — in this case an expert in architecture and botany. A central role is played by Irma, Bill’s wife of 42 years — best friend, mother to his children, business partner, and advisor. My role is to tell the story of a “Liberty Street boy” who found paradise, but unlike Gilligan, Bill and Irma chose to stay in their island paradise. They married, had a family of three (Matthew, Nicole, and Gisselle), and built a life around preserving the ecosystems of Roatan, commercial, and philanthropic projects. Irma has won awards for her many environmental and educational contributions to Honduras.

Bill’s introduction to Roatan came by accident. In 1970 Bill joined the Peace Corps after graduating from North Carolina State University with a degree in architecture. In a process over which he had little control, Bill “landed“ on Coxen Hole, Roatan on a mission to help the locals with housing. It took only a short time for Bill to be fall in love with his newfound island paradise… soon he was hooked. Now, nothing could take him from the island paradise. 

Bill loved his newfound home, but also made every effort to bring some is his loves to the island… one was baseball. He started the first organized team on the island and soon had a thriving construction business as well. He became involved in philanthropic and charitable activities and soon met his future wife. He was married in 1979 and had three children. Over the next 50 years he was instrumental in much of the development on the island, including the establishment of an ecological preserve that he named Carambola Botanical Gardens.  

Bill was the first son of John Emmett “Bill” Brady, Jr. (1914-1957) and Roselea Parks Brady (1915 – 1995). Linda Brady Burgess was the first, then Bill, and finally John Emmett III(aka Nicky). Bill grew up in the home of his grandparents John Emmett (1870 – 1963) and Lydia Ann Thomas Brady (1874-1954). Bill’s grandfather was my great uncle, a man with whom I enjoyed many conversations about the origin of the Ramseur Brady’s. The Brady’s were primarily Scotch Irish having moved to Ramseur from Bennett in the late 19th century.

Bill grew up in a home designed and built by his grandfather John Emmett Brady, Sr. John Emmett Sr., who was a successful builder, developer, and businessman (he owned the furniture factory in Ramseur). He instilled in his grandson a love of function, design, and carpentry. I well remember two of John Emmett’s inventions. He built a two-story hen house and designed a mechanism to transfer the eggs to a central depository on the first floor. This freed the family to focus on other activities including a grape arbor, unusual plants, and many species of trees.

I always marveled at John Emmett’s black iron structure to store ice for the summer. Like John Emmett, the icehouse had a long life and was removed in the 1970s.

Early on Bill developed an interest in baseball through his family and the Ramseur community. John Emmett’s children were very athletic and accomplished in baseball and golf. Bill’s uncle Clarence L. Brady (1895-1913) died from a baseball injury.

Bill was a very solid student (“Beta Club”), well-liked, and athletic. Academics and sports occupied much of his time. Bill and his brother Nicky developed a game similar to baseball which they called “lemon ball.” The game was played with baseball bats and a plastic lemon juice dispenser shaped like a lemon, hence the name lemon ball. It became quickly popular on Liberty Street but to my knowledge, it did not catch on outside Ramseur.

E.C. “Zeke” Tatum (1926 – 1995) who taught Ag and shop at the Ramseur School was a strong influence on Bill’s artistic and architectural talents through carpentry, assembly, and presentation of projects. These skills played an integral role in the roads he was later to travel and became the foundation of his great accomplishments. In addition to one-on-one learning from Zeke to Bill, membership in the Future Farmers of America and summer jobs became an important avenue for Bill’s development. Bill was co-founder of the Science Masters and benefitted greatly from the guidance of science teacher William A. Barbour.

A summer job with Asheboro architects Hyatt Hammond and Alvis George provided firsthand exposure to the world of professional architects and builders. He became immersed in the process of project development, implementation, and presentation. While working for Hamond and George, Bill met Ramseur/Randolph County legend Oscar King (1899 – 1985) a skilled builder, pipe fitter, and general jack of all building trades. But more than this, Oscar was legendary for his ability to interact/coach workmen, contractors and leaders of municipal governments. Bill credits King with instilling an approach to maximize cooperation to complete projects.

Bill attended the Ramseur Baptist Church and was a member various organizations including the Royal Ambassadors, a youth group. Bill very much enjoyed RA camping trips and church activities such as bowling and a baseball team.

School and the Baptist Church played a strong role in Bill’s interest in sports and “healthy” competition. The Brady’s had always been active, but several had the potential for the leagues outside the community. Bill had a number of colleagues who contribute to the story. Tim Wright, Larry Moody, Wayne Siler were some of his closest friends during his Ramseur years…

People of my generation remember Bill’s efforts to update the facade of the family home with a huge parachute which covered the long front porch of the family home on Liberty Street. Bill and several friends stretched a giant parachute across the huge front porch which surrounded the front porch. Bill describes the motivation as “let’s see if we can do this, how to do it, and how to overcome any resulting problems. The home soon became a “clubhouse” for the Ramseur boys to hang out in. The community became suspicious that great mischief was taking place behind the veil. This led to an investigation by local police Ott Gant and Wiley Craven. Soon, the rumors of mischief were dispelled and the home was once again a meeting place for teenagers and young people. On Sundays, Liberty Street would be full of young people playing “beach ball” from the brick wall that separated the yard of the home from Liberty Street. 

While many boys his age were going into the military, Bill chose to go into the Peace Corps. It soon became apparent that getting accepted into the Peace Corps was not as easy is it may seem. Not wanting a “bad apple” to spoil their image in host countries, the Peace Corp sought appointees of high moral character and unassailable integrity. They also wanted a fit between appointees and the challenges of the projects and the regions to which they were sent.

Bill’s desire was to improve the life of the people on the island, preserve fragile Roatan ecosystems, AND “play baseball”. He introduced Little League programs for the youth to the island. Bill and his wife Irma also became heavily involved in environmental issues. One of their first projects was to mount an organized effort to stop the burning of clear-cut land clearing.

Bill got a good match with his wife Irma. She is a lifelong resident of the islands and has won many environmental awards for her leadership in environmental and educational issues. Her concern for the threats of development to Roatan ecosystems resulted in her founding the Bay Islands Conservation Association, a grassroots organization to promote the sustainable use of the island’s resources, monitor environmental impacts, and ensure that development doesn’t come at the cost of irreplaceable habitats. BICA grew in scope and influence over the years under Irma’s leadership, and now has chapters on both Utila and Guanaja, Roatán’s neighboring islands. It also manages the Sandy Bay West End Marine Reserve, the site of our most recent project in Honduras.

Serving as a field evaluator, Irma has long worked with the local and national Ministry of Environment to certify proposed development projects on Roatán as sustainable before they are approved. She remains a strong advocate in protecting Roatán’s remaining coral reefs, mangroves, and other critical coastal environments from poorly designed developments. Her role has often brought her into conflict with developers and politicians, but her tenacity, knowledge of the issues, and broad community support have repeatedly won out and helped foster a culture of sustainability on the Bay Islands. Aside from the central role she plays at Carambola, she is deeply involved in the Port Royal Wildlife Refuge, a terrestrial wildlife preserve, and the Carambola Botanical Garden, which offers free tours to local children to build appreciation for Roatán’s unique flora.

Bill became known as the “Gringo” who played baseball and promoted the sport as part of Roatan culture. His projects in Roatan included designing schools, churches, municipal water systems, and bridges. Today there are many options to play sports in Roatan, including soccer, football, baseball, rugby, and softball. But in the early 1970s when Bill arrived, there were very few. Seeing this as an opportunity, Bill took it upon himself to make a difference. Aside from his day job” he found time to organize a Little League Baseball League – composed of six teams across the island.

He formed a baseball team of islanders. In addition to coaching Little League, Bill raised money to buy uniforms and saw it as an opportunity to pass along his love of baseball to the youth of Coxen Hole.

Eventually, Bill and Irma were able to acquire a 41-acre swatch of land and establish a botanical preserve. The name Carambola was chosen due to its unique star shape star-fruit composed of “five fingers.” Technically, it is known as the fruit of Averrhoa carambola, a species of tree native to tropical southeastern Asia.

The development of Carambola Botanical Gardens was a new direction for Bill’s career work moved into the realm of cultivation for beauty as well as export. Bill’s vision for the Gardens itself was shaped by his architectural training, love of plants especially trees, and their role in ecosystems.

Today, Bill’s Carambola Garden preserve is a major tourist attraction on the island of Roatan and is a must-see destination for many of the thousands of tourists that visit the island via cruise ships every year. Many visitors come by air from all corners of the globe to visit the preserve and observe some of the botanical wonders that are only found on Roatan. 

While Bill is right at home in his adopted island paradise, his thoughts still reflect back to his growing up in Ramseur. The values learned, faith, family, friendship, and commitment are Ramseur traits that now are a part of this island culture thanks to Bill.

Wealth of Our Community

Remembering William Russell Jessup

By WT Cox

One of the most difficult things about growing old is having your friends pass away. When I was young, I remember my grandmother reading the obituaries every day. Back then, there was no Facebook, social media… or the internet to keep in touch with people.  A lot of families did not even have telephones when I was young, but our newspaper was delivered daily… sometimes it would end up in the side ditch or a mud hole if had been raining, and other times our family dog would find it and hide it, but normally it was there every day. Assuming that she got her hands on the paper, my grandmother would always go to the obituary section. Now, that I am close to 70 years of age, I can understand why my grandmother always read those obituaries. It seems that one of my childhood friends or classmates pass away, much too often. Over the last decade, so many friends have died. Thankfully we are left with memories, and as I look through pictures from the past, I cannot help but smile as I recall some of the great times I have had with people I grew up with. Russell Jessup was one of my best friends, and he passed away on Veterans Day, November  11th, 2021. It seems fitting that Russel was called home on a day dedicated to veterans. One of his most cherished accomplishments was the time he spent in the Navy during the Viet Nam War.  

Russell Jessup was born June 24, 1946, and grew up just outside Ramseur and attended Ramseur School along with his brothers Jean, Tommy, David, and Tony, and his sister Lori, Judy, and Phoebe.  His father was a farmer and carpenter, so Russell grew up with a respect for hard work and a love for his country.  He joined the Navy just as the Viet Nam War began to heat up. Russell belonged to an elite group of all-volunteer soldiers known as HELATKLTRON-3 Sea Wolves.  He was stationed on the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) during her maiden voyage as the first nuclear combat battle group to ever fight in wartime. He served with a Light Helicopter Attack Squadron and flew 501 combat missions as an open door gunner in some of the heaviest fightings during the War. After the Navy, Russell returned back to his hometown of Ramseur and began to carry on with his life. He married Donna Bell on 10/26/1979,  and they were together for 42 years until his death this year. After re-settling back in Ramseur, Russell went to work as a stonemason. Russell became known as one of the best stonemasons anywhere and took great pride in his work. I was privileged to have Russell lay the stone for my home’s foundation and saw firsthand just how hard of a job that was.  The heavy lifting and work required eventually caused back problems and Russell was forced to retire.    

Russell was an avid outdoorsman and loved camping and canoeing. We went on many canoeing trips together navigating white water rapids of rivers like the Little Tennessee, Nantahala, New, Haw, Mayo, Dan, French Broad, and Rocky Rivers…. Just to name a few.  The last time I saw Russell, he said “we got to break out those canoes one more time..” That time never came. I look through pictures that were taken over the years and remember the good times.  Friends are never lost, as long as we remember them.   

Contributing Works Uncategorized

Thy Will Be Done

by Debra Vernon

Change – it is something everyone must deal with, often daily. We start to do one thing, then pivot in another direction to manage another task that has captured our attention. Other times, change comes knocking at the door in the form of good news or bad, and again we must adapt to move forward. Change keeps us from getting complacent and comfortable with our surroundings. It shakes us up a bit.

Recently, the winds of change started blowing in my world. Events beyond my control had me fervent in prayer and searching the scriptures for solace and guidance. I was taught from an early age to pray, “if it be Thy will” when asking anything of my God. It reminds me that He is in control, nothing happens that does not pass through His hands, and He is working all things out for my good and His Glory. I confess it is easy to pray “His will” when I have reason to expect the outcome I desire. It is much harder to do when I truly have no indication of how the situation will play out.

My heart was broken when what I had prayed so fervently for did not occur. I was distraught and foolish enough to start an argument with God. Yeah, you read that right – I argued with HIM. The eternally existing, promise-keeping God of the universe! I shouted out to the ceiling all the reasons I could think of as to why He should have answered my prayers and given me “my will.” Thankfully, He is merciful and gracious, and let me rail against Him until I was physically spent from my anguish, my eyes red from my tears. And then, when all was quiet around me, He whispered, “greater things are coming Debra, just wait.” The uncertainty left me with no choice but to trust Him and ask Him for wisdom to deal with His plan and again pray for His will to be done.

As the days and weeks progressed, I started to see His hand at work. The prayers of many people, including mine, were answered. Doors which were long closed were opened; things fell into place so perfectly and rapidly it can only be attributed to the goodness of God! A new perspective of the potential opportunities before me was revealed as well. None of this would have happened if God had given me my will. He was so right about greater things coming! Imagine that.

But still, I had no peace, as it was apparent that I was going to have to get out of my comfort zone to partake in and be blessed by these new opportunities He was laying before me! I was going to have to make tough decisions about things I loved and cherished! I was going to have to CHANGE. And I was fearful. And that is when I looked at Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV) “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Things are still in motion as I write this. Some decisions have been made; others await. But I have peace now. I am not concerned about what is ahead, as my God has confirmed yet again that I can trust Him with all things, both great and small. His love for me is so immense, and he rains blessings down on me again and again and gently chastens me when I get too big for my britches. And I will continue to pray “Thy will be done” because I know He only wants the best for me. My God is an awesome God!

Contributing Works Tea Talk

TEA TALK: Make Tea, Not War

by Mary Murkin

Tea is here to stay! It has been an important part of our history; no less so in times of conflict. There was that little bit of business back in 1773 in the Boston Harbor that seemed to put our treatment of tea in a bad light. This was a key event in the American Revolution against the mother country—the British Empire. There was some nastiness about “taxation without representation” going on and that did not set well with the Sons of Liberty group here in America. The destruction of tea on that given night was a message of retaliation that stood for many injustices that Parliament wished to impose on the colonists. It was not a reflection of our feelings about tea itself.

Historically, tea was fiercely important to the British during World Wars I and II. During WW I, tea prices began to rise because of so many tea cargo ships being sunk by German submarines. The government took over the importation of tea and controlled the prices of it.

Tea was an essential morale-booster for soldiers and greater measures were taken to try to protect it. Two days after WW II broke out, the British government took control of all the tea stocks and ordered that they be safely stored in warehouses outside of the capital in case of bombing.

Due to blockades in the water, tea ships could not get through to deliver tea. The Ministry of Food began to ration tea in 1940. They introduced a ration of two ounces of tea per person per week for those citizens over the age of five. There was extra tea allowed for those in the armed forces, and for firemen and steel workers. Tea was also sent to British prisoners of war abroad. Tea rationing did not end when the war ended in 1945. Tea remained rationed until October of 1952.

At this point in time, we are now lucky enough to get all the tea we want, when we want it and in so many varieties. Let’s hope we will never again have to come to such measures as people had to bear in the recent past. We are lucky enough to enjoy our tea without a threat of it being taken away from us. For that, we should celebrate! Raise your teacups or glasses to a toast and then “Bottoms up!”

Mary Murkin is the owner of Carriage House Tea which is sold at Brightside Gallery, 170 Worth Street, Asheboro, NC. Contact her at:

Brightside Gallery
170 Worth Street
Asheboro, NC 27203


Contributing Works

Of Raw Eggs and Smashes

By Jimmy Moody

Several years ago out third rock witnessed a partial eclipse.  I happened to be visiting the Ramseur Library at the time and thought I’d stroll down the street and take it all in.  I was raised on Main Street and it was my playground until we moved two miles away when I was eleven.  Two miles is a canyon at that age..

Downtown seemed even more quiet than usual, if that is possible.  I took a seat in front of what (in the old days) was Ramseur’s Mel’s Diver.  I was hoping for a bit of peace to enjoy the rare event.  It soon became apparent to this native son that I wasn’t alone.  From behind me, I heard Melvin ask me how I wanted my burger. “Everything but slaw, Mr. Murry”!  Thirty yards to my right Craven Shoemaker had stepped out from the feed mill to see how dark it was getting.  He told me many times how my Dad snuck into the mill’s bell tower and woke up the Town to celebrate VE day.  Across the street was kindly Doc Whitehead, whose fountain made cherry smashes that were to “die” for. Pep Watkins was selling someone a refrigerator and Hester Gooch was making future business for our dentist, with his counter of candy.  Garland Allen was negotiating a loan at the Bank of Coleridge and Madge Kivett and Page Craven were turning on the lights in their clothing store so no would trip.    Alan Leonard was making out a money order at the Post Office and Grady Lawson stepped away from his carburetors to see the spectacle.   Grant Kivett was in a booth at the Ramseur Diner with Harrison Cheek.  Harrison was reminding the waitress not to forget to mix a raw egg in his milkshake, he said it was good for his hair.  I always thought he had a remarkable resemblance to Glenn Campbell anyway.  Kermit Pell was stacking burlap sacks of various seeds in front of his grocery.  I can still smell them.  

Anyone who grew up there in the mic ’50s and ’60s knows exactly what (and who) I am talking about.  I’ve seen Pearl Harbor, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Alamo, Pikes Peak, and numerous other famous and not so famous sites, and everywhere I went I took a little bit of Ramseur with me. This Town leaves it’s imprint with you, and as time goes by, you consider yourself blessed because of it.  I’ve always taken solace in the truth that if you keep people in your heart and honor their memory, they are never really gone.  So for one day, at least for this particular Ramsonian, Ramseur was there in my 10-year-old memory.  Good Lord willing, I’ll see all of you again.

The older we get, the more precious memories become. This is especially true if you were fortunate to have grown up in Ramseur.  Our town is still a great place to live, but the old charm of a small town seems to have faded into memory.  Ramseur used to be a thriving town, with numerous factories and industries. We had a theater, Diary that produced ice cream, several hardware stores, building supply stores, furniture stores, clothing stores, numerous cafes, and of course a bunch of service stations. The old Ramseur High School was the center of activity and Ramseur even had their own marching band.   Highway 64 came through the outskirts of town, but Main Street was still thriving and the “place” to own a business. The Cotton Mill was a major employer, and there was a grist mill in the center of town that ground corn and grain from local farmers into feed and flour.  Some of these memories are expressed in a letter I received from an old Ramseur classmate.  Jimmy Moody graduated ERHS in ’72 and like most of the graduating class, he moved away from Ramseur, but the memories of growing up here remained with him.

Jimmy’s letter evokes memories of a much simpler time…

Contributing Works Uncategorized Wealth of Our Community

Grace Saunders Kimrey: “Poet Laureate of Liberty Street”

Grace Evelyn Saunders Kimrey (1910-2001) was the “Poet Laureate of Liberty Street.” I called her “Miss Grace” in deference, and to flatter her, I once asked if she thought her books would become a “best seller” — to which she replied “it would be nice, but poetry rarely sells!” Another reflection on Miss Grace’s wit is a statement I attribute to her regarding her husband Sam. Although I have remembered it all these years, but can no longer find it in any of her books. You might say it is not poetic, but more of a tribute: “My husband is a millionaire, he told me so today, but if I ever leave him, he will be poor again!”

Certainly many old timers would remember “Miss Grace” Kimrey and her husband “Mr. Sam” (1909-2000). He was a flat surface roofer of the old school using hot pitch, gravel, and mops weighing up to 75 pounds when fully loaded with molten pitch. He retired from roofing in the 1970s and left their son Gary (1931-2019) to continue the trade. In retirement, Sam and Grace had a furniture store in the Vaughan Marley Store building on Liberty Street. It has been vacant for many years and remains so to this day.

The Kimrey’s were active in the business community and regular attendees of the Ramseur Baptist Church (now called First Baptist Church of Ramseur). The church was about 75 yards from the Kimrey’s front door where they served in various leadership roles as Sunday school teachers and officers. Mr. Sam was a dapper chap with interesting hobbies including collecting rocks and arrowheads and participating in community activities such as the Lions Club, the campaign in the late 1950s to light the Ramseur High School Athletic Field. He was also involved in many school and church-related activities — even playing Santa Clause for the local schools.

But back to the poetry of Miss Grace. To my knowledge she wrote four short books and a regular column in a local newspaper:

Songs of Sunny Valley. Banner Press, Emory University Georgia 1954.
The Star of Hope. Banner Press, Emory University Georgia 1954.
Glimpses of Beauty. Banner Press, Emory University Georgia 1955
“The Morning Star.” Bicentennial Edition. (This is a history of Ramseur. ) Published by Grace Saunders Kimrey. 1976.

Miss Grace (Class of 1938 Ramseur High School) had no formal academic training in writing poetry but was obviously well read and gifted. Archibald Rutledge, the Poet Laureate of South Carolina, discovered her and described her as “a poet known for her rare, loving, admirable spirit.” She offered to sign copies for those who sent them to her. I have several of her carefully inscribed books in her neat cursive handwriting.

Miss Grace’s inspiration came from her surroundings and the neighborhood children. My sister Celeste Brady Byrnes and I grew up next door to the Kimrey’s dining room. Our Mother Sally Brady’s beauty shop shared a lawn with the Kimrey’s. The Kermit Pell family lived up Liberty Street and there was always constant street traffic daily and for the church on Sunday (and midweek prayer service). In several of her poems Miss Grace mentioned the people who inspired her – telling them privately they were her subjects. She liked my Mom’s roses and admired her work ethic.

Miss Grace’s book “Songs of Sunny Valley” was based on views from her home and the neighborhood children around her. She described the title of her book as coming from her efforts to name the Kimrey home.

One of her poems which most people can relate to regardless of age:
“How do you feel when you feel old?””

When Mother heard
Some young folks say,
“O, we feel so old today,”
She looked at them
With age-dimmed eyes
As if she wished
To chide or scold
And gently asked
To their surprise,
“How do you feel
When you feel old?”
Songs of Sunny Valley, (1954) p.45.

The inspiration for the title of her book and the name given Kimrey house merited a poem.
“A house with a soul”

We purchased an old, old house for our home
Almost at the foot of a hill
Where the sunshine is brighter
And the bird’s song is lighter
And the valley lies peaceful and still.
There’s a road at the front and a stream at the back
Where in summer the small children play.
Here the sky seems much bluer
And the heart grows much truer
And heaven seems nearer each day.

I prayed for a name for our valley and house
And soft as the zephyrs in trees,
Its words ringing clearer
And I heard what it said with all ease.
“Sunny Valley, Sunny Valley, Sunny Valley,” it sang
And the melody over me stole.
When the voice ceased its singing,
These words were still ringing,
“A house, a house with a soul!”
Songs of Sunny Valley, (1954) p.12.

This short piece highlights some of her work with the hope that becoming acquainted with “Miss Grace” will stimulate interest in learning more about her work. Miss Grace’s recognition as a poet continues with many of her books now available on eBay and Amazon.


Pottery of North Carolina

Like many towns on the Deep River, one cannot imagine how busy Franklinville was and how many potters it could support. One of the oldest was Enock Spinks Craven {1810-1893). Craven produced salt-glazed utilitarian stoneware and taught his nephew James Madison Hayes (1832-1922) to make pottery in his shop. Hayes made
pottery in Franklinville before moving to New Salem in 1870.

Hayes may have been one of the unluckiest soldiers in the Civil War. In his book, The Randolph Hornets In The Civil War, Wally Jarrell includes a picture of the heavily bearded Hayes, who enlisted in Company M on Monday 6 March 1862. Hays was captured and imprisoned three times and released twice before the end of the war.

I visited Lindsey Lambeth at The North Carolina Pottery Center in Seagrove to get pictures of both Craven and Hays’’ pots. Lindsey made the valuable observation that he wished both potters had stamps with deeper indentations for it is difficult at times to read their names.

When I think of 19th century Franklinville potters, the “3Ms” come to my mind. The “3Ms” is a term that I coined for the Marable, Moffitt, and McCoy families of potters. All of which were related by marriage. Many years ago, I received a phone call from Dorothy Auman. She told me to drop everything and meet her near Moffitt’s Mill. She did not elaborate, but upon arriving I found that a bulldozer had unearthed the pottery site of Jesse Moffitt. The hillside was covered with pottery sherds and jug necks made by three different potters. The three potters were Jesse, and his sons Manley Robinson Moffitt (1835-1913) and Elijah Kelly Moffitt (1836-1910).

There is only so much room on a farm or pottery and as one generation grows and starts their own family, it becomes necessary that some leave their homes. Kelly Moffitt left the Moffitt’s Mill area and moved to Franklinville, while his brother Manley first established a pottery near Flags Springs United Methodist Church, before moving near his brother in Franklinville. Both turned high-quality salt-glazed utilitarian stoneware. Manley’s son, William Jasper Moffitt {1864-1936) was the last Moffitt to turn ware in the Franklinville area. His ware was marked Willy J. Moffitt. Willy J. was the great grandfather of local funeral homeowner, Bill Craven.

The second of the “3M” family of potters will be found in Cedar Falls. John Pascal Marable (1856-1932) was the grandson and namesake of potter Pascal McCoy. He is probably the most important potter that many are unaware of. Marable was a journeyman potter who had a route, filling one shop and then going to the next. He did not build his own shop until 1925, just seven years before his death. Beside turning quality stoneware, Marable’s importance as a teacher was instrumental in the emergence of two families that would bridge the change from utilitarian stoneware to art pottery.

Melvin Owens told me that his grandfather’s shop was one that employed Marable, and it was Marable who taught Owen’s sons, James Henry {1866-1923) and Rufus {1872-1948) to turn pottery. These two Owens potters had 9 sons who would be instrumental in the art pottery movement.

While I was working at Seagrove Pottery, I had the pleasure of meeting James Auman on one of his infrequent trips to North Carolina. He was interested in seeing the Potters Museum and I was able to be his guide.

Mr. Auman gave me an education about his family’s contribution to North Carolina pottery and the clay that became known as Auman clay. According to Cole family lore, Benjamin Franklin Cole had a dream about a pure white clay. The next morning, he set out with a bucket and shovel, found the clay, and traded his land for it. Frank Cole sold his shop to Jerome Auman, who would continue to make pottery there with the help of Pascal Marable.

The Auman clay was sought after because of its color and surface texture. Around the turn of the century, white China became attainable to some and the potters tried their best to imitate it. The Auman clay was excellent to create the look the homeowner desired. The clay was problematic, often cracking while turning and also drying. Only the best turner could produce the shapes they desired.

James Auman was pleased to see examples of his family’s work and even identified some that he had turned. We moved along to the stoneware and he saw a jug signed JP MaraBle. In his excitement, he told me that Pascal worked for his grandfather and was instrumental in his sons learning to turn ware. Thus, the second family Marable educated that would make the change from utilitarian to art ware. Auman described Marable as tall and thin and related a story of his family’s fondness for Marable. Long after Marable left the Auman’s employment he received a visit and was taken on a picnic by the entire Auman clan, who had boarded cars and traveled from Seagrove to Cedar Falls. At the end of the Sunday afternoon Marable did not want them to leave, and this was the last time that they would see him alive. Wally Jarrell identified another soldier-potter in the Grays Chapel area. His name was William Clay Routh (1835-1910) and he enlisted in Company Mon 10 June 1861. In 1870 he and Manley Robinson Moffitt filed an Article of Agreement to produce stoneware pottery. Throughout his life he is listed as a farmer and potter on the census records. Routh stamped his ware WC Ruth. He is buried at Grays Chapel United Methodist Church.

Joseph Sand Pottery can be found at 2555 George York Rd. Randleman, NC. This is a little confusing to me because the shop seems closer to Central Falls. Joseph apprenticed under Mark Hewitt in Pittsboro, NC. Hewitt is an interesting character. His father worked for Spode in England and he was one of the last apprentices of Michael Cardew, one of the greatest English potters of the 20th century. Sand is known for his extremely large pots. He has sales a number of times a year and you can receive information about them at His wood fired kiln reminds me of an overturned boat.

Hal and Elanor Pugh have done an amazing job of documenting the Quaker potters in the New Salem area forms the late 18th to early 19th century. These potters were producing lead glazed earthenware, some with intricate slip decorations. Peter Dicks, Henry Watkins, and William Dennis all made pottery here. Peter Dicks was perhaps the first potter in the area and possibly influenced William Dennis in the pottery trade, who in turn influenced Watkins. All were neighbors and were members in good standing of the Friends Meeting. Being a staunch abolitionist William Dennis took a freed black, George Newby, as an apprentice in 1813. Newby’s apprenticeship was completed around 1822, the year that Dennis left North Carolina for Richmond, Indiana.

James Madison Hays moved to New Salem and eventually purchased the Dennis pottery property. He and his brother Eli continued to produce the utilitarian salt glazed ware that he had made in Franklinville.

Today on the Dennis pottery site Hal and Eleanor Pugh have their New Salem Pottery and produce slip decorated earthenware reminiscent of early Quaked slipware. The pottery can be found at 789 New Salem Rd. Randleman, NC 27316 or online at Their scholarship and craftmanship is seen in every pot that they produce. From our start in Coleridge to our ending in New Salem we have seen a history of pottery that is still being made today. Our earliest earthenware potters are found near Coleridge and New Salem. Families like the Cravens, who begin near Coleridge eventually move into the Seagrove area near highway 705. J. D. Craven, who was born near our house goes to the area around Longleaf and teaches the Hancock, Chrisco, and Teague families to make pottery. Pascal Marable helps to establish the Auman and Owens potters. Perhaps the Highway 22 corridor should be recognized as once being the center of pottery production in Randolph County with Ramseur being as its epicenter.


Ramseur Fall Festival Article from 1989

The following article is of the very first Ramseur Fall Festival and is taken from the Ramseur Bulletin on Wednesday, October 25th, 1989.

Merchant Pleased with First Effort: Festival Crowd Likes The Main Event

Main Street put its best foot forward and came away a win­ner last Saturday as the first Ramseur Fall Festival was judged by visitors and vendors a huge success. 

“It was a great day and I really enjoyed it,” said Grady Lawson, whose Eastern Ran­dolph Boosters booth sold completely out of barbeque by 1:00 pm, underestimating the turnout for the festival. 

Close to 7,000 visitors spent the day on Main Street despite chilly temperatures and a blus­tery wind that kept the crowd in the sun most of the morning. Many of the vendors who had set up booths by 6:00 am were most effected by the cold. 

“I’ve been selling gloves and toboggans all morning,” said H. D. Gooch,ownerofGooch’s on Main Street. “This has been the best day I’ve had all year.”

Many other Main Street merchants had booths in front of their stores. Wayne Stutts and wife Darius, owners of Brady’s Appliance, sold fun­nel cakes all day and couldn’t keep up with the demand. 

“I haven’t sold much in the store today, Stutts said, “but that wasn’t the purpose of the festival anyway; lt was to create interest in and get people downtown and it has surely done that.” 

Stutts added that he plans to get a bigger cooker so that he can cook more funnel cakes for the crowd next year. 

Main Street was crowded by 10:00 am when Mayor June Beane welcomed everyone and formally dedicated the Ram­seur Community Building. Mayor Beane noted that Ram­seur had needed such a facility for some time and that the converted bank building was ideally located to serve the whole community. 

“We hope the building will be a place of laughter, beauty and friendship throughout the year,” Beane said, “and I invite you to take a look.” 

Many people were already taking a look and the flow of visitors through the building was steady all day. Ramseur industries had set up exhibits of locally made products in the refurbished bank lobby and everyone seemed impressed. 

“They’ve really done a nice job with it,” said G. W. Allen, who worked in the building for many years when the Bank of Coleridge was located there. “I really like it.” 

The John Plant Company, manufacturers of industrial gloves, gave gloves to visitors at their booth. The chilly morn­ing temperatures made the gloves a popular item. 

The Weiman Co. held a drawing at 2:30 pm for a table made at the Ramseur plant, and announced the winner, Laurie Spangler of Ramseur. 

Ramseur’s ambassador of good will, Taft Kivett, spent all day giving away pennies and smiles at his booth in front of the Ramseur Mercantile. 

“I don’t want you to go home broke,” Kivett would tell ev­eryone as he placed a penny in their palm. He always added, “don’t spend it all in one place.” 

Kivett estimates he gave away between 1,700 and 2,000 pennies during the day. His daughter Naomi and her husband, Tommy Cranford, from Asheboro gave away 500 bal­loons to children at the same booth. 

Churches and civic organi­zations that had booths reported that sales of food items, espe­cially home made baked goods were excellent. Craft sales were not quite as good, but the vol­ume of lookers was good throughout the day. 

Cheryl Routh of the Happy Hills Animal Foundation was pleased with the number of people that came by her booth and indicated, as most vendors did that she would be back next year. 

“You really couldn’t ask for the crowd to be any better,” Routh said. 

Many visitors noted how neat and clean everything was along Main and Liberty streets, where at 5:00 pm there was very little trash after the day’s activities. 

Main Street Merchants As­sociation President Tim Cox, who spent the day taking care of the logistics of the event said everything ran smoothly with the exception of some minor electrical problems. 

“The electrical drops we had to some booths couldn’t handle the loads, such as coffee pots, deep fryers and things like that,” Cox said, “so we had to get power from some of the stores along the street. Next year we’ll estimate the load a little better.”

Cox was pleased with the turnout for the festival and stressed there would be a festi­val next year since this one had gone so well. 

A steady stream of visitors filed through the Ramseur His­torical Museum all day, many for their first look at items rela­tive to Ramseur history. Scouts from Troop 508 greeted the visitors and gave information about the museum. 

The Ramseur Public Library sold every available copy of the Ramseur 40’s Video and is making plans to reorder. The videotape which shows life on Ramseur streets in 1940 sells for $15 and proceeds go to the library. 

A waiting list has been started for the second order of tapes and anyone wanting a copy should call the Ramseur Public Library or Mrs. H. M. Kivett. The deadline for order­ing a tape is Nov. 10th. 

Word of the festival had apparent! y spread to far beyond the local area. One caller to the Ramseur Bulletin left a name and number on the answering machine saying she had heard Ramseur was having a festival but needed directions because she didn’t know where Ram­seur was located. 

Main Street Merchants are hoping that based on the suc­cess of the festival, it will be­come an annual event and help to promote the town and its location far and wide. 


The Ramseur Fall Festival – “A DAY ON MAIN STREET”: The First Festival

by WT Cox

This year marks the 33rd year of the Ramseur Fall Festival. An event that has become a tradition in our small town. But how did this festival get started and why. I can answer those questions because I was one of the original founding members. Here is a brief history:

Back in 1985, I purchased the old Craven-Kivett clothing store building on Main Street and relocated Zack White Leather Co from Raleigh to downtown Ramseur.  At that time, the  Ramseur downtown was still thriving. There was over 20 small business located on the short stretch called the Downtown Business District. Soon, the Ramseur Pharmacy closed and Mickey Whitehead moved to the new Rite Aid located on Hwy 64.  Soon after that, First Citizen Bank, formerly the Bank of Coleridge, moved into their new location located across from the old Coble Diary on Hwy 64.  

While some businesses had moved away, still many chose to remain.  Kermit Pell had closed his grocery store and the new owner Wayne Clark was in the process of opening a clothing store in the old building.  Brady Appliance Service had changed owners and now Wayne and Darius Stutts operated the longtime appliance store. Pep’s Appliance had split between Jr. Blackard, who ran the appliance business, and Bud Whillet who handled the service end of the business and Grady Lawson ran the NAPA store.  

Needless to say, Main Street was changing. The once “center of Town” was shifting toward Highway 64.  There were still several businesses that chose to stay downtown, and we were one of them.  Gooches Dime Store still operated as he had for decades, and the Ramseur Diner still served three meals daily, six days a week. The Town Hall was just around the corner and the Post Office still drew people downtown.  There was Albert Chilton’s barbershop, Ramseur Beauty Shop, Allen’s Insurance, and The Ramseur Library among other businesses still located downtown. Centura Bank and Jordan Memorial Methodist Church were there too. All of these older businesses were struggling and there was a feeling that the “Town” had shifted their interest towards the 64 corridor to the north. 

To bring the merchants together into one unified “voice”, the merchants decided to form a Merchants Association. In the spring of 1989, The Main Street Merchants Association was created and our first endeavor was to have a Bar-B-Que on Main Street to raise funds. Julian Butler did the cooking and the merchants sold sandwiches. It went so well that it was decided to try a festival in the fall. I had worked many festivals in my years of selling leather goods, but never put on a festival myself.  The first thing we did was to get permission from our Mayor, June Bean who thought it was a great idea. Next, we polled all the merchants to get ideas as to the layout and dates. We contacted Dwight Holland of the Randolph Arts Guild to get his advice on how to proceed. Mr. Holland was one of the founders of the Asheboro Fall Festival and his advice was very helpful.

 We decided on the third weekend in October because Asheboro had the first weekend for their festival, and Pittsboro had the second. The name “A Day on Main Street” projected exactly what we wanted to accomplish. It was the hope of all the merchants that people would come back downtown and shop. The next thing we had to do was raise funds and get permission from the State to block off Main Street. Since the road was a State road, permission from the Dept of Highways was needed. Also if we blocked off the street, we had to have a fire truck stationed across the bridge in Brooklyn to service that area in case of a fire. The Boy Scouts agreed to help with picking up trash and the Ramseur Fire Dept agreed to help with parking and coordination in exchange for help with their Christmas Parade.  

The biggest cost would be the sound system and to pay for garbage pick up at the end of the Festival  We solicited local merchants and citizens for donations and before long, we had enough money to start. Our first festival had over 40 groups contribute, and all the entrainment was on a  volunteer basis.  We did pay a $20 gratuity to help with gas, and usually had more people willing to preform that time allowed. We advertised through flyers and posters, and word mouth. It was a surprise when the big day finally came and the crowd was estimated to be between 7000 and 8000 people with over 150 venders showing up. The merchants, along with the Town decided to make the Festival an annual event and designate it a “Craft Festival”, with only hand made items or food allowed on the street. Since the charter for the Main Street Merchants Assn was for a non profit, all revenue that was generated from the festival was given back to the town, with the exception of funds need for the next event.

 Over the next several years, the Ramseur Fall Festival grew … a lot. Local artist Neil Kivett drew a historical scene every year and we put it on caps, t-shirts and sweat shirts that were sold the day of the festival. Today, many of these shirts and caps are considered collector’s items. Within 4 years the attendance had almost doubled and the list of crafters and venders grew to over 200. A flea market section was created and the festival was expanded up Main and Liberty streets to include most of the downtown area. The simple stage that had originally consisted of a flat bed trailer donated by Harold Briles, was replaced with a 16’ x 40’ stage that we constructed each year just for the event. We had a midway with pony rides, a small Ferris wheel and games, antique cars, bubble gum blowing contest for the kids and yes, even a tobacco spitting contest… which now seems really gross just to think about it. 

With revenue generated by the Festival, the  merchants were able to purchase planters for the street, American flags that the Boy Scouts to put out for holidays, new Christmas lights and banners for light poles, plus we paid for wiring so merchants could hook up for electricity at future events.   

One of the best results of the festival was the Ramseur Christmas Parade. This event had begun to decline but was given new life when cash prizes were offered for best float and bands from out of the county were bought in to perform. All this was a result of money donated by the Merchants Assn from revenue generated by the Festival. A $500 first place price for the best float… and generous second and third made our small parade popular with churches and groups wanting to celebrate Christmas. One year we had 11 major floats in the parade, and three marching bands. Dudley High School was always a crowd-pleaser with their high stepping and baton twirling show. The Ramseur Fall Festival soon became the premier community event and almost everyone looked forward to the third weekend in October.  Over the years, more and more business gradually moved from downtown and the business district began to decline, and so did the Festival and parade. The Merchants Association ran the festival for several years. I was president of the Association for 13 years, and then when we moved our business out of the downtown area to Moffitt Street. The Festival was managed by Carol Akers and Wanda Simmons for several years. Eventually it was turned over to the Town. Managing an event such as the Festival is a huge endeavor. It requires a lot of work and coordination. As a merchant, it was hard to devote the time needed, but somehow come Festival Day, things worked themselves out. Now the Ramseur Chamber of Commerce is in charge and they have brought a more professional approach to managing and running the Festival. 

They deserve a lot of credit for giving new life to the Festival and turning this event to something Ramseur can be proud of. Their goal is still the same as it was from the beginning, which is to bring more people to downtown Ramseur, to bring people together and to promote our Town.

  Ramseur’s new motto is “Where Friends and Family Meet”… this is certainly true when thinking about the Fall Festival.  Many former residents will make the trip back to their hometown during this time of year just to visit. I tend to like the old motto as well : The Finest Little Town In The World”.  For people who truly know Ramseur, this speaks truth. The Chamber has injected our old Festival with new and better ideas. They have re-created an event that all of Ramseur can be proud of and certainly can enjoy.  The third weekend in October is a special day for Ramseur. We hope to see you there.

Tea Talk

TEA TALK: Yerba Mate (What is that?)

By, Mary Murkin

What has the strength of coffee, the health benefits of tea, and the euphoria of chocolate all in one beverage?  That would be Yerba mate (pronounced Yer-bah mah-tay)—naturally caffeinated and nourishing leaves of the South American rainforest holly tree.  Tribes from South America have sipped Yerba mate for centuries.  These rainforest people experienced effects of nourishment, focus, and invigoration from drinking this infused drink.

Yerba mate is not technically tea, but rather it is an infusion.  The drink “tea” is made from the leaves of an Asian shrub called Camellia senensis;  whereas, the Yerba mate drink is made from the leaves of a South American shrub called Ilex paraguariensis.  Since they are both prepared as an infusion of the leaves into the water, Yerba mate is typically found in fine tea stores.  You can drink the Yerba mate infusion as a warm drink or a cold one.  This is purely a matter of preference.

The nutritional value of the leaves of this rainforest mate tree is exceptional.  The leaves contain 24 vitamins and minerals, 15 amino acids, and abundant antioxidants.  It was back in 1964 that The Pasteur Institute and the Paris Scientific Society concluded “it is difficult to find a plant in any area of the world equal to mate in nutritional value” and that it contains “practically all of the vitamins necessary to sustain life.”  Pretty impressive, indeed!

The caffeine content in Yerba mate is somewhere between that of green tea and coffee.  However, unlike tea, Yerba mate has a very low tannin content which allows it to be strong like coffee without becoming extremely bitter.  It is also proven that Yerba mate is not oily and acid forming, unlike coffee, therefore it is less likely to cause jitters and stomach acid.

High-quality Yerba mate is shade-grown, which allows it to deliver more flavor and medicinal and nutritional properties.  Enjoying Yerba mate is generally an acquired taste.  The drink will have a somewhat earthy, grassy flavor.  You make it with warm water, and not boiling water, as that would release bitter tannins into the water.  To ease you into acquiring the taste for Yerba mate, you may add a little sugar, honey, milk, lemon, herbs, syrups, liqueurs, or fruit juices.  Yerba mate is one of the healthiest drinks you’ll ever raise to your lips.  Bottom’s up!

Mary Murkin is the owner of Carriage House Tea which is sold at Brightside Gallery, 170 Worth Street, Asheboro, NC.  Contact her at:

Brightside Gallery170 Worth StreetAsheboro, NC 27203