The Fuquay-Varina area, first known as “Piney Woods”, over time, became “Sippihaw” recalling the Native Americans who once roamed this locale. In 1750, William Fuquay, a Frenchman, purchased 1,000 acres for $500 from the Lord’s Proprietors of England. One of William’s descendants is credited with the name “Fuquay”; the name “Varina” arises from a love story ascribed to J. D. “Squire” Ballentine. Beginning in the mid 1800, the importance of a mineral spring began to flow deeply through, both, Main and Broad Streets.
Plowing his fields one day, Stephen Fuquay the great-grandson of William Fuquay, unearthed an effervescent spring of crystal waters. He came to believe that this vibrant spring had medicinal properties. Stephen spread the word, and the supposed curing effects of this bubbling water quickly became known far and wide.
Sometime after the spring’s discovery, J.D. Ballentine of the region enlisted in the Civil War. It was the custom of the day for young ladies to write letters of support to soldiers. Ballentine began receiving letters signed “Varina” from Virginia Arey of Fayetteville. This was, perhaps, a pen name taken from Varina Davis, wife of Jefferson Davis President of the Confederacy. After the war, Ballentine searched for his “Varina”, found her, they fell in love and married; he persisted in calling her Varina.
Ballentine, in the late 1800’s, began a school overlooking the spring and became known as “Squire” Ballentine. He opened a post office and a mercantile company both named Varina. In 1900 with the spring at its peak, John A. Mills, a neighboring lumberman, equipped his railcars for “Moonlight Excursions”; tourists came “taking the waters”. Large numbers gathered, especially, for Easter and Fourth of July Celebrations. Everyone had to drink the water; some even purchased jimmy jugs of this “pick-me-up” tonic to cart home. Soon hotels and boarding houses were built to accommodate the crowds. The popularity of the spring and the availability of the railroad continued to bring expansion.
In 1902 with a nod to Stephen Fuquay’s celebrated spring, Sippihaw and its post office were renamed “Fuquay Springs”; yet, incorporation did not come until 1909. Later the Broad Street district along with the railroad junction established a post office. This spot adopted the name Varina that had been cast off by the Main Street area; this neighborhood, just two miles north, did not incorporate. However, it was at this depot that many travelers disembarked pursuing the health-giving waters.
In the early 20th Century, southern Wake County began experiencing a new kind of growth. Tobacco farmers, with their “high-stepping horses”, migrated to this area from Granville and surrounding counties to escape a condition known as “Granville Wilt”. These farmers saw their tobacco crops thrive in the area’s soil; a new cash crop began to emerge taking the place of cotton. The locals took notice. Warehouses were built to auction the golden leaf; better employment opportunities became available. On June 1, 1963, the two prospering communities incorporated as one municipality combining the names Fuquay and Varina.
The private property, on which the historic spring was first discovered, was acquired by the town of Fuquay-Varina in 2010. These grounds have now become a tranquil respite, and the soothing waters of the beloved spring continue to be a source of healing.