The Girl Scout Hut in Smithfield has been renamed the Rachel May Mattox Girl Scout Hut in honor and memory of the influential scout leader. She was instrumental in the construction of the hut many years ago in the Jaycee Kiddie Park on S. Second Street. She also helped lead the movement of bringing the Girl Scouts to Johnston County and Smithfield.
A former Girl Scout day camp adjacent to the hut was named after Mattox but the camp no longer exists.
According to a 1996 Smithfield Herald article written by Julia McCullers, Rachel Taylor graduated from Greensboro College in 1921 and planned to attend drama school in Chicago when her sister became seriously ill with tuberculosis. Rachael decided to stay near home and help with her sister’s care. She taught English and drama in Wendell where she met her future husband, Ben Mattox. They married in 1927 and had three children.
In 1934, they moved to Smithfield in the midst of widespread unemployment and hard times. She was appointed director of the Johnston County Work Projects Administration (WPA) and began to set up recreation sites in Clayton, Four Oaks, Smithfield and Selma.
According to the article, Rachel supervised 30 workers who were employed to oversee activities at playgrounds, churches and nurseries. In the late 1930’s the Smithfield Herald reported 350 people in Smithfield were participating in daily recreation activities at seven sites. She served with the Smithfield Woman’s Club from 1940-42 during WWII.
Around this time, the Smithfield Girl Scout organization was started. 71 girls signed up including 13 brownies, 43 intermediates and 15 seniors. She helped build the hut as a meeting place for the girls.
In 1943, Rachel and Ben Mattox were involved in a movement to start a Disciples of Christ Christian Church in Smithfield. By 1947, First Christian Church of Smithfield was organized and housed on N. Second Street. In 1958, the church moved to a new building.
In the early-1950’s, McCullers wrote that Mrs. Mattox became Smithfield’s first “Welcome Wagon Lady” and greeting new residents to the community. Rachel died of breast cancer in 1976.