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|John and Susannah Cole were listed in the 1850 census of Cedar Creek District, Granville County, North Carolina, as ages 78 and 73 respectively. They were living with their daughter Hixey and her husband John White.|
|Doctor Cole had a tobacco factory in Franklinton, North Carolina.|
|John Nelson Cole was the son
of Doctor Cole and Mary Ann Jones Cole of Franklin County, North Carolina. He
and his sister Lucy Cole, who married William Henry Burwell, were the only
survivors among several children and were orphaned in childhood by the deaths of
both of their parents in 1859. Lucy, the elder, took on a maternal role toward
her brother, and even though they received care and encouragement from their
mother's Jones relatives until they reached adulthood, they formed a special
bond and remained very close throughout their entire lives.
John was educated at Horner Academy in Oxford, North Carolina, and then at Randolph-Macon College in Boydton, Virginia. Of a serious and devout nature, he became a Methodist minister. He first rode circuits in eastern North Carolina, and later became pastor of churches in Warrenton, Wilmington, Durham, and Rockingham. Roscoe L. Strickland, the father-in-law of John Cole's granddaughter, Lucy Cole Durham Strickland, told of attending, as a young man, a "protracted meeting" at the Mt. Pleasant Methodist Church and hearing John Cole preach.
John served on the board of trustees of Trinity College. A proponent of the church's responsibility to care for orphans, in 1898 he was appointed by the Bishop of the North Carolina Methodist Conference to the first committee to advise on the establishment of a Methodist orphanage. A charter was granted in 1899, and Rev. Cole was among the first trustees. The home opened in 1901 in Raleigh, and upon the death of the first superintendent in 1906, Rev. Cole was elected his successor. He served the orphanage with dynamic leadership during a period of rapid growth and development until his death in 1915.
A brochure commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Methodist Home for Children in 1974, quoted Rev. John N. Cole's philosophy as follows: "The first task in the making of an Orphanage is to make a home for the homeless orphan, and to fill, as nearly as possible, the office of parenthood to the fatherless orphan. Surely, it is the Great Father's will that every orphan child in its tender years shall have protection from an evil world, and that the office of parenthood shall be restored to him as nearly as possible. And surely, it is the will of the Great Father that the orphan child, destitute of estate, shall be educated and trained for citizenship, and for high purpose."
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