German Christmas Celebration at Old Stone House offers a blast from the past
GRANITE QUARRY — Six-year-old Haylee Drew sat mesmerized Saturday with her tiny fingers grasping a corn husk as Netra Bollinger helped her twist and shape it into a doll.
The young history buff looks forward to participating in the German Christmas Celebration at the Old Stone House each December.
“She loves history, particularly Rowan County history, so we try to come out every Christmas to do the activities and walk through the house,” said Haylee’s mother, Amanda Drew.
The Old Stone House, built by German immigrant Michael Braun in 1766, is the oldest structure in Rowan County.
Volunteers wearing colonial costumes led tours throughout the house, offering the public a glimpse into the way people lived several hundred years ago. The house has been adorned with natural greenery, dried flowers, herbs and berries for the holidays.
“It’s a beautiful restoration and the docents were very knowledge, so it’s been really informative,” said Stacey Sigmon.
Sigmon, who grew up in Faith but now lives in Vermont, remembers visiting the house during field trips as a child, but she hadn’t been back as an adult until Saturday.
“I think this is a pretty special piece of history to have here in Rowan County,” she said. “In Vermont there’s a big emphasis on preserving historic homesteads and farmhouses and everything is really meticulously restored, so it’s nice to see that down here.”
Robert Anderson, Sigmon’s husband, said he was fascinated by the various stations set up to show off skills such as blacksmithing, woodworking, weaving and cooking over an open fire.
“I think it’s ingenious how people used to do stuff,” he said.
The couple brought along their children, 6-year-old daughter Claire and 2-year-old son Liam, to share the experience.
A personal connection brought Dale Canup to the Old Stone House on Saturday.
“My great-grandmother Julia Anne Braun was the last person born in the house,” he said.
Canup said stories about the house have been passed down from generation to generation.
“We have been told over and over about Confederate and Union soldiers that fought in the yard on horseback with sabers,” he said.
Canup said as the Confederate soldier realized the Union soldier was about to get the best of him, he noticed the front door of the house was open.
“He rode through the house, jumped off his horse and ran into the woods,” he said. “The frame of the door used to have a big gash where the Union soldier tried to strike the Confederate soldier.”
Saturday was Canup’s first trip to the house for the annual Christmas celebration. Although he grew up in Rowan County, he hadn’t called it home for at least 40 years until moving back about a year and a half ago.
“We won’t miss it anymore,” he said. “This is really nice.”
Canup’s daughter, Lesley Corbin, brought her husband, Brian, and four children to the event. They are in town from Kentucky for the holidays.
“It’s been amazing to see part of my ancestry,” she said.
The couple was happy the event provided plenty of activities, such as Colonial-era games and candle dipping, to hold their children’s interest.
“It’s good to see the history here preserved, so we can get a feel for how people lived back then,” Brian Corbin said.
Members of Girl Scout Troop 1441 of China Grove were in awe as they toured the house.
The kitchen, which features an 8-foot wide fireplace, stood out to 10-year-old Alyssa Adams.
“The toaster looked like something you would use to push wood down into the fire,” she said of a metal contraption that holds bread over the flames. “It was amazing.”
Volunteer Trudy Hall told the troop they might notice something missing from the table setting.
“There were no forks, just spoons and knives,” she said. “The fork was invented later.”
Leita Davis, 10, said she the weaving caught her attention.
As volunteer Stephanie Muff showed off her skills using a flax spinning wheel, she told visitors about just how long it took to produce one piece of clothing.
“It was a lot of work,” she said. “After the thread was ready they had to dye it, weave it, cut and sew it.”
During the Colonial period, Muff said most of the clothing was made out of flax, a fiber used to produce linen.
“Cotton was actually very expensive during the Colonial period because it had to be shipped from China,” she said.
Muff said people had so few clothes there was no need for closets. They simply used one large wardrobe for the entire family.
“Back then, a closet would be a big enough room for people to sleep because you could fit a bed and keep warm,” she said.
Troop leaders Donna Rymer and Scarlett Fleming said a visit to the Old Stone House will help the girls earn their Colonial patch and give them insight into the time period.
“We are trying to expose them to as many historical and diverse opportunities as possible,” Fleming said. “We want them to have an appreciation for history and understand the importance of preserving it.”
The 28th annual German Christmas Celebration, sponsored by the Rowan Museum, will continue from noon to 4 p.m. today.
The admission cost of $4 for adults and $2 for students includes a sampling of Colonial foods including potato soup with bacon, vinegar chicken, rosemary and black walnut cookies, apple butter and bread.
Tricia Creel, the education coordinator for the museum, said the event is a fun introduction to the Colonial period.
“People get to dip candles, try the food and make corn husk dolls,” she said. “It’s a way to bring history to life and it’s a lot more interesting than reading it out of a book.”
Creel said the event helps children understand conveniences such as running water and items that weren’t always around.
“These people grew their own food, made their own clothes and carried water to the house from the creek,” she said. “We should all appreciate the ease of life now.
“It’s just a whole different world.”
The house is open from 1 to 4 p.m. every Saturday and Sunday from April through November and by appointment during the winter.
“I think it’s important to learn about local history because you don’t learn that in school,” Creel said. “It’s good to know how their lives influence our lives today.”
The house is located one half mile down Old Stone House Road off U.S. 52 in Granite Quarry.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.