John D. Bridgers M.D.
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Shaggy Dog Chronicles
Chapter 2, Part 5 - A trifling place on the Tar


Here our story reaches an awkward juncture.

During the several generation just covered things had happened which need be told, and yet haven't, and at once, other things were about to happen which need be brought up at the same time.

Were I dabbling in the graphic arts, everything could be shown together, but this proposition lends itself poorly to writing or music, which involve the sequencing of words or notes over time.

Thus, for the writer the situation is much like that of Stephen Leacock's knight errant who ran from the castle to rescue his princess, jumped on his horse and galloped off in all directions.

Indeed, the dog gets shaggier.

The Grindle Creek area was one of the seminal spots for the settlement of the land, which was to become Pitt County.

Folk coming into relatively empty country are prone to first settle along the path by which they entered.

Grindle Creek was no exception.

The first written record of a white man's presence in the region was a complaint by George Moye to the royal governor in 1725 that Indians had "shot into his house" and wounded two of his children.

The first place that could be termed a community was the river landing.

Two other early families, at varied times, gave their names to this point of contact on the Tar River, it first being known as "Spiere's Landing" and later as "Perkin's Wharf."

Sometime between The Revolution and The Civil War northern merchants established trading facilities there and the cluster of buildings around the landing became known as "Yankee Hall," a name by which it is still sometimes called.

However, the whole small complex has become the community of Pactolus, actually more of a township than a town per se.

It's a settlement much like Bath -- it started early but has grown little.

It apparently became an entity in the mid-1700's, but wasn't named until 1810 when a teacher of Greek named Lincoln gave it the name Pactolus.

When I first heard the name, I figured it to be -- like so many American place-names not obviously of Anglo-Saxon origin -- to have been derived from one of the native Indian languages, probably Tuscaroran.

My surmise could hardly have been further off the mark.

Because of the fertility of the soil along the creak, Lincoln named it for a river in Asia Minor of which it was said:  "… whose sands were mixed with gold and whose valley was very productive." 

In any event, here in an area known as "Jordan's Plains" was the plantation homestead of the Jordan family, which is why all of this is of interest to us.

In the meantime, similar developments had been in train across the river, which would have great impact on Pitt County and on the Whichards and Jordans.

I knew not what was meant by "The Coreolis Effect" until I became an adult.

Of course, I had noticed that water swirled in a counter-clockwise direction when draining from the lavatory or tub and had heard this was caused by the rotation of the earth.

Later, when in the Navy, I found that such eddies went clockwise when one was south of the equator.

However, I was much older before I realized this phenomenon also held for the flow of rivers, so that in "The Coastal Plain" the course of rivers gradually shifted from east to southeast as the water shed from the mountains to the ocean.

I had often noted when crossing the Tar River Bridge that the southern bank was high whereas the opposite bank was low, and that to the north lay miles of flat, boggy land.

It never occurred to me that the rotation of the earth caused the northern banks of rivers to erode more than did their southern sides.

It's almost certain that Richard Evans didn't know this either when he settled along the southern side of the Tar in the early 18th century, but he apparently knew not to settle where he would be flooded out.

His holding were some twenty miles upstream from were the Tar became the Pamlico.

As seems universally noted, time appears to speed up in its passage and the older one gets to be the more obvious becomes this truism.

Pitt County had been laid out so its citizens could quicker get to the courthouse save by traveling to Bath.

After a few years it was decided that the courthouse should be in a town and not sitting in isolation in the countryside.

So, a decade after its establishment, Pitt County had grown and prospered to where it was felt that the shire needed "… a permanent town and a good court house."

Richard Evans introduced a petition to the colonial government "… for a town to be established on his land."

In 1771 this came to be and the town was named Martinsborough in honor of Josiah Martin, the royal governor at the time.

During The Revolution growth went on despite the war, and in 1787 a Baltimore merchant visiting the town noted that it accommodated about 15 families.

Gov. Martin had never been a popular figure with the people of the Colony of North Carolina, so after the war the town was renamed "Greeneville" in honor of Gen. Nathaniel Greene, the hero of The Battle of Guilford Courthouse, which had paved the way for Washington's victory at Yorktown.

In time the name was changed to "Greenville" and the main north-south thoroughfare through the town is still called "Evans Street."

By the decade 1840 - 50 the population was about 600 encompassed by "… about 75 families."

For many years the main claim of Greenville to any recognition was as the county seat.

President George Washington, in his first term, made a tour by coach through the Atlantic States, these being the sum and substance of The United States at that time.

When traveling from Tarboro to New Bern he stopped by Greenville for lunch and in his diary he noted that it was "… a trifling place on the Tar."

To the distress of those who remembered the rigors of The Revolution, in just over a half-a-century The War Between the States swept across the south.

It has been said that North Carolina "… had more privates and fewer generals" in the ranks of the Confederacy than did any other state in the South.

Among the volunteers from Pitt County was David Fleming Whichard.

He had been born in 1829 and was married in 1855 to Violetta Hearne Jordan of Pactolus, just several years before the start of the hostilities.

This marriage marked a sea-change in the tide of affairs of our line of the Whichard family.

They became townspeople rather than farmers, though the town of Greenville where David Fleming and Violetta (Jordan) Whichard set up house-keeping was more of a village than a town.

His given name became a family tradition which would persist for the next six generations 'til our days, and even spun-off into mine.


David Fleming and Violetta (Jordan) Whichard were one of my sets of great-grandparents, and it hardly seems fitting not to consider briefly the Jordan family of Grindle Creek and Pactolus.

My uncle, "Big Dave" Whichard, first provided an oral history of these folk.

He said the first of this branch of our forebears to enter along Grindle Creek was Sir John Jordan who had left England due to religious oppression.

"Big Dave" could not tell me where Sir John lived in the Mother Country, which was "the King" who knighted him and for what, what was their religious controversy and when he was banished to America.

Here was an attractive but unproven legend.

I did find where a John Jordan had settled in the Isle of Wight County, Virginia and due to religious differences with his neighbors -- precisely what again unspecified -- had removed his family to North Carolina.

Pitt County was not specifically mentioned though this fits nicely with the pattern of migration from "The Tidewater Hearth" to eastern North Carolina.

Suffice it that the Jordans were early settlers along Grindle Creek and that their "plantation" and homestead came to be known as "Jordan's Plain."

"Big Dave" at least pointed me in the right direction.

Scant records have come my way about the next generations of the Jordans -- the earliest is of Valentin Jordan who was buried in the family plot in 1752 in the "Jordan's Plains."

If the story of the disaffection of Sir John Jordan is true, this first Valentin was probably of the second generation of the family along Grindle Creek.

We do have evidence that various of the family were committed to education, and a later John and Valentin Jordan were listed among the founders of The Jordan's Plains Academy which was incorporated in 1832.

This undoubtedly must have been among the first schools in Pitt County, and was possibly responsible for there being a teacher of Greek on hand to give name to Pactolus, even though this dubbing took place prior to the founding of the "Academy.'

Of course, Mr. Lincoln could have been a clergyman, those worthies being among the few Americans versed in Greek.

Again from "Big Dave" we have it that his great-grandfather, Amelius Gray Jordan, in time became a teacher there.

He was, as well and like his father, still a planter and became a ship-owner -- he maintained several schooners for trade with the Caribbean.

We do find an account of 20 to 30 such vessels usually moored or anchored along the waterfront at Pactolus until the advent of The Atlantic Coastline Railroad in 1892 sounded the death knell for the Tar as an artery of commerce for the area.

Amelius Gray Jordan married Mary Baldwin and their daughter was Violetta Hearne Jordan.

Some references were found to other Baldwin's with Pitt County connections, but no direct lineage to the mother Violetta Jordan could be found in the limited sources available in New England where most of this was put together.

However, we need remember that, despite this, they just as surely contributed to our gene pool as did other.


Violetta Jordan had been born in 1835, and at some point along the way she too became a teacher.

In those days, once a student completed six or more years of classroom work they were considered qualified to instruct younger children.

Whether she started her teaching after finishing Jordan's Plains Academy is not a matter of record.

She and David Fleming Whichard married in 1855, just several years prior to the onset of "The War Between the States," and set-up house-keeping across the river in Greenville, thereby transforming the line of Whichards from country-folk to townspeople.

There they began rearing their family, their progeny in time being:  Julian Robert, David Jordan, Clarence B. and Ora Violetta (Kennedy).

We're primarily interested in David Jordan Whichard, their second child and son, born in 1862 a year after the onset of hostilities with "The Union."

It was apparently about at this time that David Fleming Whichard volunteered for the Army of the Confederacy and enlisted as a PFC in "C" Company of the North Carolina 44th Infantry.

In time he was promoted to Commissary Sergeant, a rating that he was held under after Lee surrendered at Appomattox.

I have no record of the specific campaigns in which the N. C. 44th participated nor from whence he was paroled and allowed to return home.

Likewise we know not exactly how the family fared on the home front during the war, but this was apparently the time that "Miss Lett" became an art teacher successively in several of the private academies in Greenville.

In later years a local house-painter told "Big Dave" that his grandmother had taught him more about blending colors and mixing paint than did anyone with whom he apprenticed.

In the Whichard family of my youth I was considered a more than adequate illustrator.

Sam, Barbara and Carl of Edie's and my youngsters all have an artistic flair -- Carl being a graduate architect -- and who knows but our genes for perception, color vision and hand-eye coordination come down, at least in part, from our grand-mother, several times removed, Violetta Hearne Jordan Whichard.

If this seems far-fetched, just remember:  These traits come form someone and from somewhere.

It's unlikely that we all would have mutated in the same direction from scratch.

In time "Miss Lett" had her own private academy and built a one-room school-house on the back lot of their home.

According to my father their house had been purchased as a pre-cut kit from Sears Roebuck.

The house still stands in Greenville and in later years was the home of Judge Frank Wooten and even later his son, a couple of years my senior.

Frank Wooten, Jr. became a lawyer and politician, serving at one time as mayor.

Frank Jr. once told me that his father had moved the school-house to abut the main structure, and had it converted into a kitchen.

He said that during the renovations he remembered seeing students' names carved into the wooden walls.

This little school-house has had a varied career and in the interior it served another function dear to the Whichard family which we'll soon get to.

I first became aware of David Fleming Whichard as other than just a family name as a child attending Memorial Baptist Church, then on Greene Street.

Between Sunday school and church service, we boys usually ran wild around the church-yard, and somewhere along the way I discovered a stone-capped grave on the front corner where, according to the graven inscription, was buried my great-grandfather.

I also seem to remember a simpler, neighboring memoriam to Violetta Jordan Whichard.

Both of these graves were moved to the Green Hill Cemetery when the church was sold and razed, and today's edifice was built on Greenville Boulevard, a more recent thoroughfare which has come into being in the last two-score years.

David Fleming Whichard returned to Greenville after The Civil War to first take up position as Deputy Sheriff.

My closest friend in my formative years was Jonathan While ("Jack") Foley, and only recently he told me his paternal great-grandfather -- whom he describes as a hard-bitten carpet-bagger  had been Sheriff during "The Reconstruction."

It seems quite probable that these ancestors of ours severed together in the Sheriff's office.

As close as Jack and I have been over the years it seems unbelievable that we discovered this connection in our senior years -- of course, that's the stage of life in which most folk become taken by their roots.

Later David Fleming Whichard became Assistant Register of Deeds and finally was elected Register of Deeds, an office which he probably held when he died in 1877 at the early age of 48 years -- a brief life, but full.

His widow, Violetta Jordan Whichard survived him by 34 years, dying in 1911 at 86 years old -- a long and full life.

And here was the couple which brought the Christian name David to the Whichard family, a name which persists today in a direct line over six generations -- and, as well, onto collateral lines such as mine and my son "Jock's."

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