From the Sampson Independent, February 20, 1958.
Mrs. Albert Chesnutt of Turkey Township, Sampson County, affectionately known to her many family connections as “Cousin Elia”, is still going strong at 87 and feels she has much to live for, even though she is the last of her generation. She still has the charm, pride, and love of family and friends, which has characterized her family.
Mrs. Chesnutt is the youngest and only survivor of the nine children (eight girls, one boy) of the late Archie (1817-1904) and Narcissa Ballard (1827-1893) Matthews, who were married in 1847 and settled down on a plantation near Six Runs, part of which Mrs. Chesnutt lives on. She is proud of her forebears. Her paternal grandfather, Lazarus Matthews, was the son of Edmond Matthews, who, in colonial days, came from Isle of Wight County, VA and settled on Cane Creek in Sampson County. Her paternal grandparents were Bennett (1785-1839) and Nancy Hollingsworth (born 1782) Ballard. The Ballards came from Virginia and the Hollingsworths came from England to Pennsylvania in 1682 with William Penn.
Cousin Elia was born on October 26, 1870 at her father’s old home which, is well-preserved and is still standing and is well preserved. She wells remembers her Grandmother Ballard, who was born one year after the American Revolution, and lived through all the presidential administrations from Washington to Grant. She remembers her mother spinning and weaving in the loom house, and she still has an old coverlet woven by her.
When Cousin Elia was a young girl, their neighbors were the families of William Matthews, Wright Gregory, Frank Carroll, G. Washington Carroll, Jim Carroll, CPT William Thomson, Claude E. Daniel, William Hines, Robert James, Perry James, Nicholas Chesnutt, the Bardens, the Merritts, and others. Nearly all these families are dead or have moved away.
The Archie Matthews home was always known far and wide for its gracious hospitality with plenty of old time refreshments and bountiful food. No Christmastime was complete without plenty of eggnog and syllabub. They were members of Red Hill Universalist Church, and did not oppose any kind of wholesome and respectable entertainment. Cousin Elia started dancing when she was 15, and the writer believes that even now she could dance a round without a moment’s hesitation. Some of her earliest recollections are of dances in their home.
Cousin Elia says that she started to school at about six years old at the old Barden School, which was located nearby. Her teachers were Miss Genoa Maxwell, Miss Rachael Matthews, and J. T. Kennedy. She later attended a school across Stewart’s Creek, three miles from her home. It was known as the Woodland school, which was taught by Mr. Street Brewer, Thomas James, Maury Ward, and Mrs. Martha James. She says they all drank out of the same well bucket and does not remember that any diseases were known to spread from it.
Fox hunting was a great sport in Turkey and Taylor’s Bridge in the old days. Charlie Williams and CPT William Thomason were lovers of this sport and had large packs of foxhounds.
On November 18, 1896, Mill Elia Francis Matthews was married to a neighborhood boy, Albert Chesnutt, the son of Nicholas Chesnutt, whose second wife was a Maxwell from Duplin County. The Chesnutts were known for their find cabinet making and several old sideboards built by Charles Chesnutt can still be found in the neighborhood. Albert Chesnutt was a great fiddler, as was his brother, Jim, who is still living. (Judge Henry Grady, James Grady (bass violin), and Perry James would play with him.)
Mr. & Mrs. Chesnutt celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary with members of their own family on November 18, 1956, and the accompanying photograph was taken on that occasion. Mr. Chesnutt passed away last year. They have one son, Norwood of Whiteville, and three daughters, Mrs. A.J. Bullard, Mrs. J.S. Melvin, and Mrs. C.E. McLamb, and eight grandchildren.
Cousin Elia says that at one time they use to trade at Magnolia in Duplin County, which was 9 miles away, and that she would buy her hats from Miss Macy Cox, who was a milliner at that time. Miss Macy is still living and is also 85. Before the coming of rural free delivery, the neighborhood people got their mail at the Six Runs Post Office, kept at the home of Nicholas Chesnutt.
The Chesnutts and James families were also ardent Universalists. With Red Hill Church being a good distance away, the local families built Hopewell Universalist Church, which continued until the late 1930’s. Some of the pastors were Rev. O.E. Bryant, Dr. Q.A. Shinn, the Rev. L.P. Jones, and the Rev. Thomas Chapman. Red Hill Universalist Church was organized sometime prior to 1855. Old Plains Presbyterian Church, located nearby, was organized by Patrick Murphy in 1859.
According to the late Albert Chesnutt, Stewart’s Creek School was organized in this community prior to 1908 and continued to operate until consolidated with the Turkey school around 1926. Some of the teachers at this school were Miss Mattie Marshburn, Miss Lou Matthews, Lemon Matthews, Miss Natalie Tuck, Miss Lucy Reaves, Miss Mary Page, Miss Annie Ellis, Miss Mary Hines, and Miss Nancy Robinson. The Honorable Graham Barden, a longtime Congressman from Sampson County, also attended this school.
(Editor’s note: Albert Chesnutt died April 29, 1957 and Elia died May 1, 1964.).