#52Ancestors – My First Road Trip to Randolph County, North Carolina

Perhaps the most significant road trip I’ve taken was the one I took with my mother in 1982. I had been doing genealogy for several years when I made contact with Kate Lassiter Jones, my maternal cousin, a descendant of Miles Lassiter, my 4th great grandfather, from Randolph County, North Carolina. Neither she, nor my mother, nor I had ever heard of one another. When she learned of our relationship, she was as excited as we were and suggested that my mother and I “come on down” to meet our many cousins. It would be an important trip for both my mother and me. My mother spent her first four years of life in Greensboro, North Carolina in neighboring Guilford County. After her mother died in the flu epidemic of 1918, her grandmother, Louise, took my mother and her baby sister to live with family in New Jersey. When her own mother, affectionately known as “Grandma Ellen,” became ill and died a couple of years later, “Mama” Louise, my mother and her sister, Vern went to Asheboro, in Randolph County, to care for Grandma Ellen, but after she died, Louise decided to stay. They stayed another three years before Louise decided to return to New Jersey permanently. My mother was seven years old. She had not been back to North Carolina again until our road trip, 61 years later.[1]

Louse Smitherman Phillips and Elinora Phillips Lee circa 1915
Louise Smitherman Phillips Floyd Ingram & Elinora Phillips Lee, circa 1916.

In September 1982, my mother and I made our pilgrimage to Asheboro and Randolph County. It had been 61 years since my mother had been in North Carolina. She marveled out loud that it was her daughter that was taking her back. She also lamented that my dad, who had   died in April, had not lived to make this trip—a trip he had often said he wanted to make. We had mapped out our route. We would travel south on I-95, past Richmond, Virginia, then south of Petersburg, we would take I-85 through southwestern Virginia, across the North Carolina border. I-85 would take us past the exits for Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsboro, and Burlington. Once arriving in the Greensboro area, we would look for, and exit onto State 220, headed south. Finally, not far from the business district of Asheboro, we would exit onto State 49, going south toward Charlotte.

Margaret & Margo Williams 1982
Margaret Lee Williams and Margo Lee Williams, Christmas 1982. Photo by Elverna Lee Means.

We were very excited as we drove to meet our cousins, wondering if we would be welcome, if we would have things in common, if all would be congenial. We even made contingency plans – if we did not feel comfortable, we would stay a couple of days (instead of the planned week), make our excuses, and drive out to Asheville, in the Great Smokies.

Once on 49, we were to look for the second crossroads, where we would turn right and then left onto what is now called Lassiter Mill Road. As we made the turns, we passed Science Hill Friends Meeting. I recognized it from the book, Farmer, about the surrounding community known by that name. We were truly in the country as we rode along past farms and woodlands. We began to realize and be amused by the fact that we were now quite a few miles from the city of Asheboro, yet we knew that the postal address was still Asheboro. We would drive along these quiet, rolling country roads for almost half an hour before realizing that we were coming to the crossroads with what is now High Pine Church Road, the road on which Kate lived. As we approached the crossroads, I recognized a house to my left as being the one from the picture sent to me by Carolyn Hager, an historian at the Randolph County Historical Society, the one from the book, Farmer.

Lassiter Family Home, Lassiter Mill Road - 1982
Lassiter Family Home Place, Lassiter Mill Road, Asheboro, R Phoandolph County, NC. Margaret Williams, my mother is standing to the right. Photo by Margo Lee Williams

Driving around the corner onto High Pine Church Road, we were now approaching Kate Jones’ home. As we drove up the driveway, Kate, her husband, George “Ikie” Jones, and a couple of dogs greeted us. “Do we look related?” she asked with a big smile. Then, with hugs and kisses she ushered her new cousins into the house. Actually, we did look related, especially my mom (I look more like my dad’s people). How amazing to see people who looked like my mom after a lifetime of only seeing two people that looked like my mom: her sister, Vern, and me.

Margaret Lee Williams and Kate Lassiter Jones - 1982
Margaret Lee Williams & Kate Lassiter Jones, Asheboro, NC, September 1982. Photo by Margo Lee Williams

Kate was a medium brown color, browner than my mother, her face was oval rather than round like my mother’s, but it was the eyes that surprised me. They had the same shaped eyes. Later, when I met Kate’s brothers and sisters, they were varying shades of brown, some round-faced, others with longer more oval-shaped faces, but they had the same shaped eyes.

Descendants of Miles and Healy Lassiter
Family members, descendants of Miles Lassiter, assembled for a dinner in honor of our visit to Asheboro, North Carolina, September 1982. Photo by Margo Lee Williams.

.Kate  answered my questions enthusiastically, telling who married whom, the names of their children, where they lived. While she didn’t remember having ever heard of our family, or having met my mother, her brother, Will, claimed to have remembered my grandmother, my mother’s mother. Despite that, they knew many of the people and places my mother remembered from her early childhood, including her grandmother Louise’s sister, Adelaide, my 2nd great grandmother Ellen’s other daughter.

Margaret Williams, and Will Lassiter
Margaret Lee Williams & William Josiah Lassiter, “Will,” September 1982. Photo by Margo Lee Williams.

Kate promised to take us to see these places, even to go up to Greensboro, in neighboring Guilford County, to visit the street where my mother had lived briefly as a little girl before her own mother died in the Flu epidemic of 1918, and before moving to New Jersey the first time. The house there was next to North Carolina A & T University, where from her yard, during World War I, she could watch the “Colored” soldiers train. In addition, Kate invited many other cousins to come by the house to meet us. Again, while many of these relatives knew some of my mother’s other cousins (most of whom, like “Grandma” Ellen, were now dead) they were unfamiliar with my mother.

Margaret Williams at A & T University, Greensboro -1982
Margaret Lee Williams at North Carolina A & T University, September 1982. Photo by Margo Lee Williams.

During our stay with Kate, she took us out to see the land. She drove us around the Lassiter Mill area, (part of New Hope Township) along Lassiter Mill Road, pointing out the homes which had belonged to family members. She also drove us along High Pine Church Road, pointing out additional family homes, the fields that they farmed, and areas that they timbered. What I realized was that many of these homes were probably on the land that had been passed down to them by Colier Lassiter, Kate’s grandfather and brother of Nancy (Lassiter) Dunson, my 3rd great grandmother. Later, I asked Kate’s brother Will where the land was that he had bought from my 2nd great grandmother Ellen, daughter of Nancy. He said it was across the road (Lassiter Mill), going toward the Uwharrie River. He said he kept cows on the land.

Ellen Dunson Smitherman Mayo land
The pasture land that originally belonged to “Grandma Ellen,” Ellen (Dunson) Smitherman Mayo.

I was beginning to wish I had been able to be a part of this family during my growing up years. I realized I had missed something special, but I was grateful that I was now being embraced by my newly found cousins. I realized this was the most important road trip I had ever taken. I’m particularly grateful for the many visits we had after that. They are especially precious memories now because they are all gone now, Kate, all her siblings, including her brother Will, her husband “Ikie,” and my mother. I miss them all.

References

[1] This account is based on Chapter Two, “On the Road to Randolph County,” in my book: Miles Lassiter (circa 1777-1850) An Early African American Quaker from Lassiter Mill, Randolph County, North Carolina: My Research Journey to Home (Palm Coast, FL & Crofton, KY: Backintyme Publishing, 2011)

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14 thoughts on “#52Ancestors – My First Road Trip to Randolph County, North Carolina”

  1. I’m glad your mother took an interest in finding her family and that you were able to make this trip happen. My parents have never take an interest in extended family. But I sure have enjoyed it on my own.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This is such a heart warming post…full of the spirits of your cousins, and all the other ancestors who you mentioned. I have one other Rogers cousin who has done ancestry research, and I’ve discovered more distant cousins through my own research. I have some Georgia relations named Phillips back before the Civil War. Their descendants moved to Alabama, Louisiana and Texas. I just met a possible Rogers cousin from South Carolina at the eye doctors this morning.

    Liked by 2 people

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