September 19, 2014

Nancy Caroline Gragg 1837-1919



Watauga Democrat, May 27, 1920, Vol. XXXI, No. 32, Page 1, Col. 1

Mrs. Nancy Caroline Gragg

Born June 14, 1837; Fell Asleep December 28, 1919

(E. N. Joyner in Lenoir News-Topic.)

There passed out, from the home of Mr. and Mrs. Kelley Coffey, in the Rosborough Settlement, Avery county, on the Lord’s Day, December 28, 1919, the soul of one of “Our Fathers” most faithful daughters.  This was Mrs. Nancy Caroline Gragg.  She was the mother, and grandmother and the great-grandmother of the whole settlement.  A life like hers deserves more than a passing notice, by reason of its own quality, and as a guide-post to other way-farers.

Mrs. Gragg was born June 14, 1837, in the neighborhood of what is now Pineola.  At sixteen she was married to Madison Gragg twenty years her senior who died in November 1893.  With him she came to his home, within a few hundred yards of where she fell asleep in her 83rd birthday.  She was the mother of thirteen children of whom four are living:  N. Madison, Mary wife of Mr. T. C. Gragg, Mrs. Norah Philyaw, and L. Carroll, all except Mrs. Philyaw in the same neighborhood of their birthplace.

She was a true and faithful member of the Baptist Church.  But she was even more than that for her Christian heart was as wide as the compass of all the churches, for she tried to follow in the footsteps of her Lord Jesus the Christ, Whose greatest distinction was that “He went about doing good.”  She gave her busy years to her children as long as they needed her, helping them to live and showing them how; she was always ready for any kind of service, as far as she knew of its need; and could go.  She was never idle.  Whatever her hands found to do, for her own support or the benefit of others, she did it with her might.  There has scarcely been a child born in all that region for many years whose coming she did not welcome with a tender skillfulness.  Everywhere she was affectionately known as “Granny Gregg.” [sic].  She was an example in all robust virtues, as well as denying herself some of the most common vices, for, among other things, she never used tobacco in any form, and she felt contempt for liquor, and for those who let them come under its slavery.  Industry was a habit with her; in one chief thing she ever rejoiced, and that was to “sow and reap.”  Every year, even the very last, she “made a garden.”  No one could keep her from it, and now some are enjoying the fruit of her planting after her spirit has fruited in the Paradise of God.

Under the burden of her years she had grown more and more feeble until last summer she had a sudden and very serious attack.  This, to the surprise of all, she survived, and was able to go around again, even to dig in her old garden at the house where she lived so many years; and it was according to the spirit and custom of her life that the day before she found rest she compelled them to put her on horseback that she might go several miles to minister to one of her friends in trouble, whom she had promised.  She returned on Sunday afternoon from this “Good Samaritan” visit, and was tired, ate a bit of lunch, laid down to rest, and went to sleep.  Yes, “asleep in Jesus, blessed sleep,: and the more blessed because it came to her wearied old body, and on the Sabbath Day, just after she had forces it in spirit to take a hard journey that she might be “going about doing good.”

She had made her home with her grandson, Mr. Kelly Coffey, who, with his wife, left nothing undone for his comfort.  Her funeral was conducted by her good friend, the Rev. Oscar Dellinger, according to the rites of her own church.

He who writes this incomplete record of her noble live regards it a sacred privilege to have known her, to have rejoiced in her cherished friendship, and to have had again and again the assurance of her prayers.  He thinks it an hour [sic] to thus bear sincere testimony to the beauty of her character, and to those who stand nearest to her in ties of blood, nor to any, could he wish a greater fortune that to find and to follow in the path she trod, of which the Book says:  “The path of the just is as a shining light, that shineth more and more until the perfect day.”


Mrs. Caroline Gragg died December 28, 1919, and her obituary written by Rev. E. N. Joyner for the Lenoir News-Topic, is as true, I believe, as could be written.  Mrs. Gragg was a daughter of John Gragg, Sr. he being a son of William Gragg, a soldier of the Revolutionary war.  Wm. Gragg, with his family, came to North Carolina soon after the Revolutionary war, and settled on John’s River, Caldwell county.  John was born in Appleton county, Va., in 1781.  He was twice married, first to Elizabeth Mayns and second to Susan Barrier.  To the first marriage were born 7 boys and one girl, Nicey, mother of ex-Sheriff W. H. Calaway, of Watauga.  To the second marriage were born seven girls and four boys, making in all nineteen children.  John Gragg, Sr., died in 1852, sitting in a chair in the house where Jack Smith now lives at Vilas.  Mrs. N. C. Gragg left surviving her two brothers and a sister, Empsie Gragg, of Watauga, W. W. Gragg of Farmington, Wash., and Mrs. Margaret D. Qualls, of Overton, Tennessee, mother of J. Lee Qualls, of Boone.  Mrs. N. C. Gragg was a twin sister of Mrs. Adeline Presnell, wife of W. W. Presnell, who died Feb. 12, 1907.  She was the aunt of the Rev. E. M. Gragg, Mrs. Will Henson and others.

by: W. W. Presnell [same source as above]




Who Was Who?

James Madison Gragg was born Jul. 1824 in Caldwell Co., to David Obediah Gragg and Elizabeth Webb.  He died in Nov., 1893.  Both he and Granny Gragg are buried at the Gragg Cemetery in Gragg, Avery Co., NC.  It was David Obediah who was the son of William Obediah Gragg, known as “Revolutionary Bill” Gragg.  His wife was Elizabeth Pulliam.  Parents of Elizabeth Webb were James Crittenden Webb, Jr. and wife Jane Hight.

N. Madison Gragg was Newton Madison, born July 1869, died 1936 in Linville, NC.  His wife was Mary Jane Crump, born 1872, died 1968 in Banner Elk, Avery Co.  Her parents were David and Mahulda Jane Clarke Crump.

Mary Gragg, wife of Thomas C. Gragg.  Mary was born in 1871 and died in 1938.  Her husband Thomas was born in 1867 and died in 1944.  He was a son of Jesse Gragg and wife Matilda Shull.  Thomas and Mary are undoubtedly related but I have not made that connection.

Nora, born in 1880, married a Philyaw but I have not yet made that connection.

L. Carroll was Leason Carroll, born 1882, died 1951.  He married Dora Belle Beane in 1900.  She was a daughter of John Locke Beane and Alice C. Philyaw, born 1882, died 1966 at Crossnore in Avery Co.  Rhona Gragg, a daughter of Leason and Dora, married Aaron Paul Blalock, son of the infamous William McKesson “Keith” Blalock.  A son, Daniel Windom Gragg married Lavinia Viola “Vinnie” Coffey in 1926.  She was a daughter of David Columbus and Julia N. Baird Coffey.  And, another son, Shelby Delon Gragg married Esslene Coffey, she being the daughter of Grover Cleveland and Cora E. Gragg Coffey.

A friend of mine, Margaret Coffey Farley, now deceased, was born in Mercer Co., WV but raised around Coffey’s Gap in the shadow of Grandfather Mountain once told me “…if you scratch a Gragg you’ll find a Coffey.”  She didn't stretch the truth. 

The Rev. Oscar C. Dellinger was a son of Martha Ann Dellinger, a daughter of Elkanna and Elizabeth Godsey Dellinger.  I do not know who his father was.  He was born in 1882 and died in 1966 at Collettsville in Caldwell Co.  He was married twice, first to Minnie Dellinger, daughter of Thomas R. and Eveline McKinney and his first cousin. She died in 1922 and he married Annie Mae Crisp in 1930.

William Kelly Coffey was a son of Thomas M. & Martha Cordelia Gragg Coffey  Martha was Granny Gragg’s child, born c1867 in her marriage to James Madison Gragg.  The wife of William Kelly was Bessie May Philyaw to whom he was married on Mar. 17, 1907 in Caldwell Co.

Granny's Find A Grave Memorial can be viewed here; her husband's memorial here.



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