Enslaved People, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Where we lived: Taylor’s Crossroads.

A plat included among Kinchen Taylor’s estate papers revealed the core of the man’s property.  With little difficulty, I matched waterways shown on one parcel with creeks running in modern Nash County. Fishing Creek forms its northern border with Halifax County, and Beaverdam Swamp flows into it a few miles northwest of the town of Whitakers. The hundreds of acres in the fork of these creeks belonged to Kinchen Taylor. For years I harbored a fantasy of hiring a prop plane to fly over this land while I scoured the ground for brick piers and broken chimneys and heaps of hewn logs and any other traces of Kinchen’s plantation.

Last year, I turned to the practical and learned that the I-house built by Kinchen’s son Kinchen Carter Taylor is not only still standing near Whitakers, but has been renovated and is occupied. After some sleuthing, I contacted the current resident, B.B., told him my interest in the place, and asked if I might be able to visit.  His response was quick and unequivocal: “Anytime.”

On disgracefully short notice, I emailed B.B. just before I went home last December. Would he have some time to show me around over the holidays? We made tentative plans for after Christmas and firmed them up a few days later. B.B. had to leave town for work, but his wife A. was more than happy to give me a tour.

On a sunny Saturday, I pointed my car north on US 301 and drove 40 minutes up to Whitakers. In the middle of town, I made a left and headed out Bellamy Mill Road toward Taylor’s Crossroads. Here’s the area on a 1918 map of Nash County:

Taylors XRoads

(A) marks the location of the largest chunk of Kinchen Taylor’s property at the fork of Fishing Creek and Beaverdam Swamp. (At some point the confluence was dammed to create Gum Lake shown above.) (B) is where Kinchen C. Taylor built his house, probably in the 1850s, on land inherited from his father called the Duncan Cain tract.

Taylors lived on the land well into the 20th century. In the 1980s, B.B.’s parents bought the house and surrounding acreage and set about repairing and renovating the abandoned dwelling, which looked like this:

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As set forth in Richard L. Mattson’s The History and Architecture of Nash County, North Carolina, “[t]his Greek Revival house symbolizes the role of the Taylor family in the early settlement of the Whitakers vicinity. It was built in the 1850s, probably by Kinchen Carter Taylor, whose father (also Kinchen Taylor) may have occupied a house (demolished) across the road. … Though deteriorating, this house remains one of Nash’s finest examples of the vernacular Greek Revival. The facade includes such notable features as end chimneys with tumbled-brick shoulders, moulded gable returns, and heavy square porch columns with simple square capitals. The central-hall plan is entered through original double doors framed by sidelights and transom. The rear kitchen ell, which may have been moved up to the house at a later date, includes an engaged porch, close eaves, and a nine-over-six windows. … The house stands at the northwest corner of Taylor’s Crossroads. Located well back from the road and shaded by a cluster of oak trees, the Kinchen Carter Taylor House still evokes the image of the plantation seat it once was.”

A.B. warmly welcomed me when I pulled up beside the house. She graciously shared not only the photo above, but a map drawn by Kinchen C. Taylor’s nearly 100 year-old grandson that showed the locations of surrounding outbuildings, groves and pastures. Where possible, the character of the original house has been preserved in its interior, and I could not help but wonder if my Taylors, Green and Fereby, who had belonged to Kinchen C.’s father, had ever walked where I did. Even if not, they surely knew this house and were intimately familiar with its inhabitants.

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Many thanks to Mark Bunn for alerting me that this house is still standing and putting me in touch with its owners and to them for opening their doors to give me a glimpse of my family’s world.

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Enslaved People, Land, North Carolina, Other Documents, Photographs

Dr. Ward’s house. And me.

After my recent rediscovery of a Confederate map that revealed the locations of several plantations significant to my genealogical research, I began searching for more information about John Lane, Silas Bryant and David G.W. Ward‘s landholdings. Pretty quickly, I found a link to a copy of a nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places Inventory, submitted for the Ward-Applewhite-Thompson house near Stantonsburg, North Carolina. This Greek Revival house, dating back to about 1859, was owned and occupied by several of the area’s leading planters — including “country doctor” D.G.W. Ward, who purchased it in 1857 — and it and its outbuildings are little changed from their antebellum forms.

As I read the detailed architectural description of the house and its setting, a tiny kernel of recognition began to form in the back of my mind. A big, white, two-story house? Set well back from the road? Just outside Stantonsburg? Could it …?

I scoured the maps attached to the nomination form, trying to lay them over the current topography. State Road 1539 … that would be Sand Pit Road today …  just east of a fork in the road and just north of the Norfolk & Southern Railroad (which was not there in Ward’s time) … and there it is, just like I remember.

sand pit road

Yes. Like I remember.

I’ve BEEN in this house. Many times, though long ago.

Growing up, my sister and I were very close to my father’s sister’s daughters. Our local family was quite small, but my cousin’s father came from a big family with deep Wilson County roots. Her grandmother had nearly a dozen siblings — whom we also called “aunt” and “uncle” — and we were often invited to attend their family gatherings. I remember best the delectable Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners gathered around tables groaning with food, but there were also the annual 4th of July family reunions at Aunt Minnie’s out in the country near Stantonsburg. The Barneses were tenant farmers for an absentee landowner and rented his large two-story house. We’d pull off the road into a sandy circular drive and park under the trees alongside cars with New York and New Jersey plates. I vividly remember my cousin’s great-uncles and cousins tending a barbecue pit in which a split pig roasted, chickens strutting among them.  A screened side porch protected platter after platter of home-grown, home-cooked goodness.  My memories of the interior of the house are vague: a central staircase, two large front rooms, the kitchen in back. (The staircase I remember mostly because, carefully tending a tall glass of lemonade, I missed a riser and slid down their length, smacking my ribcage against the steps and knocking the wind out of myself.)

I couldn’t believe it. It is exciting enough to identify D.G.W. Ward’s house and find that it is still standing, but to realize that I knew the house at which Appie and Mittie Ward had lived and worked as the enslaved children of their own father was uncanny.

IMG_4960Ward-Applewhite-Thompson House today.

Photo taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, February 2014.

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