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Chapter 2 - The Whichard ancestors I

The ancestors from whence came our grand-parents had been in eastern North Carolina since colonial times, and most came in the earliest English and European migration to this continent.

This includes the settlements in Jamestown and other sites along the James river and Chesapeake Bay in tidewater Virginia, at Massachusetts Bay in New England, and Baron von Graffenfeid's Swiss colony at the juncture of the Neuse and Trent Rivers which settled the town of New Bern, N.C.

These connections will not be traced here in all their know and conjectured detail.

However, such details will eventually be included, longevity willing in a manuscript in preparation: Streams, the Tribulations of a Family.


James Wishard came from England to Tidewater Virginia as an indentured servant in the mid 1600's.

In time he became a substantial landowner in his own right, and some of his descendents moved into North Carolina a century later, soon after Pitt County was carved from Beaufort County.

This first deed in Pitt County changed the spelling of the family name to the present form.

Whether this signee's name was John or Solomon is not certain as a subsequent courthouse fire destroyed deeds and records.

These names appeared in each of the early generations of the family, sometimes and father, son and brother.

The last Solomon Whichard is one about which the record is clearer.

He married Nancy Fleming, a descendent -- perhaps a grand-daughter -- of David Fleming who had settled in the county in the mid 1700's.

One of their four children, David Fleming Whichard,married Violetta Hearne Jordan in 1855.

He brought from the Fleming family a given name, which at this writing, has come down in the last six generations of the Whichard family , and even branched off into the Bridgers.

In the early days transportation was by waterways, and there along the settlers claimed land and established their homesteads.

Just so, the first Whichards settled up Grindle Creek , a small stream draining from the northern county and emptying into the Tar River several miles downstream and across the river from present day Greenville.

At the mouth of the Grindle Creek was a small settlement, among the first in the county, which would be known as Pactolus.

A local teacher of Greek named after a river in Asia about which is was said: ".... whose sand was mixed with gold and whose valley was very productive."

(no page 4 in Kinko manuscript)

It was to here that James Jordan fled after dissidence with the Anglican Church in either England or Virginia or both, had cleared land for farming on a plantation that would be  know as Jordan Plains.

His son, Amelius Gray Jordan, continued on this land as a planter, but also as a teacher, and taught at the Jordan Plain's Academy which had been organized by a group of Pactolus citizens.

According to our uncle, David Julian Whichard, Amelius Gray Jordan also owned and operated several large vessels active in river and coastal trade.

Amelius Gray Jordan Married Mary Bullain and their daughter was Violetta Hearne Jordan.

Due to its treacherous coastline, since branded "The Graveyard of the Atlantic," there was little settlement of North Carolina from directly across the seas.

Rather, the colony was settled mainly by overflow from Virginia and South Carolina.

The first settlement was at Bath in 1704, at the mouth of Bath Creek on the Pamlico River which is actually an estuary of the Tar.

The different names of the upper and lover river issued from each have been separately discovered and mapped, the former from overland exploration and the latter from the ocean.

Bath Creek had originally been the haunt and home base of Edward Teach, more widely know as "Black Beard," a notorious pirate who had preyed on shipping off the coast and across the Spanish Main.

Settlement spread up the river and in 1760, to accommodate a portion of the population growing remote from Beaufort County courthouse at Bath a new county was established.

It was named in honor of William Pitt, the British foreign secretary who had championed rights and cause of the American colonials.


When a decade later no town had appeared in Pitt County, the colonial legislature in 1774 decreed that a county seat would be laid out on the elevated south bank of the river.

The community was named Martinborough in honor of Josiah Martin, who would be the last royal governor of the colony.

After the country won its independence, Governor Martin having been particularly unpopular with the colonists, the town was renamed in honor of General Nathaniel Greene, a war hero of the Revolution.

By the time of the War Between the States the town had slowly grown to a population of around 800 persons.

Thus it was when David Fleming Whichard moved his bride across the river from their respective ancestral holdings and began a family in the "muddy little town on the Tar."

Julius R. Whichard and David Jordan Whichard were born just at the outset of hostilities between the northern and southern states.

Their father, David Fleming Whichard served The Army of the Confederacy as a commissary sergeant, returning home after Appomattox.

He and "Miss Lett" had two additional children after the war, Clarence B. Whichard and Ora Violetta Whichard.  He served Pitt County successively as Deputy Sheriff, Deputy Register of Deeds, and was Register of Deeds at the time of his death in 1877.

I well remember the massive stone marker covering his grave in the yard of the old Memorial Baptist Church, since  renamed to Williamson's Memorial Park when the church disposed of its property to the town.

Our great-grandmother, Violetta Jordan Whichard, survived her husband by over three decades, dying in 1911.

She in part supported herself by following in her father's footsteps as a teacher, first in private academies run by others, and then in a one-room school house at the rear of her home on Second Street .

She was an art teacher.


Her grandson and our uncle, David Jordan Whichard told me about a professional house painter in Greenville who years later said that "Miss Lett" taught him most of what he knew about mixing colors.

My father also told me that the house on Second Street was a "mail order home;" that is, had been build from a pre-fabricated kit that had been shipped in.

The house was later purchased by Judge Frank Wooten and was also the home of Frank Wooten Jr., and young Frank -- of my generation -- once told me that the old school house had been attached to the house as a kitchen.

Before that the old school building was to serve another purpose.

Just over a century and a half ago a young New England painter, Samuel F. B. Morse developed an electric apparatus which could transmit signals over a vast distance.

Within several years he had devised a code whereby these signals could  be reversibly translated into and out of language.

It is supposed that the Civil War, as such crises usually do, greatly accelerated the application and technology of telegraphy.

This was the milieu in which all three Whichard brothers became telegraph operators, and at various times were employed by the Postal Telegraph Company.

In 1877, the year their father died, a Mr. L. Thomas began publishing The Express , Pitt County's first newspaper.

It is assumed that having ready access to that day's Fountainhead of information had some part in attracting the Whichards to news publishing.

At 16 years of age, David Jordan Whichard, who would one day be our grandfather, became the state's youngest newspaper editor.


The Express closed its doors in 1882 and the brothers purchased Mr. Thomas' equipment.

Using their mother's new unused schoolhouse, they began publication of a weekly newssheet, The Eastern Reflector .

The town, county and newspaper grew together, in several years it was being printed thrice weekly.

In 1885 David Jordan Whichard became sole owner of the newspaper and it started coming out six days per week as The Daily Reflector.

In 1888 the young editor married Henrietta Williams Sutton. 

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