Searching Family Tree Undercovers Fox Hunting by K. Blake Tyner

Postcard entitled After a Lumberton fox hunt (courtesy Tom Parker)
Postcard entitled After a Lumberton fox hunt (courtesy Tom Parker)

I started doing genealogy on my many North Carolina families when I was twelve. Spending lots of time listening to my great-grandparents, Rudolph and Esther Lewis, tell me stories of their families made me feel much closer with those who died more than fifty years before my birth. My third great-grandfather, Charles Upton Spivey, known to most everyone as Charlie existed in just one old faded photograph so I sought to put the facts with his photograph.

He was born July 28, 1868 to Confederate Veteran John Spivey and his wife, Flora Ann Ivey, and died January 9, 1931. He married Amerett Prevatte on December 6, 1888, and they were parents of Raymond, James Latty, Charlie Hubert, Lula and Lillie, my ancestor who married Wert Warren Lewis. She died October 6, 1909 and he married Dora Lee McKeithan on December 6, 1911. He and Dora were parents of Robert, Boyd, Annie Ruth, Eston, and Liston. She died in December 26, 1925. On July 10, 1926 he married Alice Prevatte.

In the Register of Deeds office I made a usual find, a deed dated April 24, 1930 in connection with their divorce. From reading the document I found out they separated July 28, 1929 just eighteen days after their third anniversary. They both gave up any right to the other’s property and Charlie had to in addition pay Alice $1,000. This seemed like a large amount for a farmer in the first years of the Great Depression.

Charles Upton Spivey and his wife, Amerett Prevatte, with their children
Charles Upton Spivey and his wife, Amerett Prevatte, with their children

Newspaper Reveals More
A desire to learn more about Charlie also led me to old issues of The Robesonian, my forever source of answers on most Robeson County questions. In searching I found those items that add fruit to the family tree. I found out about his farming skills form a June 26, 1926 issue that told of him bringing in one of the first cotton bolls of the year. I discovered he loved to fish from a 1903 issue that told of a fishing trip to High Hills, SC with son-in-law, Wert Lewis, and Charlie Flowers. On this trip they killed a seven foot alligator.

I found something unexpected, Charlie was a fox hunter. In the January 29, 1925 issue is a letter written by R.F. Kinlaw of Howellsville talking about how his cat was killed by dogs belonging to Hampton Jackson; William Bryan, Jr. and Charlie while they were on a fox chase. Kinlaw goes on to talk about how he will miss the cat because he had never found one as good at destroying rodents before this one.

Reading about the fox chase led me on one of my favorite exercises, wandering around history. I wanted to find out if fox chases or hunts were something that happened a lot in Robeson County. I spent hours looking through the paper and found fox hunting was a sport enjoyed by men and women of all ages and backgrounds in the county.

Christmas and New Year Hunts
I quickly found out that fox hunts around Christmas and New Year Day were a favorite part of the holiday activities. Here is a wonderful account of the 1923 Christmas hunt by William Kemp Culbreth, one of the founders of the Robeson County Fox Hunters Association.

Christmas morn, while the hearts of the children were filled with
joy for the good things grand old Santa Claus had placed in their
stocking, the sportsmen were listening with wide-open ears for
the blowing of the fox horns. With the toot of the horns the howl
of the hounds filled with joy the hearts of many, and for miles
around the hum of the auto, the blowing of fox-horns, the clatter
of hoofs and the rattle of buggies could be heard.

From east, west, north and south they were making their way to
the banks of the old Lumbee and the clocks were striking six
the writer started for the scène while the sun was shedding its
beautiful light on the trickling waters . . . the old and the
young, the rich and the poor, all for the Christmas race, all
hearts full of expectation of a glorious chase. The writer is
sixty-seven years old and he has never seen a better race.
Before the sun was up the hounds had old Reynard (Reynard the
Fox was medieval Europe's trickster figure, a nasty but
charismatic character who was always in trouble but always
able to talk his way out of any retribution) going with 36 hounds
in chase and 100 men, boys and girls all enjoying the sport of the
exciting chase.

For three hours the sport went on and upon the public highway
in sight of two hundred sportsmen the old fox was captured alive
and is awaiting another chase of joy. All went home filled with
joy and to hearts content to enjoy a good Christmas turkey for
dinner. So closed the great annual fox hunt of the Robeson
Country Fox Club.

Rev. SE. Mercer wrote in the January 6, 1905 issue about a fox hunt in which Red Buck was a guest. It is always interesting how in the old newspapers people are called by only nicknames, the writer not thinking that there would be a time when just that nickname would not give the identity of the person. So as I read old articles I desire so to know more these nicknamed people thus begins more searching to find out about these people. Red Buck was the name that Henry Edward Cowan Bryant was most known as; he was the Washington, D.C. correspondent for the Charlotte Observer, New York Herald and the Boston Globe. Bryant also taught school in Alfordsville in 1894.

We were in Maxton last Friday night. There was a sensation.
Red Buck had come. Yes, Red Buck was really out in the country
two miles distant. He brought with him some highlanders of Mecklenburg, descendants of the very men who signed the famous Declaration of Independence. Ere the sun had dawned next morning we were on our way. A brighter and more lovely day we never saw. The fields were soon glistening in the morning sun. The world was
beautiful and the air was crisp and bracing.

After a successful chase, Mercer wrote more about Red Buck “he is a great fox hunter, he loves the bass notes of his horn but when his clear, lusty, exciting, penetration voice, rings out on the morning air, every dog in the pack is stirred to do his best. If you want to have a jolly good time in a fox hunt get with Red Buck”.

Hunting party at Townsend Hotel in Red Springs, NC
Hunting party at Townsend Hotel in Red Springs, NC

College Girls
The more I researched fox hunting the more interesting the findings were for me. The girls at Southern Presbyterian College (later Flora Macdonald College) held fox hunts. In January 1911 it was reported that the college girls enjoyed their hunt when at four in the morning they could be heard singing on the way to a special train charter to take them to Mill Prong which was the scene of the fun. They returned to the college about one in the afternoon a tired but radiant crowd for the fox had been caught.

Another of their hunts took place on Monday, November 4, 1912 when ninety-six people left the college at four in the morning on a private train heading to Bowmore. After arriving it was not long before the lead blew his bugle followed by the sharp yap of the hounds. It was not until eleven that three foxes were found and they pack split in two with the chase being on.

The girls had a great feast after the hunt digging potatoes out of Mr. W.F. Williams potato patch, roasting them in the hot ashes and cooking bacon on the end of a stick. They ate this with bread, apples and ginger cakes voting it the best feast they ever had. At four in the afternoon they returned to Red Springs desiring to do it all again.

Other Hunts
In early July 1912 J.B. McCormick tells of a great fox chase when he put his pack of hounds in Cole Camp Swamp and the foxes began to bark at the hounds. The dogs managed to chase several foxes the size of house cats but none were caught the weather being too hot. They attending did enjoy a day of music and fun.

Early November 1914 Parkton was the site of an evening chase with the procession having five buggies, two on horseback and a dozen on foot with nineteen trained Robeson County hounds. The chase led into Cumberland County where others joined in hearing the fun. By midnight it was decided that the fox had deceived the splendid pack.

The end of February 1915 the Lumber Bridge Hunters including Malloy, McCormick and Everett enjoyed an all night chase reporting it as the finest race of the season with more than twenty hounds. Only problem was the fox was one of those educated ones and he succeeded in make the escape. In December 1919 a hunt was held in the Orrum area that lasted eighteen hours until two in the morning with the fox outsmarting all the hunters.

There are over twenty more accounts of fox hunting easily found in The Robesonian making for some great reading. Take time to search for and write down your family’s stories.

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