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Dancy-Reid House has rich foundation of history

By Reginald Brown

For the Salisbury Post

The Salisbury Historic Preservation Commission granted a stay of demolition in 2015 for an 1890 two-story frame Victorian single-family structure built for the Honorable John Campbell Dancy Jr. and family. He was Livingstone College’s first printing instructor who lived at 814 West Monroe Street as the neighbor of Joseph Charles Price, his close friend, and Livingstone’s first president. Price’s home at 828 is a brick 1884 Victorian style residence. The two houses stand as companions on a thoroughfare once known as College Avenue at a time when they stood outside the city limits of Salisbury.

The dwelling referred to as the Dancy-Reid House is one of six structures included in a December 2015 memorandum of agreement for restoration between Livingstone College and the Historic Salisbury Foundation. The Livingstone College National Register Historic District listed the house as a contributing structure in 1982.

The house is on a parcel of land acquired from Edwin Shaver in the early 1880s by Joseph C. Price and William H. Goler.  They and their wives, Jenny Smallwood Price and Emma Unthank Goler, sold the land to Dancy Jr. in 1889. Goler, who would become Livingstone’s second president, was the contractor and it can be said that some of the college students provided the labor that built the house. The structure was modified later with an early 20th century style front porch and was recently stabilized and reroofed by the Historic Salisbury Foundation.

The Dancy-Reid home sheltered at least two generations of African Americans who spent a part of their lives in the dwelling. The structure was the temporary residence of professionals associated with the Livingstone College community, and for leaseholders during the later 20th and early 21st centuries. The house is currently vacant.

John Campbell Dancy Jr., Laura G. Coleman, his first wife and their children Lillian, John Wesley and John Campbell III were its first occupants. After Laura died in December 1890, he married Florence Virginia Stevenson, his second wife, in 1893, who gave birth to Joseph Price Dancy in 1896. All of Dancy’s children became successful public servants and professionals.

Lillian Reid was the last Dancy to live in the house. She and her husband James E. Reid (1889-1973) lived there from 1924 until her death in 1966. Two years after James died, the Livingstone College Board of Trustees acquired the property and the house was leased for a period of time and then used as an admissions office. Lillian is buried in Oakdale-Union Hill Cemetery, and James is interred in Oakwood Cemetery, Salisbury.

The 1910 Salisbury City Directory places Rev. Richard L. Houston, pastor of Soldiers Memorial A.M.E. Zion Church and his wife Nettie in the house after a short period of vacancy. Dr. William A. Coleman, the college physician and his wife, Isabella S. Coleman, were next to live in the house until their home was built at 629 West Monroe Street. Livingston W. McCoy, a blacksmith for the Southern Railroad, and his wife, Willie, occupied the house for one year until Lillian returned to Salisbury with her husband.

The Dancy-Reid and Price homes face the part of Livingstone’s campus once known as Delta Grove, a former 38-acre farm purchased from James Madison Gray in 1882. Today, a growling grisly blue bear mounted on a granite pedestal in Livingstone’s Friendship Plaza watches over the two homes as they stand across West Monroe Street. Irwin Belk, a Charlotte philanthropist, donated the huge mascot to the college in 2005. The Price Administration Building, erected in 1943, and the Dancy Residence Hall for men, constructed in 1972, serve as namesakes for Price and Dancy on the campus, and as echoes of the two homes on West Monroe Street.

According to the memoirs of John C. Dancy III, his father, John C. Dancy Jr., was a Tarboro native and grandson of manumitted parents. This is questionable and research is needed to determine if Dancy Jr. was a free person of color during slavery. However, his father, Dancy Sr. (1827-1874), was a builder and an Edgecombe County commissioner after the Civil War. Dancy Jr. was an educator, editor, liberal Republican activist, a Wilmington customs collector and a Washington, D.C., recorder of deeds.

Dancy Jr. was a shareholder in the Coleman Manufacturing Company in Concord, established in 1897, and a member of its Board of Directors with his former father-in-law, Warren C. Coleman. It was the first African American owned and operated textile factory. Unfortunately, high cotton prices and Coleman’s death in 1904 caused the company to close.

He was a member of Livingstone College’s Board of Trustees , editor of the Star of Zion, a bi-weekly church newspaper, and the A.M.E. Zion Quarterly Review. According to deceased local historians, the newspaper was printed in Dancy’s home until a print shop was established at Livingstone.

John Campbell Dancy III shared his father’s public service commitment. He was the secretary of the African-American YMCA in Norfolk, and the National Urban League’s second director. The Salisbury native attended Livingstone’s grammar and secondary departments, went to Exeter Academy in New Hampshire, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 1910 with a degree in sociology.

The Price and Dancy children shared their early years in the two homes until their father was appointed Recorder of Deeds for Washington, D.C. The family moved to Washington except for John C. Dancy III. He remained in Salisbury to finish his schooling at Livingstone before attending Exeter. When Lillian moved back to Salisbury, she renewed her friendship with Josephine Price Sherrill, J. C. Price’s youngest child, born in 1893 after her father died. They completed the circle of companionship among the Price and Dancy families that began with the friendship of their fathers.

Reginald Brown lives in Salisbury and researches and writes about local history.

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