Celia Rachel Stancil Renfrow
Celia Rachel Stancil Renfrow
Rachel was born July 3, 1910, and died Feb. 21, 1996. She married James Graydon Renfrow on Dec. 8, 1926.
Rachel's children

With James Graydon Renfrow

Donald Eugene Renfrow


Charles Edward Renfrow
Oct. 16, 1929-Dec. 16, 1929
Gilda Gray Renfrow Six
Jan. 19, 1931 Wilson County, NC-June 7, 2009 Wilson County, NC
James Graydon Renfrow Jr.
Harold Thomas Renfrow
Dec. 28, 1944-Nov. 11, 2009 Washington, NC

Graydon, J.G., Rachel, Gilda and Jimmy.

Family photo

Celia Rachel Stancil was born July 3, 1910, to George Ira Stancil and Eva Ann Mercer.

Rachel and Graydon had five children, and they were all raised in Wilson County, NC. The children were Donald (b. 1927), Charles (b. 1929), Gilda (b. 1931), J.G. (b. 1935) and Harold Thomas (b. 1944).

Rachel was delivered by her paternal grandmother Delanie Sasser Stancil in her grandpa's tenant house. Rachel had black hair, blue eyes, one of her eyes had a yellow speck in it.

When Rachel caught the typhoid fever her ma made a Poultice and put it around her neck.

On one trip to Duplin County, Eva Mercer's home in the Surrey, a stop was made at Aunt Sis and Uncle Phen Turner's. They lived at Seven Springs. Uncle Phen gave the kids, Effie, Emmette, Delanie, Ralph and Rachel some of his brew over Aunt Sis' objections. When they left Rachel asked her, “Why are the trees were moving Pa?"

Rachel is remembered as the one who raced ahead, ate Delanie's strawberry, taunting her when asked, "Where is the strawberry?" Responding, "It's in my belly right now, too!"

Looking after sister Vazelle was Rachel's primary job. Rachel was five years older. Vazelle was put in the little red wagon pulling her out into the fields so she could see her ma and maybe stop crying.

By the time Rachel was 6 it was time to start working in the fields and turn the childcare duties over to Mamie.

Rachel attended Center Ridge Presbyterian Church Sunday School. Thomas Crockrell and her Pa helped organize it. All in the neighborhood children attended the Sunday School regardless oftheir denominational membership.

Rachel recalled traveling to Mizpah Church for a Christmas Party in Newsom Narron's truck. She saw her first large candle lit Christmas tree and Santa Claus. Cousins Leafy and Mozelle spoiled it for Rachel by telling her the Santa was Uncle Harvey. Rachel didn't believe it until she heard Santa's voice directed toward Leafy, "Spenie, I'm going to crack you on the head with my stick if you don't behave."

Hilda was born in 1919 and Rachel had another baby to look after. Hilda cried most of the time and was the only baby ever to be put on a bottle. Myrtle often stole Hilda's bottle for a drink.

One hot Sunday afternoon Rachel carrying Hilda, Mamie, Vazelle and Myrtle walked down to Uncle Harvey's to play with Vessie and Mavis. Mavis had a girlfriend over, It was Ila, Uncle Henry's daughter and Beulah, Uncle Alvin's daughter were also there. Hilda cried and cried, finally Mavis' girlfriend couldn't take it anymore. She screamed, "Rachel, why don't you kill that youn'un. I'd throw her in a ditch and stomp her to death. Let's do it right now. I'll help you!"

In 1922 Rachel went with the family for her Grandma Jane's Birthday celebration in Duplin County. All the kids were getting on Grandpa Kennedy's cotton scale to weigh. Rachel got on and topped the scale at 155 pounds. Some of her siblings began calling her "Fat Sheep" because of her weight. Those were fighting words to Rachel.

When she married Graydon Renfrow, at 16, she weighed 135 pounds.

Rachel joined Holly Springs Freewill Baptist Church about 1923. She was baptized down at Old Beulah Bridge. A bus took Rachel to Kenly High School for seventh grade. Thurman Boyette drove the bus. The old Glendale School had been condemned. She passed her County Test and entered eighth grade the Fall of 1924 at the new Glendale High School.

In 1925 there were many church revivals and social activities in the neighborhood, moonlight picnics, ice cream suppers, lemonade drinkings. Pa let Ralph drive his car to these, he often took his sisters and cousins.

Rachel and Ralph attended a Vocal Union held at Brown School House near Selma, NC, in August of 1925. A friend Clyde Atkinson introduced Rachel to Graydon Renfrow. Graydon was handsome and Rachel wanted to see him again. Gladys Renfrow, Graydon's sister invited Rachel and Ralph to an ice cream supper at her house. Vessie, Harvey's daughter also went with them. Rachel knew she was in love when she saw Graydon again. The next Sunday Graydon came calling driving a Ford Roadster but Rachel was gone. He picked up Vessie and Beulah, gave them a ride home asking them to tell Rachel, "Hello."

Rachel and Graydon dated on weekends. Rachel returned to school the first week in October. She was in the ninth grade at Glendale High School. Graydon attended Buckhorn High School. Ralph and Rachel visited Robert and Effie in Buckhorn. They also went to see a school play at Buckhorn High School, Graydon Renfrow had the lead. Among the schools Graydon attended was the Renfrow School.

Rachel was a member of the Debate Team at Glendale High School. In 1926 Rachel won the Recitation Contest Medal at Glendale High School. She recited "The Littlest Rebel." Ralph was one of the usher in the auditorium. Ralph had taken Rachel for weekly training to a Methodist Preacher's wife in Kenly. Rachel received a gold medal with her name engraved on the back.

Rachel decided not to return to school in September of 1926. She stayed home to help her ma with all the children. Rachel and Graydon were in love and planned a fall wedding but her ma's pregnancy with Dot due in October delayed the wedding. Graydon decided to quit school after completing the tenth grade at Rock Ridge High School, Wilson County in the spring of 1926. He traveled to Jacksonville, Fla., and attended Barbour College on Bay Street.

One school tale Graydon told Rachel happened while he was attending Starlight School House. One student put a shotgun shell in the school's wood stove. It exploded clearing the whole school room. Charlie Barnes was teaching them.

Rachel and Graydon married Dec. 8, 1926. They were married in Selma by a Presbyterian Minister, Rev. A. M. Mitchel. Graydon drove his Ford Roadster to the Raleigh Hotel where they spent their first night.

Wedding gifts from her parents included sheets, pillows, a featherbed and a cow.

Graydon ran a store and farmed for six years. He rented the farm and store from a cousin Ora Watson, an old flame of Ralph's.

Their oldest son Donald Eugene was born Nov. 8, 1927, He was delivered by a midwife. One time Rachel put toddler Donald Eugene to bed. She was scared when he didn't wake up during the night like he always did. He slept until morning. Rachel found a moth ball in his diaper.

In 1928 Graydon bought a Chevy car for $800 and continued to farm and to run the store.

Ralph moved in with Rachel and Graydon in 1929, and worked in their store. Ralph had traded his Ford Roadster for a more expensive Whippet and needed the job to make payments. Payments on the Whippet were $40 per month.

Graydon sold dry goods, food, gas, oil and cut hair in his store. He charged 15 cents per hair cut and later in 1929 raised the price to 25 cents.

Rachel and Graydon's second child, Charles Edward was born Oct. 18, 1929, delivered by Dr. Hackney. He died almost two months later of crib death on Dec. 16, 1929.

Rev. Logan Landrum preached Charles' funeral. He was buried at the Upper Black Creek Primitive Baptist Church Cemetery where Graydon's parents were buried. Among those attending the services were Rachel's sister Mamie and her mother Eva Stancil.

Rachel had three more children. A daughter Gilda Gray born Jan. 19, 1931, was delivered by Dr. Hackney and Miss Mattie Ward a midwife. Son James Graydon Jr. born Nov. 4, 1935, delivered by Dr. Hackney and Miss Mattie Ward. After his birth Gilda wanted to see the other baby as she'd dreamed her mother had twins. James Graydon Jr. was born at home at Hawley Revel Crossroads in Wilson County on Nov. 4, 1935. Son Harold Thomas born Dec. 28, 1944, was delivered by "C" section at Carolina General Hospital in Wilson. He was named Harold for Rachel's brother, Harold Lloyd killed on Oct. 13, 1944, in the Pacific on board the USS Franklin and Thomas for Rachel's grandpa John Thomas Stancil.

In the fall of 1932 Ora Watson told them she planned to marry and move into her house. Rachel and Graydon purchased eleven acres of land with a house and store and lived their three years. Then Graydon sold out and moved to Kenly.

About this time Graydon's pa died. He purchased his pa's truck and began transporting tobacco for local farmers and expanded that into a transport business. At this time Grandma Renfrow had a tenant living with her.

Gilda had pneumonia once when she was 3 years old. Dr. Strickland is credited with saving her.

In 1936 Rachel and Graydon lived in Kenly. Rachel enrolled 5 year old Gilda in school. After two weeks the school found out Gilda was only 5 and required Rachel to remove her from school. Sheriff Narron's wife offered to teach Gilda at home free. So Gilda began school with Mrs. Narron.

Graydon drove a truck and had a store at Cash Corner. Rachel took care of the children.

In 1937 Graydon moved his family back to the farm. Gilda turned 6 and started first grade after Christmas. They lived in a house near Graydon's store.

In 1938 Graydon sold the truck, relocated to Spring Hill and began operating a store business.

By 1940 Graydon had moved his family into his mother's house and taken over the farming.

Jimmie as Donald Eugene was called, was a top farm hand. Graydon gave him that the name of "Jimmie" claiming Donald Eugene was too hard to be pronounce. Jimmie had plowing responsibilities from an early age and was handy with all the farm activities.

Spring Hill Presbyterian Church was chartered in 1915. It's beginnings were at Starlight School where the preachings were on Sunday night. Soon preaching was held in the Renfrow School and the church was charted. A church building was complete by 1917. Graydon joined in 1918 and immediately became involved. He was an excellent Sunday School teacher and was elected an Elder in 1924, Clerk of the Session in March of 1927 and served as treasurer for 25 years. He and Rachel remained active and faithful members and set the example that sustained their children over the years. In December 1974, Graydon was elected Elder Emeritus of Spring Hill Presbyterian Church. Rachel moved her membership from Holly Springs Freewill Bapitist Church to Spring Hill after she married Graydon. Rachel received a Life Membership Pin from the women of Spring Hill Presbyterian Church on Dec. 7, 1975. There was a debate at Spring Hill Presbyterian Church about the difference between thinking and knowing. The minister asked Rachel how she knew the difference and she said, "Graydon's, sitting over there thinking he's the father of my four children. I know it!"

The first dog Rachel and Graydon owned was a pit bull named, "Big Dog." About 1946 Harold was lost and they couldn't find him. Finally Graydon found him standing in water with "Big Dog" by his side. Rachel loved 'Big Dog' but thought that "Dock" was actually the best pit bull they ever had. Rachel recalled one night when they were first living by the store two black men came very late at night, separately, with the idea of robbing the store. The dogs barking discouraged them from breaking in.

Rachel and Graydon bought the Renfrow Family Farm in 1960 and also purchased a lot from Otis and Roxie Lee Watson for their brick home.

Rachel and Graydon raised tobacco from 1940 to 1968. When they began farming it was with mules. Cotton growing was curtailed by boll weevils.

Rachel had a brown spot on her face removed sometime after 1956. The spot first appeared in 1944 after Harold was born. Dr. Graham was a dermatologist in Wilson. He started gradually freezing the brown spot to get rid of it. Rachel had made medical history.

Rachel's hair grayed late like her pa's. lt was said he died at 55 without any gray hair.

Graydon's nicknames were:

  • Jimmie' for Donald Eugene
  • 'Sister' for Gilda
  • 'Preacher Man' for J.G.
  • 'Big Chick' for Harold
  • Rachel called nephew Harold Stancil,’Johnnie Man'

    Jimmie completed ninth grade at Rock Ridge High School and was drafted, he joined the Air Force and completed high school there. He met Elizabeth Gorski while stationed at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Mass. She was a factory baseball stitcher. Jimmie and Elizabeth were married in the Base Chapel on February 23, 1952. There daughter Donna Jean was born Feb. 21, 1958. Jimmie worked in the food service industry.

    Gilda graduated from Rock Ridge High School in 1949. She applied to Peace College in Raleigh, NC. A girls liberal arts college.

    Gilda and a friend Helen visited Camp LeJune in September of 1949. They went to a Youth for Christ Meeting in Jacksonville, NC. There was a large crowd and they met in the court house. They were told to sing "Heavenly Sunshine" and turn and greet the person behind them. Walt was behind Gilda. Walt invited them to the corner drug store for a Coke. Helen said, "No, nice girls don't go with Marines." Gilda and Helen walked by the USO and went inside. This was a club for teenagers. Walt and his friend went inside too. Walt cut in while Gilda was dancing with someone else. Walt asked for her address and they began writing each other.

    Gilda and friend Eva went to Washington, D.C., seeking work. Gilda worked for the CIA during the summer of 1950.

    Gilda graduated from Peace College in May of 1951. She worked again for the CIA until March of 1952 when she and Walt married.

    Gilda graduated from Barton College in Wilson. She taught art in the summers and later was employed at Rock Ridge High School and spring Field Middle School in Wilson County. Gilda also taught art at Wilson Technical Institute. Gilda showed her artist ability early and continued using her talents. Painting many portraits, landscapes in oils, designing and making memorable mosaics.

    Gilda and Walt had three sons: Walter Mark born Feb. 4, 1956, Walter Matthew born June 26, 1958, Walter Derek born Oct. 19, 1960.

    J. G. graduated from Rock Ridge High School and enlisted in the Marine Corps. After his stint was up he enrolled in Atlanta's Oglethorpe University. In July 1959 he was hired by Coats and Clark. He worked for them until he opened his own insurance business February 1980. He married Mary Denise Vick March 22, 1964. J. G. and Denise lived in Greenville in 1964. They moved into the Renfrow Homestead in 1966 Denise and J.G. had two daughters: Meredith Rachel born March 31, 1966, Alma Katherine born April 19, 1968.

    Denise and J. G. operated a fabric store from March 1968 to June 1982 in Kenly, NC, and one in Fremont from March 1970 to January 1975.

    Harold graduated from Rock Ridge High School. Attended East Carolina one year and joined the Merchant Marines for three years. He went into sales.

    Harold married Linda Faye Thomas on Dec. 5, 1971, in Spring Hill Presbyterian Church. They had two children Michelle Rachel born Aug. 13, 1972, Vincent Thomas born Nov. 9, 1974, and Harold adopted her daughter Lisa Faye born Nov. 13, 1967.

    Rachel bought several important heirlooms at the Eva Ann Mercer Stancil Sale in 1962. She bought the original bedstead that her Pa bought at the John Thomas' Sale. It had belonged to Delaney Sasser Stancil and John Thomas Stancil. Rachel purchased a pitcher brought by her mother from Duplin County on the surrey. J.G. now has the iron bedstead and Gilda's family has the pitcher. Rachel enjoyed and loved her family. Rachel's laughter still rings through her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. They continue to reflect her all encompassing love of family, no matter how distant.

    Rachel died on Feb. 21, 1996, in Wilson, N.C.

    Renn Stancil Hinton, daughter of George Ralph Stancil, based on writings and conversations of Rachel with her children and her siblings

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    | Modified March 6, 2011