Annie Eliza Basnight Spruill

(Tyrrell County)

Featured Character – The Home Front

General Map of the Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, Showing the Theatre of Operations of the Burnside Expedition, Harper's Weekly, March 1, 1862

Courtesy of the Museum of the Albemarle

On October 13, 1837, up-and-coming Tyrrell County farmer Elijah Basnight married Rachel Meekins.  Less than a year later, she gave birth to their first child: a daughter named Annie Elizabeth Basnight.  Rachel Basnight died giving birth to another daughter in 1841.  Two years later, Elijah Spruill remarried.  His surviving children went to live with Rachel’s sister, Sarah Brickhouse, and her husband Jesse Brickhouse.  Annie Basnight worked as a domestic servant for the wealthy Brickhouses.  She lived with them until her marriage in 1867 to William Richard Spruill, and the couple moved to a farm in rural Alligator Township.  William R. Spruill ultimately made the decision to give up farming, and the family moved into Columbia, the courthouse seat of Tyrrell County.  He opened a hotel so well-known for the quality of its food that William R. Spruill acquired the nickname “Potlikker Bill.”  At the urging of Annie Spruill, her husband allowed missionaries from the Disciples of Christ to preach from the hotel in 1884.  The Spruills eventually joined the domination, and donated money and land for Columbia’s Disciples of Christ Church.  In addition to hotel proprietor, William R. Spruill operated several other businesses.  In 1899 and 1901, Spruill and his son received two patents for their designs of vehicular ball bearings.  The 1900 Census also lists William R. Spruill as a “jeweler.”  After her husband’s death, Annie Spruill continued to live in Columbia, although her son William R. Spruill Jr. now ran the family’s businesses.  Diagnosed with Bright’s Disease, she left Tyrrell County to live with her daughter in Enfield, North Carolina.  She died there on March 26, 1920.