Two Edney brothers moved into Henderson County in 1792 from Pasquotank County. They married two daughters of William Mills, an early settler.
The Rev. Samuel Edney married Eleanor Mills and Asa Edney married Sarah Mills.
The community of Edneyville is named for the Edney brothers.
The Rev. Samuel Edney, his wife Eleanor Mills Edney, and several of their descendants are buried at the Edney-Coston Cemetery off Coston Cemetery and South Mills Gap roads.
The cemetery is located on the original home place of the Rev. Samuel Edney.
Edney is known as the “circuit rider” and the first Methodist minister west of the Blue Ridge. The early Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury ordained Edney and remained a close friend. Asbury set up the circuit-riding system in the late 1700s, recruiting young preachers to travel by horseback to frontier Methodist congregations.
Edney was also a justice of the peace and established the first post office in Edneyville.
About 1810 he also began holding a school out of his home. This is one of the first schools in the county.
“He pioneered the camp meeting movement, which sprang out of the Great Revival of 1800,” according to historical files at Appalachian State University in Boone.
“He rode a big horse and carried a Bible, a Watts hymnal, pills and a pistol in his saddlebags,” records state. “He devoted his life to the people of the mountains, riding through the hills, baptizing the children, marrying the young and burying the dead.”
When he died in 1844, a lengthy obituary was placed in newspapers throughout North Carolina and eastern Tennessee.
The United Methodist Church erected a highway marker on U.S. 64 East indicating the grave site of Edney. The sign has disappeared.
A son of the Rev. Samuel Edney, Baylis (Balis, Baylus, Balous) McKendrick Edney, lived at the home place near the cemetery after his father’s death. He was a lawyer who traveled throughout Western North Carolina and had offices in several counties. He was described as an exceptional orator. He was good friend with many state leaders, including Zeb Vance of Buncombe County. He was also appointed as a U.S. consul to Palermo, Italy. He never married.
He was elected a state senator in 1858 and served through 1860.
He was a strong secessionist. He organized and served in the 25th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Company A, Edney’s Greys. He was appointed captain on the day of his enlistment. He declined to stand for re-election as captain in 1862, and resigned. He returned to Henderson County and spent the rest of the war as a strong Confederate, reporting to the governor and advising on activities in Western North Carolina.
Edney was killed at his home off South Mills Gap Road near the site of the cemetery. Much of what has been written and told about Balis Edney has been distorted through the years. It has been written that he was “killed by his own men.” This statement has been proven false. The only record of his death appears in the Samuel Edney family Bible that was passed down through the generations by descendants of Rufus Edney, a brother. The quill pen inscription in the Bible is difficult to decipher. It was mistakenly read to indicate that the date of his death was April 4, 1865. The actual date is April 21, 1865. According to the wording in the Bible, “B M Edney was killed by a bunch of robbers on the night of the 21st of April 1865 in the old field above J C Costons about 10 oclock.”
One descendant: “Yes indeed, the Yankees shot him, some say his own men shot him, they did not. It was Union soldiers that killed him.”
According to Civil War historian Terrell Garren’s research, at about 10 p.m. on the night of April 21, 1865, Balis Edney was the first casualty of the Union Army’s invasion of Henderson County. The Union Army entered Henderson County on the morning of April 23, 1865, about 34 hours after Edney was killed.
Another son of the Rev. Samuel Edney is also buried at the cemetery.
Samuel Rufus Edney was born March 26, 1816. Rufus Edney married Alphalby Maxwell on Jan. 3, 1841. He owned a substantial amount of property in the Edneyville community. He was a farmer through the middle of the 1850s, farming land inherited from his father on both sides of South Mills Gap Road and across today’s U.S. 64 East. By 1860 he had opened a store in Edneyville. He was the third postmaster of Edneyville, following his father and brother, James Mills Edney. He was postmaster from 1846 to 1851 and from Feb. 19, 1856, until after the Civil War. He was a justice of the peace (magistrate) and his name can be found on many marriage records in the county. As a justice of the peace, he also served on the county board of Pleas and Quarter Sessions (similar to board of commissioners) prior to the Civil War. He was the administrator for his father’s estate and also appointed administrator of the estates of Calvin J. Edney in 1862 and Baylus “Balis” M. Edney in 1865. He and his first wife had six children. His wife died in 1877. He then married Amanda Delola Edney on April 28, 1878. They had six children. He died Nov. 24, 1897.
In addition to Baylus Edney, there are three other Confederate veterans buried at the cemetery.
William Baxter Coston enlisted in the 25th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. A, Edney’s Greys. He was wounded at the Battle of King’s School House (Oak Grove, French’s Field) during the Seven Days Battles in Virginia. He was discharged in 1863. He re-enlisted in April 1864. He was captured at the Battle of Five Forks during the Appomattox Campaign, a prisoner at Point Lookout, Md., and released in June 1865. He died in 1910.
Thomas Albert Edney enlisted in the 25th N.C. Infantry Regiment, Co. A, Edney’s Greys. He surrendered at Appomattox Court House. He died in 1919.
Albert Jefferson Neely enlisted in the 65th Regiment N.C. Troops (6th Regiment N.C. Cavalry), Co. D. He was captured near Kinston, a prisoner at Point Lookout, Md., and released in June 1865. He died in 1923.