Vinedale and the Vines Family in White and Black
By C. Rudolph Knight
Vinedale, a handsome Italianate plantation house built in 1855, was the home of John A. Vines and is located on NC 43 about two miles east of Pinetops. The white house with red trim presents itself well in a country setting with a wide green lawn and trees. It is now the home of Edward Norris Tolson and his wife, Betsy.
John A. Vines (1815-1872) was married to Prudence Ruffin Vines (1815-1875), and they had at least seven children. The extent of Mr. Vines’ plantation varied with time. In 1860, when it was probably at its height, it embraced 1,600 acres, about half of which were cultivated. The principal crop was cotton. Mr. Vines owned 65 slaves, a large number even for Edgecombe County.
Vinedale is described as a two-story, three-bay, double-pile house with a low-hipped standing-seam tin roof, surmounted with a cupola. A one-story porch, with sawn-work piers, extends around the house on all four sides. The wide eaves are supported on carved and sawn brackets. The low-hipped cupola roof is also supported on smaller brackets, and a decorative finial tops the decorative elements.
Inside, Vinedale has a pair of front parlors, one on either side. Behind the right parlor is a large dining room, the largest room in the house. Upstairs, a center and cross hall give access to two large bedrooms in front and three in back. A steep narrow staircase allows access to the cupola where the windows, when open, provide abundant air movement through convection.
As with most southern ante-bellum mansions, both enslaved and free African-American artisans undoubtedly provided much of the labor necessary to erect Vinedale. Among these artisans were carpenters, brick masons, and plasterers. We don’t know their individual identities. Some were probably part of the Vinedale enslaved residents. Others may have been rented from nearby plantations (e.g., Bracebridge and Myrtle Grove), or they may have been free blacks from as far away as Tarboro. We do know that eleven of the black and mulatto carpenters that appear in the 1870 Tarboro census were old enough to have been employed at Vinedale when it was built: William Mitchell, Joseph Price, Buck Boyd, Locust Wright, Watson Hagans, Robert Western, Henry C. Cherry, John C. Dancy, Anderson Dancy, David Jefferson, and Noah Lloyd.
Once constructed, Vinedale was cleaned, painted, and otherwise maintained by the Vinedale slaves, and the field slaves continued to work in the fields, raising crops and caring for livestock. Following Emancipation, some of the ex-slaves stayed as tenant farmers, while others left the immediate area, some settled in towns in Edgecombe, Pitt, and Nash Counties. Several of the Vinedale ex-slaves adopted the surname Vines, after this master, John A. Vines. Others adopted Dickens as their surname. Eventually, after 1901, many of the black Vines settled in the town of Pinetops.
Pinetops, founded in 1901 and incorporated in May 1903, began as a rail station. From this beginning, the town grew into a small commercial center as businesses, merchants, and workers (both black and white) located close to the railroad line that connected the town with Tarboro and Farmville. The initial town limits was purchased by Henry Bridgers, owner and developer of the East Carolina Railway, popularly called the “Yellow Hammer.”
According the Vines family history, written by John Vines, Sr. (a grandson Jordan and Ann Vines and the son of Bennett Vines), among John A. Vines’ slaves was Jordan (later Jordan Vines) who was described as being “as black as anything you ever saw.” In 1866, he married Ann Clark, who is thought to have been either white or of mixed parentage. Their children were George (1864), Amanda (1867), Aneliza (1869), Emma, Johnnie, Molly, General (1875), Bennett (1878), Allen, Arthur, and Amy (1883).
George Vines and his wife, Lue, had three children, George Anna Vines Jenkins, Mattie Vines Hines, and Mollie Vines Pender.
Amanda Vines Barnes and her husband, George Barnes, had 11 children.
Aneliza Vines’ children were John Vines, Mary Jane Cobb, and Anna Vines Farmer.
Emma Vines Cobb’s children were Charlie Cobb, Sr., Leslie Cobb, Emma Cobb Wooten, and Millie Cobb.
Johnnie Vines and his wife, Laura, had three children, Frank Vines, Fred Vines, and John Alan Vines.
Amy Vines Barnes and her husband, Richard, had eight children, Carrie Barnes Hussey, Annie Mae Barnes Hines, Olivia Barnes Farmer, Richard Barnes, Lydia Barnes Harrison, George Barnes, Sr., Effie Rea Barnes Hinton, and Margaret Barnes Wooten.
Jordan and Ann Vines’ grand children mostly lived in Pinetops where several became successful entrepreneurs in business and commerce. Mollie Vines Pender, the daughter of George Vines, owned Ms. Bull’s Café. Nathan Jenkins, the son of George Ann Vines Jenkins, owned Jenkins Café. Buddy Jenkins, another son of George Ann Vines Jenkins, owned Jenkins Cleaners. Preston and Carrie Barnes Hussey, the daughter of Amy Vines Barnes, owned Hussey Grocery and Cleaners. Joe Vines, the son of John Vines, Sr., owned Vines Store.
The black Vines Family Graveyard, the final resting place of many in the Vines family and other former slave descendents who lived on Vinedale Plantation, is located between Vinedale and Pinetops, on the north side of NC 43. In addition to Vines, other surnames of families that are buried in the Vines Family Graveyard include Dickens, Farmer, Gardner, Harris, Hill, Hines, Hobbs, Jenkins, Mayo, Pender, Rodgers, Smith, Stancil, Vick Williams, Wooten, and Yarboro. The extended Vines family is in the process of clearing and restoring the cemetery. The great grand daughter of Jordan and Ann Vines, Carolyn Hussey Travers is coordinating this effort. If you have knowledge of family history and burial locations or if you need information, please contact her at 252-641-1770.
C. Rudolph Knight is a Tarboro native, a retired community college educator, and a research historian.
Note: Knight has monthly articles in the Daily Southerner. Knight is the chairman of Perry-Weston Institute.