Wayne County’s Oldest Civil War Veteran

WJ Merritt portrait
Photograph taken at A.O. Clement’s studio in Goldsboro, June 1935.  Courtesy Wayne County Public Library

William J. “Uncle Billy” Merritt died in Mt. Olive on October 1, 1940 at the age of 102. He was the oldest living Civil War veteran in Wayne County for many years.

He was born September 29, 1838 in Duplin County. His enlistment date in the Confederate Army is either October 1861 or February 1862; two pension applications (1907 & 1917) list different dates.

Merritt was assigned to the 51st North Carolina Infantry, under the command of General Thomas Clingman. The 51st first saw action in December 1862 at the Battle of Goldsboro Bridge and later fought at Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and Bentonville.

His obituary from the Mt. Olive Tribune states that he participated in the firing on Ft. Sumter in April 1861 but this is not accurate. The 51st did fight at Charleston but it was in defense of the harbor in July 1863 at Fort Wagner.

After the war he returned home and spent the remainder of his long life farming in the Mt. Olive area.

The following is his request in 1917 for an increase in his veterans’ pension from the state. Click on either for a larger version.

 

WJ Merritt Civil War pension              WJ Merritt Civil War pension letter

 

Below is his obituary from the Mt. Olive Tribune and grave at Maplewood Cemetery.

WJ Merritt obituary, Mt. Olive Tribune, October 18, 1940               WJ Merritt grave Maplewood Cemetery Mt. Olive

Honoring Wayne County’s WWI Dead: Grover Summerlin

James Grover Summerlin
Grover Summerlin, 1918. Taken in Goldsboro by A.O. Clement.

Grover Summerlin of Mt. Olive was one of the last casualties of WWI

James Grover Summerlin was born on May 18, 1892 in Mount Olive, the son of Jesse Giles (1848-1929) and Martha Caroline Grant (1856-1941) Summerlin.

The 1900 United States census lists his home in Indian Springs. The household recorded in the census data was crowded to say the least, although not unusual for a rural Southern family of the era. The inhabitants listed (all Summerlins) were: JG 51, Martha 43, George W  24, Charles A  61, Mary M 19, Martha E 17, Avery W 15, Jessie A 13, Lilly F 11, Joseph 1, James G 4, Sarah A 6, Lamual D 4, and Effie P 1.

Two months after the United States officially entered World War I, Grover registered for the draft just after his 25th birthday. His draft card states that he was an unmarried, self-employed farmer of medium height and build with blue eyes and black hair.

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