north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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     “I was born and brought up in Tarborough, Edgecombe County, North Carolina in a house built by my maternal grandfather, Theophilus Parker, in the year 1810.” So begins the opening sketch in Nonnulla, a collection of reminiscences by Joseph Blount Cheshire Jr. (1850-1932). Cheshire’s father was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 1841. He moved to Tarboro and married Elizabeth Parker two years later. The elder Cheshire played a part in healing the breach between branches of the church in the North and South after the Civil War.

     The younger Cheshire was educated at Tarboro Male Academy and Trinity College in Connecticut. He taught in Maryland for two years, then returned to North Carolina to study law. Licensed in 1872, he practiced in Baltimore and Tarboro but forsook the profession to study theology. In 1878 he was ordained deacon by Bishop Thomas Atkinson and assigned to Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill. Two years later he was ordained into the priesthood and became rector of St. Peter’s Church in Charlotte, where he remained for twelve years. In June 1893 he was elected assistant bishop for the Diocese of North Carolina, and two months later assumed leadership of the diocese upon the death of Bishop Theodore B. Lyman. He thus became the first native of the state to serve in the post.

     Bishop Cheshire’s accomplishments were many during his long tenure. He strengthened the Episcopal missionary program in the mountain region. Upon his recommendation, the diocese acquired St. Mary’s School in Raleigh. He opposed segregation of the races within the church, but acquiesced when he judged that such was the desire of black churchmen. Throughout his life, Bishop Cheshire studied and wrote about the history of the Episcopal Church and of the state of North Carolina. In 1930 he served as president of the North Carolina Literary and Historical Association. He gained a considerable reputation as a fisherman and hunter, especially of wild turkeys. Numerous honors and tributes were paid to him. Upon his death a writer for the News and Observer claimed that Bishop Cheshire “probably influenced the life of North Carolina as profoundly as anyone who ever lived within its borders.” He is buried in the graveyard at Tarboro’s Calvary Episcopal Church, where his father was rector for almost fifty years.


References:
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, I, pp. 362-365 – sketch by Jacquelin Drane Nash
Lawrence F. London and Sarah M. Lemmon, eds., The Episcopal Church in North Carolina, 1701-1959 (1987)
Lawrence F. London, Bishop Joseph Blount Cheshire: His Life and Work (1940)
Gaines M. Foster, “Gentleman Prophet: Joseph Blount Cheshire Jr.” (M.A. thesis, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1973)
(Raleigh) News and Observer, December 28, 1932
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north carolina highway historical marker program


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