The Old Myers’ Place

William Almon Myers House in the 1970's

The picture at the top of this page is of a house which no longer exists. Likely built in the early 1800s, it stood within the tip of a right angle created by what we today call Somers and Iredell Line roads in Hamptonville, NC. The house either fell or was demolished sometime after the 1980s, and today another home sits in roughly the same place, but stories about it persist.

W.A. “Uncle Billy” Myers later in life.

William Almon Myers was born in 1833 to Shadrack and Mary (Windsor) Myers. With siblings numbering almost in the double digits, William was probably well acquainted with the human condition and with the hard work it took to keep a farming family in those days in food and clothing.
This kind of life meant that Myers didn’t make it to school very long or very often, and despite having a keen intellect, he was never privy to a college education.

In 1855 during a meeting at Zion Baptist Church in Union Grove, Myers “came to faith.” No details of this are readily available but one can imagine it might have been during a “protracted” or “camp meeting,” which were numerous in those days.

September that next year he would marry Lemirah (sometimes spelled “Lemyrah”) Jennings. The marriage would produce four sons and seven daughters. They would settle into a home in what was then the Somers community (now Hamptonville). As for the house, I am unsure if it was standing already or constructed for their family, but it’s the same one mentioned and seen above.

Zion Baptist Church, likely 1950’s/1960’s. Iredell County Library

By 1866 Myers has been ordained as a deacon at Zion and is also serving as a clerk for the church. Two years later in 1868, the reverends Thomas Howell, R.H. Parks, and William G. Brown would examine him, and finding his beliefs to be orthodox, he would be ordained as possibly the first (at least the first recorded) minister to come out of the Zion congregation. The church would present him with a gift- a new bible.
From 1879 to 1889 he would serve as Zion’s principle minister.

In September of 1889, as part of the Brier Creek Association, Myers left Zion to become the first permanent minister of the newly formed First Baptist Church of Elkin. He would be replacing the reverend W.B. Woodruff who had served for only four months before asking to be removed. That church at the time would have been on the lot at 404 Elk Spur Street in Elkin. Today it is the site of a private home, as the church moved to West Main Street in 1903.
Even though he left Zion, Myers remained a member at the church where he had come to Christ and where he had worshipped and served for over 30 years.

Site of the original First Baptist Church of Elkin. Google Earth

1893 sees Myers depart First Baptist. His preaching history is a little murky afterwards, but he would have been 60 by then, and likely became a pulpit supply minister for the Brier Creek Association and other church organizations in adjoining counties. What scant few mentions we find of him in the newspapers during those years are of preaching funerals and revivals in various places. He also served as “moderator” for the Association from 1884 until 1896.

June 24th, 1912, Myers was returning from preaching at Brier Creek Baptist Church in Roaring River, about 11 miles north of his home. He had preached to the congregation there from the book of John, chapter 19, verse 30. His sermon title had been “It Is Finished.”

During the buggy ride back to Somers, the elderly minister had somewhere along the way bowed his head and given up his spirit. He fell along the road, and his death was only discovered by his family when the horse arrived at the house with the buggy but no driver.
William Almon Myers was remembered as a man of infinite zeal and energy, even in his later years. Though he had never received any sort of college or seminary education, it was said that no man in the area was better versed in the scriptures. He was accredited with the baptism of thousands, and had preached innumerable sermons throughout all the adjoining counties.
As the years passed and he grew a crown of white about his head, he became concerned with the youth, making special addresses to children, and earning their affection as “Uncle Billy.”
He would be buried with his wife (who had passed in 1910) at his home church of Zion.

His mark.

Of his sons, only William Gus Myers survived his father. Two other sons had died as children and John Edward Myers had died of typhoid fever in 1907 at 45 years old.
W.G. Myers also became a minister and operated a dry goods store as well. I don’t know for sure if he remained in the family home until his death in 1953 at 86 years old. I don’t know who ownership of the home passed to.

The former Myers home in the 1970’s. Statesville Record & Landmark

And while good records of ownership do not survive, along with the picture above what does remain are a gaggle of ghost stories.
These vary in detail and length. The most prominent says a son of W.A. Myers named William hung himself using a rope from a plow that he hoisted over a beam with his own hands. There are also nebulous tales of murders and strange goings on. For some reason these tales have outlived the house and even a memory of where the house actually was among the people who tell these stories.
As I’m apt to do, I have to wonder where these stories came from. Are they based in fact or fantasy?

I want to look at the most well known story about the house since it’s the only one with names and dates tied to it. That story being of W.A. Myers’ son William killing himself there in about 1897.
If you’ve read this far I probably don’t have to connect the dots for you on this one. “Uncle Billy” only had one son named William, and that son lived until 1953 and died of illness related to old age according to his death certificate. None of W.A. Myers’ other children died in 1897 either. None of W.A. Myers’ siblings died in 1897. Of the death certificates I can find none list suicide.
So where does this story come from?

When I had exhausted looking into the backgrounds of W.A. Myers’ children and siblings, I began to look for anything that might have appeared in the local papers about a suicide in 1897, and was surprised at what I found.

Charlotte Democrat. Sept 2nd, 1897.

As it turns out, there was a William Myers who committed suicide in the way the story describes. But he was not the son of W.A. Myers, nor, as best I can tell was he any close relation either. Who he actually was is a little bit of a mystery. I have found some records that seem to be the same young man, but I can’t be sure. There is no death certificate, no obituary, and no recorded grave marker. I’m not even sure how old he was, though I think somewhere between 22 and 25 years old.
Anyway, as the story in the local papers go, he had removed himself to Virginia as a young man and had married a wealthy woman there. For unknown reasons, he had run out on her, taking a sum of money and a donkey, and returned home. After returning home he became involved with another woman, possibly a “Rachel Cass” based on one document I found, who he also married in 1897. If this is the William we are looking for, he also got Rachel Cass pregnant before his death and had a son named David Preston Myers who he would never know.
It seems that with the fear of his previous marriage being discovered, and charges of bigamy to follow, this William had become despondent, and according to a “Curt Myers” who a local paper calls a half brother, William had been making preparations to kill himself. He even honed a razor to slit his own throat a week before his death but was talked out of using it.

Whoever this William Myers was, I feel I can safely conclude he did not kill himself in W.A. Myers’ home.

William showing up in the 1880 census as son of Patsy Myers.

He may also have been the son of Patsy Myers. She had a son named “William M. Myers” who was about 9 in 1880, which would make him about 26 in 1897. He would have been half brother to any children Patsy had with her husband Wesley Myers, who died in the Civil War and could not have been her son William’s father. Meaning if he had a brother by Patsy or his real father (whoever that may have been), they would have been a half brother, as the newspaper said. However, I’m inclined to believe the man named “Curt Myers” in the paper could possibly have been Rufus Martin Myers, his half brother, and Patsy’s son.
Further supporting that this might be the William from the story is that the newspaper accounts say the suicide happened in New Hope. New Hope is across the line in Iredell county, not Wilkes county where the W.A. Myers house was. Property maps from about 20 years later also show an “R. M. Myers” owns property near Grassy Knob Baptist Church in the New Hope community. I think this William, probably a bastard child of Patsy and an unknown man was the same William who led a troubled life and died young by his own hand.
Where he is buried, who his father was, and any other details of his life I will continue to look for, but have so far been unable to find.

How his story became attached to W.A. Myers and his old house is probably the result of a simple error. In years past someone found one of the stories or various reprints of the story of the mysterious William’s suicide, or maybe even heard it first or second hand and tried to connect the dots. W.A. Myers had a son named William. A match was made but the match wasn’t correct.

But where do the other vague stories come from? Why are there so many purported tales of death, murder, and hardship associated with this nondescript, nonextant house? The answer is simple, and a little bit silly.

In the early to mid 1970s, the house was partially abandoned, and whoever owned it during those years used it for various purposes.
When I started talking to older folks in the community about the “ghost” stories, I was treated to tales of just what transpired in the house during several Octobers during that decade. The old homeplace was used was a “haunted house” for children in the community.
Where did the other nonsensical and unverifiable ghost stories about the Myers house come from? From the imagination of adults trying to scare children during Halloween. And those children repeated the stories through the decades to their children, and so on.
It’s an anti-climactic answer, but most of the ghost stories about the Myers house were simply invented. Tales told to thrill, yarns for youngins. They have no basis in reality, and it is a shame that we remember such nonsensical myths about a house rather than the dedicated minister who lived there.

If you want truth to go round the world you must hire an express train to pull it; but if you want a lie to go round the world, it will fly; it is as light as a feather, and a breath will carry it. It is well said in the old Proverb, ‘A lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on.’
-Charles H Spurgeon

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Published by Abandoned NC

I went back to my old home and the furrow of each year plowed like surf across the place had not washed memory away. -A. R. Ammons

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