- CLARA CARTRETTE
Communities organize Community Watch, save house to honor George Henry White
When good people come together for a common cause, good things happen.
Such was the case in the Farmers Union community and surrounding communities when residents got tired of increasing crimes in the area.
In 2015 the area, including Farmers Union, Welches Creek, St. James and White Marsh, was averaging three break-ins a day. Realizing they had to do something to stop the criminals, a Community Watch was organized.
When community residents came together to do something about the crime rate, the percentage of crimes per capita was 4.5 percent. Now they say it’s less than 1 percent and the area has fewer crimes than any area of the county.
And there was an added bonus: It also took down a lot of ethnic barriers. Still another bonus was the donation of an old historical building to the community and it became a place for Community Watch meetings and other events. Just last Saturday the building was dedicated as a memorial that is intended to serve as a focus for the memory of the life and legacy of the late Congressman George Henry White (1852-1918) in his birth county, and to provide a location in Bladen County for the commemoration, remembrance and recognition of the rich history of Farmer’s Union and surrounding communities where he was raised.
The building will also serve as a community museum, to keep on record, chronicle, hand down to posterity, commemorate and keep alive persons, events and activities of the community over its existence. It will also help improve the lives of the citizens of the community by serving as an educational community center where residents can gather to hear lectures, attend classes on health care and a variety of other subjects and fellowship with one another.
The establishment of a meals on wheels program operated out of the George Henry White Center is also a part of the vision for this community facility. Joyce Webb is Community Watch coordinator.
The Farmers Union community and surrounding neighbors includes people living in Bladen and Columbus counties. It has a rich history of multigenerational minority families who attained success repeatedly over two centuries, whether in agriculture, insurance, banking, military, medical, legal or academic fields.
The George Henry White Community Memorial and Education Center will keep records of persons, events and activities of the community passed down from generation to generation in conjunction with it serving as a location for educational and community building activities.
The property in Bladen County was donated to the Benjamin and Edith Spaulding Descendants Foundation, (non-profit) Inc. (BESDF) for use as the George Henry White Memorial and Education Center. It was the former home of Mrs. Mattie Spaulding Campbell and her family and it is approximately 100 years old. Dr. Milton E. Campbell and his sister, Mrs. Wanda Campbell Clay, heirs to the property, have donated the house and one acre of land to the BESDF, Inc.
The property is off Farmer’s Union Road between Porterville School and Mitchell Field Road. The estimated cost to renovate the home, landscaping and providing the intended amenities is approximately $100,000. A representative of the North Carolina Museum of History has agreed to serve as an adviser to the foundation as the group moves through steps necessary to bring this project to reality.
Since the project proposal was introduced in 2014 at the BESDA-BESDF reunion in Asheville, the 100-year-old home has had restoration work done, providing work for members of the community. The metal roof has been repaired and major sections replaced, exterior siding has been repaired, primed and painted with a high grade of paint, the 12 exterior windows have been repaired and glazed with new panes as needed, and the four exterior doors have been repaired and secured with master keyed deadbolt locks.
The second floor is being cleaned out and historical artifacts are being saved and documented. A sign has been placed at the property to let the general public know that the project is moving forward, a press release was sent to all local newspapers and a news article was published in two of the local newspapers. Before and after pictures of work done on the house during 2015 can be seen on the www.georgehnerywhite.com website.
Work planned in the future includes having 200 amp electrical service and panel box installed and circuits provided for interior lights, have Bladen County run a water line to the house, have exterior doors and windows secured with iron bars, have plans and specifications prepared for the renovation of the interior, donated by Architect V.M. Spaulding, R.A., and conduct fundraising events. A GoFundMe page will be established, information will be posted and assistance will be sought from the BESDF, Inc. fundraising committee for support of the George Henry White Community Memorial and Education Center.
The establishment of the Community Memorial and Education Center facilitates the establishment of a monument in Bladen County where the late congressman was raised and will highlight his courageous stand for racial justice in the face of public apathy. The community museum will also provide a location in Bladen County to highlight the rich history of the Farmer’s Union Community and its surrounding neighbors in St. James, Bolton, Riegelwood, Pembroke and other communities.
Public and private donations are being solicited to help finance the project. The BESDF, Inc., a nonprofit established for educational, literary and charitable purposes, among other functions, is leading the project. Tax-deductible contributions are welcome and should be provided to BESDF, Inc. to the following address: GHW Community Memorial Center, 7 Jenee Lane, Durham, NC 27703-2563.
For more information contact Vincent M. Spaulding, R.A., at 202-441-3589 or email email@example.com.
By CLARA CARTRETTE