Nathaniel Villines was born on April 11, 1875 in Person County to Louis Villines and Malinda (Tiny) Cearnal Villines
Nat, as he was called by family and friends, was married to Maggie Smith. They had seven children, Serlina, John (Johnny), Sudie Foy, Lottie Mae, Gene Ivie and Magdalene.
At Maggie’s death, Nat was widowed with young children to raise. He was introduced to Lena Rivers Brooks from Woodsdale.
Lena Rivers was the sister of Mary Pauline Villines, wife of Nat’s brother James (Gene.)
They married and had six children, Mary Thomas, Willie Lee, Nathaniel Alexander, Brooks, Reginald Crawford and Lena Rivers.
Nat was a member of City of God in the Wilderness, now known as Union Grove Baptist Church. His brother-inlaw, J. Wiley Bradsher, was the pastor and very influential in the lives of his members. He encouraged Nat, along with his other brothers-in-law, Jim Morton, Gene Villines, Dallas Villines and other church members to become land owners so they wouldn’t have to be sharecroppers.
They each bought a significant amount of land throughout the Hurdle Mills area and grew their own crops.
Owning approximately 400 plus acres of land, Nat farmed and built one of the largest houses in the area for his family. Stone work lined the long driveway leading to the beautiful house with immaculately trimmed shrubbery.
He had an entrepreneur mindset and built houses on his property that he rented to family and other people in the community.
Not only did he rent houses, he would sell his sweet potatoes from home and load up the rest of his produce and take it to Roxboro to be sold. He was one of the first black men in the Hurdle Mills area to own a car.
Many who knew him would tell stories of how he picked up family and friends to take trips into (town) Roxboro and to church.
He would pick up kids for Sunday school and for school during the week.
He was very active in church, where he served as a deacon.
We’ve been told that he donated land to the church and later he and his wife sold the church nine acres of land for $11. (This is recorded and documented.)
Nat was considered one of the best dressed men in the community. He truly believed in having the best that was offered. He felt that his hard work had afforded him the privilege and he instilled this belief in his children. Hard work was the key to success, according to Nat Villines.
All of his children who were interested in attending college were afforded the opportunity to do so. However, he was like the majority of the men at that time, he didn’t think of that as being a priority. Hard work and farming the land was what he thought was important for the men and being married and being housewives for the women.
But, here is where this strong, educated woman that he married from Woodsdale stood her ground.
Lena was a staunch believer in education and was determined that their children would have opportunities for higher education. She came from a long line of educators and even taught the people in church to read and write.
Lena Rivers Brooks was the daughter of Alexander and Mary Elizabeth Woods Brooks. She moved from the Woodsdale area to Hurdle Mills. Her family farmed land too, but also built a school and built and owned their own funeral home, Woodsdale Funeral Home.
Her brother, Ellis Brooks, was the principal of the school.
Nat had two children by Maggie who were interested in going to college, Lottie and Sudie Foy. So Lena stepped up to the plate and encouraged Nat to send them to college and he did.
This opened the door for all of Nat and Lena’s children.
They all attended college except for the youngest, Lena Rivers.
All of them became educators except for Nathaniel who studied agriculture and made that his career.
Sudie Foy and Lottie taught for many years and Lottie became supervisor for the Person County School System.
All of the children who attended college and married had spouses who were educators.
Lena died in 1934 leaving her baby girl, who was only six-years-old, to be raised by Nat and the older children.
The story is that Lena Rivers (her namesake) was a very smart little girl. She was named salutatorian of her graduating high school class, but she was very spoiled and a daddy’s girl.
After attending Bennett College for only two weeks, Nat picked his baby girl up for the weekend and didn’t make her go back.
In later years, she worked in the school system as a teacher assistant.
The love for education was obviously in her DNA.
Nat became ill and was diagnosed with cancer. He fought hard to live and even traveled to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Maryland for treatment. He lost his battle and died on Sept. 20, 1949.