AUTHOR: Gail Sasser Hopkins
Emily Thornton-Rhodes was born in 1862. Her father Samuel I Thornton joined in the Southern cause while Ava Hestor Raynor his wife took care of 6 of the 10 children born before and during the war. They lived in Sampson County before and during the war years I believe. Thornton relatives still live all around the area in NC and spreading outwards in different states today. Samuel after the war bought the Harper House with his second wife Jane Kennedy. He would sit on the front porch looking out to the front pasture, “now front yard,” as all Southern men he loved his horses.
My grandmother Mary Rhodes, daughter of Emily, said that as a little girl she would visit / stay at Harper House. There were blood stains on the floorboards in the front room and a back room. Even as an adult in her 60’s and 70’s she would not go back to the house. Her children , everyone tried to get her to go with them to visit the house but she would never go back. I was there in 1969 and I heard her say, “No, you can’t get me to go back there.” I often wonder what stories she must of heard by her grandfather, family, friends who came to the house, those who would have been in the war. Grandmother Mary told me her mother Emily T. said that during the war her mother Ava hung food up in the trees to keep the Yankees from stealing it.
Henry Whitfield Rhodes b. 1883 was one 5 brothers who were sons of Emily. His son Johnny Rhodes b. in 1917, “cousin to my mother,” he told me in “1970’s & many times onwards,” that his father helped uncles, siblings dig up / move the remains of soldiers that were buried around Harper House. He said that he was told the Dr’s threw the arms / legs out the windows after they amputated them. Samuel T. was buried next to Harper House in 1912, his grave is the only one with a headstone. He fought in Bentonville Battle, captured because he went to check on his family who lived nearby, told by daughter Susan b. 1865.
Doris Dunn b. 1915 whom I met in about 1998? She died in 2000. She is the daughter of Remus Dudley Dunn & Anna Langston. He married 4th wife Mary Lula Thornton 1921. Her mother is Mary E. Thornton daughter of Samuel Thornton. Mary Lula and Remus are buried right next to the road at Harper House in front of cemetery where the Harper Family and Confederate soldiers are honored. Doris said that her father Remus and stepmother bought Harper House when she was a little girl. She was not supposed to slide down the banisters in her dress but she kept the rails “slick.” Everyone talked about the seeing haunts in the house so she and her friends were scared. Doris told me that she remembers being at the funeral of Jane Kennedy “d. 1921” as a little girl. Jane Kennedy is buried next to Samuel T. Now it’s a cornfield & more people are buried there but no stones are left except Samuel Thornton’s.
In early 1900’s ? not sure of the date the Picture Man took a photo of Samuel Thornton and Jane Kennedy T, Samuel’s sons & daughters / husbands / wives / their children in front of the Harper House. My grandmother Emily, few others were not included but you can buy the photo from Raleigh and the names are on the back. My grandmother Mary daughter of Emily, pointed out each person in the picture to me in about 1975.