ITEM OF THE WEEK – May 31, 2013

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Trout Drawing
In collaboration with GVT’s production of the Greenbrier Ghost, this week we are highlighting this drawing by Trout Shue – the man who killed Zona Heaster, also known “The Greenbrier Ghost.” The drawing was done while Trout was in prison and some of the images are quite disturbing.

 

YESTERDAY AND TODAY — RONCEVERTE ON TOUR

Lumber and the railroad fueled the development and growth of the Town of Ronceverte and the determination of its current citizens is fueling its rebirth.  Visitors are offered the opportunity to visit several historical sites during the Greenbrier Historical Society’s Lemonade and Lavender Tour to be held on Sunday, June 9, 2013 from 1 to 4:00 p.m.  Tickets for this tour as well as the traditional homes tour on Saturday, June 8 and the Gala at the Jarrett House on Friday, June 7 are available at the Greenbrier Historical Society’s North House, located at 301 West Washington Street in Lewisburg, the Greenbrier Convention and Visitors Bureau, located at 200 West Washington Street in Lewisburg.  Tickets for the Ronceverte tour will also be available at Edgarton Inn on the day of that tour.

IMG_5388  Thomas Edgar, the founder of Ronceverte, started building what has become known as “Edgarton” in 1810.  Col. Cecil Clay, who was instrumental in the incorporation of the Town of Ronceverte, lived there and Col. Best, superintendent of the St. Lawrence Boom and Lumber Company, added the Victorian embellishments circa 1885.  An excellent example of the Queen Anne style, it is now a Bed and Breakfast owned by Cathy King.  She will host visitors for lemonade and cookies as well as a tour of this interesting house.

The citizens of Ronceverte first gathered in outdoor public spaces such as the lumberyard for Sunday worship services.  On July 3, 1881, the Ronceverte Presbyterian Church formally organized under the leadership of Dr. M.L. Lacy (pastor of the Old Stone Presbyterian Church) on Monroe Avenue in Ronceverte.  Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and Baptists worshipped together in the church until 1882, when the Presbyterians purchased the interests of the other denominations.

In 1923, the congregation moved to its new building (and current location) on the corner of Locust Street and Greenbrier Avenue.   Major additions to the property include a pipe organ purchased by the congregation in 1950 from The Greenbrier Resort, a manse next door completed to house the minister’s family in 1958, and a Tiffany stained glass window behind the pulpit installed shortly after construction (additional stained glass windows were moved to this location from the original church building).

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The Methodist heritage of the Trinity United Methodist Church goes back to at least 1784 when Methodism was first organized in the Greenbrier Valley at Rehoboth, near Union in Monroe County.  The Greenbrier Circuit of the Methodist Episcopal Church was established in 1787.  Split by the issue of slave-holding, the Methodist Episcopal Church was divided between north and south.    In 1939, Methodist union was accomplished when the Methodist Episcopal Church, the Methodist Protestant Church, and the Methodist Episcopal Church South united to form the Methodist Church.  In 1941, the West Main Street Methodist Church also merged with Trinity.

The building which Trinity now occupies was built by the Methodist Episcopal Church, South,  beginning in 1921 and was first occupied on September 17, 1922.  The new pastor, Rev. George Hazel reported on the new church saying, “It’s a compliment (sic) to our people and an ornament to the town.”

The Episcopal Church of the Incarnation was built in the tradition of mid-Nineteenth Century Episcopal Churches popularized by American architect Richard Upjohn.  This church features board and batten siding, Gothic-inspired bargeboard trim, and lancet arched windows.  The church dates from 1882, making it one of the earliest church buildings in Ronceverte.  In 1937, it was moved from Edgar Avenue to its present location.

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The Town of Ronceverte is undergoing a re-birth.  Nowhere is this more evident than the restored businesses located on a small section of street known as Frankford Road.  Greenbrier Cut Flowers and Gifts occupies one of the three buildings.  It was originally a pharmacy and its  restoration included saving the original tile floor and stained glass windows.  Hersman’s Safety Products occupies the next storefront, which once housed the First National Bank, and an ice cream shop is planned for the third.  Walking around the streets of Ronceverte is a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

MAGNIFICENT VIEWS AND STONE GROUND GRAIN ON 2013 HOMES TOUR

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Maple Hill, the home of James Jeter, certainly lives up to its name as one climbs a winding, one-lane, country road through some of the most beautiful farm land in the State of West Virginia to arrive on a hill top with magnificent views.  Maple Hill is one of the featured homes on the on the Greenbrier Historical Society’s Lemonade and Lavender Homes Tour to be held on Saturday, June 8, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tickets for the home tour are available at the Greenbrier Historical Society’s North House, located at 301 West Washington Street in Lewisburg, the Greenbrier Convention and Visitors Bureau, located at 200 West Washington Street in Lewisburg or at each house on the day of the tour.

Mr. Jeter, a native of Charleston, WV has been involved in historic preservation and antique collection from his youth.  He restored the Putney house in Malden where his law offices were situated for many years.  It was decorated and furnished with fine antiques.

DSC02237Jeter restored and sold Grey Rock Farm, a historic home in Lewisburg. He then purchased his present charming 20th century house and 350 acre working farm with fabulous county views.  He has filled his home with a life-time collection of fine paintings and prints, children’s furniture, books and toys, unusual local furniture and rare items with unique provenances.

DSC02234He has added his own wainscoting and chair rail to make the house more architecturally appealing and cut as well as applied and painted his own unique stencils.  The tiny 1850 log house near the back of the property was moved from Fairlea and serves as space for reflection and refreshment.

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Whether it is from the views from the back deck with a tree growing up through the center or the fabulous collections within, visitors will be breathless when they leave Maple Hill.

Back down in the valley along Second Creek is Reed’s Mill.  It was built in 1791 by Archibald McDowell.  He also built a saw mill and a blacksmith shop to provide services to his large holdings.  The mill remained in the McDowell family for over 100 years until it was bought by the Reed family.  It has been in continuous operation all this time grinding corn, wheat, rye, and buckwheat for frontier settlers and today’s gourmet cooks. The mill slowly grinds whole grain kernels on stone burrs turned by water power.

Today, Reed’s Mill, owned by Larry Mustain, offers native whole grains grown on local land and processed by hand with absolutely no additives or preservatives used.

In the back of Reed’s Mill is The Everette Hogsett Broom Factory, one of two in existence in West Virginia, with equipment manufactured in Schenectady, NY before the civil war.  Consisting of six machines, they clean the seeds off the broom corn, cut it into a uniform size, wrap it to the handles, soak the hurl, and clamp and stitch the broom.  Mr. Jack Fissori is the current broom maker producing whisk brooms, children’s brooms, hearth brooms, utility brooms and full sized brooms.

Visitors will want to pick up some buckwheat flour and a hearth broom as souvenirs of these wonderful visits.

Archaeology at the North House

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On Thursday, May 30th, the Greenbrier Historical Society will host an archaeological team from the West Virginia Division of Highways. The team, comprised of Archaeologist Jen Williamson, Archaeologist Amanda Payne, Archaeologist Karen Reed, and Environmental Resource Specialist Karen Ebert Allen, will conduct testing as part of a Transportation Alternatives Grant to repair the Greenbrier Historical Society’s Wagon House in Lewisburg.  As part of the Wagon House project, the Greenbrier Historical Society is planning on installing a handicap accessible walkway from the North House to the Wagon House. The archaeological team will conduct a phase I archaeological survey on the areas where the proposed sidewalk will be constructed – including both shovel testing and metal detector work. This testing will ensure that the construction will not disturb any artifacts that may linger beneath the surface. The public is invited to stop by the North House, located at 301 West Washington Street in Lewisburg, throughout the day to watch the archaeological team. For more information, contact GHS at 304.645.3398 or info@greenbrierhistorical.org

Item of the Week – May 24, 2013

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May 24, 2013 – This week’s item is a ledger book from the Blue Sulphur Springs Resort. The ledger is from the 1830s and includes names of prominent individuals, such as John A. North.

Update: The ledger might also be from a store near Blue Sulphur Spring rather than the resort itself. The time period fit for it to be the resort, but the transactions make more sense if it were a general store or outpost. We LOVE that our “Item of the Week” sparks discussion and allows us to learn more about the items we have!

Recreating an Early Settlement

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The Montgomery Cabin, a featured house on the Lemonade and Lavender Homes Tour sponsored by the Greenbrier Historical Society on June 8, 2013 from 10 to 5:00 p.m., is owned by Herbert and Katy Montgomery and is being developed as a late 1700s to early 1800s homestead by several generations of the Montgomery family.   Currently three buildings are on the property: the main house comprised of a reconstructed cabin using logs of two 1700s structures on the property, a barn, and woodshed.

The cabin was moved 1500 feet by Herbert Montgomery.  He and his sons used a log outbuilding to expand the original structure.  The imposing fire place, which dominates the living area, was constructed of stones not original to this cabin but from another structure on the farm.  A sleeping loft, part of the original structure, is in the main cabin.  An addition, which includes a kitchen/dining area, three bedrooms, and two baths, was added to the cabin.
Storm and Montgomery Cabin 038A striking feature is the large board and batten door which serves as the entry to the cabin.  A wrap-around porch is just the place to relax and the peeled log posts add a touch of whimsy.  Future plans include adding structures such as a smoke house, summer kitchen, and blacksmith’s shop.

Storm and Montgomery Cabin 040Dr. John Montgomery and his son, Herbert, purchased adjoining land in the 1970s which included 220 acres of a 400 acre grant given to John Hogshead/Hogsett.  At one time four log structures existed on the property.  Genealogical records of the Hogshead/Hogsett family show this family owned 9,000 acres at one time on Second Creek.

Storm and Montgomery Cabin 044In addition to touring the cabin, visitors will find members of the Fiber Network busily spinning on the porch and food being cooked on an outdoor fireplace.

Tickets for the home tour are available at the Greenbrier Historical Society’s North House, located at 301 West Washington Street in Lewisburg, the Greenbrier Convention and Visitors Bureau, located at 200 West Washington Street in Lewisburg or at each house on the day of the tour. All of the homes on the tour are located in the country and most are on narrow, winding one lane roads.  Please take appropriate care.

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GHS Thanks April Members

The Greenbrier Historical Society would like to thank those who renewed their memberships or became first time members in April 2013.

  • Janie Ashley
  • Ruth Jackson Bailey
  • William Davis
  • Anice Nolen
  • Allan & Carol Olson
  • Mrs. Theodore Woodward
  • Jo Ann Yates
  • William O.E. Humphreys
  • Lynda Ann Azalde
  • Bill Harrah
  • Alison J. Simpson
  • Alfred & Ann Walker
  • Peggy Humphreys
  • S.J. Neathawk Lumber Inc.
  • Frances O’Brien
  • John & Floy Boyle
  • Virginia B. Blake
  • Dorsey Wilson
  • Michael & Genette Hill
  • Mary Fullen
  • Julia McDade
  • Alice Hanson
  • Larry & Frances Mustain

For more information on membership, contact the Greenbrier Historical Society at 304.645.3398 or info@greenbrierhistorical.org. The Greenbrier Historical Society and North House Museum, located at 301 West Washington Street in Lewisburg, WV, are open free to the public Monday – Saturday from 10am to 4pm.

Item of the Week – The North Prayer Stool

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Each week we will be featuring an artifact or document as our “Item of the Week” to be named on Friday! This prayer stool was brought to the United States from England in the early 1700s by Roger North, the brother of Lord North who was the Prime Minister of England during the American Revolution!  To see this amazing artifact and many others, visit the North House Museum Monday-Friday 10am-4pm!

The Cedars on Tour in June

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What do a romance novelist, a Congresswoman and Ambassador, and a lover of boxwoods have in common?  They were all the “lady of the house” at The Cedars. This wonderful property has a long and interesting history and will be one of the featured homes on the Greenbrier Historical Society’s Lemonade and Lavender Homes Tour to be held on Saturday, June 8, 2013 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tickets for the home tour are available at the Greenbrier Historical Society’s North House, located at 301 West Washington Street in Lewisburg, the Greenbrier Convention and Visitors Bureau, located at 200 West Washington Street in Lewisburg or at each house on the day of the tour.

The Cedars was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 through the efforts of Mr. and Mrs. Robert McCormack, the owners at that time.

According to the National Register nomination, The Cedars was begun in 1881 when Alexander McVeigh Miller brought his wife, Mittie Point Miller, to 10 acres land in North Alderson which had been given to him by his father, W. G. Miller.

The Millers began construction on a small unit of the house which grew into a large Victorian farm house.  It was likely built of the fine hardwood lumber then available in abundance from the old growth forests in the area.  The cornices above the interior doors and windows in the entry hall are apparently from that era and are Victorian in style.

Mrs. Miller lived there for many years and continued to write “romance novels”, a career which earned her the huge sum of more than $100,000 by 1910. A copy of her novel, “The Senator’s Bride” will be on display.  She was the real breadwinner in the family as her husband never found a career in which he could be successful and had meager earnings as a schoolteacher.  He did serve in the West Virginia State Senate from 1901 to 1909.  She divorced him for infidelity in 1908 and moved to Boston.

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The Cedars was unoccupied for a time until it was purchased in 1939 by Ruth Bryan Owen Rhode and her husband.  They lived there for 5 years and made changes to the house to remake it from a typical Victorian farmhouse to a more elegant and classical style.  They moved two old buildings to the site to be used as a guest house and horse barn.  They also added the large garage with the recreation room above, known to locals as the “ballroom”, to the west side of the house.

Mrs. Rhode was the daughter of William Jennings Bryan and was one of the most prominent women of this nation in her time.  In World War I, she served as a nurse.  After the war she had a successful career as a college teacher and lecturer.  In 1933, she was elected to the United States Congress from Florida.  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed her as Minster to Denmark where she is likely to have met her second husband, Captain Borge Rhode.

The next owners were Mr. and Mrs. Andrew McThenia.  Mrs. McThenia focused her attention on the landscaping of the estate.  Beginning in 1945, her planning and work involved the growing and use of hundreds of English boxwoods throughout the grounds.  Remnants of her efforts, including what may be the largest cypress tree in West Virginia, can be seen.

Day to day management and upkeep of the Cedars is currently entrusted to Victoria Harmon by the owners.  Ms. Harmon has overseen many infrastructure improvements such as installing a new heating system, bringing the electrical system up to code, recovering from the derecho damage, and making many repairs.  She has many more on her agenda as she labors to return this “work in progress” to its former glory.

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Rediscovered North House Well

Article By AmeriCorps member Kyle D. Mills

 A cold and cloudy October day found a small group of historians standing in a semi-circle, peering into a dark abyss. A combination of mystery, suspense, and uncertainty danced in the air with the falling autumn leaves. “I wonder what will be down there,” one person said, “you have done this before?” said another. Curious for the unknown, all stood in anticipation. “On rope!” one man said, then, descended into darkness.

This adventure started in September when I was looking at the old saltpeter trough we have stored in the Wagon House at the Greenbrier Historical Society and North House Museum. I stepped off the porch of the Wagon House and walked over the grate in the yard of the North House. It appeared to be a typical storm drain, but being a cave explorer, I am compelled to look into any hole in the ground I might come across. I looked into the drain and saw that there was moss growing on stacked stone walls, and I couldn’t see the bottom. I ran to my car, grabbed my caving lights, and shined them down the hole. I could see the bottom and realized what I was looking at was a well.

I came back into the archives and asked Mr. Jim Talbert what the history of the well out in the yard was. He looked at me strange and I could tell he was wondering what-in-the-world I was talking about. We out in the yard and shinned my light down the hole, we must have looked a little crazy to the NRCTC students who were standing around outside. Mr. Talbert became excited and informed me that no one knew that a well lied under the storm grate. Surely at one time someone with the Greenbrier Historical Society had to know that this was a well, but time passed and the well was forgotten about. Curiosity had gotten to us and plans were made to explore the well.Looking up from the bottom of the well.

The day finally came to explore the well. Using my vertical caving equipment, I rappelled into the well and discovered that the well is very well made. The bottom of the well is a six-foot-wide, six-foot-long, and five-foot-tall cistern blasted into the limestone bedrock. Evidence of the drilling and blasting process can be seen on the bedrock at the bottom of the well. Hand-hewn timbers have been constructed (similar to a log cabin) to form a platform to stack the wall rocks on. The walls are perfectly stacked flat rock in a circular pattern that seems to repeat itself after 5th layer, no mortar was used. The bottom of the well is dry and filled in with dirt and a small amount of surface debris. Also an old iron pipe extends about half way up from the bottom of the well. A shovel probe down about a foot showed that the soil continued deeper. In the bottom of the well I found two pieces of antique broken glass, chips of red brick, and a cave salamander (Eurycea   lucifuga). The total depth of the well is 19 feet.Bedrock, timbers, and stacked rock at the bottom of the well.

Research into the age of the well has not turned up any definitive time it was constructed. The most logical assumption would be that the well was built in the early 1820’s along with the construction of the North House, but this has not been proven. Another question is was the well constructed to be an open well, with a bucket lowered into a pool of water then drawn up? The circumference of the well and the size of the bedrock cistern at the bottom seemingly fit the dimensions for this style of well, but the absence of water in the bottom and iron pipe suggests that possibly a hand pump was at one time used. Two panoramic photographs of Lewisburg show the back of the North House and structures that appear to be at the well site. In the oldest picture, circa 1890-1900, a small shed appears to be over the well. In a later photo, circa 1902-1920, what appears to be a concrete platform with a hand pump is at the location of the well site. Possibly, the well was dug to be an open well and at a later time the hand pump was installed.

North House Well sketchNow the question is what to do with the well? The well is important to the North House’s history and should be preserved better than having a metal grate hiding it. Continuing research could provide more evidence of what the housing over the well looked like when the North House was a private residence. This housing could be reconstructed to be period correct and add to the aesthetics of the North House lawn.

For more information about the North House well, contact AmeriCorps member Kyle Mills at the Greenbrier Historical Society at 304.645.3398.