Toney Jinkens Strayhorn was enslaved on the Strayhorn Plantation in University Station. He was 7 years old when he was separated from his mother and never saw her again. He remembers her saying “Toney, be a good boy.” He honored his mothers wishes and lived an honorable life in Carrboro, North Carolina. He met and married Nellie Carolina Atwater Stroud in January 1876.
Toney and Nellie were one of the first Black families to settle in Carrboro, North Carolina (Orange County). Both Toney and Nellie were enslaved and Nellie shares her story of emancipation (April 1865) in a newspaper clipping. The Strayhorn’s were resourceful. Toney worked until he was able to purchase 30 acres of land (that land along with three original homes still remain in Carrboro).
Toney built a one-room log cabin and eventually added on the home as he enlarged his family. Toney and Nellie had two children, William and Sallie Strayhorn. Toney was a brick and rock mason and farmer and raised everything on their land. When William married, Toney helped him build a one room log cabin next door (107 Jones Ferry Road) for his wife and family. When Salley married Fred Barbee, they built a rock house (203 Jones Ferry Road) just a few yards from the Strayhorn homeplace.
In addition to providing for and supporting their family, they were pillars in the community. Toney taught himself to read in the moonlight, was a founding member of Rock Hill Baptist Church (now First Baptist Church, Chapel Hill) and served as Superintendent of the Sunday School, Senior Choir Director while Nellie was a community and youth advocate. Many referred to her as “Aunt Nellie.”
Against all odds Toney and Nellie helped raise nine grandchildren and support William’s family. William and his daughter were killed in a tragic car accident, leaving a six-month infant. Both William and Sallie died early leaving teenagers to toddlers. Fred Barbee passed a year before Sallie, leaving nine children orphaned. The community members encouraged Toney and Nellie to give the Barbee grandchildren away, but Toney said, “I will raise them if we have to live on bread and water.” They were raised well and live long productive lives in Carrboro.
Toney and Nellie are buried in the old segregated Negro (Black) cometary in Chapel Hill on UNC-Chapel Hill’s campus.
The Strayhorn home has remained in the family for seven generations. The homeplace is a landmark in Carrboro and Orange County and we hope to keep it in the family for many generations to come.
Dolores Hogan Clark
Great Granddaughter of Toney and Nellie Strayhorn