Tyson Family To Join in Buggy Festival
This year's 25th Carthage Buggy Festival will welcome black descendants of the famed Tyson & Jones Buggy Company's white owner, Thomas Bethune Tyson.
His partner, William T. Jones, was born the son of a slave and her owner. Tyson's African-American washerwoman - a free woman of color - bore him two children.
This year their descendants are coming to the festival as honored guests.
At last week's Town Board meeting, Commissioner Pat Motz-Frazier told the other commissioners that five of Tyson's black descendants would be at the festival and staying at The Old Buggy Inn and taking part in the festivities. It's a bed-and-breakfast she operates in the restored Jones mansion in the historic district of Carthage.
Town Manager Carol Sparks said she had invited them to take part in the downtown festivities of this quarter-century-old event - one of the top events in the South every year. The Buggy Festival celebrates the heyday of horse-and-mule-drawn wagons and buggies built in the county seat. Across the South and for much of the rest of the country, the major supplier was Tyson & Jones in Carthage.
In 1850, Tyson, a local merchant, bought an existing wagon/wheelwright repair shop owned by Isaac Seawell and his two sons. Six years later, he and the county sheriff, Alexander Kelly, formed a partnership to run that wheelwright business and decided to build carriages. That firm was known as Tyson & Kelly.
In 1857, Tyson hired Jones as a carriage painter, shop supervisor, and S. W. Humber, as a carriage trimmer. Their enterprise expanded and in 1859, the firm was renamed Tyson, Kelly & Company with Jones joining Tyson and Kelly as a full partner.
In 1873, Tyson and Jones bought Kelly, and they renamed the business as Tyson & Jones Buggy Company shortly afterward.
At its maximum production level in the 1890s, the firm was turning out 3,000 carriages and buggies a year.
The coming of the automobile led to the end of the Tyson & Jones Buggy Co. in 1925. The last buggy reportedly was delivered in 1925 to Neil S. Blue of Raeford, who was in his 80s and had declared that he would never operate a car.
Few people knew about the African ancestry of its prominent industrialists until last year, when the Jones story surfaced. Deanna McRae King, one of Tyson's black descendants, saw it and wrote Motz-Frazier.
"As the g-g-g-g-grand- daughter of Thomas B. Tyson, there is so much more to tell," King said. "We have tried for years to be part of the Buggy Festival, but no one ever contacted us. Maybe now that the story about William T. Jones has surfaced, we can freely embrace our heritage in Carthage."
The commissioner and the town manager were delighted to hear from her, and now the town is looking forward to Mother's Day weekend when King and other members of that branch of Tyson's family will be in Carthage for the 25th annual festival.
"There is an entire African-American family of Tysons," King said. "Although we are very mixed race in the United States with European and Native American blood as well, we all know that Thomas B. Tyson of Tyson & Jones Buggy Company is our ancestor."
King said that her family's roots are deep in Carthage from her Tyson forebear.
"Mr. Tyson had two children with his African-American washerwoman from Raleigh, Louisa Nichols," she said. "The daughter, Susie Nichols Tyson, married a barber from Harnett County, Duncan James McRae. He was a barber to all races in Carthage, Mooresville, Lum-berton, Fayetteville and Columbia, S.C.
After the two married, they raised their family in Carthage. She was a schoolteacher in Carthage and in Raleigh. She also taught Sunday School at John Hall Presbyterian Church in Carthage and Davis Street Presbyterian Church in Raleigh.
King's great-great-grandmother - Tyson's daughter - was also an accomplished classical pianist who taught piano to children of all races in both Carthage and Raleigh.
Thomas B. Tyson and his wife, Mary, openly raised his other child, son Thomas Bethune Tyson Jr., as his "grandson," according to King. The barber who had married Tyson's daughter was the son of Willis McRae, the patriarch of McRae Town in Harnett County. Together they raised four children who were all born in Carthage and baptized at John Hall Presbyterian Church. Three of them graduated from college.
Public records served as sources for King's familyresearch.
Contact John Chappell at (910) 783-5841 or jfchappell @gmail.com.
More like this story