Last month at the advisory board meeting at Edgecombe Community College, Eric Evans, the Community Development Administrator described how heritage tourism could bring visitors and money into the region. Evans indicated that plans were underway to develop a park on county owned property at Shiloh Landing.
Some folks were asking, “ where and what is Shiloh Landing?” Shiloh is up river from Tarboro about two miles and is just off highway 258 past Princeville going towards Scotland Neck. The land was owned by Laurence Toole in the 1750s and passed down in this family for several generations.
Shiloh was the name of the Toole family farm. Some maps indicate there was a mill there. By the 1800s the area was also known as Shiloh Landing. It was the site of a deep bend in the river and was as far as large boats could travel during the era of steam engines. Most vessels stopped at Tarboro, but a few ventured two more miles upriver to get goods there from farmers who couldn’t get into town.
By the 1890s Shiloh Landing was used to transport goods from the Tar River Oil Company located at Shiloh and one of the vessels that transported goods was also called “Shiloh.”
Just to the left of the bend in the river in a wooded area is a small cemetery. The occupants are members of the Toole family that once lived on Shiloh farm. There are ten graves there, many of them damaged by falling trees and neglect.
The earliest grave marked was that of Laurence Toole, a founding father of Tarboro. Laurence signed the original deed that created the town on land purchased from Joseph Howell and his wife Ester. Toole died on Dec. 10, 1860, just 10 days after signing the deed. He was 52.
Laurence and his wife Sabra Irwin moved to Edgecombe around 1750 from southern Virginia and purchased the land that became known as Shiloh. Sabra’s brother Henry Irwin was killed in the American Revolution at the Battle of Germantown in 1777. Sabra died in 1786 at the age of 68.
In Laurence’s will, he left a plantation, furniture, tools and livestock to his wife Sabra until her death, then it went to his oldest son. To his second son Henry Irwin, Laurence left another plantation, and Geraldus, the third son also received a plantation. He left his married daughter some money, and the other younger daughters each received one slave.
According to the genealogy files of Gov. Henry Toole Clark, Laurence and Sabra had 8 children and several were also buried in this cemetery. Laurence and Sabra both had slate tombstones and footstones. Part of their stones were moved to the wall at Calvary Church to protect them after part of the cemetery began to wash away in floods.
Mary Toole, a daughter of Laurence and Sabra married Michael Hearn. She died in December 1786 just months after her mother. Michael died in Dec. 1787, not quite one year after his wife and the couple left three children. Michael served as a commissioner in Tarboro before his death.
Henry Irwin Toole, named for his mother’s brother, married Elizabeth Haywood. She was daughter of one of the first sheriffs in the county. Elizabeth died in Oct. 1832 as age 74. Henry had died in 1791, but if he is in this cemetery, the marker is gone. His wife Elizabeth left a remarkable will leaving money, bank stock, furniture and slaves to her various grandchildren including (future) governor Henry T. Clark.
Elizabeth, the third child of Laurence and Sabra, married Geraldus O’Brien. Neither of the O’Briens are resting in the cemetery. Ann, Elizabeth’s sister married Joseph Moore, and they are not in this cemetery, either.
The fifth child and second son Geraldus Toole was born in 1759. He married Mary Boddie and after her death in 1786 at age 25, he married Elizabeth King of Franklin County. Elizabeth died in October 1832. Geraldus died two years later in 1834 at age 76. He too left an estate. Geraldus left Elizabeth slaves, carriage horses and an estate in Franklin County where they had resided.
Jane Toole married Willis Boddie, believed to be a relative of Geraldus’ first wife. The last of Laurence and Sabra’s children was named Sabra for her mother. She married Samuel Garner.
The largest stone in the cemetery is more of a monument. It is for Susie Simpson Branch. She is identified as the wife of Joseph Branch who died at Enfield in Halifax County on Christmas Day 1825 at the age of 34. The monument was erected by her children in 1847. She was the mother of Lawrence O’ Brien Branch, a U.S. Congressman and the man Fort Branch is named for. Susie was the granddaughter Elizabeth Toole and Geraldus O’Brien.
Two others in the cemetery do not appear to be related to the Toole family. The first is Eliza Williams who was born in 1803 and died in 1886. Her marker has an epitaph. “Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of his Saints.”
Nearby is the grave of Leon A Williams who died in April 1868, with the following on his marker: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”
The last marker in the cemetery is one of the oldest and the most detailed. It reads:
“In memory of Robert Donaldson, late of Tarborough, who departed this life the 14th of February 1804, aged 45 years. Here doth lie as a good a Father as could die who when alive did vigour give to us much friendship as could live. By strangers was his decent bier adorned, By strangers honour’d and by his friends mourned. Whate’er was merited he gained and dead a grave in foreign realms attained.”
His death notice appears in the Raleigh newspaper, but Tarboro wouldn’t have a paper for another 20 years, so we don’t know who Donaldson was or why this grave is a “foreign realm.”
Monika Fleming, the Historic Preservation Program director at Edgecombe Community College, is an Edgecombe County historian. Look for her reports each month on the Community page.