Published 12:00 am Friday, December 20, 2013
ENTON — Some 25 years ago, Brown Loflin saved the 1850 Richmond Reid Plantation House, moved it and restored it. A couple of times a year, he opens it up for visitors.
Now is one of those times.
Rowan Countians Glenda and Dan Wagoner, longtime volunteers at Loflin’s 140-acre Denton FarmPark, have decorated the main plantation house for Christmas.
As some of the best-informed tour guides you’ll ever meet, they also can tell you a lot about the Reid family and the re-established Reid plantation, which includes the main house, tramping barn, slave house/kitchen, corn crib, smokehouse and blacksmith’s shop — all original structures.
The main house, slave kitchen and blacksmith shop are open as part of the Farm Park’s fifth annual Country Christmas Train, which continues tonight and Saturday, Sunday, Monday and Thursday nights. (See box.)
At the far end of the park, the plantation is a step back in time to antebellum and Civil War days, when the affluent Richmond Reid built a self-sustaining farm that relied on 30 to 40 people for its operation along the banks of the Yadkin.
From Glenda Wagoner’s extensive research — “I like to have documentation,” she says — the plantation had 11 slaves, and Richmond and Elizabeth “Liza” Holmes Reid were parents to 10 children, including three sons who died during the Civil War.
John H. Reid was killed at the Battle of Gettysburg when he was 26.
Calvin H. Reid died in Civil War fighting when he was 27, though the exact battle is not known.
While on furlough from Confederate forces and coming home near the end of the war April 4, 1865, Jesse Reid drowned in the Yadkin River not far from the plantation house. He was 30.
Richmond Reid’s own death on Aug. 29, 1863, also was related to the war. He apparently was gunned down in his front yard as he resisted looters who came to the plantation to steal food and livestock.
From the Country Christmas Train that circles the FarmPark, passengers often identify the main house from the long underwear hanging off a clothesline in back.
When visitors take a tram to visit the plantation house later, “They say, ‘This is the house where the laundry’s on the porch,’” Glenda Wagoner laughs.
The laundry is just one of the many period details visitors might notice on the back porch, including straw brooms, a hide stretcher, flour sacks, canned vegetables, a gourd dipper, a horse collar, a wash board and the like.
Inside, Glenda Wagoner might sit at the dining room table and demonstrate the making of clutch dolls, which girls played with in church, or Moravian stars for decoration purposes.
Glenda made the herb Christmas wreath on a back wall. It’s a beautiful tangle of hydrangea, rabbit tobacco, basil, sage, thyme and oregano.
The forks of tree limbs serve as a gun rack, holding both ends of the rifle over the dining room mantel.
“You can find cat and dog tracks in the bricks on the hearth in the main house and a small child’s handprint in the slave house chimney,” Glenda Wagoner says, appreciating the personal touches.
The walls, floors and most of the doors are original, Windows had to be reproduced, but the bricks of the rebuilt chimneys on both sides of the house were made by slaves before the Civil War and used again during the restoration.
The four-bedroom house includes a large parlor and generous-sized dining room downstairs.
Loflin made sure the parlor was outfitted with an antique organ — something he remembered from visiting the house when he was a young man.
Several pieces of black leather furniture in the parlor belonged to the Reid family members who last inhabited the house in 1950.
The three rooms upstairs are handsome but not furnished and are not open during the Christmas tour.
But there’s plenty to take in downstairs, and Glenda Wagoner says she turned to Clyde of Salisbury for advice on the kinds of decorations appropriate for the time period.
Of all the main house’s great attributes, the wayfarer’s room off the front porch probably leads to the most comments from visitors.
The tiny room — big enough for a bed, stand, chamber pot and window — served as a place for travelers to stay overnight without giving them access to the house inside.
“Before there were Holiday Inns, that’s where company stayed,” Dan Wagoner says.
The Reid Plantation House earned inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, when it was still located along the Davidson County side of the Yadkin River close to the mouths of Lick and Cabin creeks.
Back then, it had long been vacant and, because of its remoteness, a target for vandals and thieves.
Half of the plantation’s 668 acres were lost through acquisition of land for the Tuckertown Reservoir in the 1960s.
Efforts also fell through for the N.C. Department of Archives and History to acquire the property about the same time. Meanwhile, time and decay claimed the plantation’s grist mill and saw mill, once powered by water from Cabin Creek, and an underground ice house, lost to the paving of a highway.
Loflin stepped in, bought the plantation house and buildings that were left and used custom-built trailers to haul the structures across southern Davidson County to his Denton FarmPark, home of the annual Southeast Old Threshers Reunion in July.
The FarmPark also opens for the Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver Bluegrass Music Festival in May and the Horse & Mule Days in October.
Glenda Wagoner says Richmond Reid’s great-grandparents, John and Mary Drake Reed (note the spelling of “Reed” had not changed yet to “Reid”), settled along the Yadkin River in lower Rowan County n the late 1700s.
They are buried in the still-existing Reid family burial ground on the Rowan side of the Yadkin River.
Richmond Reid was a son of John Reid and Mary Parker Reid. Richmond was born in Rowan County May 26, 1811.
Because Liza, his wife, wanted to live in Davidson County, Richmond built his plantation almost directly across the river from the original Reid homestead in Rowan County.
Richmond Reid started with 305 acres, and he apparently built a slave house to live in until the main house was completed. It first showed up on county tax records in 1850.
By the 1860 census, records showed Richmond Reid with 668 acres, of which 200 acres were improved.
The census also reflect the plantation as growing corn, wheat, oats, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes and hay and having several head of cattle, horses, mules and swine.
Glenda Wagoner says the grounds included a hand-dug, salt-glazed cellar, besides all of its other buildings.
Liza Reid died March 22, 1861, when she was only 46. She and Richmond are buried along with many of their children at the Lick Creek Baptist Church cemetery in Davidson County.
Their tenth and last child, Louisa J. Reid, died when she was only 1-year-old on Oct. 10, 1858.
One of the couple’s sons, Holmes Reid, moved to Texas as an adult.
Only one of Richmond Reid’s brothers, Joel, preferred spelling his name “Reed,” instead of “Reid,” Glenda Wagoner reports.
The Reids were known, she adds as a side note, to own distilleries in the days before Prohibition.
Dan Wagoner says in the loft of the tramping barn there still exists a long board to an 18- to 20-foot boat, supposedly used to transport whiskey from one side of the river to the other.
The tramping barn for horses probably could qualify as a National Register-worthy structure on its own.
“I would venture to say this is the only one in operation,” Dan Wagoner says.
The great industrialist Henry Ford once tried to buy this barn for his Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Mich., but the Reid family wouldn’t sell it.
At the tramping barn, horses are led up a side ramp to a loft which has a slatted wood floor.
Sheaves of wheat are spread in a circle about two bundles wide, and the horses — usually two at a time — walk in a circle over the wheat. As they walk, they thresh the wheat, making the kernels fall through the slats onto the floor below.
The tramping barn was a definite step up in its day from the hand-flailing of wheat.
The working blacksmith shop next to the tramping barn has its original bellows, and it’s open for demonstrations during the Country Christmas Train nights.
“He’s pretty popular,” Glenda Wagoner says.
Mark “Snuffy” Osborne often helps out at the slave-quarters/kitchen at the back of the main house.
“When someone hollers that in a crowd,” Snuffy says of his nickname, “not too many heads are going to turn.”
Kitchens of this time period often were built separately from the main house as a way to safeguard the house from fires because of all the open-fire cooking.
The two-story structure provided room upstairs for slaves to sleep. For visitors, Osborne demonstrates the art of candle making from beeswax, while a colleague on the other side of the kitchen shows how to make corn shuck dolls.
The ornaments on the kitchen’s tiny Christmas tree include dried okra, apples and burlap — items readily available on an 1800s farm.
“We’re trying to stay with the old-timey feel,” Osborne explains.
The smokehouse behind the slave kitchen also is fascinating. It includes a huge meat box — a monstrous piece of wood hewn out like a canoe — in which cured meats would have been stored.
For the Wagoners, the Denton FarmPark is like a second home. They’ve pretty much been coming here as volunteers since the thresher’s reunion in 1979, and Glenda usually is a tour guide fixture at the log cabin.
Becoming wrapped up in the history of the Reids and the plantation buildings has been new for her, but fun. The Wagoners never can get enough of history and knowing some of the stories behind buildings and artifacts.
They incorporate history stops into their vacations. And they have spent many hours roaming through cemeteries or poring over documents in the Rowan Public Library’s History Room.
“I just have a real passion for genealogy and family history,” Glenda Wagoner adds. “My mother had that passion, and it just went through me, I guess.”
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or firstname.lastname@example.org.