Last week a local man brimming over with knowledge and curiosity about Wilson County history came into the library looking for information on Benjamin Farmer, a man who lived on a farm in what is now downtown Wilson and served in the in the Edgecombe County Militia in the Revolutionary War. The local man is named Louis Neal and it turns out he has a rather famous collection of Wilson County artifacts and memorabilia (Louis is also the proud grandfather of an LSU football player).
Mr. Neal had been investigating a vacant lot downtown on the corner of Keenan and Tarboro streets. He had always heard that there was an Indian graveyard on the property and during the course of his investigation he came upon a bronze marker with name of the aforementioned Benjamin Farmer on it. This marker was placed by the DAR at some unknown point in the past and listed that Benjamin served in Captain Lytle’s Company during the Revolution.
Mr. Neal didn’t really need my help because he knew to turn to the writings of the Herodotus of Wilson County, the Bede of Nash County, the Tacitus of Edgecombe County, yes the venerable Hugh Johnston. And this is what Hugh had to say about Ben Farmer:
Benjamin Farmer, son of Isaac and Elizabeth Farmer, was born in the present Halifax County, North Carolina in 1756 and died in Edgecombe County in 1837. He married in 1779 to Elizabeth “Bettie” Dew, daughter of Arthur and Mary Dew of Edgecombe County. She was born in 1766 and died after 1852 in Edgecombe County. She and her husband were buried in their old family graveyard on Kenan Street near the corner of Tarboro Street in Wilson, North Carolina. Considerably diminished in size, it is the only family graveyard that has survived within the growing boundaries of this city. Their home formerly stood on a hill N.W. of Tarboro Street, about where the City Water Tank now stands, and it is said that they owned at one time all the land N.W. of the present Atlantic Coast Line Railroad within the City limits. This may very well have been true, before the rapid growth of recent years.
Some years ago the DAR erected a boulder of native stone and a bronze tablet over the grave of Benjamin Farmer to commemorate his supposed service in Captain Lytle’s Company, Tenth North Carolina Regiment, during the Revolutionary War. Actually, Benjamin Farmer of Edgecombe County was a first-cousin to Benjamin Farmer and brother William Farmer of Johnston County who both served in Lytle’s Company, but there is no question that the first Benjamin was a Patriot and served in the Edecombe County Militia. There is an interesting tradition handed down in the family that, when the British under Lord Cornwallis passed through this area in 1731, they could not be convinced that Benjamin Farmer was away at war and not hiding near by in the woods until they went into the fields and actually saw his wife’s little footprints everywhere in the newly ploughed land.
This is just part of what Hugh has to say about Mr. Farmer and it is too bad that the lot doesn’t have a historical marker next to it because it could be an important point of interest for residents and visitors to the city if they knew where to look.