The University of North Carolina
Herbarium has catalogued approximately a dozen specimens collected by Rebecca
Bridgers. As cataloguing of the collection continues it is likely that more
will be found.
Photo and signature of Rebecca “Reba” Bridgers from United
States passport application, 1918.
Ms. Bridgers' name is variously
rendered as "Miss Bridgers," "Reba Bridges," "Reba
Bridgers," "Rebecca Bridges," "Rebecca Bridgers" on
herbarium specimen labels. The earliest specimen collected by Ms. Bridgers
that has been catalogued is Asimina
parviflora, collected “on a hill
near Creek, Tarboro, N.C.” in 1922. The latest specimen, Nolina georgiana, was “found in sandy places from Augusta to
Douglas, Georgia” in 1947.
Rebecca "Reba" Routh Bridges was born 18 October, 1882 to Laura
Placidia Clark and John Luther Bridgers, Jr. Her father, together with J.
Kelly Turner, a student at Trinity College, wrote History of Edgecombe
County, North Carolina (1920, Edwards & Broughton Printing Co.,
Raleigh, NC). Heather Anderson of East Carolina University's Joyner Library
Topics in this comprehensive look at
the many eras in Edgecombe County history include origins and colonial
settlements, the Revolution, various levels of politics, slavery and the
Civil War, agriculture and industry, and religion. The book contains maps,
sketches, and photographs.
Reba's paternal grandfather was John Luther Bridgers, Captain of the
Edgecombe Guards (also known as the Betel Unit of the 1st North Carolina)
during the Civil War. He served as the Commander of Fort Macon during that
conflict. John, Sr. owned "The Grove," currently known as the
Blount-Bridgers House, in Tarboro, Edgecombe County.
Reba Bridgers' maternal grandfather was Henry Toole Clark (1808-1874),
governor of North Carolina 1861-1862. Clark was a member of the North
Carolina Senate from 1850 to 1861, and served as Senate Speaker from 1858 to
1861. Governor John W. Ellis died in office on 7 July 1861, and Speaker Clark
assumed the duties of Governor. Clark again served in the North Carolina
Senate from 1866-1867. Reba was born at "Hilma," the Clark family
home, and a photograph of this home can be found on page 84 of Monika
Fleming’s book, IMAGES OF AMERICA:
ECHOES OF EDGECOMB COUNTY 1860-1940.
Henry Toole Clark, governor of North Carolina 1861-1862,
and Reba Bridgers’ maternal grandfather
Nothing is known about Reba Bridgers’
education. Unlike many of the male
members of the Bridgers family, she was not allowed by the times to attend
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The 1919 United States Federal Census lists
“Reba Bridgers” living with her parents and siblings Henry C. (age 34,
occupation “own income”) and Mary G. (age 31, occupation “railroad president”). Given that this was 1910, it is safe to
assume that Henry’s and Mary’s occupations were mistakenly switched by the
census taker! According to historian
Monika Fleming, Reba’s brother, Henry Clark Bridgers (1876-1951), was born
and raised at “Hilma.” He attended the University of the South in Sewanee and
the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was a member of the UNC-CH tennis team,
is credited with introducing golf to Chapel Hill, and was instrumental in
founding the Hilma Golf Club. He was a
banker and businessman.
Monika Fleming provides the information
that Miss Bridgers lived in “Mary Meade,” a house near her parents’ home in
Tarboro, and that she traveled widely.
A passport shows that she lived in the Philippines from 1910 to 1912. She was a passenger on the Prinses Juliana
which left from New York and arrived in Liverpool, England on 21 December
1918. She lived in Doulevant le
Chateau, France from January 1919 to May 1919, and in Paris, France from May
1919 until September 1919. In
September 1919 she arrived in Coblenz, Germany, where she resided “for the
purpose of Y.M.C.A. Service on behalf of the American Y.M.C.A. with American
Forces in Germany.”
Miss Reba Bridgers,
one of our members [of the Daughters of the American Revolution] and daughter
of our former regent, Mrs. John L.
Bridgers, has been in Y.M.C.A. work overseas for nearly a year, making a most
interesting record. Mrs. Bridgers has been honored by being
elected a member of the International Relations Committee. (p. 108 FROM: Report of the Eighteenth Annual State
Conference of the Daughters of the American Revolution Held in Greensboro,
N.C. January 16, 1919. Greensboro, NC: Greensboro Printing Co. )
[It is interesting that the copy of this publication that is available
via the internet via Google books is from the New York Public Library, but
appears to have been owned by Laura P. Bridgers, Hilma (Reba’s mother), as
this is the signature on the title page of this publication.]
The 1920 federal census shows that at age
32 Reba Bridgers lived in Miesenheim, Germany and worked for the Y.M.C.A.
Miles Harvey Chapter [of the
Daughters of the American Revolution] (Tarboro, N.C.) We have held meetings regularly every second
Tuesday of the month at the homes of members of the Chapter, always opening
with American’s Creed, followed by the Lord’s Prayer. Although the roll includes twenty-nine
members, we have only fourteen active members, as the others are non-resident
or unable to attend the meetings.
Fourteen names have been voted on, and elected for membership, and
their papers are being prepared now; some are already in Washington pending
acceptance. In October, two home
talent entertainments were given, clearing about $100, and in January “The
Womanless Wedding,” was given and the amount of $137 netted. These entertainments were under the
management of Mrs. C. M. Parks, our treasurer, to whom we are greatly
indebted. Copies of the Declaration of
Independence of the United States of America have been placed in all schools
and public buildings in Tarboro and surrounding county. Miss Reba Bridgers, one of
our members, is still in Y.M.C.A. work over seas, having gone over in 1918. We always celebrate Washington’s Birthday
and Flag Day with especially prepared programs; Mrs. C. M. Parks was delegate
to the National Congress and brought back a wonderful message. She informed us of the three National
undertakings and the 60 cents per capita was paid at once. A contribution has been made for the Near
East sufferers, and a box of clothing, valued at $200, was sent to Serbia.
One of our great pleasures was being hostess to the
twentieth Annual State Conference held November 17 and 18, 1920. We had with us one national officer, four
state officers, twenty-five delegates and fifteen chapters represented. On the 17th, a bronze tablet was
unveiled in the Court House, having been erected by the Miles Harvey Chapter
in memory of Henry Irwin, Lieut. Col. 5th, N.C. Regiment, killed
at Germantown, Pa., October 4th, 1777.
Flag Day was observed with a meeting of the first
District Conference at the home of Mrs. W. O. Howard, our Regent and Chairman
of the 4th District with delegates present from various chapters
east of Raleigh. There was a program
opening with prayer, followed by American’s Creed, Salute to Flag, address of
welcome and response, report of National Congress, chapter reports,
discussion of business, and patriotic songs.
The meeting then
adjourned and the conference was invited to Hilma, the beautiful home of Mrs.
J.L. Bridgers, where a luncheon was served under the trees.
It seemed peculiarly fitting that the First
Conference of the 4th District should be held in Tarboro, the home
of the Chairman, and Miles Harvey Chapter, being honored by having on its
roll two state officers, Mrs. J.L. Bridgers, State Chaplain, and Miss Mary
Powell, State Recording Secretary. –
Mrs. C. C. Topp, Recording Secretary. FROM: Daughters of the American Revolution
Magazine (1921) LV(9): 530-531.
In 1936 she was a passenger on the ship Vestvagen from Kingston, Jamaica to
New Orleans, Louisiana.
In 1934 Ms. Bridgers built a home she
dubbed “The Waldorf” in Highlands, Macon County, North Carolina. She was interested in all aspects of
science and natural history, and was a patron of the Highlands Biological
Station. In 1965 she donated almost an
acre of her land to the Station, and in 1991 that land was transferred to the
Land Trust. Dr. Eugene Odum, pioneering ecologist of
the University of Georgia, credited “Miss Reba Bridges’ [sic] cat” with
collecting a Star-nosed mole, Condylura
cristata L. “Although the animal
had been dead for several days, I was able to prepare a skin which is now in
the Highlands Museum.” [Odum, Eugene P.
(1949) Small mammals of the
Highlands (North Carolina) Plateau.
Journal of Mammology 30(2):
179-192.] Ms. Bridgers was a
friend and co-collector of botanical specimens with Dr. William Chambers
Coker, director of the Biological Station (1936-1944).
According to Ran Shaffner, Archivist with
the Highlands Historical Society, “Miss Reba” was a well-known figure in
Highlands. “One story is that Miss
Reba hurt her foot once before coming to Highlands, and the doctor told her
to stay home and keep it elevated. But
Miss Reba wasn’t one to stay put. She
arrived in Highlands, and her friends asked how she got here. She said she drove with her foot on the
dashboard. Horrified, they asked how
she did that. “I put my hat down over
my eyes so nobody would know who I was,” she replied.” Shaffner continued, “Her nephew was Robb
White, Jr. of Thomasville, Georgia, who, as a graduate of the Naval Academy,
penned sea adventure stories, screenplays, and thrillers from which movies
like House on Haunted Hill and Up Periscope were made. The recent best-seller about rural south
Georgia, Mama Makes Up Her Mind, and
Other Dangers of Southern Living is by Bailey White, the [National Public
Radio] All Things Considered
commentator, who is Robb’s daughter and must have shared Miss Reba’s sense of
Reba Bridgers, despite her interest in natural history and friendship with
prominent biologists, is not known to have published any scholarly
works. However, a short communication
written by Ms. Bridgers was found by chance in The State.
Rebecca (March 1, 1970) They
Rode. The State 37(19): 9.
I live in two places, Thomasville, Georgia
in the winter and Highlands, North Carolina in the summer and still call
Tarboro home. So I feel that I may
write about fox hunting in eastern Carolina.
I started fox hunting when I was so little that old Sheriff Knight had
to help me button my coat, my fingers would be so stiff that early on a
winter morning. The old Sheriff used
to hunt with my grandfather. I was so
surprised by that article [Thomas, John G. (15 January 1970) Fox hunting down Home. The State 37(16): 18] on fox hunting in eastern North
Carolina – sitting about listening to the hounds, that’s the way they hunt in
the mountains but in eastern North Carolina we RODE to the hounds! -- REBECCA BRIDGERS, THOMASVILLE, GA.
Henry C., Jr. (September 1, 1970) Hark to 'em. The State 38(7): 6.
Several months ago you ran two articles
about fox hunting in Eastern North Carolina, one submitted by my aunt, Miss
Rebecca Bridgers. Recently, she told me another story which I thought your
readers might find amusing.
She and her hunting companions,
mostly young men, were sitting beside a road on their horses waiting for the
hounds to pick up the fox's scent where it had crossed the road and entered a
cotton field. The farmer who owned the land happened to pass by in his buggy
and they asked if
they might continue the hunt on his land. He said, "yes, boys, but
please don't hunt through my cotton patch." About this time the hounds
picked up the trail and streaked out through the cotton. Whereupon the farmer
laid the whip to his horse, took off through the field, yelling
back, "Hark to 'em, boys. Hark to 'em." Once a fox hunter, always a
Sorry you had to raise your
subscription rate but THE STATE is worth any price it is a wonderful
magazine. You're slipping on your How Many Can You Answer? though, or else
I'm getting smarter, which I doubt. --
HENRY C. BRIDGERS, JR., CAPTAIN, USN (RET.), TARBORO
S. O. (March 15, 1970) Hunting horse.
The State 37(20): 5.
The lady, Mrs. Rebecca Bridgers of
Thomasville, Ga., Highlands, N.C. and Tarboro who wrote about how we did fox
hunt years ago, bless her heart, is a true Tarheel. The days she is talking
about, I am afraid, are gone now; there are too many planted pine tree farms
and they are
so thick that a fox could hardly get through them, but back at the time she
is talking about we really rode to the hounds and the horses loved it as much
as the humans and hounds did.
A good fox horse would usually
follow the pack by the shortest route and it was up to the rider to stay on
as best he could. I recall that one morning just before dawn I went out by
myself, and the hounds jumped just as it was getting light. My horse, in an
attempt to go with them, ran into a deep ravine; and in going out, the saddle
girth broke and the saddle and I fell off; but he didn't wait for me, and in
just a few minutes horse and hounds both were gone out of sight and hearing.
I picked up the saddle and made my
way out to a road and sat down to wait. After about an hour I could hear the
pack coming back making music as only a pack of hounds could, and right in
behind them was my horse. When he saw me he ran up to me and skidded to a
stop, and gave
me a look that was enough to say "where you been boy?"
Those are the days Mrs. Bridgers
is writing about. The real dedicated old time fox-hunters such as Sheriff
Allen of Louisburg, Sidney Cooper, of Henderson, Macon Thornton, of Macon,
and Silas Cheek, who handled Macon Thornton's pack would not humiliate a
hound by taking him out to a fox race in an automobile.
Incidentally, back then we had
prohibition, and no ABC stores. You do have to have a small amount of
refreshment on a fox hunt; but back then, you had to know where to go to get
--S.O. NICHOLSON, SOUTHERN PINES
Reba Bridgers died at age 96 in
Thomasville, Georgia on 15 November 1978.
Special thanks to:
Monika Fleming, Keihin Endowed Faculty Chair (2007), English / Humanities
Department, Edgecombe Community College, 2009 Wilson Street, Tarboro, NC 27886.
Author of IMAGES OF AMERICA:
ECHOES OF EDGECOMB COUNTY 1860-1940, Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 1996.
Steven Seiberling, University of North Carolina Herbarium for image
Randolph P. Shaffner, Archivist, Highlands Historical Society, Inc. 524 North 4th Street, Highlands,
North Carolina 28741-0670 www.highlandshistory.com
Gary Wein, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust.