Cemeteries, no. 14: the Valentine Farmer cemetery.

This small cemetery lies on the the south side of a deep curve of Lake Wilson Road on land that once belonged to Valentine Farmer. Farmer was born enslaved about 1828, and his daughter Martha Farmer Ruffin‘s W.P.A. interview — a so-called “slave narrative” — provides rich details of the family’s early history.

Valentine Farmer’s grave:

That of his second wife, Mary Eliza Ruffin Farmer:

Olivia Rena Woodard, wife of Kenney Woodard:

Mattie Farmer Statton, Valentine and Quinnie Harrison Farmer’s daughter:

and Walaenetess Reel:


In the 1870 census of Gardners township, Wilson County: Vance [Valentine] Farmer, 40, wife Quinnie, 30, and children Clara, 13, Patsey [Martha], 11, Isaac, 10, Nancy, 8, Leah, 6, and Mattie, 2. Also, in Wilson township: Reuben Farmer, 68, wife Nancy, 71, and Luke Farmer, 11.

In the 1880 census of Wilson township, Wilson County: Bullie [Vallie] Farmer, 50, wife Qunnia, 46, and children Patsie, 21, Isaac, 20, Nannie, 18, Lera, 16, Mattie, 10, Caroline, 8, Bettie, 6, Mary J., 4, Charles, 3, and Sarah E., 2, plus Nancy Farmer, 90.

On 5 February 1882, Vaul Farmer, 52, married Mary E. Ruffin, 43, in Wilson County. On 19 March 1882, in the town of Stantonsburg, Robert Farmer, 19, married Marinda Bynum, 18. I have not found Martha Farmer Ruffin’s marriage record.

On 11 January 1889, Kenny Woodard, 24, of Toisnot township, son of Howell Woodard and Rhoda Farmer, married Leah Farmer, 24, of Gardners township, daughter of Vaul Farmer. London Woodard applied for the license, and they were married by a Justice of the Peace in the presence of Dublin Barnes, Frank Barnes and Peter Thomas.

In the 1900 census of Toisnot township, Wilson County: farmer Valintine Farmer, 70, wife Mary, 58, children Mattie, 30, Elizabeth, 26, Mary J., 24, and Elizar, 22, son-in-law Charly Freeman and daughter Carolina. All did farm work except Elizabeth, who was a cook, and Elizar, who was a schoolteacher. Meanwhile, in Brodie, Pulaski County, Arkansas: North Carolina-born Thomas Ruffin, 48, his North Carolina-born wife Patsie, 42, and children Wiley, 14, Marina, 12, James, 10, Mammie, 8, and Lucy, 4. The last two children were born in Arkansas.

Valentine Farmer made out his will the following spring, and his estate went into probate in 1906:

North Carolina, Wilson County  }  I, Valentine Farmer, of the aforesaid County and State, being of sound mind, but considering the uncertainty of my earthly existence, do make and declare this my last will and testament.

First: My executor hereinafter named, shall give my body a decent burial, and pay all funeral expenses, together with all my Just debts out of the first money which may come into her hands belonging to my estate.

Second: I give to my daughter Clary Batts, the wife of Amos Batts, and Patsy Ruffin, the wife of Thomas Ruffin, the sum of one dollar each.

Third: I give and bequeath to my beloved wife, Mary Eliza Farmer, during her lifetime or widowhood, my entire estate, both real and personal.

Fourth: At the death or marriage of my wife, I give and bequeath to my four daughters, hereinafter named — Mattie Farmer, Elizabeth Farmer, Mary Jane Farmer and Sarah Eliza Farmer, all of my personal property of whatsoever kind.

Fifth: At the death or marriage of my wife, I give and bequeath to my children hereinafter named, viz: Nannie Farmer, Louvenia Farmer, Elizabeth Farmer, Mary Jane Farmer, Charlie Farmer and Sarah Eliza Farmer all of my real estate.

Sixth: I hereby constitute and appoint my wife Mary Eliza Farmer my lawful executor to all intents and purposes to execute this my last will and testament, according to the true intent and meaning thereof; hereby revoking and declaring void all other wills and testaments by me heretofore made.

In witness whereof, I, the said Valentine Farmer, do hereunto set my hand and seal this 9th day of April, 1901.   Valentine (X) Farmer

Signed, sealed, published and declared by the said Valentine Farmer to be his last will and testament in the presence of us, who at his request and in his presence do subscribe our names as witnesses thereto   /s/ E.O. McGowan, W.H. Dixon

Valentine Farmer cemetery, July 2017.

Photos by Lisa Y. Henderson, July 2017.


  1. That house in the background of the cemetery is where I grew up. My father is buried in the cemetery. Thank you Lisa for this great work. Iris Batts knocked on my parents door as a result of this research. I have just started to navigate the information but this is one of the greatest gifts that I’ve ever received! Thanks Iris for sharing this with me! Tracy Armstrong

    1. Wow, Tracy! This brings me such joy! I love it when my posts reach the families to which they’re connected. Even better when they help families reconnect. If you all have photos of your forebears, I’d love to share them.

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