Nancy & Edith Ann Mewborn  


Contributed by Edith Gray Mewborn Babb Martin - from the Mewborn Reunion - Spring 1976

Included for the history of the family and of the times and used with permission of Edith Martin. This is not the entire speech as it is rather lengthy.

Plutarch said: "It is desirable to have good ancestry and be 'well-descended', but the glory belongs to them."

Nancy Mewborn was the second daughter and fourth child of Mary Aldridge and Parrott Mewborn, II and was born July 18th 1829. Edith Ann was the fourth daughter and seventh child and was born October 12, 1836. They grew up on the old home place on what is now the Snow Hill-Jason highway, near Tyson's Marsh. The old homeplace had stood steadfast until January 1975 when it was destroyed by fire.

From church and family records, we learn that Nancy was healthy and grew to be a "good size woman, weighing about 160 pounds and of good deportment. It has been said of her that she was as blameless as most people. She was industrious, always ready and willing to do her duty and bear her part of the burden of life at the spinning wheel, or on the loom. She was a good hand with the needles and a good tailor. She learned the tailoring trade - to cut and to fit. She believed in working and those around her did not eat idle bread…"

As Nancy and Edith were growing into womanhood, there came as a boy, a relative, John Parrott Gray, son of John Gray and Edith Mewborn, to live in the Mewborn household. It is speculated that it was during this time of growing up together, that John, who later married both of these girls, was provided the opportunity of being able to see for himself the fine attributes of these two fine, young ladies - their daily habits of thrift, workmanship, and lady-like behavior.

Nancy and John were united in marriage on the 31st of August, 1865. They had one child who was but two years old when it died. It has been said that it was a "bright and loving child".

We do not know exactly when John left to fight in the Civil War for the Southern Cause, but this he did. His Testament which he carried with him on his personage while in the battles, along with his photograph made while wearing his Confederate uniform, are on display here today.

"Nancy united with the church at Mewborn's Meeting House, (four years before her marriage), on Saturday before the third Sunday in September, 1852. She was baptised by her father who was the pastor of the church and she remained a consistent, pious, and orderly member for 12 years and until her death at age 35 on the 4th day of May, 1864. She died at her mother's after about eight weeks of illness, of erysipelas and typhoid fever. Although her suffering was great, she was not confined to her bed but about two weeks before her death. She died while the battles were raging around Richmond and Petersburg, so her husband, John, could not come home to her in his last sickness. He had not seen her in about 15 months. He appeared to be her whole study while in her sickness, and they were as loving a couple one would see anywhere." (Church and local newspaper accounts)

Edith grew to be a good size woman about 5'3" tall, and weighing about 150 pounds and "though she was a little on the stout side, she possessed a good, jovial, smooth, nature. She was very neat, and was blessed with a "good common English education". After the Civil War broke out and her brothers had to go to the army, she with her sister, had to help their aged father look after the feeding and caring for the stock on the farm, there being no other white persons on the farm. Upon their father's death in 1864, this duty fell heavily upon them both.

On the 23rd day of February, 1865, Edith was united in marriage with her brother-in-law, John Parrott Gray, who had returned from the War and found Nancy gone. They remained at the old home place with her family that year. The next year they went to his home. They lived happily until his death in 1896 from a diabetic condition and blood poisoning believed gotten from a leg infection. It has been said that he was "one of the best of men --- had no enemies, and no one could say anything against him."

As a widow and in her later years, she has been described as having always worn black --- a black dress, bonnet, and a black cape or shawl with a white collar. She always wore an apron gathered at the waist. She could always carry apples and her sewing basket in this apron. "She could make a fine stitch and prided herself on the neat sewing she could do. She could knit also and could knit a new heel back into stockings where it had worn out as well as piece beautiful quilts. Some of these quilts have survived.

Edith nor any of her children ever made any profession of religion though they were of the Baptist belief. She died in the spring of 1915 and both she and Nancy are buried in the Mewborn Cemetery as well as John Parrott Gray also. Although she was not a member of Mewborn's Church, my brother Elder J. M. says he remembers our father saying that it was "Granny Edie" who in 1897 gave the long slash virgin pine timber that the old seats in this Mewborn Church were made out of and were used from 1897 to 1950. The boards had to be 1" by 18" and were used for the long box pews. She donated the greater part of the lumber used in this church and a lot of it is still in the building today.

As to the connection of John Parrott Gray. John Gray married Edith Mewborn and among others they had a son Parrott Mewborn Gray who married Nancy Sugg. Parrott Mewborn Gray was born in 1802 and his wife, Nancy, in 1805. Both died prior to 1855 and had only one son John Parrott Gray. Parrott Mewborn Gray inherited a sizeable tract of land from his father, John Gray, and this land today adjoins the west side of Hwy 258 and was bounded on the NS by Gray's Mill, approximately six miles South from Snow Hill. This land is in Greene County, but adjoined the Lenoir-Greene County lines.

Parrott and Nancy were interred in a small cemetery in the field to the rear of the Hardy Sugg homeplace on Hwy 258 near Gray's Mill. This cemetery today is located on the Ray Jones Farm, and the wooden head pieces have long since vanished, carrying away, the actual death dates of these two, along with others who are interred there. This cemetery is only a short distance from what was Parrott Mewborn Gray's land and his home must have been in this close, general area. After their deaths, Elder Parrott Mewborn II, at the court's request, was appointed guardian by the court for John Parrott Gray who was his great nephew. Elder Parrott Mewborn obtained a court order and sold this tract of land on Wheat Swamp, near Gray's Mill, and purchased a tract of land that reached from the old Mewborn Mill to the Arba-Jason road. It was on this land that John Parrott Gray and Edith Mewborn Gray constructed their home, just after the Civil War.

John Parrott Gray and his brother-in-law operated the old family corn grist mill as a partnership and the partnership was known as "Gray and Mewborn Company". This name appeared on the ancient toll board in the old mill house many years ago along with the rates of grinding. This read as I recall, "Meal 1/8th, Fourth 1/4th". Those in that day and time who came to mill and could not pay for the grinding with money could get their mill and flour ground by giving the miller the above portions of their wheat and flour for service in grinding. This old toll board stayed in the millhouse for many years, I and I often wonder what became of it as well a some of the old heavy mill stones used for grinding. The old toll board was carved by sons of Henry Best III. The original mill of Elder Parrott Mewborn II, which he built after his settlement on Tyson's Marsh, in 1825, washed away in his latter years in a terrific rain storm. According to tradition, he had a vision early in the morning that this would occur that day. We are told it took place that same afternoon before sunset. After the civil War, the current millhouse and dam were constructed and after the death of John Parrott Gray in 1891, was operated for many years by L. J. H. Mewborn, and a nephew by marriage, Noah Henry Turnage. Since 1945, the mill has been owned and operated b his son, Henry Bailey Turnage. It was in 1946, 1947 that he completely modernized the old mill by building a permanent concrete dam and a wide spillway to take care of the large amount of run-off water from excessive rains. The new dam was reinforced with strong steel embedded in the concrete to prevent the dam from ever breaking again. After the work was completed by Mr. Stanley, the millwright who had the contract to do this work, the dam has never broken since. Remnants and vestages of the earlier old mill dam, built about 1830, can still be seen today from the southside of the highway, if one will look carefully enough as they cross Tyson's Marsh, just north of here, as well as the earlier dam that was, perhaps, built by the Tyson family for a small miller, many, many years prior to the one built in 1830.


When Elder Parrott Mewborn II, moved to Greene County in 1825, he left on record a sorry commentary on what he found in this neighborhood. I quote him as follows: "In 1825, I sold my land and moved in Greene County about five miles from my original homestead. This distance was short, but the difference in this neighborhood from that in which I was raised was great. It was rare to hear a white man swear, or curse an oath, and there were but few neighbors in that ill habit. But, in the neighborhood of my new home (Greene County) , it was but common, as well as, I believe, all other sins. I had not been here long before an old man who had passed his three score said to me, 'I suppose you are a Christian.' I replied to him, 'A professor.' He said, 'A Christian, for so I'll have it, for I was told by a Baptist preacher that he had understood there was not a Christian on Tyson's Marsh, and said he, 'The best answer I could give was a short stream.'" (He was referring to the Marsh). "Finding myself in such a place of iniquity and here expecting to raise a family caused me to inquire at the Throne of Grace what to do. I asked the Lord to teach me where to go, after offering my land for sale. I believe the Lord did teach me and gave me to understand that it was my duty to warn them of sin and teach them the way of Life. This neighborhood of mine did change for the better and some others that were so desirable to me did change for the worse. I hope there has been a chance for the better, but a greater and better is desirable."

John Parrott Gray, with his two brother-in-laws, Joshua Mewborn and his younger brother, L. J. H. Mewborn, built the first Mewborn School in the early 1870's (just after the Civil War in the reconstruction period), and it stood on the south side of the highway about two miles north of this church. John Parrot Gray contributed manual labor and materials for the building of this school, called the "Mewborn School", and he was one of its committee members. The school was consolidated with the Snow Hill High School and, in the past decade, the S. H. High School has been consolidated with Greene Central. By trade he was also a cotton farmer and cleared a great portion of his land from pine forests, and grew cotton on it for may years.

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