Liriodendron tulipifera flower

The University of North Carolina
Herbarium
A Department of the North Carolina Botanical Garden

 
 


Collectors of the UNC Herbarium
Compiled by Carol Ann McCormick, Asst. Curator, NCU
The University of North Carolina Herbarium invites anyone with more information about Reba Bridgers
to contact us via post at CB#3280, UNC, Chapel Hill, NC 27599; or via email at mccormickATSIGNunc.edu


Rebecca “Reba” Routh Bridgers
(15 October 1882 – 15 November 1978)


The University of North Carolina Herbarium has catalogued about twenty vascular plant specimens and nearly twenty fungi collected by Rebecca Bridgers. As cataloguing of the collection continues it is likely that more will be found.

Rebecca_Bridgers_cropped.jpg

Photo and signature of Rebecca “Reba” Bridgers from United States passport application, 1918.



Ms. Bridgers' name is variously rendered as "Miss Bridgers," "Reba Bridges," "Reba Bridgers," "Rebecca Bridges," "Rebecca Bridgers" on herbarium specimen labels. The earliest specimen collected by Ms. Bridgers that has been catalogued is Asimina parviflora, collected “on a hill near Creek, Tarboro, N.C.” in 1922. The latest specimen, Nolina georgiana, was “found in sandy places from Augusta to Douglas, Georgia” in 1947. 

Rebecca "Reba" Routh Bridges was born 18 October, 1882 to Laura Placidia Clark and John Luther Bridgers, Jr. Her father, together with J. Kelly Turner, a student at Trinity College, wrote History of Edgecombe County, North Carolina (1920, Edwards & Broughton Printing Co., Raleigh, NC). Heather Anderson of East Carolina University's Joyner Library summarizes it:

Topics in this comprehensive look at the many eras in Edgecombe County history include origins and colonial settlements, the Revolution, various levels of politics, slavery and the Civil War, agriculture and industry, and religion. The book contains maps, sketches, and photographs.

Reba's paternal grandfather was John Luther Bridgers, Captain of the Edgecombe Guards (also known as the Betel Unit of the 1st North Carolina) during the Civil War. He served as the Commander of Fort Macon during that conflict. John, Sr. owned "The Grove," currently known as the Blount-Bridgers House, in Tarboro, Edgecombe County.

Reba Bridgers' maternal grandfather was Henry Toole Clark (1808-1874), governor of North Carolina 1861-1862. Clark was a member of the North Carolina Senate from 1850 to 1861, and served as Senate Speaker from 1858 to 1861. Governor John W. Ellis died in office on 7 July 1861, and Speaker Clark assumed the duties of Governor. Clark again served in the North Carolina Senate from 1866-1867. Reba was born at "Hilma," the Clark family home, and a photograph of this home can be found on page 84 of Monika Fleming’s book, IMAGES OF AMERICA:  ECHOES OF EDGECOMB COUNTY 1860-1940.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/2/22/NCG-HenryClark.jpg/220px-NCG-HenryClark.jpg

Henry Toole Clark, governor of North Carolina 1861-1862, and Reba Bridgers’ maternal grandfather

 

Nothing is known about Reba Bridgers’ education.  Unlike many of the male members of the Bridgers family, she was not allowed by the times to attend the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  The 1919 United States Federal Census lists “Reba Bridgers” living with her parents and siblings Henry C. (age 34, occupation “own income”) and Mary G. (age 31, occupation “railroad president”).  Given that this was 1910, it is safe to assume that Henry’s and Mary’s occupations were mistakenly switched by the census taker!  According to historian Monika Fleming, Reba’s brother, Henry Clark Bridgers (1876-1951), was born and raised at “Hilma.” He attended the University of the South in Sewanee and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He was a member of the UNC-CH tennis team, is credited with introducing golf to Chapel Hill, and was instrumental in founding the Hilma Golf Club.  He was a banker and businessman.

Monika Fleming provides the information that Miss Bridgers lived in “Mary Meade,” a house near her parents’ home in Tarboro, and that she traveled widely.  A passport shows that she lived in the Philippines from 1910 to 1912.  She was a passenger on the Princes Juliana which left from New York and arrived in Liverpool, England on 21 December 1918.  She lived in Doulevant le Chateau, France from January 1919 to May 1919, and in Paris, France from May 1919 until September 1919.  In September 1919 she arrived in Coblenz, Germany, where she resided “for the purpose of Y.M.C.A. Service on behalf of the American Y.M.C.A. with American Forces in Germany.” 


    
Miss Reba Bridgers, one of our members [of the Daughters of the American Revolution] and daughter of our former regent,  Mrs. John L. Bridgers, has been in Y.M.C.A. work overseas for nearly a year, making a most interesting record.  Mrs. Bridgers has been honored by being elected a member of the International Relations Committee. (p. 108 FROM:  Report of the Eighteenth Annual State Conference of the Daughters of the American Revolution Held in Greensboro, N.C.  January 16, 1919.  Greensboro, NC:  Greensboro Printing Co.  )  [It is interesting that the copy of this publication that is available via the internet via Google books is from the New York Public Library, but appears to have been owned by Laura P. Bridgers, Hilma (Reba’s mother), as this is the signature on the title page of this publication.]

The 1920 federal census shows that at age 32 Reba Bridgers lived in Miesenheim, Germany and worked for the Y.M.C.A.

     Miles Harvey Chapter [of the Daughters of the American Revolution] (Tarboro, N.C.)  We have held meetings regularly every second Tuesday of the month at the homes of members of the Chapter, always opening with American’s Creed, followed by the Lord’s Prayer.  Although the roll includes twenty-nine members, we have only fourteen active members, as the others are non-resident or unable to attend the meetings.  Fourteen names have been voted on, and elected for membership, and their papers are being prepared now; some are already in Washington pending acceptance.  In October, two home talent entertainments were given, clearing about $100, and in January “The Womanless Wedding,” was given and the amount of $137 netted.  These entertainments were under the management of Mrs. C. M. Parks, our treasurer, to whom we are greatly indebted.  Copies of the Declaration of Independence of the United States of America have been placed in all schools and public buildings in Tarboro and surrounding county.  Miss Reba Bridgers, one of our members, is still in Y.M.C.A. work over seas, having gone over in 1918.  We always celebrate Washington’s Birthday and Flag Day with especially prepared programs; Mrs. C. M. Parks was delegate to the National Congress and brought back a wonderful message.  She informed us of the three National undertakings and the 60 cents per capita was paid at once.  A contribution has been made for the Near East sufferers, and a box of clothing, valued at $200, was sent to Serbia.
    
One of our great pleasures was being hostess to the twentieth Annual State Conference held November 17 and 18, 1920.  We had with us one national officer, four state officers, twenty-five delegates and fifteen chapters represented.  On the 17th, a bronze tablet was unveiled in the Court House, having been erected by the Miles Harvey Chapter in memory of Henry Irwin, Lieut. Col. 5th, N.C. Regiment, killed at Germantown, Pa., October 4th, 1777. 
    
Flag Day was observed with a meeting of the first District Conference at the home of Mrs. W. O. Howard, our Regent and Chairman of the 4th District with delegates present from various chapters east of Raleigh.  There was a program opening with prayer, followed by American’s Creed, Salute to Flag, address of welcome and response, report of National Congress, chapter reports, discussion of business, and patriotic songs. 
    
The meeting then adjourned and the conference was invited to Hilma, the beautiful home of Mrs. J.L. Bridgers, where a luncheon was served under the trees.
    
It seemed peculiarly fitting that the First Conference of the 4th District should be held in Tarboro, the home of the Chairman, and Miles Harvey Chapter, being honored by having on its roll two state officers, Mrs. J.L. Bridgers, State Chaplain, and Miss Mary Powell, State Recording Secretary.  – Mrs. C. C. Topp, Recording Secretary. FROM:  Daughters of the American Revolution Magazine (1921)  LV(9):  530-531.

In 1936 she was a passenger on the ship Vestvagen from Kingston, Jamaica to New Orleans, Louisiana.

In 1934 Ms. Bridgers built a home she dubbed “The Waldorf” near the intersection of 4th Street and Martha’s Lane in Highlands, Macon County, North Carolina.  She was interested in all aspects of science and natural history, and was a patron of the Highlands Biological Station.  In 1965 she donated almost an acre of her land to the Station, and in 1991 that land was transferred to the Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust.  Dr. Eugene Odum, pioneering ecologist of the University of Georgia, credited “Miss Reba Bridges’ [sic] cat” with collecting a Star-nosed mole, Condylura cristata L.  “Although the animal had been dead for several days, I was able to prepare a skin which is now in the Highlands Museum.” [Odum, Eugene P.  (1949)  Small mammals of the Highlands (North Carolina) Plateau.  Journal of Mammology 30(2):  179-192.]  Ms. Bridgers was a friend and co-collector of botanical specimens with Dr. William Chambers Coker, director of the Biological Station (1936-1944). 

According to Ran Shaffner, Archivist with the Highlands Historical Society, “Miss Reba” was a well-known figure in Highlands.  “One story is that Miss Reba hurt her foot once before coming to Highlands, and the doctor told her to stay home and keep it elevated.  But Miss Reba wasn’t one to stay put.  She arrived in Highlands, and her friends asked how she got here.  She said she drove with her foot on the dashboard.  Horrified, they asked how she did that.  “I put my hat down over my eyes so nobody would know who I was,” she replied.”  Shaffner continued, “Her nephew was Robb White, Jr. of Thomasville, Georgia, who, as a graduate of the Naval Academy, penned sea adventure stories, screenplays, and thrillers from which movies like House on Haunted Hill and Up Periscope were made.  The recent best-seller about rural south Georgia, Mama Makes Up Her Mind, and Other Dangers of Southern Living is by Bailey White, the [National Public Radio] All Things Considered commentator, who is Robb’s daughter and must have shared Miss Reba’s sense of humor.”

 

PUBLICATIONS

Reba Bridgers, despite her interest in natural history and friendship with prominent biologists, is not known to have published any scholarly works.  However, a short communication written by Ms. Bridgers was found by chance in The State.

Bridgers, Rebecca (March 1, 1970)  They Rode.  The State 37(19): 9.

I live in two places, Thomasville, Georgia in the winter and Highlands, North Carolina in the summer and still call Tarboro home.  So I feel that I may write about fox hunting in eastern Carolina.  I started fox hunting when I was so little that old Sheriff Knight had to help me button my coat, my fingers would be so stiff that early on a winter morning.  The old Sheriff used to hunt with my grandfather.  I was so surprised by that article [Thomas, John G. (15 January 1970)  Fox hunting down Home.  The State 37(16):  18] on fox hunting in eastern North Carolina – sitting about listening to the hounds, that’s the way they hunt in the mountains but in eastern North Carolina we RODE to the hounds!  -- REBECCA BRIDGERS, THOMASVILLE, GA.

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Bridgers, Henry C., Jr. (September 1, 1970) Hark to 'em.  The State 38(7): 6.
     Several months ago you ran two articles about fox hunting in Eastern North Carolina, one submitted by my aunt, Miss Rebecca Bridgers. Recently, she told me another story which I thought your readers might find amusing.
     She and her hunting companions, mostly young men, were sitting beside a road on their horses waiting for the hounds to pick up the fox's scent where it had crossed the road and entered a cotton field. The farmer who owned the land happened to pass by in his buggy and they asked if
they might continue the hunt on his land. He said, "yes, boys, but please don't hunt through my cotton patch." About this time the hounds picked up the trail and streaked out through the cotton. Whereupon the farmer laid the whip to his horse, took off through the field, yelling
back, "Hark to 'em, boys. Hark to 'em." Once a fox hunter, always a fox hunter!
     Sorry you had to raise your subscription rate but THE STATE is worth any price it is a wonderful magazine. You're slipping on your How Many Can You Answer? though, or else I'm getting smarter, which I doubt.  -- HENRY C. BRIDGERS, JR., CAPTAIN, USN (RET.), TARBORO

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Nicholson, S. O. (March 15, 1970) Hunting horse.  The State 37(20): 5.
     The lady, Mrs. Rebecca Bridgers of Thomasville, Ga., Highlands, N.C. and Tarboro who wrote about how we did fox hunt years ago, bless her heart, is a true Tarheel. The days she is talking about, I am afraid, are gone now; there are too many planted pine tree farms and they are
so thick that a fox could hardly get through them, but back at the time she is talking about we really rode to the hounds and the horses loved it as much as the humans and hounds did.
     A good fox horse would usually follow the pack by the shortest route and it was up to the rider to stay on as best he could. I recall that one morning just before dawn I went out by myself, and the hounds jumped just as it was getting light. My horse, in an attempt to go with them, ran into a deep ravine; and in going out, the saddle girth broke and the saddle and I fell off; but he didn't wait for me, and in just a few minutes horse and hounds both were gone out of sight and hearing.
     I picked up the saddle and made my way out to a road and sat down to wait. After about an hour I could hear the pack coming back making music as only a pack of hounds could, and right in behind them was my horse. When he saw me he ran up to me and skidded to a stop, and gave
me a look that was enough to say "where you been boy?"
     Those are the days Mrs. Bridgers is writing about. The real dedicated old time fox-hunters such as Sheriff Allen of Louisburg, Sidney Cooper, of Henderson, Macon Thornton, of Macon, and Silas Cheek, who handled Macon Thornton's pack would not humiliate a hound by taking him out to a fox race in an automobile.
     Incidentally, back then we had prohibition, and no ABC stores. You do have to have a small amount of refreshment on a fox hunt; but back then, you had to know where to go to get it.
--S.O. NICHOLSON, SOUTHERN PINES

 

Reba Bridgers died at age 96 in Thomasville, Georgia on 15 November 1978.
_______________________________________________________________________________

Special thanks to:

Monika Fleming, Keihin Endowed Faculty Chair (2007), English / Humanities Department, Edgecombe Community College, 2009 Wilson Street, Tarboro, NC  27886.  Author of IMAGES OF AMERICA:  ECHOES OF EDGECOMB COUNTY 1860-1940, Charleston, SC:  Arcadia Publishing, 1996.

Steven Seiberling, University of North Carolina Herbarium for image processing.

Randolph P. Shaffner, Archivist, Highlands Historical Society, Inc.  524 North 4th Street, Highlands, North Carolina  28741-0670  www.highlandshistory.com

Gary Wein, Highlands-Cashiers Land Trust.  http://www.hicashlt.org/


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University of North Carolina Herbarium
CB# 3280, Coker Hall
University of North Carolina
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3280
phone: (919) 962-6931
fax: (919) 962-6930
email: mccormickATSIGNunc.edu  

Last Updated: 13 October 2013