It’s 1989 and we remember Baxter Ennis, Turlingtons

By Gayle Sorrell
Coats Museum News
Posted 1/21/22

The year was 1989 when the hair styles of young black men included headlines – marks, logos and initials – and odd shapes, valleys and tinted patches. Aliens were reported in the Soviet …

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It’s 1989 and we remember Baxter Ennis, Turlingtons


The year was 1989 when the hair styles of young black men included headlines – marks, logos and initials – and odd shapes, valleys and tinted patches. Aliens were reported in the Soviet Union and these reports appeared in detail in Tass (three eyes, elephant-like footprints and banana-shaped spaceships). The movie “Batman” was an immense hit which brought back a fascination for all the trappings of Batmania, including the Joker.

Attendees at the Coats United Methodist Church were excited to see the choir wearing their new beautiful teal colored robes with ivory colored collars. They were given in memory of young Curtis Patterson who had died in an automobile accident. There was also a special dedication service where three young men presented themselves through confirmation for church membership. They were Jason Lee Patterson, son of Pete and Joan Patterson, and Russell Ward Page and Odum Page, twin sons of the Rev. and Mrs. Jack Page.

The same March 23, 1989 edition of The Daily Record wrote that Evelyn Roberts broke her arm while checking her husband, Troy Roberts, into the hospital.

Who remembers when Baxter Ennis was president of the 1971 Coats High School graduating class? After high school, he went on to graduate from Campbell University. By the year 1989, he was addressed as Army Maj. Ned Baxter Ennis. Baxter, son of Rena Ennis of Coats, wrote an article published in the March issue of “The Military Review” (Daily Record March 24, 1989).

Many of our readers likely purchased a copy of Baxter’s book, “When Leadership Mattered,” when he had book signings at Campbell University and the Coats Museum. Even though Baxter lives in Chesapeake, Virginia now, where he is very involved in the community activities and is held in high esteem, he finds time to visit his sisters and Glenda’s parents in North Carolina.

Does the name Malcolm Fowler sound familiar? Was he not a county historian who put years into researching Harnett County history for his “They Passed This Way” for the 1955 Harnett County Centennial? Did he operate a store in Coats with E.T. Malone where some of the first electric washers, stoves and refrigerators were sold? Did he deserve credit for having the first television in Harnett? (E.T. was father to Ted, Johnny and Charles Malone.)

I do know that the March 29, 1989 Daily Record published that a Mr. and Mrs. Malcolm Fowler of Angier announced the engagement of their daughter, Detrice (Dee Dee) to Richard Johnson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Hubert Johnson of Benson.

Easter services were being held in churches and at the CUMC they held a sunrise service followed by a ham and sausage breakfast. The Coats Baptist had a special service with the six-foot cross made by Fred Robinson. Each person attending church placed a flower on the cross before it was placed outside for all to enjoy.

Annette Varner and Joyce Hankle had relocated their beauty shop “New Look” to Main Street next to Garland Coats’ Barber Shop. I bet many of you remember going to both of those popular businesses.

The March 30, 1989 edition of The Daily Record shared that the Turlington family continued the farming legacy that was begun when Willis Turlington purchased the Dushee Shaw land in 1839. Kiwanis International recognized the family for being in family farming for more than a century in Harnett County. H.A. Turlington Jr., accepted the award on behalf of the family. H.A. Turlington Sr. had been an US Chief Deputy Marshal for 20 years and had raised championship Duroc hogs in addition to his normal farming duties before his death in 1978. In 1976, three generations of the Turlingtons were represented at the NC State Fair — H.A. Sr., H.A. Jr., and William Henry Turlington who was following in his grandfather and father’s footsteps.

Were there other prominent families in the area prior to 1839? Records will show that there were. The surnames of Barclay, Barnes, Pleasant, Denning, Gregory, Barbee, Beasely, Johnson, Byrd, Williams, Shaw, Stone, Tart and Hayes spring to mind. And the list is surely missing some very important ones here in the now Grove area prior to the arrival of Willis Turlington when he purchased the 2,300 acres from the Dushee Shaw heirs around the current site of the Coats Erwin Middle School outside of Erwin and Coats. There are records showing that another family of Turlingtons owned much property in the area.

William Turlington, son of Thomas, is recorded to be the original ancestor of most of the Turlingtons in the Coats, Buies Creek and Erwin areas. William was twice married (to Indea and Elizabeth). From one wife we have the descendants who lived around the Turlington Crossroads area and the descendants of the other wife settled more toward Buies Creek and Erwin, according to some of the Turlington genealogies in our library. Visit the museum and read the Turlington genealogies to see which set of Turlingtons came to the area first.

Another note of interest is that Indea, one of William’s wives, was thought to be an Eastwood. Why is that of interest? Mrs. Mildred Barclay of Barclay’s Inn was also an Eastwood. According to Margaret McMahan, who wrote in an article for a Fayetteville paper about the Raleigh-Fayetteville Stagecoach Road, the two Eastwood women were kin.

Joseph Turlington, a veteran of the Vietnam War and a 1965 graduate of Coats High School, has moved back home from Wendell to remodel his parents’ house. Joe has done an outstanding job paralleling the two lines of the descendants of William Turlington and his two spouses. Joe has not only shared that genealogy with us in the research library but he has done a remarkable service to his ancestors by overseeing the cleaning up of the Turlington Cemetery which was overgrown with poison vines, bushes and all kinds of overgrowth. With the help of Joe’s son, Lee, and Lee’s sons, Grant and Garrett, Troy Clayton, Daniel, Luke and Tyler Clayton (Sue’s grandsons and Tyrus’s sons), Wyatt Currin and Kay Currin Fish, once again it is a cemetery that their Granddaddy Lee Turlington would be proud of since he spent time every summer clearing around the graves of his parents and two baby daughters.

Now, it has a fine sign showing when the Turlington Cemetery was established. The structure was built by Joe’s son Lee and erected by Joe and his cousin Wyatt Currin. Joe even reached out to his cousin on the Lassiter side, Howard Penny, to use his bobcat to move logs and limbs. Ralph Denning, who has kin in the cemetery, has also come on board to assist. Guess we can say the Turlington family continues to be a family that works together to get good things done.

Another engagement announcement appeared in that same Daily Record copy. Mr. and Mrs. James E. Morris of Coats had announced the engagement of their daughter, Judith Kay Morris to Ricky Clyde Page, son of Mr. and Mrs. Clyde Page of Dunn. The Coats Area Chamber of Commerce recognized Hudson Heating and Air Conditioning Inc. as its Business Focus of the Week. The company was operated by Milton Hudson and his wife, Janet Hudson.

For those who were involved with the Coats High School Reunion Project in 1985, you will surely remember how excited Christine Stewart Akerman was to come back and be a part of that weekend. Christine and her husband Bill, a retired naval officer, returned to live out their lives in the home that Christine grew up in with her parents, Guy and Estelle Stewart.

The April 4, 1989 edition of The Daily Record reported that Mr. Bill Akerman died. His son was Navy Lt. Cmdr. Russell Stewart Akerman. Does that name look familiar? He cared so dearly for his mom Christine until her death and he currently resides in the original Guy Stewart house near the post office. What a difference Stewart has made in the Ebenezer Presbyterian Church, located on the land that his Stewart ancestors owned and in the Coats community. He is merely a phone call or text away from assisting someone in need.

Coats lost a legend last week. Alice Lou Jackson Roberts was loved by decades of students at the old Coats School. She spoke what she felt and made no apologies for it. I can still hear her voice booming from her classroom as she nudged her students into loving history. H.L. and I lovingly add her name to the list of memorials to our Coats Museum.


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