Journeys are easier with the right directions

Published 5:50 pm Tuesday, August 24, 2021

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Have you ever started a journey with a single destination in mind and wound up in a totally different place?

I guess that’s happened to many of us during our lifetime. Yep, it’s easy to get lost due to inaccurate directions or because of our egos…..there are many men like me who are too proud to admit they are lost and won’t stop to ask for directions (does this sound familiar, Deborah?).

However, the journey I’m talking about here has nothing to do with traveling by motor vehicle….rather it was a trip I took this past Sunday afternoon while browsing the World Wide Web.

It was my initial intention to write this week’s column about my surname, hoping to shed some light on the origins of my family. What I found took me to several links where I discovered that the Bryants of America can trace their roots to either England (where it was originally spelled – Brienne) or Ireland (Bryan or O’Brien).

There was info on Anne Bryant, perhaps the first person by that surname, who arrived in America in 1630 from England with her three young sons. Another set of Bryants were of great personal interest to me as they were journalists: William Cullen Bryant and Edwin Bryant. The latter was a Kentucky newspaper editor who wrote a popular book in 1848 entitled “What I Saw in California” about his overland journey to San Francisco.

My online research hit a few walls (namely paywalls) so I ended my search.

I then focused on my surname in North Carolina. That produced information I had never seen before…my grandfather’s obit.

Vernon Mallory Bryant, 60, of Boykins, VA died at Raiford Memorial Hospital [Franklin, VA] on Saturday night, May 25 [1957], after a long illness.

Mr. Bryant, a native of Northampton County, N.C., was the husband of Mrs. Bettie Sue Bryant of Boykins [his second wife], of Franklin; and the son of Mrs. Maggie Harrell Bryant of Capron, VA and the late Johnnie Bryant. He was a member of the Meherrin Baptist Church, Murfreesboro, N.C.

In addition to his wife and mother, he is survived by three sons, Floyd [correct spelling is Foyd] Bryant of Jackson, N.C., Greeley Bryant of Roanoke Rapids, N.C. and Raiford

Bryant of Woodland, N.C.; a daughter, Mrs. Charles O. Price of Roanoke Rapids; four brothers, Willie Bryant of Capron, Roy Bryant of Franklin, Luther Bryant of Gaston, N.C. and Ernest Bryant of Murfreesboro [all now deceased]; 10 grandchildren and one great grandchild.

NOTE: Raiford Bryant is my now late father. He was born in 1925 as Hinton R. Bryant. Throughout his adult life he always spelled his middle name – Rayford. Everyone called him Ray. I remember him sharing a story with me after his mother (my grandmother) died in Halifax County. I guess he was the executor of her estate, but had to show proof of his relationship to her. On his birth certificate, his middle name is spelled Raiford.

Anyway…back to my granddad’s obit. His funeral services were held at Boykins Baptist Church by Rev. L.F. Smith, pastor of the Newsoms Baptist Church, and Rev. William Ferguson, pastor of the Boykins Methodist Church. Burial was in Beechwood Cemetery, Boykins.

Active pallbearers were Claude Drake, Jr., George T. Drake, Lonnie Gray, Otis Gray, Walter Gray, and Dick Poole.

From this point on Sunday, my online journey took another turn.

Since I don’t remember dad telling me where the name Raiford came from, I decided to look up any online reference. I stumbled across a story in The Tidewater News referencing the 1963 opening of Southampton Memorial Hospital in Franklin, VA. It appears that before that hospital opened there was a Raiford Hospital.

The origin of Raiford Hospital goes back to 1919 when Dr. Rufus L. Raiford established Raiford Clinic in his Sedley, VA home. In 1924, in response to the increased patient load in Franklin, VA, he established another clinic by renting three rooms in the old vacant Virginia Hotel building located on the northwest corner of Main Street and Second Avenue. By 1929, patient volume grew to such an extent that Dr. Raiford decided to take over the entire building. The clinic was then renamed Raiford Hospital.

Due to my family’s connection to Southampton County, VA, it made me wonder if my late grandmother was a patient of or personally knew Dr. Raiford. I cannot find that particular name anywhere in our family with the exception of my father.

My research journey went as far as to uncover another treasure – the obit of my great-grandmother. She passed away in 1958.

Mrs. Maggie Harrell Bryant, 82, died at the residence of her son, W.E. Bryant, in [Southampton County, VA] on Saturday morning, March 8, at 3:45 o’clock after a long illness.

Mrs. Bryant was the widow of John [Johnnie] Franklin Bryant and daughter of the late Bill and Mrs. Martha Outland Harrell. She was a native of Northampton County, N.C., but had made her home in Southampton County for the past 23 years. She was a member of Pinners Methodist Church in Rich Square, N.C.

Surviving are four sons, W.E. Bryant, Roy Bryant of Franklin, VA, Luther Bryant of Roanoke Rapids, N.C., and Ernest S. Bryant of Murfreesboro, N.C.; one sister, Mrs. Eula Smith of Woodland, N.C.; three brothers, E.T. Harrell and J.E. Harrell of Rich Square, N.C. and Oliver Harrell of Murfreesboro, N.C.; 22 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and one great-great-grandchild; and a number of nieces and nephews.

Funeral services for Mrs. Bryant were conducted at 11 o’clock Monday morning, March 10, at the Purviance Funeral Home in Boykins by Rev. Ben B. Ussery, pastor of Boykins Baptist Church.

Interment was in Beechwood Cemetery, Boykins.

If anyone has knowledge of the names listed in my grandfather’s or great-grandmother’s obit, please contact me as shown below. I’m willing to continue this journey along my family tree with the right directions.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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