Update: The house sold for $334,000 on March 30, 2023.
The Wray-Rainey-Webster House was the home of two major 19th-century leaders in Reidsville. Now for sale at $350,000, it’s a significant and well preserved piece of history in Reidsville’s Old Post Road Historic District and National Register historic district. The address is 716 S. Main Street.
“Believed to be one of the oldest houses surviving in the district, this two-story frame residence has changed hands more than most of the pivotal houses, and its original location was some one hundred yards to the south on the present site of the Hugh Reid Scott [House],” the district’s Nation Register nomination says. The Honorable Mr. Scott owned the house for a time, as did John Webster, congressman and crusading editor of Webster’s Dollar Weekly.
“These changing ownerships have resulted in alterations to the house, although the exterior of the front section remains relatively intact in its late 19th century appearance,” the nomination says. “This two-story single-pile section is topped by a low hipped roof of standing seam tin with deep bracketed eaves and a paneled frieze, relating it to more elaborate Italianate houses in the district.
“The three-bay facade is spanned by a one-story Eastlake-style porch with central two-tier pedimented pavillion. Ornamentation includes a spindled frieze, turned and bracketed posts, spindle balusters, and sawn gable ornament on the porch and paneled cornerboards.
“Windows are six over six sash in simple surrounds, and the brick chimneys rise in an interior end location.
“A one-story, two-room ell was added across the rear early in the 20th century; a more recent one-story addition rests on brick piers.”
The house maintains much of its interior character as well. The living room is particularly striking, with two arched alcoves flanking the fireplace.
716 S. Main was the home of local leaders from its earliest days. “The first occupant is said to have been Richard H. Wray, a later postmaster of Reidsville, although supporting documentation has not been found,” the National Register nomination says. “The first recorded owner was John Rainey, a farmer, who was followed by Colonel John R. Webster (1845-1909), publisher of Webster’s Dollar Weekly, and later by Hugh Reid Scott, as well as several others.”
John Richard Webster would have been about 16 when he joined the Confederate Army. He either attained the rank of colonel by age 20 or adopted it informally later. After the war, he came to Reidsville. “At one point he was engaged in the manufacture of tobacco,” according to an engaging top-of-the-front-page obituary in The Roxboro Courier. By 1875 he had found his calling, establishing Webster’s Dollar Weekly.
“As an editor he was of the most vigorous type, and he was an unremitting factor for what he considered to be right,” the Courier reported.
Webster supported the Democratic Party, and he was elected to Congress in 1890. He was voted out in 1892, a loss the Courier attributed to the fracturing of Rockingham’s Democrats. The newspaper provided no clue as to the issues involved or where Webster stood on them. Perhaps in 1909 everyone remembered and didn’t need to be reminded, but now the lack of context is frustrating.
Being on the losing end of whatever made the Democrats turn on each other, Webster declared himself an independent and was elected to the state House in 1896. He was promptly named speaker by a coalition of Independents and Republicans. He ultimately returned to the Democratic Party, where, the Courier said, “he was an influential factor” (again, annoyingly, without elaboration).
The Colonel suffered a debilitating stroke in 1905, leaving him of sound mind but in otherwise “feeble” condition. The obituary related that just before anther stroke ended his life in 1909, “His paper was uppermost in his mind. Only last Friday he said, ‘Say the paper will be continued.'” It was, until 1916.
Hugh Reid Scott, attorney and banker
Scott (1855-1947) was born into a branch of the family that established Reidsville. “His father, a planter and merchant, was a member of the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions; his mother was the sister of Governor David S. Reid,” The Dictionary of North Carolina Biography says. He graduated from Wake Forest College at age 20, studied law under a chief justice of the state Supreme Court and at 22 he was admitted to the bar. He practiced first in Wentworth and then for most of his career in Reidsville. He served two terms in the state Senate in the 1880s. In 1895 he organized a bank. “His banking and legal services were predicated on what he termed a policy of ‘Safety first, and as far as consistent with safety, profits,'” his biographical entry states.
“A man of wide reading interests, Scott owned what was considered to be one of the best legal libraries in his part of the state. In addition, he collected books, pamphlets, periodicals, and newspapers concerning North Carolina and North Carolinians. In 1946 his law library was presented to the courthouse of Rockingham County, whereas many of his personal papers and much of his North Carolina material were later given to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.”
At the age of 53, he married, apparently for the only time. His wife was 30 years younger. Scott lived to be 92, no small feat today, much less 75 years ago.
716 S. Main Street, Reidsville, Rockingham County
The Wray-Rainey-Webster House
- 4 bedrooms, 3 1/2 bathrooms, 3,494 square feet, 0.23 acre
- Price/square foot: $100
- Built in 1850 (per county)
- Listed January 20, 2023
- Last sale: July 1986, price unknown
- Neighborhood: Reidsville Historic District (NRHP), Old Post Road Historic District (local)
- Note: The listing gives the date of the house as 1860. the district’s National Register nomination puts it at circa 1860.