AND IT CAME TO PASS
Few women have had the distinction of being the daughter of the founder of one town and the mother of the founder of another town. Furthermore, many romantic novels have been written about Southern belles falling in love with Yankee soldiers; such a true love story was enacted right in the heart of Thomasville at the close of the Civil War.
Jennie Thomas was the youngest daughter of John W. Thomas, the founder of Thomasville, who lived in "a grand mansion" in the center of town, across the street from the town commons. The house was far back from the street and surrounded by oaks, cedars, some cherry trees, and an iron picket fence. Jennie had been born in the Thomas house at Fair Grove. After the family moved to town and her father bought Glen Anna Seminary and moved it into town, Jennie was a member of the first graduating class. At the same time she was an assistant teacher.
When the Civil War ended, Jennie was a lively young lady, tired of the dark years of sorrow and restricted pleasures. This is her love story as it appeared in ~ Chairtown ~ of July 28, 1921. She had written it several years earlier as a part of her story about the early days of the town.
At the close of the war the wounded fr'om the
Battle of Bentonville were brought here and filled
the Methodist and Baptist churches and the Pinnix
tobacco factory. The commissary stores were here
in the care of Dr. Baker, and the people threatened
to raid the 'tithes' that had been collected, so he
called for a guard, and Mr. Cramer's company from
Greensboro was sent here. Their tents were in front
of where we now live (corner of Main and Cramer
Streets) and the officers took their meals in (what
is now) my room. There was a great flag raising
here and Jack Leland's celebrated band from Cleveland,
Ohio, with many high officers of the Northern army
came down from Greensboro. My father, who always
made the best of everything, invited them to stop at
his house and no one knows to this day how Mr. Cramer
managed to get himself invited with them, but that
was the beginning of our romantic courtship.
One day a train load of soldiers on their way north
stopped in front of my father's, and piled out and
ran to some red, ripe cherry trees. The officers at
the quarters saw them and Mr. Cramer with sword and
red silk sash came dashing up and the soldiers flew
for the train. But one fellow more bold had come to
the front porch where Pat Lewis and I were standing,
and began taunting us with being whipped, which we
stoutly denied and 'sassed' him good fashion. By
this time Mr. Cramer with two of his orderlies had
gotten up the walk and in stentorian tones said,
'What are you doing here, sir?' So he (the soldier)
slunk away amid the peals of laughter of the other
soldiers. Of course I had to write a note of thanks
after that, and then he must call, and kept calling,
and that is the way the world goes. ..
In November, 1865, Captain John T. Cramer returned to Thomasville to claim Jennie for his bride. In the list of marriages in the Thomas family Bible, there is an odd entry, "And it came to pass--Jennie Thomas to J. T. Cramer." This entry does not begin to express the feelings of most Southern families against the Yankees at that time. But Captain Cramer stayed on in Thomasville. They bought the old Lewis Thomas Hotel at the corner of present East Main and Cramer Streets and remodeled it. He looked after their farms, engaged in local politics, was a State Senator in 1872 and a City Councilman later. In 1915 they celebrated their Golden Wedding anniversary.
The Cramers were the parents of two daughters, Carrie and Nellie, and one son, Stuart Warren Cramer. Carrie married Dr. C. A. Julian who was for years a leading physician in the town.
They first built a house designed by Stuart Cramer and located on the corner of School and East Main Streets. After they sold this house to the John W. Lambeths, they built an impressive Colonial residence on the west corner of Crimer and East Main Streets and there reared their family. Nellie married Bernard Brooks, an attorney in Greensboro, but lived only about a year. The Cramers gave an organ to Main Street Methodist Church in her memory.
Stuart Warren Cramer was educated at Professor I. L. Wright's School at Fair Grove and at the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland. After graduating there, he resigned from the Navy and spent a year as a post graduate at the School of Mines, Columbia University. Soon thereafter, he was appointed Assayer in charge of the United States Assay Office at Charlotte, where he lived for many years. He later went into business for himself as a mill engineer and contractor, designing and equipping nearly one-third of the cotton mills in the South from l895 to 1918. His was a long list of accomplishments in the engineering field. There were many inventions, some sixty patents being granted him by the United States and foreign countries. One of his greatest contributions to cotton mill work was his invention of a system of air conditioning. He also wrote and distributed free the noted Handbook £!. Useful Information Cotton Manufacturers, three volumes and over 1300 pages.
His most important contribution to the industrial development of Thomasville was the building of Cramer Furniture Factory No. 1 in 1901 and the purchase of Factory No.2, which were by 1913 considered the "largest and most thriving factories in the South." His father was president, he was vice president and John R. Myers was secretary and treasurer. Perhaps he was best known over the State as founder of Cramerton, North Carolina. He was married three times: in 1889 to Bertha Hobart Berry of Portland, Maine,
who died in 1895 leaving two children; to Kate Stanwood Berry, who lived only a few months; and to Rebecca Warren Tinkham of Boston, Massachusetts, by whom he had one son. After Cramerton was founded, they lived in a residence on a high hill overlooking the town until his death in L939.
Jennie Thomas Cramer thus is unique in the history of Thomasville. It is still recalled by older residents that she was a favorite hostess of the town's social set. When they went calling on her, as children with their mothers or grandmothers, she al- ways served refreshments. Sometimes she played the organ at Main Street Methodist Church. At other times, when she entered the church on the arm of the Captain, she was always beautifully dressed even though the materials were sometimes not costly. But they say that she was a pretty, petite brunette, knew how to emphasize her good points and had excellent taste. In her later years she had a fine black taffeta dress brought to her from Liverpool by her husband.
No novels or songs have been written about Mrs. Cramer. Few pictures of her can be located in Thomasville. But as long as Thomasville and Cramerton stand they will serve as monuments to the names she bore.
-M. Jewell Sink
Transcribed by Levi Hutchens
Proofread by Ruth Ann Copley
Davidson County Public Library System