William Berry Kearney Obituary  

By Elder Joshua E. Mewborn, February 1952

“Elder W.B. Kearney, son of J.J. Kearney and Celia Howell Kearney, was born January 28, 1884, and died December 2, 1951. He was married to Miss Betsy Johnson November 29, 1905. To this union were born 11 children, 8 sons and 3 daughters; 28 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren also survive.

He united with the Church at Mewborn’s the second Saturday in July, 1905, and he was baptised by Elder Thomas B. Lancaster on the following Sunday morning. He was licensed to preach at the November meeting, 19l4, and he was ordained to the full work of the ministry at the November meeting, 1917, by a presbytery consisting of Elders T.B. Lancaster, J.C. Hooks, and D.A. Mewborn.

He was called to serve the church at Bear Creek in the Town of LaGrange during the year of 1919, and served this church until 1937. He was called to serve the church at Sandy bottom, Lenoir Co., N.C. in the year 1919, and he continued to serve this church until his death. Upon the death of Elder T.B. Lancaster, in 1925, he was called to serve both the churches at Nahunta until Elder Gardner’s death, after which he served as long as he lived. At Mewborn’s Church, he served with the writer in a joint capacity until his death. He served the Church at Bear Creek for a period of 18 years, Sandy Bottom, 33 years, and Mewborn’s 26 years. He also served the church at Hadnots Creek in Cararet County, for several years.

Elder Kearney had served as Moderator of the Contentnea Association for the years 1832 through 1936. He always attended the Union Meetings, Associations and all nearby churches. He was never known to miss any of the meetings when not providentially hindered.

He was sober in mind and conduct. His word and his integrity was never questioned. He provided well for his household, and the conduct of both he and his companion was a near perfect as could be before their children. His wife met every requirement of that in the home, and as that of an undershepherd as prescribed and directed in and according to 1 Timothy 2:11. He had a good report from them that are without.

Elder Kearney was sound in both faith and doctrine, and he contended earnestly for that faith which was once delivered to the saints. He was determined, throughout his entire ministry of a period of 37 years, to know nothing among his churches other than Jesus Christ and Him crucified. He earnestly and unflinchingly taught, as he was also fully persuaded that what God had promised, He was able to perform.

Elder Kearney was a gifted and excellent singer, and he strived to improve the singing among the churches which he visited and especially those which he served. He was an humble man, and was never at his best, neither felt his best until he had given his Savior full credit for every good and perfect gift, and as being the Author and Finisher of our faith.

His funeral was conducteed by Elders J.B. Roberts, W.E. Turner, R.B. Denson and W.C. Edwards at Mewborn’s Church on Tuesday, December 4, there being a large concourse of brethren and friends present. He was laid to rest in the church cemetery. And we felt to say in the language of the apostle, “that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bin with Him.” (1 Thess. 4:13 14) “ Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord, yea henceforth saith the Spirit that they may rest from their labors and their works do follow them.” (Rev. 14:`13. (Elder J.E. Mewborn)”


Writings by Elder Wm. Berry Kearney and other information compiled by his Great Grandson, Walter William Edwards included in these offerings. Berry was the third child of J. James & Celia Jane Howell Kearney. He was the middle of three sons and was the second to marry. Their first home was a small three room structure, with a kitchen off-set with a porch that was uncovered, connecting the two. He, his father ,and brothers Jim and Stephen, built the house. It was situated east of the main house, next to the Mitchell line about 125 yrds. south of the rd. now called the Preacher Kearney road. After a few years J. James purchased part of the Johnson farm and Berry moved his family to that location. Aunt Betsy inherited a share of the Johnson land and she and Berry purchased land around it, built a new home for the family. The house is now occupied by his son, Joshua and wife Betty, on the east side of the Free Gospel Rd. His first house has been moved twice, once west of the main house and more recently behind the home of Janet Kearney Jones Ham west of Davis Road.

One of the stories I have heard it that J. James Kearney gave all his boys a mule when they got married. Uncle Berry’s mule was named “Maude” . Maude had an unusual long life for a mule and when she got to old and stiff to work, Uncle Berry “Retired Maude”. She was allowed to run loose all over the neighborhood. Occasionally she would wander off prompting neighbors to advise the Kearneys of her whereabouts. Some of the children would fetch her. She reportedly lived to the age of 39.

Berry, as he was called, was married to Betsy Johnson Kearney, the daughter of William D. and Rachael Betty Newsome. William’s parents were Henry W. and Elizabeth Newsome Johnson and Rachael’s parents were Richard A. and Eleanor ( Best) Newsome. It has been told that they never quarreled before their children or other people. Now Uncle Berry was not a person that gave in to intimidation and one must assume, since Aunt Betsy had a strong side, they settled their differences in private.

Aunt Betsy had the following siblings:

I Richard A. (Toby) Johnson.
II Henry Johnson, never married.
III Johnny Johnson.
IV Ellen Johnson.
V Laura Johnson.
VI Jenny Johnson.
VII Ernest Johnson.

1. William Morgan Kearney, b. 2-16-1907 (1-9-1978) md. Carrie Wade b. 8-7-1906 (8-26-1981) on dec. 14, 1925, dau. of Vander and Bertie Van Buren Lewis Wade. (See William and Carrie's obituary as published in the "Landmark" elsewhere in these notes.)

1A. Ruby Kearney, b. 9-16-1926, md. Clyde Barker
1B. Wade Harper Kearney, b. 4-4-1928, md. Eppie
1C. William (Bill) Kearney, b. 7-21-1931, md. Grant
1D. Paul Kearney, b. 6-24-1936, md. Shirley Mozingo
1E. Betty Jane Kearney, b. 5-16-1934, md. Elwood Eugene Cox, b. 6-27-1934. son of William Clyde and Fannie Lucretia Gardner Cox.

1. David Jonathan Kearney, b. 2-5-1911 (7-16-1970) md. Rilla Butts, b. 11-12-1913 dau, of Richard and Emma Butts.

3. Annie Kearney , b. ? md. Lehman Ginn, son of Jack Ginn.
3A. L.B. Ginn, b. 11-13-1930, md. Almair Blanton.

4. Jim Berry Kearney, b. 5-31-1914, md. Fannie Lee Butts, 11-24-1919 (d. 10-18-1999), dau. of Walter and Josephine Ham Butts.

4. Nellie Kearney, b. 10-27-1912 (3-6-1997) md. Jim Berry Carter, b. 7-17-1916, son of Berry and Polly Ham (Mitchell) Carter.
5A. Marie Carter, b. 8-1-1938. Md. Harry Carlyle
5B. Linda Carter, 5-22-1945, md. Wayne Sauls., 1st. Ronald Rose 2nd.
5C. Jim Berry Carter, Jr., b. 2-28-1942, md. Janice Caruthers, 1st., Baraber, 2nd.

5. Joseph Daniel Kearney, b. 7-13-1916, (2-1-1985) md. Ethelene Wells, b. 4-7-1916 (4-6-1981) dau. of William L. and Annie Ham Wells.
6. Walter Bruce Kearney, b. 1920, md. Ester Holloman

7. JOHN MOSES KEARNEY, I, b. 1-2-1922,d 1-1-1985, md. Mary Elizabeth Dawson, b., 10-2-1919, dau. of Benjamin Thomas & Mary E. Williams Dawson.
John Moses Kearney, I, one of many Kearneys referred to as ?Johnny?. This Johnny was unique by his very attributes and personality. Johnny was the type of person that most everyone tries to become, but most fail. I never heard him utter a curse wo4d, never heard him criticize anyone, never heard him speak loudly or disrespectfully to anyone, he was a religious man but never argued relition or pushed his beliefs or opinions on others. His only vice to my knowledge was his use of tobacco.

Johnny loved music and sports and as with many of us growing up in Greene County in the 30?s, 40?s, 50?s, about the only kind of music played locally was ?County, Bluegrass and Gospel.? Johnny, his brothers Joshua and Edmund were self taught guitar, mandolin and banjo pickers. They spend many hours in their youth playing together. They had a cousin, Fred Kearney, who learned to play fiddle that rounded out their family band. They practiced in vacant houses, barns and each others home and soon local neighbors started coming to their sessions that led to entertaining at local stores, barn dances, etc. Other musicians and singers began to join in, including this writer. Eventually the band won first prize at the N.C. State Fair and through the years won other awards. They really never turned professional but Johnny and Joshua were once featured on a radio program in Kinston, N.C. One time they took along Fred?s Uncle Cleveland Ham, who as an old time banjo picker. Uncle Cleveland being a guess was ask to play two tunes. ? He played ?Uncle Pen? twice.

The only sport available to youth in those days was ?Baseball?.Because of his quite demeanor he never received the recognition as a player he should have. The Kearney Family produced several ?County Ball Player? who were a ?notch? above ( I might be prejudice) the average. Johnny might arguably have been the best. He was a member of the LaGrange Semi-pro team that played area military teams during the 1940?s. He was a pitcher, relying mostly on control and brains. When not pitching he was called on pinch hit and play right field. He was not a long ball hitter, but put the ball in play.

Johnny had the ability to ?standout? in his music and other areas, however, that was not ?Johnny?. YOU take the bows, I will just be part of the team. A broken shoulder in 1949 ended his baseball and arthritis slowed in ability in music. In 1984 his doctors were doing a preliminary test for a knee replacement when they discovered inoperable lung cancer. He died on Jan 1. 1985.

Johnny was the eight of eleven children born to William Berry and Betsy Johnson Kearney. He completed his elementary schooling at Shine School and attended Snow Hill School, stopping short of completing.

On April 12, 1941 he married Many Elizabeth Dawson and to them were born three children. They also raised Mary?s nephew (foster child) as their own. (children covered below). During most of their productive lives they were farmers although they did operate country grocery stores, worked as a meat cutter part time, but in 1967 settled on farm land Johnny inherited and built them a new home. This couple had a lot of respect for each other and worked closely together until his death. Mary completed courses in nursing and worked as a nurses assistant at Lenior Memorial Hospital for several years and then Howell?s Child Care. She still does volunteer work at Howells.

NOTE: The facts in the above narrative were supplied by the family of John Moses Kearney, I . the reporting of his characteristics, talents and personality is a summation of information obtained through interviews and personal knowledge.
Johnny was always a kind and generous friend to me. (Max)
Their children:
8A. William Thomas Kearney.
8B. Kenneth Ray Kearney, md. Eva Stancil, dau of Edwin and Pearl Stancil.
8C. Sarah Elizabeth Kearney, md. Leslie Edward Chadwick, son of Kleber and Sally Chadwick. (Div), md. Robert W. Hoover, son of Eugene & Thelma Hoover.

8. Joshua Kearney, md. Betty Watson Kearney.
9A. Roger Kearney, md. Jean.
9B. Barry Kearney, md. ?

9. Edmund Kearney, b. 2-7-1927, md. Marjorie Peacock. Dau. of Leland & Tiny Mitchell Peacock
10A. Earl
10B Helen
10C Tiny
10D Betsy

10. Velma Kearney, md. Edward Taylor, son of Benjamin Taylor

11A Rhonda Taylor, md. Ronald Carlile.
        11Al. Ragen Lee Carlile
11B. Reynold Taylor, md. Catherine
Surname Projects A-L