Transcribed and Submitted by Natasha Miles
Columbus County, NC
|Byrdville-Freeman: Twin Towns
News Reporter 11 October 1971
75th Anniversary Edition
Since Byrdville and Freeman are so close together it is hard to tell where one village ended at and the other began. Only about a mile was between the freight depots which the ACL Railroad Company used to have at them.
But following are some interesting notes about both places which we obtained from the Rev J W Roberts.
It is definitely not known by Roberts how Byrdville got its name, but he recalls that Lynn [Len] Byrd used to own a fine tract of land there and it is now assumed that is why the place was called Byrdville.
Back when Bolton was called 'Maxton,' Freeman was called 'Brinkley,' probably in honor of Joe Brinkley who ran a store, the post office at his store, and cared for the switch light and looked after the depot.
It has been about 50 years since the road was being graded through Freeman for the present hard-surface 74-76 highway, that Joe Brinkley walked away to tend the railroad switch light and on the way back to the store suffered a fatal heart attack.
He had a son by the name of Jack who operated a sawmill at Freeman. Up at Byrdville E P Gatlin had a sawmill which he sold to Judge Lewis. They had a small locomotive which they sold to the New Berlin Lumber Company. This writer fired that locomotive back in 1918 while Jim Williams engineered it. Helped load it onto a flat car when Mitchell sold out at Delco.
It was purchased by some company in Brunswick County and then Jack Brinkley brought it to haul logs for his mill at Freeman. At that time Brinkley was trying to log his mill by an old chaindrive locomotive which was engineered by a man named Red White.
When Brinkley bought the locomotive the Rev J W Roberts backed it off the flat car and was first to engineer it on Brinkley's railroad. Perhaps the last to engineer it was Owen Reaves. Roberts' widow sold the little locomotive for junk.
Eugene Furh ran a store at Byrdville, and a sawmill, and during the roaring '20s sold out and put up a hardware store in Bolton.
About a mile south of Freeman the late RC Applewhite Sr had a turpentine still and store, and ran a post office. The mail came to Byrdville, and twice a week the late Mrs Emma Little would carry the mail bag to the Applewhite store from Byrdville, take one back, and her nephew (our informant) walked with her.
The postmaster at Byrdville was Frances Creech, but it was tended mostly by Henry Creech.
Around 1908, Jim Grimsley built a beautiful home and store on the south side of the railroad at Freeman, and was ringleader in getting the Methodist church built on the road leading to the Piney Grove community. At that time Joe Brinkley operated the post office at Freeman, but surrendered it in favor of Grimsley. Grimsley had his sister, Miss Sally Grimsley, run it until she married a lumberman by the name of Jim Kellihan.
Later, the late Andrew Lennon built a store on the north side of the railroad and Grimsley gave up the postmastership in favor of Lennon.
By now the highway had been built and automobiles were showing up in increasing numbers. A service station was built on the north side of the railroad abreast of ACL freight depot and while run by Delmas Grimsley (who did minor repairs on cars) the late Joe DeBoise was station attendant. Also, there was a barber shop owned and operated by Baz(?) Mitchell.
Both Byrdville and Freeman were pretty well surrounded by farming communities, but Roberts says that a lot of folk engaged in turpentine and tar making, and made shingles and cut crossties for the railroad company. Tobacco growing was not even a novelty in the area during those earlier years.
So far as we've been able to find out the first tobacco grown in eastern Columbus for commercial use was grown by Mr and Mrs Fred Kraushar in the Delco community. Then it began spreading like wildfire until it became the chief money crop of nearly all the farmers.
When Eugene Furh operated his store at Bolton, having sold out at Byrdville, I wrote in the News Reporter of meeting a bear face-to-face in the Greenswamp. After reading it, Furh told me of hearing scratching beyond a huge cypress log in the Greenswamp. Thinking it turkeys, he crawled to it, put his hands on it, raised up, just as a huge bear did likewise on the other side. Both blared their eyes, then turned and fled in opposite directions.