||HISTORIC WEBBLEY : HISTORY
The lot where Webbley stands was a part of the original 147-acre tract of land that James Love donated to form the Town of Shelby on August 11, 1841. The first recorded owner of the property was John D. Dameron, who acquired the property in February of 1845. The lot where the home now stands (identified on the original plat of Shelby as number 19) remained vacant until the property was purchased by Augustus W. Burton in 1850. Burton built the first house on the property in 1852. The two-story structure faced South Washington Street and was of Italianate design. Burton was the son of Judge Robert H. Burton of Lincoln County and was himself a practicing lawyer in Shelby. Before being licensed as a lawyer, he "read law" under Thomas Ruffin and Richmond M. Pearson, both of whom served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court. During the time he lived in the house, Burton served as a State Senator and as District Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina.
The ownership of the property during the Civil War and the immediate postwar years is not entirely clear from the historical and public land records. For instance, A.R. Homesly purchased the property sometime either before or during the early years of the war. However, Homesly sold the property on June 13, 1863, to R.W. Roark for $4,000. Roark was the grandfather of Clyde Roark Hoey. The record further establishes that Mrs. Adelaide Williams McAfee, the wife of Colonel Leroy (Lee) McAfee, purchased the property as a result of a public land auction on April 1, 1869, for the sum of $1,002. She and her descendants owned the property thereafter for a period of approximately 35 years.
Mrs. McAfee was the daughter of George Washington Williams of York, South Carolina, a prominent lawyer, legislator, and during the later part of his career a distinguished Federal Court Judge. Colonel McAfee, on the other hand, was a native of Cleveland County. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1862, receiving the highest honors in a class of some 69 students. At the beginning of the Civil War he was a resident of Texas, where he practiced law, but came back to North Carolina and entered the service of the Confederacy. During the War, he attained the rank of Colonel in the 49th Regiment, and as such was the highest ranking officer in the Confederate armies from Cleveland County. McAfee also represented Cleveland County in the General Assembly during the 1870-71 Session. Colonel McAfee died in 1873, at the age of 37. Years later his nephew, noted author Thomas Dixon, dedicated his novel The Clansman to his Uncle Lee.
The McAfee heirs sold the property to H.I. Washburn for $3,100 on June 17, 1905, thereby ending their family's ownership of Webbley. The property, however, changed hands on several more occasions before the end of the year. Washburn sold the property on June 30, 1905 to Clyde R. Hoey and his wife, Bess Gardner Hoey, for the sum of $3,500. Mr. Hoey, who was married to one of Governor Gardner's sisters, later became Governor of North Carolina (1937-1941) and also served the State as a United States Senator. In fact, Hoey is the only person in North Carolina history who was ever elected to both the State House of Representatives and the State Senate, then to the National House of Representatives and to the United States Senate. Although Governor Hoey owned Webbley for approximately two months, he never lived in the house and sold the property on September 1, 1905 to J. Edgar. Poag.
Poag subdivided the undeveloped portion of the property into smaller tracts and on September 30, 1905 sold the homeplace to Mr. And Mrs. J.A. Anthony for the sum of $2,000. Mrs. Anthony, the former Olive (Ollie) Gardner, was also a sister of O. Max Gardner. Anthony was a prominent Shelby attorney who formed a law partnership in Shelby with O. Max Gardner, his brother-in-law, in 1907. During that same year, Anthony and his wife initiated renovations in the original house that totally changed the appearance of the structure. Although remnants of the 1852 structure can be seen in places in the current dwelling, the house one sees today is primarily the result of the 1907 renovations.
On March 14, 1911, after virtually overbuilding the old home, the property was sold by J.A. and Ollie Anthony to Judge James. L. Webb for a recited consideration of $9,000. Judge Webb and his wife Kansas thereafter moved into the home with four generations of their family: the first generation consisted of the Reverend George Milton Webb, Judge Webb's father; the second generation consisted of Judge Webb and his wife, Kansas Love Andrews Webb; the third generation consisted of Judge Webb's two children, Madge Webb and Fay Webb Gardner, and his son-in-law, O. Max Gardner; and the fourth generation consisted of the first two children of Fay and Max Gardner, James Webb Gardner and Margaret Love Gardner.
The Reverend George Milton Webb, who lived in the house from 1911 until his death in 1917, was one of the most noted pioneer Baptist ministers in the South and served over 40 churches during his ministry. His father, James Milton Webb, was the first pastor of Shelby's historic First Baptist Church.
Judge James L. Webb - "Judge Jim," as he was fondly known - was the head of the Webb family. He served the State of North Carolina for 32 years, 12 as a District Attorney and 20 as a Superior Court Judge. His younger brother, E. Y. (Yates) Webb, who lived next door to Webbley at 331 South Washington Street, was a lawyer, a state legislator, a United States Congressman, and finally a Federal Judge for the Western District of North Carolina. His term as representative from the old 9th Congressional District ended upon his appointment to the Federal Bench. Incidentally, the seat he vacated was claimed in the 1919 general election by none other than Clyde R. Hoey.
Upon Judge Webb's death on October 1, 1930, the house passed by intestate succession to Miss Fay and her sister, Madge. Madge had left the home in 1916 to marry but returned soon thereafter when the marriage failed. Madge lived in the home with Miss Fay until her death in 1953. When Madge died leaving no heirs, Miss Fay became the sole owner of Webbley. At her death in 1969, Miss Fay's only surviving son, Ralph Webb Gardner, was granted a life estate in the property with a remainder interest to F.W.G. Inc., a real estate holding company formed by Miss Fay to allow her to more easily devise her real estate holdings.
When Ralph died in 1982 and complete title to the property passed to F.W. G., Inc, the corporate stock was so widely disbursed that no one stockholder had the ability to make a corporate decision. And, due to various factions among the stockholders, no one group was able to secure enough votes to control corporate affairs. This chaotic stock ownership of Webbley virtually paralyzed all efforts to properly maintain the large home. As a result of this situation, Webbley gradually fell into a serious state of disrepair.
Immediately after Ralph's death, however, O. Max Gardner III and his wife, Victoria Harwell-Gardner, launched what turned out to be a lengthy, seven-year battle to purchase the property. Gardner was the great grandson of Judge James L. Webb and the grandson and namesake of Governor O. Max Gardner. His father, O. Max Gardner, Jr., was born in the home in 1922. In addition, Gardner lived in the home in the early 1950's with his mother and father, Max Jr., and Sara Hoyle Mull Gardner.
The fate of Webbley was finally resolved on July 7, 1989, when Max III and his wife purchased the home and the remaining three vacant lots adjacent to Webbley for $300,000. In addition thereto, they also agree to release F.W.G., Inc., and its officers and stockholders from any and all potential civil claims that they could or might have asserted against them.