A glimpse into the past, hope for the future

living history, old stone house, Granite Quarry NC

Living history.

By Bruce Stambaugh

I parked the van on the 21st Century side of the road and walked with my wife and our host couple across the two-lane highway back to 1766. The combination of the cold winter air and the smoke from several campfires immediately invigorated our senses and drew us in like kids to candy.

It was Christmas 18th Century style at the Old Stone House in the appropriately named village of Granite Quarry, North Carolina. The massive stones that formed the large, two-story house had been quarried a short distance away. A cast of volunteers decked out in period attire for their chosen character roles held me spellbound at every station.

The ladies at the beehive oven kept producing fresh-baked goodies for visitors to sample. The cornbread was pretty tasty. Members of the Mecklenburg Militia caroused around quietly spinning yarns that spanned generations. Still, they did their duty. To my knowledge, no one was arrested for pilfering sweet bread or inciting unrest.

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The militia’s cotton tents appeared flimsy and insufficient to keep out the cold for their camp over. Indeed, a spy told me they all intended to sleep in the comfort of the little log cabin outbuilding that housed a book sale for the event. Given the bite in the late afternoon air, I couldn’t blame them.

The old granite house stood proud and impressive, having been restored 50 years earlier. Its 22-inch walls kept the interior warm in the winter and cool in the summer.

We stepped into the living room to time-appropriate music as our guide rattled off detail after detail of what life was like three centuries ago. Though this house was large and elegant even by today’s standards, life was demanding. The family and their indentured servants and slaves always had plenty to do merely to ensure day-to-day survival.

The children in our group weren’t too impressed with the straw ticking that served as the mattress on the old rope bed. “Sleep tight and don’t let the bedbugs bite” took on a practical meaning to them. The guide demonstrated the sizeable wooden key for tightening the ropes that served as slats to hold the mattress. The herb tansy was interspersed with the straw to keep most of the bugs away. We all laughed when a stinkbug crawled out onto the ticking.

Upstairs was plain and noticeably cooler since the only heat came from the first-floor fireplaces. A slave squeezed into a wall space behind the massive kitchen fireplace to keep the fire going overnight.

Since the builder of the house had migrated south from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, he modeled his home after the ones he knew. The spacious clapboard kitchen was attached to the main house, wherein that era the kitchen was a separate building at most southern homes.

Old Stone House, Granite Quarry NC

Will the door to the past help guide us into a better future?

The kitchen was the engine that ran the household. Here everything from cooking to spinning to laundry to bathing took place. Since the youngest in the family got the last bath using the same water as the others, you didn’t want to “throw the baby out with the bathwater.” The guide mused how we still use sayings without knowing their real origin.

In warmer weather, bathing took place in the stream that ran through the deciduous woods behind the house. Likely there was no lingering in that outdoor bathing arrangement.

I marvel at this kind of living history. It allows us to stand in the present, glimpse the past, and long for a better life for all future generations everywhere.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2018

8 Comments

Filed under architectural photography, Christmas, column, family, food photography, friends, history, human interest, photography, rural life, writing

8 responses to “A glimpse into the past, hope for the future

  1. Gail B.

    How very interesting. Hardier times and people too; they paved the way to our comfort.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. yes, i so agree with your last lines, especially )

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Throughly enjoyed today’s post and pictures. Delighted to see the woodwork around the doors, windows and also the chair rail, match exactly to our home, a fieldstone house built around 1830, also by Lancaster immigrants. Only our original owners only moved a little further west of Lancaster, to the mountains of central PA. I’ve always wondered how they built these stone houses without the assistance of cranes and modern tools! Know of any books on this subject?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Claudia. I’ve always been impressed with the Lancaster houses, too, and curious about the building processes. I’m sure if you Googled it, you could find some interesting articles.
      All the best,
      Bruce

      Like

  4. Pamela lakits

    Bruce, not sure you will see this post on your blog but i want to thank you for sharing one of our historical homes. I volunteer at the Oliver Miller Homestead in South Park (south hills of Pittsburgh). The home is also two story and looks much like this one in North Carolina. We have ladies who spin, a gentleman who weaves, black smith”s, craftsmen and along with myself, cooks, inside at the kitchen fireplace and outside at the beehive oven. We dress in period clothing and talk of the same time period and the Miller’s involvement in the whiskey rebellion. I love being part of something so important as our American heritage. If your ever up this why stop by some Sunday and let us take in back in time.

    Liked by 1 person

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