Tyrrell County North Carolina is located just over two hours away from my home in Newport News, Virginia. Prior to this excursion, I'd only visited the area once, and I was thinking that the drive had been longer than that. So, when I put the address for the Columbia Senior Citizens Center, where the meeting was to be held, into my GPS I was quite surprised to see that the distance was only 120 miles, and the length of the drive was estimated to only be 2 hours and 5 minutes. At that moment, I began to chastise myself for not having gone down, again, for research purposes (because I was thinking it was further). Now that I know, I'll be heading back to Tyrrell County "on the regular". :)
My talk was scheduled for 2:30, but I wanted to go down earlier, so that I could do a bit of exploring. Therefore, I left home at about 9:30 a.m., to head on down. The drive was lovely; it was a bright, sun-shiny day, and I was accompanied by the soothing sounds of gospel radio, followed by a little NPR, as I made my way out of Hampton Roads toward my destination. My route provided a mostly uninterrupted rural scene all the way down 17S to 32 to 94, and then Highway 64 into Tyrrell County, and the quaint little town of Columbia.
|These silos represent one of the few breaks in my beautifully monotonous drive .|
Upon arriving in the county, I first went to scope out the meeting location, so I'd know how long it would take me to get there. Next, I went to the Tyrrell County Visitors Center, a very well-appointed rest area,with extremely clean bathrooms (yay!). As an added treat, this rest area is home to the Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Center. I didn't go in, but I can just imagine what a treat that would be, especially for people traveling with children. I did, however, follow the outdoor walkway around to the back of the (closed) Visitor Center, to take in the beautiful view of the Scuppernong River, the bridge into Columbia, and I took note of the walking trail and the nice setup of benches and rockers on the back porch of the facility. Next time I go back (in warmer weather), I definitely plan to go back and spend some time in this serene setting.
|Visitors Center (not open until 1 p.m. on Sundays)|
With about two hours to spare, and no real agenda, I decided to first head to the one place I'd already been on my previous visit to Tyrrell County, and that was to Chapel Hill Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery, where many HILL and BRYANT family members are interred. These are two of the Tyrrell County families from which I descend, both being recorded as Free People of Color, as early as the late 1700's, and also both known to be of Native ancestry, before intermarrying and/or procreating with blacks. I headed towards the church, hoping that perhaps, since it was close to 12:00 noon, I might catch service in session, or perhaps wrapping up, and that maybe I could introduce myself to some folk, and encourage them to come to the meeting to hear me speak. However, when I got to the church, the parking lot was empty. It didn't appear that a service had been held there, that day.
|Chapel Hill Missionary Bapist Church|
|This photo doesn't fully capture the degree to which|
this house is leaning back.
With just a little over an hour to go before I needed to be at the Center, I decided to ride off down Highway 64 in the direction of Alligator. I drove for miles and miles and miles, seeing nothing but a pattern of fields, then trees (in swamps). Finally, I arrived in the general area of Alligator. I rode all around this mostly unspoiled area, passing field after field, and seeing only the occasional home and a couple of small churches. The area was beautiful, though, and filled with so much of nature's goodness. I felt a true peacefulness, as I traveled the unknown roads. I honestly can't tell you where I turned or how I got to where I ended up, but I'll just show you a few photos.
|When I first passed this log, there were about 6 or 7 turtles sunning on it, but when I stopped my car and backed up to take this picture, the smaller ones just into the water.|
|This Methodist Church sits along |
Dock Landing Rd., in Alligator.
|Fields, fields, and more fields... That's what Tyrrell County|
seems made of!
With it being after 1:30, I knew I had to head back to town, so I did. On my way back in, I snapped a few photos. (Unfortunately, my iPad case got a little in the way.)
|Tyrrell County Courthouse|
|Main Street - Columbia|
|I wondered if this was the original school house. It is on the high school property.|
|It was so nice to meet Lamb Basnight. He is so cool! :)|
|I was honored to meet Dorothy Spruill Redford!|
The meeting was followed by close to an hour of chatting with attendees - answering questions and sharing information. As an added bonus, I met two people who are (apparently) my cousins! One was a Bryant descendant (pictured), and the other (who was camera shy) was a Hill-Bryant descendant, just like me! That was so exciting! I look forward to communicating with these two, to confirm our connections and share information!
|This is Otis. His (known) cousin has confirmed our BRYANT connection via DNA.|
Since he lives locally, he came out to hear my talk and to meet me! That's my cousin, ya'll! :)
Finally, at about 5:00, it was time to say my last goodbyes, and get on the road to head home. I had such a fulfilling day in Tyrrell County, and I can't wait to go back!
|This picture doesn't do it justice, but on the way I passed this beautiful field of windmills, near Elizabeth City, NC.|
They went on for at least 7-8 miles. Amazing!
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