TownTalk: The Story Of The Epsom Community






The way the story goes, Mr. Simon W. Duke wanted to establish a post office in the store he opened in the area where he lived, referred to by some as Duke’s Corner or Duke’s Crossroad. He had already sent several suggestions to the federal government, but each one was rejected. Seems there already were post offices with the names he proposed.

He shared his failed attempts to Dr. Bennett Perry Alston one day while the two men were in the store. Looking around, Alston suggested the name that ultimately would be approved by the federal government – Epsom.

Mark Pace, area historian and North Carolina Room specialist at Richard H. Thornton Library in Oxford, shared this story and more about the area on the Vance-Franklin border during the tri-weekly Town Talk history segment Thursday.

Alston supposedly saw a box of Epsom Salts and perhaps somewhat on a whim said, ‘Why don’t you just apply and call it Epsom?’ Pace told co-host Bill Harris. The year was 1887.

There were already many post offices scattered across the area at the time – Bobbitt, Gillburg, Kearney, Pugh’s Hill (in the general area where Corinth-Trinity Church now stands along Highway 401), to name a few, Pace said. But Duke’s post office put Epsom on the map, as it were, thanks to Dr. Alston’s suggestion.

Alston was from the Alston family from Warren County, and Pace said he was probably the most prominent farmer in the area at the time. A veteran of the American Civil War, Alston’s daughter, Margaret, was the last living descendant of a Civil War soldier in this vicinity. She died about 20 years ago.

The area around the Epsom crossroads included about 500 acres that belonged to Simon Duke’s father. It was basically a farming, agricultural community, Pace said, and the families that lived in the area were working-class, middle-class people who went to church on Sundays and raised their families. There were few large plantations, and, consequently, there was not a huge African American presence there, Pace noted.

There are several prominent African American churches in the area – Dickies Grove, Mitchells Baptist and Rowlands Chapel, which Pace said dates back to the late 1800’s.

The Dukes and Alstons were instrumental in establishing a private academy that was in Epsom in late 1800s. Some references to the school includes names Punga Academy and Epsom High School, and the Duke and Alston families brought Elon College alumnus J.T. Cobb to run it.

Other families have with long ties to the community, including the Ayscue family. Pace said he’s seen seven different spellings of that surname in documents he has reviewed. Benjamin Franklin Ayscue, born in 1847, fought in the Civil War and was one of only three soldiers left in his company when they surrendered in Appomattox.

The story goes that Ayscue “made a deal with the Lord” when he was a soldier. If he got back home safely, he would “devote himself to living right for the rest of his life,” Pace recalled.

It seems that family back home presumed he had not survived the war, so he surprised them upon his return. As for that deal he’d made on the battlefield?

He became a deacon at Liberty Christian Church, right there in Epsom.


For complete details and audio click play.


TownTalk: NC Special Olympics Busy with Upcoming Events

The Summer Olympics in Tokyo have just passed, and it will be several years before the Summer Games again capture the world’s attention. But did you know that Special Olympics events are ongoing throughout the year?

For more than 50 years, athletes with intellectual disabilities train, practice and prepare to compete in about 20 Olympic-style events. And Special Olympics of North Carolina touts one of the largest contingents in the world – about 40,000 athletes – who bring a wide range of skills and abilities to the Games.

Madeline Safrit is one of two directors of communications for Special Olympics of North Carolina. She spoke with Trey Snide on Wednesday’s Town Talk program about upcoming events for athletes across the state and how athletes in Vance, Granville and Franklin counties have stayed in touch with their teammates across the state during the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said Special Olympians thrive on having a set schedule, and pandemic restrictions and lockdowns interrupted training schedules. SONC created a virtual program called Partner Up, Power Up last fall and again in the spring to allow athletes to “gather” virtually. “It’s been really challenging to keep that social interaction going for them,” Safrit said. A third Partner Up, Power Up session will launch this fall, even though there are athletes who are able to go back in to in-person training.

Using a fitness tracker booklet, athletes can follow a structured plan and know what class will be held on which day.

The virtual program has involved individuals with and without intellectual disabilities, “partnering together to participate,” Safrit said. She added that 10,000 people participated in the 10-week sessions.

Safrit said the virtual sessions are important for athletes who live in smaller communities. “They can hop on these calls…and can see their teammates. They also are able to train alongside athletes across the state,” keeping them ready for getting back to competition.

The competitions occur year-round, and this year, instead of having one large fall event, the organization will have numerous regional invitationals to keep the size of the group smaller.

During the course of a year, she said athletes participate in 8,000 practices to train for competitions in track and field, tennis, equestrian events, volleyball, sailing, gymnastics, cheerleading and many more. For a list of events and invitationals, visit

Vance County is preparing to train later this month for bocce, or lawn bowling and will participate in bocce invitationals in the fall.

“You would not believe how fierce the competition is out there” for bocce, Safrit said.

Safrit mentioned 40,000 athletes in North Carolina, but she also said there are at least that many volunteers that work throughout the year in some capacity to support and promote Special Olympics.

If coaching a sport isn’t your thing, there are other ways to participate, she said. Several fundraiser events are being planned for the fall, including “Over the Edge.” A minimum donation of $1,000 earns you the privilege of rappelling down the Wells Fargo Capitol Center building in downtown Raleigh. It’s a 30-story building – about 400 feet tall, just so you know.

For a $100 donation, those who are a little afraid of heights can enter the world of virtual reality and rappel virtually.

Visit to learn about other fundraiser opportunities and how to be involved in Special Olympics.

Listen to the entire program here.

TownTalk: The Millstone

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Families Living Violence Free

Town Talk: Families Living Violence Free Prepares For Event At Rucker Park



Families Living Violence Free is hosting a back-to-school Kids Day event Saturday, Aug. 14 at Rucker Park in Granville County. Children and adults can enjoy a variety of activities, from food trucks to water games during the Fun Day, which is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., according to FLVF staff.

LeSha Sneed and Carly Simonton were guests on Town Talk Monday and said the event is all about fun activities for children, combined with some awareness and outreach regarding domestic violence and abuse.

It’s important for young people to be able to make connections with adults who can help, Sneed, youth advocacy counselor for FLVF, told hosts John C. Rose and Trey Snide. She added that school resource officers (SROs) will be present Saturday. Children can’t always remember names, she said, but they can remember faces. It’s important for young people to know adults they can trust if they need to confide in someone about problems they may be facing.

“Kids have to feel safe around you before they’ll open up,” Sneed said. This fun day/fundraiser will help young people make connections with those adults.

Bookbags filled with school supplies will be distributed, and food and gas cards will be raffled off as well, Simonton said. As the adult advocacy counselor at FLVF, she noted that

the last year and a half has “taken a toll, obviously.” Children were learning remotely and parents were either working from home or without jobs altogether. Sometimes, school and jobs are “safe” spots for victims of domestic violence and abuse. The COVID-19 pandemic shut down those havens and left victims isolated from help.

But FLVF stayed open throughout that period, Simonton said, providing virtual options and keeping the 24/7 crisis phone lines operational.

The crisis center has moved to a new location, Henrahand Cottage on the campus of Central Children’s Home, 211 W. Antioch Drive, but its mission remains the same: “giving voice and support to domestic violence and sexual assault victims.”

Although it is located in Granville County, Simonton said their services are open to everyone. FLVF partners with many area agencies, and counselors can make sure clients connect with programs and services most convenient to their location.

“We make sure our clients are covered, no matter what,” Simonton said.

In 2019, FLVF saw 323 “unique clients,” which means that some clients they helped more than once. She said statistics show that by the time a client reaches out to FLVF, they’ve already made seven attempts – on average – to leave a violent or abusive situation. Victims of domestic violence or abuse don’t fit into one age range, but Simonton said the majority of clients they see at FLVF are in the 34-64 age group.

Outreach into the community helps to establish connections that may be needed in a moment of crisis. “It’s a lot easier to open up when you know you have a connection with someone,” Simonton said. This type of outreach event helps establish connections so people “know we’re here from the get-go,” she said. The public needs to see us as a good resource in the community, she added. “We’re literally here for everyone.” All services are free and confidential.

The FLVF Fun Day will be held at Rucker Park, located at 5189 Old N.C. 75, Oxford.

Visit to learn more. The 24/7 crisis lines are 919.693.5700 (English) and 919.690.0888 (Spanish)


For complete details and audio click play.


McClary, Purple Heart Recipient, To Speak At Living Stones Church Of God Aug. 8

Clebe McClary said he enjoys playing golf, a sport he took up later in life, after meeting PGA golfer Billy Casper. It wasn’t the first time he’d met Casper however; the first time was when he was in a military hospital bed, facing a leg amputation.

First Lt. Patrick C. “Clebe” McClary III USMC (Retired) recounted the story to John C. Rose on Thursday’s Town Talk:  He was a platoon leader in the First Reconnaissance Battalion in Vietnam when the Viet Cong attacked. He attributes his very existence today to a visit by the PGA golfer. “He said, ‘I’m praying for you. God’s got a plan for your life. Don’t quit,’” McClary said.

Casper wasn’t for the war, McClary said, “but he was for the troops.”

So when McClary got the chance to meet Casper at the Masters Tournament a few years ago, he took it. And he also took up golf.

He said he enjoys the beauty of the course, and the chance to witness to others while he’s out there.

McClary will be the featured speaker Sunday at Living Stones Church of God Worship Center in Oxford. He is speaking in conjunction with the annual observance of Purple Heart Day on Saturday, Aug. 7.

“Purple Hearts – that’s a medal you don’t want,” McClary said. “You’ve got to get shot to get that rascal,” he said. And he has three of them.

McClary shares his story and the message of having “a personal relationship with a living Savior. Know the Lord. You don’t know when it’s going to be your last day,” he said.

See more about McClary, visit

Listen here to the full interview with Clebe McClary.

TownTalk: Turning Point CDC Community Day Aug 7

Turning Point Community Development Corporation continues its outreach in the area with Community Day 2021 set for Saturday, Aug. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Turning Point Director Chalis Henderson invites schoolchildren to come out for backpacks stuffed with school supplies and enjoy a variety of activities for the whole family.

Henderson was the guest on Wednesday’s Town Talk and shared details of the event with John C. Rose and Trey Snide.

“Everything’s going to be outside,” she said, except the barbershop. Two barbers will be socially distanced in the large multipurpose room of the Turning Point community engagement building, located near the interchange of Norlina and Warrenton roads  in Henderson. Vendors will be distanced appropriately on the lawn. “We will enjoy seeing people, but we definitely want people to feel safe and healthy,” Henderson said.

“We have a large group of community resource vendors – it’s going to be a family-friendly, fun event,” she said. And those 120 backpacks? They’ll be available on a first-come, first-served basis, so come out early.

One note to parents: Henderson said the child should be present to receive the backpack and parents should be prepared to give a name, phone number and the county they live in for the backpack giveaway.

The mobile learning lab will be up and running for the event as well. Henderson said the school bus-turned learning lab has been outfitted with air conditioning, so it will be on the road in August. A couple of young people will be on the bus to provide demonstrations of some of the lab’s functions.

Last year’s Community Day event was cancelled because of the pandemic, which makes this Saturday’s event even more special and important. It’s important for residents in the area to become aware of resources that are available to them, she added.

Established as a community development entity, Turning Point has become a place of empowerment and community engagement. Providing backpacks and having events to share resources are just two ways for Turning Point to “live” its vision statement: We believe rural communities can thrive and flourish.”

Henderson said she was heartened to see so many community members – and parents that are served through Turning Point – show up to bring donations of school supplies to help fill out the backpacks.

The non-profit had gotten the backpacks and a few school supplies, but Henderson said she felt like they needed some more. So she set up a one-week drive to collect supplies and she said there was “an overflow of resources coming in.”

Turning Point will have raffle tickets available on Saturday for the chance to win a complete HVAC system. Tickets are $10, she said. The prize is made possible by Ranes Heating and Air and Henderson said “100 percent of the proceeds go to Turning Point CDC.” The winner will be announced in October. Tickets also may be purchased via a link on its website

Also available at the Community Day event are t-shirts emblazoned with the Turning Point vision statement: “We believe rural communities can thrive and flourish.”


Turning Point CDC Director Chalis Henderson Interview Audio. Click Play Below.


TownTalk: Come Grow With VGCC’s AgriTech Program

Vance-Granville Community College’s South Campus is the site of the upcoming AgriTech program, one of the many continuing education classes offered at VGCC’s four campuses.

Tanya Weary, dean of business & industry solutions and of the South Campus in Creedmoor, said registration is open for the class, which will be held in-person one evening a week for 10 weeks; the remaining two-thirds of the class’s 96 hours will be completed online.

The class begins on Sept. 20, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. and the cost is $188.25. Tuition assistance is available for eligible participants, she told John C. Rose on Tuesday’s Town Talk, which you can hear in its entirety by clicking play below.

As a dean at VGCC, Weary said she enjoys seeing the many exciting things happening on and around the campuses in the four counties VGCC serves.

“Lives are being changed,” Weary said. “It’s an incredible experience to see and witness every day.”

The AgriTech program is one way to help participants gain knowledge about agriculture, whether it’s for launching a business, improving skills for someone who already works on a farm or other agriculture-related endeavors.

“Agriculture is making an impact on society,” Weary said. “No matter what realm of agriculture you’re going into, you’re making some kind of impact.”

Instructor Kelly Dixon will introduce topics such as sustainable and organic farming methods, equipment maintenance, plant, soil and animal sciences, among others. Dixon and her family farm in Granville County and Dixon is the ag teacher at Vance Charter School.

Weary said the class will also discuss basic computer skills and marketing techniques, both important tools for agricultural entrepreneurs who use social media or need to create marketing materials to promote their business.

Another project that VGCC is launching is the result of a $286,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture that will provide professional development opportunities for K-12 educators to learn more about teaching agriculture and biology.

Weary said VGCC bought some drones that will be used to provide some hands-on opportunities for students to learn how to use drones in agriculture, from simple aerial photography to using drones to check fields.

Weary said U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics point to strong employment opportunities in agriculture between 2020 and 2025. “This program gives (students) an introduction into the economic, environmental and social impacts of agriculture,” she said.

Visit to learn more about the class.

Contact Weary at or call 252.738.3521.

Click play here for the TownTalk interview with Dean Weary.


TownTalk: Saturday Cruise-In A Success

Combine two things that Brandon Boyd is passionate about – cars and animal welfare – and the result is overwhelmingly positive. And that’s just what happened Saturday, July 31 at the annual Classic Car Cruise-In event in Henderson.

Folks came in from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. to the show at 284 US 158 Bypass in Henderson to see classic cars and to learn about Ruin Creek Animal Protection Society. Boyd told John C. Rose Monday on Town Talk that people came from all over to admire the cars. Attendance estimates range from 3,200 to 3,500 on the lot at one time, he said. “It was absolutely fantastic!” As visitors milled about, they also got a chance to see and hear about RCAPS and its mission to find homes for adoptable animals, and also to educate the public about caring for pets.

He said he would love for RCAPS to be able to go in to schools to talk with students about being responsible pet owners. That responsibility includes spaying and neutering pets.

He hopes to one day be able to provide an affordable spay and neuter program in Vance County. “That’s been a vision of the team at Ruin Creek,” Boyd said, adding that perhaps through grant funding or other means, RCAPS can help reduce pet overpopulation.

“There are so many things that we can do, that we want to do,” he said. “I think the people of this area are going to see some really great things” from RCAPS in the future.

Throughout the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, pet adoptions nationwide spiked, he said. Now, however, with loosened restrictions on travel and people getting out more, those dogs and cats that were such a good idea a year ago are now finding themselves in shelters.

And the Vance County shelter is no exception.

From the Carolinas to California, Boyd said shelters are loaded with animals that people adopted. Now, those pet owners have the mentality of ‘let’s take him to the shelter and someone else will take him,’ Boyd said.

“They’re overrun by animals as a result of this problem.”

A pet owner has responsibilities to care for, to look after these animals. From proper veterinary care, to spay and neutering, to discipline, the responsibilities are many.

That’s one reason Boyd wants to start early and introduce pet owner responsibilities to school children. “I don’t want to just find fault,” he said. “I want to correct the fault.”

He said RCAPS enjoys support from a wide base of donors from all 50 states and from 13 countries. Because of this support, RCAPS can keep transport vans on the road that take animals from Vance County up the East Coast, from Virginia to New York, and everywhere in between.

Boyd said the RCAPS staff deserves much credit for being good stewards of donor funds. “We’re so proud that people trust us to that degree” to send money to support the cause. “It speaks volumes to me…and I’m so very proud of it.”

Visit to learn more.

Listen to the full interview with Brandon Boyd here.


TownTalk: The Power Of Poetry Helps Those With PTSD

It’s an unwritten rule – nobody interrupts a group therapy session, Steven Bates said. And yet, there came a knock at the door to announce the Veterans Administration scheduler’s entrance: “’I’m here to talk to you about Steve,’” Bates recalled. What came next changed things for the military veteran and how he determined to help veterans and others deal with PTSD, depression and suicide.

Bates spoke with John C. Rose and guest host Phyllis Maynard Thursday on Town Talk about his non-profit PoemSpeak and his efforts to offer hope to those experiencing the debilitating effects of PTSD, depression and other mental and physical health challenges. And those who may have suicidal thoughts, as it turns out, a result of his encounter with that VA scheduler, he said.

It was five or six years ago, Bates recalled, that he asked this person to read over a few poems he had written for an upcoming suicide prevention and awareness program. “He read them over, and said ‘they’re fine, can I take them home?’” Bates recalled. It was a couple of months later when that unwritten rule was broken and the scheduler interrupted the therapy session.

Unbeknownst to Bates at the time he gave him the poems, that man had decided to end his life. That very night.

“I had a gun in one hand and the poems in the other hand,” Bates said, recalling the man’s conversation. At some point, however, he put the gun down and just kept reading the poems over and over.

“I went home that night with a completely new perspective on my poetry,” Bates said. He was in the process of writing a book of poems, but he said that encounter with the suicidal VA scheduler helped him decide to start a non-profit – for no other reason than to help people.

Reflections of a Beret is the first book of poetry Bates published. He’s working on a fifth book now. There’s a poem in his first collection called “Five Senses of a Veteran.” When the fifth book is published, Bates said the poem title will be updated to “Five Senses of a Veteran or First Responder.”

Like many military veterans, first responders also experience the pressures of service that can manifest in ways like depression, PTSD and thoughts of suicide. Those who work in law enforcement as well as EMTs, firefighters, doctors and nurses all have a lot of pressure on them now, Bates said.

“I’ve worn a badge basically all of my life, since I was 18 years old,” he said. “You name it, I’ve probably worn that badge.” There are many pressures on law enforcement officers right now, he said, “and a lot of them, unfortunately, are finding the pressures of their job too demanding.”

He said he hopes that his poems resonate with readers who may be feeling similar emotions. “I’m honest – I don’t hold back,” Bates said. “If I can feel it, I put it on paper – I don’t tiptoe around a subject.”

He wants others to know that somewhere, somehow, they have made a difference. Remembering that VA scheduler who first read the poems he had written about suicide, Bates said: “There was that one time that a life was changed, and that’s why I do what I do.”

Listen to the complete interview just below.

Visit to learn more about the project, the poet and ways to help.

Donations may be made online or sent to:


1260 US Hwy 72 E

Suite B-125

Athens, AL 35611

For complete details and audio click play.

Granville Vance Public Health Logo

TownTalk: Latest Granville Vance Public Health Guidance

Granville-Vance Public Health Director Lisa Harrison was Wednesday’s Town Talk guest and discussed COVID-19 updates with John C. Rose, from the most recent guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about mask-wearing in schools as well as vaccinating children over the age of 12.

The CDC issued updated guidance Tuesday that recommends all students, staff and visitors of K-12 schools wear masks indoors.

“It’s important to take a layered approach to safety for schools,” Harrison said. A universal indoor masking policy for K-12 schools, regardless of a person’s vaccination status, is one way to ensure children’s health and wellness. Harrison said that currently 32 percent of children ages 12-18 are vaccinated.

Students need to return to full-time, in-person learning, she said. The health department is working closely with school nurses in the two counties to make sure they have the most current information to share and answer questions that may arise. In addition, Dr. Shawna Guthrie hosts regular webinars with school leaders to review any changed guidance as well as vaccination opportunities.

In response to the new guidance by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, area schools officials said Wednesday that they will be considering the recommendation that all students, teachers, staff and visitors wear masks at school.

Vance County Schools public information officer Aarika Sandlin said district leaders will announce its plan by the end of the week; Dr. Stan Winborne, public information officer for Granville County Schools, told WIZS News that the school board would be receiving recommendations at its regular monthly meeting scheduled for Monday, Aug. 2. Winborne said the plan is to approve a policy for the upcoming school year at that time. The current policy for GCPS requires everyone to wear a mask while on school property.

Wear a mask, even if you are fully vaccinated, she said, if “you just want to be extra kind and protective and ensure that nobody feels uncomfortable. It’s just the polite thing to do.”

Harrison said she is pleased that Vance and Granville counties are NOT among the 80 N.C. counties that have been identified as “areas of substantial and high transmission” of COVID-19. But this data is updated every week using data from a two-week trend line.

“We know over the last two weeks, we have had more cases, and we know 90 percent of the cases in North Carolina are testing positive for the Delta variant. I fully suspect that our color will change, from yellow to orange to red in the coming weeks – if people don’t take those precautions,” she said.

“We need everybody out there to do their part,” she said, noting that demand for the vaccination has slowed in both counties.  Vance County currently has 42 percent of its population fully vaccinated; Granville County is slightly higher at 44 percent. But Harrison said she wants to get to at least 50 percent by fall – and 70 percent fully vaccinated would go a long way to reduce spread of new variants.

“If we have tools that prevent our children from getting COVID, we need to use every tool we have.” And, she added, a vaccine is the best tool in the toolkit.

While it’s true that the long-term effects of the vaccine simply are not known, Harrison said health experts know more about the long-term effects of COVID-19. “It’s really clear where the risk lies – the risk lies in getting COVID.”

“We have a lot of evidence and true, scientific factual information from experts that say long-term effects of the COVID virus are a lot more dangerous and prevalent and likely than any long-term effects of a vaccine.”

To hear Lisa Harrison, GVPH Director, click play.