Old Spring Hope

Submitted by:  Margaret Strickland

Posted:  7 August 2010

In 1937, Constance Matthews took a journey to “Old Spring Hope.” She found the spot “in a pasture, four miles southeast of the present town [of Spring Hope], by the brink of a rock walled, moss and fern fringed spring, shaded by a giant wateroak whose gnarled roots reaching for the spring betoken centuries of age … .” A hundred yards up the hill is a sheep house. “This identical building in this identical spot, brushed by the same whiteoak boughs that tower above it like a great gray guardian, was the first store at the first Spring Hope.” It was built by Daniel Sanford Crenshaw who brought his family to Nash County around 1840.

“A closer view of the landmark reveals a framework of mortise and tenon fashion, further strengthened by wooden pegs. The shutters open like doors. The nails and single diagonal bar over each window were hand forged in the builder’s blacksmith shop. Tumbledown remains of the original shelves and postal pigeonholes can still be seen within.”

“The hand drawn lumber and shingles were hauled five miles by oxcart from a discarded store operated about 1830 to 1835 by one Josiah Jordan … .” It was located near the present Spring Hope town limits.

No one knows why Spring Hope was given its name. There are several theories as to why the “hope” was attached to the word “spring.” Logically it could have sprung from other settlements within a 15 mile radius such as Stanhope, Union Hope, and New Hope. One legend claims that Spring Hope became known due to the hope that the spring would not dry up. In olden days springs were important. People feared enemies would poison wells whereas running water was safe. This area with its country store near a natural spring, 4 miles south of the present town of Spring Hope is respectfully called “Old” Spring Hope today.

The first store in Old Spring Hope had several owners: Daniel Sanford Crenshaw; Elbert Deans; Felix Deans, with William Joyner as a partner; Albert Gay; Jim Todd; and in the 1930s, Hoke and Clay Todd. The story is told that in 1887 “Al” (or “Ab”) Gay moved his stock to Seven Paths and then to Spring Hope. Such moving energy was surprising in view of the lassitude, or “downright laziness” some said, of the original “Ab” who made his customers wait on themselves, and refused over and over again to sell his last pound of coffee or box of matches because, “Somebody else might want it.” Other early stores at Old Spring Hope belonged to “Doc” Bass, who later opened in Spring Hope, and D. H. Hansell (or Hanchel).

In 1886, the Wilmington and Weldon Railroad began to lay tracks across Nash County to extend rail service from Rocky Mount to Raleigh. The railroad company ran into opposition from James T. Webb who owned Webb’s Mill and most of the property the tracks were to run through in that area. Webb didn’t “take kindly” to the idea of a railroad on his land and he raised the price of his property so high that the railroad company decided to halt the line at a point about midway between Old Spring Hope and Webb’s Mill. This action resulted in the present location of the town of Spring Hope. The property for the town was purchased from the Hendricks family at a price so low that grateful citizens offered the couple a trip on the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad to the destination of their choice. They chose Rocky Mount, about 20 miles away!

The Spring Hope Post office had been located about 4 miles southeast of the end of the railroad at Old Spring Hope. As this was the closest post office to the new tracks, the railroad company decided to call the end of the railroad Spring Hope Depot. The post office was later moved to this location and Spring Hope was incorporated 24 Feb 1889. In the 1890s, Spring Hope Academy, a combination public-private school, was built. That was the end of “Old Spring Hope.”

[This story was taken from Stagecoach to Streamline, by Constance Matthews: 1937. Constance interviewed some of the oldest people in and around Spring Hope. They were: Mrs. Louisana Westray, May  22, 1846 - Jan. 6, 1939; J.C.M. Strickland, April 27, 1853 - April 25, 1937; N.B. Finch, Nov. 13, 1857 - ?; W. D. Lamm, Nov. 4, 1860 - ?; Wiley Lamm, Aged farmer near Spring Hope; Mrs. Sallie Hargrove Edwards, Aug. 1, 1968 - Jan. 8, 1938; George W. Bunn, Jan. 2, 1867 - ?; Henry Bartholomew, June 20, 1852 - 1944; Monroe Mills, (colored), 77; Lewis Bryant (colored), former employee at Pine Valley still.

Matthews was editor of The Nash County News. Soon after 1937, she was horseback riding in Rocky Mount. She fell off the horse and broke her back and died.

The book, Stagecoach to Streamline, and the information about Constance Matthews were furnished by Annie Pearl Brantley of Spring Hope.]

Also, included in THE CONNECTOR [Winter 1998]