Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Oliver House (Milton, Caswell County, North Carolina)

Restoration of the Oliver House

By John & Cathy Giannini November 12. 2021

Published by Milton Renaissance Foundation

Before we bought it in early 2003, the Oliver House was essentially unaltered and abandoned for the last 35 years.  Constructed in 1845, the small cottage  (15' X 30') is very visible, and one of only four 1-story Greek Revival style houses built on high basements with Italianate porches in Milton. At the time it had only four rooms, ghost lines for the front and back porches, a central chimney, a hip roof and four 9 over 9 double hung sash windows.  The wooden floor on the first level had rotted away leaving only dirt and a very low ceiling that would not meet current code.  No bathroom or kitchen were attached. There was also no way to get to the second floor except for a ladder. The water well just outside the back door had caved in. To use the phrase "dilapidated" or "on the edge of collapse" was an understatement, but it was calling our name so we signed on the dotted line.

Photo by Siler Rothrock, who did the restoration work. 

Photo by Siler Rothrock. 

Looking at the positives, the Oliver House is in Milton, NC, historic district and had a "new" metal roof (12 years old). Two of the three mantels and most of the chair and floor moldings were still intact. The sash windows still opened and the four original doors were still on the property.  The outside, second floor weathered boards were salvageable. We could see possibilities!  Truth be told, we could have torn down the whole cottage and replaced it in less time and for less money, but we were in it for the real restoration process.

Just two blocks from the historic Thomas Day House, the Oliver House was placed by it's previous owners under Preservation North Carolina  (PNC) restrictive covenants. PNC is a statewide, non-profit corporation, whose mission is to protect and promote sites important to the diverse heritage of North Carolina.  We used the Department of Interior guidelines in the cottage's restoration because they offered five years of federal and state tax credits to help pay for the work. The process involved a good deal of paperwork and photos taken for validation of diligent progress and now when we look back through the pictures and writings it is daunting to see all the work and love we put into the cottage's restoration. 

The Oliver House's basement first floor was three-brick deep with walls crumbing from moisture and exposure. We hired a structural engineer to give us advice on immediate foundation stabilization. Opting to replace all four walls, one at a time, created the appearance of the cottage walking on stilts! 

Thursday, November 11, 2021

"Watkins & Bullock" Roxboro, North Carolina

I believe I understand why a member of the Watkins family (Anne Elizabeth Watkins) recalled a John Bullock as the partner of William Cobb Watkins in the Roxboro building supply business of "Watkins & Bullock." The elder William Cobb Bullock (1827-1873) has a son named John Bullock (1855-1928). Census records show this John Bullock to be a "Lumberman." And this John Bullock has a son named William Cobb Bullock (1888-1944) who stated his occupation as "Retail Lumberman" in Roxboro, North Carolina.

So, which W. C. Bullock was the original partner in the W. C. Watkins and W. C. Bullock Roxboro building supply business? Could it extend back as far as 1873?

And to complicate matters, the mother of William Cobb Watkins (1877-1932) is Anne Chesley Bullock (1853-1939), and his paternal grandmother is Anne Elizabeth Bullock (1833-1913)! Thus the Bullock and Watkins families of Roxboro are closely related.


Footnote: The younger William Cobb Bullock (1888-1944) married Nannie Cabell Moore, and they had at least three children: Nancy Cabell Bullock (1916-2014); Carr Moore Bullock (1919-2001); and William Cobb Bullock, Jr. (1921-1944 -- killed in World War II).

Source: Richmond S. Frederick, Jr. Post to the Reminiscing in Roxboro Facebook Page, 11 November 2021.

Image: The Roxboro Courier (Roxboro, North Carolina), January 1924.

Saturday, November 06, 2021

Tribute to Bartlett Yancey, Jr. (1828)


Tribute to Bartlett Yancey, Jr.

Hillsborough, North Carolina

Wednesday, September 10 [1828].

For the Recorder.

At a meeting of the Orange Bar, held at the Court House on Monday the 8t inst. after the adjournment of court, his honor Judge Ruffin was called to the chair, and John W. Norwood acted as secretary. Mr. Nash rose and thus explained the subject of the meeting.

We are met, sir, to pay as a body our tribute of respect to the memory of our deceased friend and brother Bartlett Yancey. I hold in my hand certain resolutions to this effect, but before I lay them before you, I beg to retain you with a few remarks. It is now, I think, twenty years or more since my acquaintance with Mr. Yancey commenced. He was then just entered into the profession -- young, unknown, and poor; but by a steady attention to business, and vigorous prosecution of his profession, he had built up for himself a name and a fortune. At the time of his death he was no longer unknown or poor. Though still a young man, as a professional man we all have known him; you and I sir, for a longer space of time than any other member of this bar with one exception, and we have know him as a high minded, honorable man.

Like some, he was excelled in the powers of reasoning, and by others in the grace of oratory, by none was he surpassed in that plain practical good sense, which rendered him eminently successful as a jury lawyer. In a short time after he had been in the practice of the law, the district in which he resided chose him as its representative in the congress of the United States, and here Mr. Yancey took a high and distinguished status; his practical talents soon brought him forward and placed him at the head of one of the most important committees of the house of representatives. This status he continued to occupy while a member of the house. But in a few years he was admonished, that however alluring the path of political life might be, it did not, in this country lead to wealth, and that the time had not yet arrived to him, when justice to his family would permit him to devote himself to the general politics of his country.

He resigned his seat in congress, returned to the discharge of his professional duties, and never, I believe, in this country, did more abundant and rapid success crown the efforts of any individual. But though his private affairs drew him from congress, they did not forbid his taking an active share in the domestic politics of his native state. At the united voice of the citizens of Caswell, the county in which he was born and raised, he took his seat in the senate of our legislature, and was, upon his appearing among them, with one voice called to preside over its deliberations. And here, sir, as speaker of the senate, Bartlett Yancey was in his appropriate sphere. Nature had, in a peculiar manner, fitted him for the station. Dignified in his appearance, he filled the chair with grace; prompt to decide, little time was lost in debating questions referred to the chair; and energetic in enforcing order, the most unruly became obedient; fair, candid, and impartial, all were satisfied, and so entirely so, that from the period of his first election to the chair no effort was once made to disturb his possession of it.

Even those who, in other respects, differed from and opposed him, as a speaker admitted he was without reproach, and that he gave dignity to that body. But it was not alone as speaker of the senate that Mr. Yancey was useful to his native state as a legislator. He was too sound a politician not to perceive the true policy of the state. Ardently attached to the land of his birth, his constant effort was to elevate her in the moral and political scale. Whenever a measure was brought before the legislature, which in his estimation had these objects in view, he fearlessly threw himself and all his wealth of character into the ranks of its friends, and with as full contempt of consequences he never failed to frown upon and oppose all those wild measures of misrule which have from time to time agitated the legislature of hour state.

Such, sir, was Bartlett Yancey as a politician. He is gone, and greatly do I fear the state at large will have cause to morn his death. But, sir, there is another point of view in which I wish to present to you the death of our departed friend. He has spoken to us from the chair of office; permit him to speak to us from the bed of death. We have listened to the eloquence which has guided senates and enlightened juries; let us now listen to the mute eloquence of the grave. But a few months since, and Bartlett Yancey stood upon the spot I now occupy, but a few days since, and he also now addressed you mingled in debate with him, and upon the termination of the weekly labour, we shook each other by the hand and bade God speed. Little did we think that interview would terminate our mortal intercourse. Little did we think that the arrow was sped which was to lay one of us on the dust. . . .

And on and on.

Tuesday, November 02, 2021

Aunt Millie (Leasburg, Caswell County, NC)


Aunt Millie

Newspaper Article

The Danville Register, 3 July 1977 

Owen House and Tea Room in Semora, North Carolina

Semora home of Michael Wall and Janice Elizabeth Owen Wall on Highway 119 in Semora, Caswell County, North Carolina.

"There are still a few remnants of Semora-past. One is the home of Michael and Janice Owen Wall on Highway 119. The house was built in 1897, purchased in 1932 by Colonel Jasper Owen, Sr., and his wife, Ruby, having now been passed down through three generations.

"Colonel Owen and his wife built a Tea Room and Boarding House on the nearby corner lot, later a store, torn down in the 1970s. The building would have been an impressively sized structure in Dutch style. While the Boarding House no longer exists, Michael and Janice are fortunate to have the original architectural drawings.

"Janice reminisces, 'I can remember my granny telling the story of boarding the men that first paved the road from Milton to Semora.'"

Source: Daniel-Upchurch, Angela. "Semora is a Neighborhood Crossroads" in Discover Caswell, Edition Two (2021) [Published by The Caswell Messenger (Yanceyville, NC)]

Architectural drawings of the Semora Tea Room and Boarding House, built by Colonel Jasper Owen (1886-1956) and Ruby Virginia Groves Owen (1890-1983).

Images courtesy Janice Owen Wall. Click images to see a larger version.

Owen Store and Tea Room

Left-to-Right: Colonel Jasper Owen, Jr. (1921-1967), his wife Janie Clara Stowe Owen (1928-1969), and an unidentified friend.

Rear of Owen Store and Tea Room