Bladenboro’s museum perfecting the craft of storytelling

By: Chrysta Carroll - Bladen Journal

BLADENBORO — It’s been well said, “God gave us two ears and one mouth, so He must intend for us to do more listening than talking.” If so, a Bladenboro site is the place to practice the art.

“I like to say that everything in here is a conversation starter,” said Henry Singletary, referring to the Craft Museum in the Bladenboro Historical Society Building.

Take the scaled model of a stable that greets guests entering the museum.

“This building stood downtown approximately where First Citizens Bank is today,” Singletary explained. “Henry James White was in the horse and mule business, to use the old western movie terminology. He would go on trips to Missouri and buy mules and ship them to Bladenboro by train in a boxcar. When they arrived, he would get the number of required local men to form a human fence between the boxcar and stable and would make the mules jump out of the boxcar and head to the stable.

“He was the center of the horse and mule business, and was well-known and respected in this area.”

Featured in the room are several items by Dewitt Kennedy, one of which is a model of an 1800s clipper ship. The vessel likeness was constructed as a father/son project with Kennedy and his son, Ross.

“Mr. Dewitt Kennedy’s wife got frustrated during the building of the ship, because in order to bend wood, it has to be soaked in water,” explained Singletary. “The Kennedys would soak the wood in the bathtub, which, in her opinion, was a big imposition.”

Singletary made his way around the room pointing out crafts, some of which are whimsical pieces created by Bladenboro residents, and some of which were made to commemorate people or places in the town. Included are wooden hand carvings of roosters, turn plows, and hogs by Bernard Frank, a model of Bridger Drug Store, scales of tobacco barns and tobacco sleds, a model of the Battle of Elizabethtown, and a replica of Melvin’s Store in Dublin.

“People my age will remember Melvin’s Store,” Singletary commented. “It was the general store to beat all general stores — you could buy anything there.”

Everything in the room is, according to Singletary, a jumping off point for what he considers vital to understanding Bladenboro — conversation.

“Yes, we need to do better labeling things so that people can come on self-guided tours, and that’s something we’re working on,” he said. “But there are stories to go with the exhibits, and they’re a starting point for conversation.

“There’s a (model of) Yorkshire Church, now called Richardson Church. There are signs telling you what it is, but if you’re lucky enough to spend time with people who have been there, or talk to people who can elaborate on some of the exhibits, I think that would make the tour of the museum better, in my opinion. The highlight of the room is the history in it and the telling of that history by people who know it.”

To schedule a tour, contact the Bladenboro Historical Society by phone at 910-863-4707, by email at, or visit its website at

Chrysta Carroll can be reached by calling 910-862-4163 or emailing

Chrysta Carroll

Bladen Journal