Samuel and Elizabeth Bridgers, Sr. of Robeson:
I've found no exact account of who were the first Bridgers to enter Robeson County.
To be more precise, the Bridgers were there when the county was formed.
The first Bridgers to enter the area came into Bladen Country -- apparently around 1780 - but Robeson was not carved out of Bladen until 1786.
Inferentially, form the fragmentary records I have seen, the prime mover of the family in "The Sand Hills" was Samuel Bridgers, Sr., son of Benjamin and Sarah Bryand Bridgers, Sr. of Nash County.
I'm afraid, no more exact are the dates recorded here, for if one ponders them they seem improbable and contradictory -- I include them as boundaries which approximate the era of Samuel and Elizabeth Bridgers would take land in the area as evidenced by a deed registered in 1780 in what would soon be the Fayette District of Robeson County, and there they would live out their days.
It is not absolutely clear to me whether this couple moved into the area in the waning days of colonial America, or when the region had become part of the state of North Carolina in the fledgling republic of the United States.
One is tempted to try to fathom what, if any, role these family members played in "The American Revolution," either before or after this migration.
It's specifically tempting to wonder if they participated in "The Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge," but, there again, t'would be but intriguing speculation.
Samuel Sr. was apparently born in Bertie County, but reared in nearby Nash, one of a typical prolific Bridgers brood.
In one record his birth is listed as "about 1730" and his marriage as in 1742 - so obviously something is out of kilter here.
Samuel Jr. is obviously the seed of Samuel Sr., but there's no hard proof that Sampson is also a son, though this seems likely -- two names so similar in one household seems odd, but stranger things have happened.
Also, the deed cited would indicate the three brothers together, and here might be the basis of my father's mythical "three brothers from New Jersey" whom he claimed were the first of the family to come into the state and into Robeson County.
Anyway, in his new community it seems apparent Samuel Bridgers, Sr. became a man of means and influence.
In increments he purchased sizeable holdings adjacent his initial patent on Ashpole Swamp; land which, at least in part, was the home place on which my father was born and raised - the spread which included the farm of my uncle, John Elbert Bridgers, in whose name the land was held during much of my lifetime.
Samuel Bridgers, Sr. is also listed as having been Sheriff of Robeson County for several terms in the 1790's.
In those days the title meant more than it does today, and even more than it does in many western movies.
It derives from the English word "shire," provincial decisions which in days of yore corresponded to our present-day counties, and denoted, essentially, the local government.
Just so, the sheriff of a colonial or early American country was not only there to maintain law and order, but was the chief administrator of the township and, as such, was the tax assessor and collector.
His livelihood came mainly from the latter task as the tax collector being allowed commission on all the funds he levied and took in.
Thus, it was that in earlier times the office of sheriff was a stepping stone toward wealth and higher political office.
Only Elizabeth, the Christian name of his wife is known, and again the evidence is that they married somewhat earlier in Nash, and had a maturing family when they trekked south.
He died in 1800 and his wife in 1813.
Samuel Jr. and Sampson both witnessed that first deed in 1780, which augurs for their having reached their majorities.
As was true of most early planter families, as well as the earlier generations of the family, Samuel and Elizabeth were also prolific.
However, the offspring in whom we are most interested was their son, Sampson, who was my father's great grandfather, and the first of his direct ancestors of whom he had personal knowledge.
Also, one of their other sons or grandsons had a dire experience with "The Croatans," and we'll get into that later.
SAMPSON and SARAH DRAKE BRIDGERS of ROBESON:
My father, Samuel Leon Bridgers, spoke infrequently but familiarly of his great-grandfather, Sampson Bridgers, but he knew him not -- Sampson died in 1824, some seventy years before my father was born.
No one knows when Sampson was born, although it obviously was in Nash County.
I know not where he is buried for he has no marked tombstone in the family graveyard, located on land which once belonged to his son and likely to Sampson himself, though this is indefinite.
As mentioned above he came into Bladen County as a young man around 1780, settled in an area, which in short order, would become part of Robeson County, and where he would live out his life.
It is likely that he found his bride in "The Sand Hills" and that her name was Sarah Drake as there was a family of that name in the area.
I have a letter from some years back from an Army doctor, another interested in genealogy, who was a Drake descendent -- we never really had an on-going correspondence.
I'm not certain of the "Drake" name, though Sarah was my great-great grandmother.
She and Samson had a son recorded simply as "James D. Bridgers" -- my father always said his name was "James Douglas," though some of the records indicate "James Drake."
Somehow I feel "James Drake" is correct, but also felt this branch too diffuse to warrant further study.
However, to confess my inconsistency, I've wandered farther a field than this from our main stream, as readers shall see.
The first U. S. Census in 1790 lists in the Fayette District in Robeson County, N. C. that Sampson Bridgers was the head of a household which included: "1 free male over 16 years old, 2 free females over 16 years old and 1 slave."
This must have been early in his marriage and he obviously was not as well off as his father.
He had his ups and downs.
From The State of Robeson by Robert C. Lawrence (1939) comes the following excerpt:
"The signing of sheriff's bonds has always been risky. Samuel Porter was the first High Sheriff in Robeson, and gave bond with John Cade and Sampson Bridgers as sureties … A few years after Robeson was established. General Willis, senator from Robson presented a memorial from Cade and Bridgers (sic, to the General Assembly) …. The State Treasurer was about to issue execution against them on a judgment and they were threatened with ruin. They prayed the General Assembly to give them time to pay up. A resolution was duly passed by both houses to that effect. But the sheriff did not fare so well. His lands were sold under execution, and as they were bid in by Elias Barnes, a friend of John Cade's, it must be presumed they were bid in for the benefit of the unfortunate sureties."
In the Laws of N. C., Chapter XLIX, in 1988 was published:
"AN ACT TO ESTABLISH a TOWN ALREADY LAID OFF AT THE COURT HOUSE in ROBESON COUNTY by the NAME of LUMBERTON."
Sampson Bridgers was one of the five commissioners appointed to dispose of land by lottery, which had been put in trust to become the town of Lumberton.
The fortunes of Sampson obviously waxed somewhat for his last will and testament states:
"IN THE NAME OF GOD AMEN. I Sampson Bridgers, of the County of Robeson, State of North Carolina …. Do the 16th day of August in the year of Our Lord, one thousand eight hundred and twenty-our make and publish this my last will and testament …. That my beloved wife Sarah Bridgers together with my son shall remain on my plantation and all my property of every description …. Shall belong to my beloved wife Sarah Bridgers and James D. Bridgers …. And all my negros named as follows Jack, Charles, Dick, Dinah, Jenny, Peggy, Nancy, Benjamin, Eliza, Heilda, Ledda and Caroline …. And I hereby make and ordain my worthy friend Archibald McCallum and my son James D. Bridgers, executors ….
s/ Sampson Bridgers
In Witness whereof --
Signed and Sealed ….
Sampson B. Thompson
I'm led to believe Marth a Thompson was his sister and the men his nephews, one a namesake.
These glimpses into the lives of Sampson and Sarah Bridgers by no means cover their experiences together, but they are cited to add dimension to our picture of them.
They were obviously Robeson County pioneers.
Sampson apparently did useful things for his community, and seemingly enjoyed the trust of his neighbors, but his seem not deeds which changed the course of the commonwealth.
I never recall hearing my father speak of his great-grandmother, Sarah, as he occasionally did of Sampson Bridgers, but it seems probable that he did hear his family speak kindly of this ancestor.
JAMES D. and HARRIE Moore BRIDGERS of ROBESON:
Nowhere are we told of what was included in the bequest of Sampson Bridgers which passed along "… my plantation and all my property of every description."
My father told me, more than once, that at the outbreak of the Civil War his grandfather, James D. Bridgers, owned "5600 acres of land and 90 slaves."
This, indeed, was a plantation but not a grand one -- North Carolina in general did not have the mammoth and lavish plantations like those which flourished in Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Virginia - states considered "the flowers of the South."
Tar Heels of that day sometimes spoke of their state, in relation to their next-door neighbors, -- Virginia and South Carolina -- as "a vale of humility between two mountains of conceit."
Nor was there a plantation house in the grand style, but rather my great-grand parents lived in a large log cabin.
When as a child I visited the "family home place" -- as my father called it -- then belonging to my great uncle, Walter Bridgers, a bachelor.
It was a modest, one-story affair, still a log cabin underneath, but then weather-boarded with hand-hewn planks.
James D. Bridgers was considered, I suppose, a substantial landholder for his time and place, but he was far from the most affluent of his neighbors.
He had been born in 1800 and his wife, Harriett Jane Moore, in 1814.
Her birthplace is not in my records, but Nancy Nance, daughter of my father's aunt, Virginia Bridgers -- and whom I knew when practicing in High Point, N. C. -- told me that Harriett Moore's father gave land to Robeson County for a new court-house, so it's assumed her family was from Lumberton.
Nancy also said that her grandmother's family was concerned when she insisted on marrying into "those hard-drinking Bridgers."
Considering this and the reputation of his son as a "spree-drinker" -- my grandfather, John Bridgers -- one wonders if the antique contribution of Capt. Joseph Bridger, Jr. to the family gene pool has not enjoyed durable dominance.
Also, some of my Navy buddies would have blessed me with a similar odor during "The War" (World War II), though I now approach my dotage as nigh a teetotaler.
It must be acknowledged, however, that this is not due to any great sense of morality -- though I do have aversion to those with pathologic drinking -- but to an incompatibility between alcohol and the sundry nostrums I now take for various physical frailties.
James and Harriett Bridgers, once again, had a large family.
His grandparents died about a decade before my father was born, but he well remembered "Uncle Walt," "Aunt Betty," "Uncle Clark" and "Uncle Alex" -- the whole lot is listed later.
Elizabeth Bridgers - "Aunt Betty" -- married Lindsay Norment and their son, Lindsay Norment, Jr. was my father's closest childhood friend.
The Norments lived in a large house near "Uncle Walt's" and all this -- including my grandfather's holdings nigh a mile away -- obviously had been carved out of James D's "3600 acres."
Betty Norment was a schoolteacher, public schools in N. C. having come into being around the turn of the century when my father was a stripling.
One of the legacies she left was a small book she wrote and had published on "The Croatans," mainly about their wild and lawless ways and the consequences of this to the Bridgers family.
These Native Americans, unlike the nomadic tribes of the western plains with whom we're most familiar, had their own personal settlement in the part of Bladen County, which was to be Robeson, when the white settlers arrived.
The newcomers termed the Indian village "Scuffletown" due to the unregulated life of the natives, and from what I can best determine this was at the site of present-day Pembroke.
It was apparently, in the days of Samuel, Sr., Sampson and James D. Bridgers, a place to be avoided.
Periodically bands of these folks - Lowery's, Chavis', Locklears' and others - broke out in the countryside and marauded the homesteads of the white settlers.
One night they raided a home of our relatives and one of my father's great uncles was shot and killed when he opened the door.
This occasioned "Aunt Betty's" book.
I also learned about "The Croatans" from two one-act plays by Paul Green which I read in high school English: The Last of the Lowery's and The Scuffletown Outlaws.
At the time of our studies Dad wrote home and obtained a copy of his aunt's book for me to read and to share with my classmates and literature teacher.
Paul Green, though a habitué of Chapel Hill and the state university, was also a product of "The Sand Hills."
My father, in his quaint way of putting things, frequently noted that "The Croatans" had great intellectual potential: "… those Indians take a good education."
One of the constituent campuses of "The Greater University of North Carolina" is Pembroke State University of N. C., which was started as an institution to educate the Indians.
As noted before, in time "The Croatans" renamed themselves "Lumbees."
The University did its job and proved Dad right.
When my son, Carl, and I motored through Robeson County a few years back the many Lumbee names on the mail boxes indicated that things had come a full circle.
After the Civil War, when many of the freed blacks became tenant farmers, so likewise did the Indians.
This too must have paved the way for a change in the racial partition of property owning in Robeson County.
Back in the early days of our American family in "The Tidewater" of Virginia, Col. Joseph Bridger petitioned to sell some of his lands to finance "buying more blacks" in order to cultivate fields he then had lying fallow.
Little is said in the family records and traditions about slave holding between then and the days of James D. Bridgers over two centuries later.
But all our Bridger/Bridgers forebears before The Civil War and "The Emancipation" were men of their times.
They early referred to themselves as "planters" and later as "farmers," but, whatever, the slow march of technology in those opening days of "The Industrial Revolution" did not allow them to till and care for large acreage without copious hand-labor.
So warring African tribes, Arab slave-traders, ship owners -- from England and her American colonies, north and south -- had initially colluded to start the enslavement of African people for this need.
My family was involved and -- wrong though it was -- slavery was not the singular sin of them and their neighbors.
The world was gradually curtailing this egregious practice, and this movement for abolition reached a fever pitch in the young United States during the life of James D. Bridgers.
We all know of and now cringe at the stories of how blacks were mistreated as slaves.
However, their mistreatment included alliances, which were as odd as they were amoral.
This practice must have gone on in our family for my father commented on the propriety of many of the blacks taking the names of their former owners.
He said when he looked at those who were tenants on his father's farm that he could see "… they were just as much Bridgers as I am."
James D. and Harriett Bridgers sent several sons to fight for the confederacy.
My father told me how, as a child, he used to sit and listen to various of them tell war stories at family gatherings and argue over who did most for the cause.
"Uncle Alex" was a surgeon with the C. S. A. army, and he migrated to Texas where he practiced for many years before his death.
Once when I was giving a talk at a medical meeting I Dallas a man named Bridgers sent me a note when he saw an article about me in the newspaper, but we never got together, either in person or by phone.
I've often wondered since if he was from the branch of Dr. Alexander Bridgers.
"Uncle Clark" served in the Confederate Navy.
The youngest to go was John, who enlisted at 18 years old, and lived to become my grandfather.
JOHN & NANCY LEGGETT BRIDGERS of ROBESON:
"The Squire of Elrod"
Our picture of The War Between the States is usually one of large land battles, troops charging afoot proudly carrying their flags midst smoke from cannon and rifle, and tremendous carnage across the sundry battlefields, small and large.
These thoughts overlook that the fighting started in a seaport -- Fort Sumter in the Charleston harbor -- and reached a turning point when Grant besieged Vicksburg and occupied this river-port to cut the South in half.
For most soldiers and sailors any war is comprised of months of waiting interspersed with only hours of fighting.
For young John Bridgers the fighting started and stopped on a single waterfront, this near home, and required only a day or so.
Like most foot soldiers of the South he walked to war, to nearby Brunswick County of which Wilmington was the principle town.
On February 7, 1864 he enlisted in Company E of the 40th Regiment of North Carolina Artillery, and was transferred to Co. K the following month.
Both these companies were stationed at Fort Holmes on Smith Island
-- now known as Bald Head Island -- at the very mouth of the Cape Fear.
In short order Co. K was transferred to Fort Fisher, this facility being on the seaward tip of the mainland forming the eastern estuarial shore of the Cape Fear.
Fort Fisher was said to have been the largest earthen-work redoubt ever built, and was the key of the defense system for the Port of Wilmington.
From the beginning of hostilities the main mission of the Union Navy had been to blockade the ports of the South.
The economic lifeline of The Confederacy was to export its cotton in exchange for manufactured items, raw material and capital - the trade being mainly with Europe and England, but carried on through the islands of the Caribbean.
Using sleek, steam-driven side-wheelers adventurers from the South had some success running the blockade against an overwhelming array of gunships, outweighing the South in hulls and guns, but preponderantly powered by sail.
As the war went on the Union was able to effect a progressive stranglehold on the rebel ports, but it was said Wilmington with its treacherous shoal waters was able to defy the Federal efforts longer than any others.
Margaret Mitchell made Rhett Butler the best remembered of the blockade-runners though his feats were fictional and made more romantic than risky.
Finally the besieging fleet launched the most intense naval bombardment in history against Fort Fisher and it capitulated January 15, 1865.
Edie and I and some our youngsters visited The Blockade Runner Museum one summer when vacationing at Wrightsville Beach, and, from the exhibits, it seemed evident that Fort Fisher had been garrisoned by young, untried troops from Southeaster N. C. -- young men of the ilk of John Bridgers.
A few of the soldiers escaped, but most were captured and became prisoners-of-war, John Bridgers having been detained at Elmira, N. Y.
One week-end more than a century later Edie and I were traveling along the New York -- Pennsylvania border while I was surveying hospitals for The Joint Commission on Accreditation, and took that opportunity to visit Elmira.
As an aside we learned how the town had been named.
In the very early days those settling the area and establishing the town met one day in a very large tent, warmly and at length debating over various names for their new town.
After several hours a lady wandered into the rear of the tent searching for a lost young daughter.
"Elmira! Elmira!" She called out over the crowd.
A man jumped up and shouted: "Elmira! That's what we'll call our town!" -- and so it came to pass.
When we pulled into town it seemed prouder of proclaiming itself the home of Mark Twain than anything else.
Surprising to me, for I had always thought of Hartford, Connecticut as Twain's hometown.
However, the great humorist and author had married a young lady from Elmira, and the Twain's (i.e. the Clemens) had lived with her family through a very productive time for the writer.
They claimed him for their own, though we later learned when traveling in the mid-west that Hannibal, Missouri had also made a tourist industry of Mark Twain -- this Mississippi River town being the scene of the adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.
First we rode about Elmira looking in vain for some indication of where the old prisoner-of-war camp might have been.
We finally found a state tourist stand and were attended by a most friendly and helpful lady.
"You'll not find much," she said. "The folk hereabout aren't too proud of this having been the site of such a place nor of the reputation it left."
She was able to tell us that the students at a junior high school had decided that the prison should be remembered -- bad though it may have been -- and they were raising the money for a memorial display.
We were directed to a neighborhood of middle-class houses along the bank of the upper Susquehanna River, but there was no vestige of the prison site still in evidence.
However, with some looking about we found that a concrete base and pedestal had been poured, obviously on which brass plates would apparently be mounted, though as yet it was still bare.
We've not since been back in that area, but have often wondered if the youngsters managed to complete their project.
We also had Civil War concerns arising form the opposite side of our family.
Edie's great-grandfather, Thomas Green, had sent home a letter during the war from a hospital or prison, never identified, saying that he was ill.
He died without further communication and the family had for years searched in vain for his place of burial.
We tried to get into the National Cemetery in which both veterans from the North and South were interred, but by then the day was late and the gate was locked.
We had hoped that, just by chance, we would find a white cross bearing the name, Thomas Green.
John Bridgers, according to my father, alleged that his life in Elmira prison wasn't as harsh as history has it.
He was said to have allowed that he was not treated unkindly and several times was even invited into townspeople's' homes for meals.
One family, upon learning that his grandmother had been a Moore even told him he resembled some of a family of that surname who lived there along the Southern tier of New York State.
In any event, following Appomattox, he was transported down the Chesapeake, and paroled and exchanged at Bouleware's Wharf, James River, Virginia, March 21, 1865.
Ostensibly, just as he walked to war, so he walked the several hundred miles south through Virginia and North Carolina to his home in Robeson County.
Sometime after the War, James D. Bridgers began dividing his land and so he gave "around 200 acres" to his son, John -- home from the army.
There he built his "vernacular farm house" (as Carl, my architect son, called it) and he married Nancy Leggett of nearby Fairmont and over a score or so of years she bore him nine children -- one girl and eight sons.
When Edie and I, with some of our brood, visited the farmhouse in the 1970's -- then the property of my uncle and his wife, John Elbert and Louis Smith Bridgers -- the home was much as originally constructed.
My uncle took great pride in showing our children the adze marks on the wide weather boarding left where these planks had been fashioned by hand from the abundance of long-leaf pine still extant.
It was about this time that my uncle was given a certificate by the Governor of North Carolina designating his farm as one of the only two plots of land in the state, which had been in continual possession of member of the family to which the land had originally been granted nearly two centuries before.
My father, born in 1891, was the seventh in line of the children of John and Nancy Bridgers. His mother died in childbirth when my father was 4 years old -- he had scant memory of her.
He always called his stepmother, John Bridgers' second wife (Martha Collier), "mother" as she had taken over his care when he was a toddler and treated him as one of her own.
When he was a teenager she died of what he called "dysentery" but was most likely typhoid fever, this being a scourge, which regularly visited town and country around the turn of the century.
That was before the day of effective sewer disposal and water purification, which in my mind, after they were perfected, had more to do with the control of this infection than did the typhoid vaccine.
My father always felt that one of his older brothers was responsible for his stepmother's death because, in response to her pleas from egregious thirst, he gave her water to drink -- this being a clinical taboo in the treatment of infectious diarrhea in those days.
Oddly enough, Dr. Karl Pace, our family physician in Greenville and also a native of "The Sand Hills" section of the state -- told me that he never lost a patient to typhoid because he gave a small bottle of peppermint water to each.
His prescription was to give one drop of the "medicine" in a glass of water at least eight times a day.
This again was before the dynamics of typhoid were fully understood, and it seems clear that this regular and copious intake of fluid saved their lives.
He said the families would never have given the water had he not used the peppermint water -- they had to feel they were giving medicine, not just water.
Here we have lore that was fact, but no longer held as true - that's the way of family histories.
And here is another "shaggy" aside.
My father said his father had somehow learned to read and write, and that he particularly kept up with newspapers and farming journals -- he was in the van for his community in crop rotation and other such "scientific farming."
When Dad came along, he, with several of his older brothers, were the work force of the farm along with Negro and Croatan "share-croppers."
One hundred acres were "cleared" land and here they raised cotton, corn and fruit, raised their own beef and pork and "smoked" the meat, and bought only coffee, sugar and rice.
He said the one time each year the family got "all the potatoes we wanted to eat" was when the "hilled" legumes began to sprout - his father would use his pocket knife to cut out the "eyes" to use for seed and they would eat the rest of each.
They kept horses for their surrey and mules for plowing and the other farm work -- though his father did procure a portable gasoline engine for running their feed mill.
Theirs was the first such device in the community and it fell my bather's lot to take it to neighboring farms and operate it when it was rented out.
He could operate it when all was going well, but was unable to "fix it when it broke down" and he remembered such events with obvious vexation.
The raising of tobacco as a "money crop" did not start until around World War I when "flue curing" became the established method for curing the leaf.
Theretofore the pulled tobacco leaves had been cured by "sun-drying," a slow process which limited the crop's usefulness.
It was at this time that a farmer's tobacco barn had caught fire and it was learned that tobacco could be cured by applied heat and "flue-curing" became a prime break through -- along with the machine production of cigarettes -- which promoted the tobacco industry in the Carolinas, Virginia and Georgia.
This mainly came about, however, toward the end of the days of John Bridgers as an active farmer.
The farmhouse, throughout my grandfather's life, was heated by wood-burning fireplaces, cooking was done in a detached kitchen on a wood range and lighting depended on kerosene lanterns and lamps.
It wasn't until the Rural Electrification Act -- as part of Franklin Roosevelt's "New Deal" and perhaps a spin-off of the TVA project
-- that electric power came to the countryside in North Carolina, after my grandfather's day and generation.
The technological advance, which brought the biggest change to the Bridgers family of Robeson County, was the coming of the railroads.
Train systems began in England in the 1830's and then spread to this country.
By the time of the Civil War there were a few lines operating between the major cities but no real network of train lines around the country, particularly in the South.
Sometime during "The Reconstruction" the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad Company extended its tracks through North Carolina.
The A. C. L. mainline ran closely adjacent the farm of John Bridgers, and there a siding was built to accommodate the parking of train cars - in railroad jargon this was called an "L-rod" due to its branching from the main tracks.
A village sprang-up there and understandably enough was named "Elrod," this being the community, which my father always referred to as home.
When railroading really caught on it quickly became the country's leading industry, and largely the basis of the affluence the "Robber Barons" (of finance) cornered in the "Gay Nineties" and the turn-of- the-century.
The "trust-busting" of Theodore Roosevelt was reform, which arose to correct these inequities in part, and began the trend of our nation toward social programs.
Most of the twelve sons of John Bridgers left the farm in jobs which one way or another were involved with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, my father included.
My grandfather's second wife, Martha Collier, gave him a daughter and two more sons, bringing the total size of the brood to fourteen.
He had talked his first wife, Nancy Leggett, into selling land she had inherited near Fairmont to pay off the indebtedness on his farm.
She apparently by then recognized the instability his spree-drinking brought to their well-being, and insisted that the farm be titled in her name rather than in his to insure that the property came down to their children -- in the end it did.
As the older brothers left to work at railroading, my Uncle Elbert more and more took over the farming.
After the death of Martha Collier, my grandfather married a third time, on this occasion to Annie Powell who the next generation called "Miss Annie."
They had no children and in the early 1920's they left the home place and rented a small house in Elrod where my grandfather died of pneumonia in 1925.
I saw him but twice in my life -- the last time when I was about five years old. I remember being in his home and remember seeing him, but have no inkling what he looked like.
"Miss Annie" outlived him by some years and I do remember her.
Though I've painted a somewhat chequered picture of my grandfather due to his problem with alcohol, it was apparently an episodic problem.
My father said he would go for weeks without taking a drink and then would "tie one on" over a weekend.
Even with that he rarely became noticeably intoxicated but became more and more testy as he drank.
My cousin, Robert Bridgers, a few years my senior, once told me he didn't like to visit the home place because if Grandfather had been drinking he found him frightening due to his irascibility.
Despite this, for some years John Bridgers was "Superintendent of Schools" for his local school district.
The job was a combination of what today we consider school board chairman and chief administrator, his system being a one-teacher, one-room school, which accommodated students in the first six grades.
Gov. William Aycock, around the turn of the century, brought public education to North Carolina -- an accomplishment we'll discuss later
-- and hence came my grandfather's responsibility for the facility, which gave my father his educational foundation.
As he became a young man, my father -- then working for the railroad but still living at home -- looked forward to his father's educational commitment.
The schoolteacher lived in the Bridgers home and this gave my father a steady stream of young ladies for whom to act the swain.
John Bridgers also held appointment as a Justice-of-the-Peace and by virtue of this office was called "The Squire."
My dad said he supposed his father married more Negro and Indian couples than did any preacher in Robeson County, and these were the folk who usually so spoke of him.
So like many of his line, his influence -- though it was not widespread
-- was considerable with those who called him neighbor.
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