The Method Community

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An aerial view of the Method neighborhood, 1949. Image courtesy the NC Division of Archives and History.

At the end of the Civil War, Brigadier General William Ruffin Cox settled back into his quiet life in Raleigh. General Cox had fought in numerous major battles during the war, including Antietam and Appomattox, and was wounded three times at the Battle of Chancellorsville. Once back in Raleigh, he resumed his law practice and returned to his home on Ashe Avenue.

General Cox in his post-war life began to invest in community development around Raleigh, such as the railroad, and a new teacher training school for blacks called Saint Augustine’s. He had even offered to sell some land to his former carriage driver, John O’Kelly. O’Kelly had also worked as a builder, and had a hand in the construction of J.P. Prairie’s Standard building on Fayetteville Street as well as various railroad projects.

It is most likely the railroad construction that brought John O’Kelly together with the Mason family. The O’Kellys and Masons were former slaves, but were working after emancipation to buy their own homes for the first time. John O’Kelly died before he had the chance to buy some land, but his friend Lewis Mason, who also built railroads, was intrigued by the idea. Lewis then passed to idea on to his father, Jesse Mason, and a plan was hatched.

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Berry O'Kelly, image courtesy the NC Division of Archives and History.

Jesse Mason invested in 69 acres of land in what was then called House Creek Township, part of which had been Camp Mangum during the Civil War. In the spring of 1870, Jesse Mason began to subdivide and sell lots to former slaves. They built small log-cabin or slab houses with dirt floors, much like the early colonial pioneers had once constructed. The new town four miles west of Raleigh and across from what is now the Meredith College campus was called Mason’s Village, or by the nick-names Slabtown, after the houses, or Save-Rent.

Berry O’Kelly, who had been born in Orange County, was raised by his kin in Mason’s Village. He began by working at the general store in the village, and within a few short years, he bought the store. Soon afterward, he had succeeded in bringing a railroad spur to the village, starting a trans-Atlantic mercantile and warehouse, and establishing Mason Village’s first post office.

It was the United States Post Office in 1890 that assigned the name “Method” to the small community. That name stuck; after all, it was an enormous source of pride and affirmation to get their own post office. Meanwhile, Method’s most prominent resident Berry O’Kelly continued to invest in real estate and banking, and brought the first Merchant and Farmer’s Bank to Raleigh. Merchant and Farmer’s of Durham was started for the newly freed and money-earning black demographic.

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Students at the Berry O'Kelly school. Image courtesy the NC Division of Archives and History.

Berry O’Kelly’s passion and life’s work, however, was education for blacks. In 1914, O’Kelly succeeded in transforming the village’s one-room schoolhouse into a teacher training and boarding school for blacks. The Berry O’Kelly School, as it came to be known, was one of only three fully accredited black high schools in North Carolina in the early part of the twentieth century.

By the 1950s, Method was still a rural community with dirt roads and no sewage or water systems. Residents came together to erect street signs as the city of Raleigh encroached from the east. Then in the 1960s, Raleigh incorporated Method and put up all new street signs with entirely different names. Method community members gathered at Raleigh City Council meetings and demanded that their street names be changed back, and a compromise was reached. Method Road now stretches from Beryl Road (named for Berry O’Kelly’s daughter), to Western Boulevard, where it changes over to the Raleigh-given name, Kent.

One thought on “The Method Community

  1. Please send me more information regarding the Mason family history in the Raleigh area. I am a decendant of the Mason family in that area,