The University of North Carolina
Herbarium has catalogued about twenty vascular plant specimens and nearly
twenty fungi 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.
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
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
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 Princes 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” near the intersection of 4th
Street and Martha’s Lane 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 Highlands-Cashiers 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 humor.”
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.
Bridgers, 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.
Bridgers, 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 fox hunter!
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 it.
--S.O. NICHOLSON, SOUTHERN PINES
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,
Steven Seiberling, University of North Carolina
Herbarium for image processing.
Randolph P. Shaffner, Archivist, Highlands
Historical Society, Inc. 524 North 4th
Street, Highlands, North Carolina
Gary Wein, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust. http://www.hicashlt.org/