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William Edward Spencer
June 22, 1848 - August 30, 1926
William Edward Spencer, son of William Watson and Susan Prucia Leath, was one of the thirteen children (9 boys and 4 girls) all of whom have joined their parents in the celestial world. All four of the girls married, though only Mary Florence, who married Dr. Albert Sidney Wells, has a living descendant, Mrs. Margaret Spencer Wells Stowe. William grew up not knowing his grandfather Leath, who was drowned at the age of forty, but was fortunate that his grandmother Leath lived to the age of seventy, and surely was on hand to welcome his return from the Civil War.
William Edward's childhood was that of the usual farm family of the period, surrounded by sisters and brothers and neighbors--some of whom were: the Fortiscue, Slade, Tooley, Bell, Ireland, Simon (Simmons), Webster, Jarvis, and Jennette families. He would go every week with his father to the Burgess or Clark Mill at New Lake to get corn ground into meal and wheat into flour. This meant an overnight trip, beginning on Friday morning by horse and buggy or wagon, and return home on Saturday afternoon. The family and community entertainments were barn dances, candy-pulling parties, horseback races and just plain visiting for "play and talk."
But the rumblings of War were sounding and William Edward heard them all. At the age of fourteen (having lied about his age), he enlisted in the Confederate States Army, March 7, 1864, Company B, 17th Regiment, North Carolina Troops, where he served with distinction and was awarded a medal for valor.
He was remembered by his children and friends as attending the CSA Veteran's meetings in Washington, N.C. every May 10th as long as he lived. When in Washington he stayed with his sister, Mrs. Sidney Wells. He marched proudly in the ranks, tipping the brim if his old grey hat.
After Appomattox he, along with many others, had no means of transportation home but by walking. He and Henry Berry (who later was a merchant) trudged the long, weary miles home. They ate Indian Corn and wild berries along the way with what food was given by sympathetic families.
Records are not clear as to whether the Yankee raiding party in search of food and supplies that came into one of the nearby creeks occurred before or after William Edward enlisted. The stories tell us that two to four small landing boats came into a creek near where the Dames-Fortiscue Cemetery is located off Road No. 1143, either to raid the surrounding farms or to meet The Buffaloes" (term used for those who traded with the enemy) for supplies. The local Defense, "Partisan Rangers" or "Captain Swindell's Company" had been alerted, and deployed their troops in the surrounding woods. When the enemy disembarked they were subjected to a deadly enfilading fire, with a total loss of life. The story continues that all the dead were buried in a common grave. A "minnie ball", found years later on the site where the raid occurred, has been loaned to the Hyde County Historical Society for permanent exhibit.
After William Edward returned from the war his father helped him to build his home, where he lived and raised his family (the home is now owned by Archie Garrish and has been moved out of Spencer's Landing.) Shortly after the war, William Edward married Anne Tooley and they were blessed with six children.
After Anne's death in 1885, he was married to Susan Udorah Sears on April 25, 1886, and to them were born fourteen children.
The family continued their life at Spencer's Landing as farming people, raising live stock and by commercial fishing. Cisterns were replacing open wells or troughs for rain water, and the family had one of the early cisterns built in the community. They gave land for the First Christian Church on Fortescue Road, which was to be called "Spencer's Chapel". Legend tells there was a dispute among the members and the church, which is now the Church of Christ, was built about three miles up the road on land given by Napoleon Sears.
Living was not without problems and one especially severe winter took its toll in many ways. Nannie J. Spencer Howard, one of the daughters, recalled a death at Spencer's Landing, when the body of Emily Elizabeth, her little sister just passed one year of age, remained on the porch of the home for three weeks "because the ground was so hard frozen that a grave could not be dug".
(Photo and information from Hyde County History published by the Hyde County Historical Society in 1976. Birth, death and marriage dates supplied by James L. Spencer who wrote that family sources indicate William Edward Spencer is buried in Norfolk, Virginia.)
McGowan / Sheppard