DAR visit to Old Stone House

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 3, 2014

Excitement filled the air recently when members of the Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) made a visit to the Old Stone House in Granite Quarry.
The DAR takes great pride in not only supporting efforts to help veterans, but also in preserving historical records for future generations. All members are descendants of Revolutionary War Patriots, so seeing a house of the colonial era helped with understanding hardships ancestors might have faced. Built almost 250 years ago by Michael Braun, the Old Stone House is the oldest structure in Rowan County.
Kaye Brown Hirst, executive director of the Rowan Museum and a member of DAR, is especially proud of the house because she’s a direct descendant of the Braun family. As executive director of the museum, Kaye not only holds the keys, but oversees programming, maintenance and tours. Proud of her heritage, in college she wrote a chapter for a book that was the last recorded history of the Braun family. Printed with permission, following is a paragraph from that chapter.
“Truly, Michael Braun was a great patriarch. His posterity forms the largest, and perhaps, one of the most highly sound and honest clans in Rowan County. He left the Browns a great inheritance of which his descendants are very proud. The example of loyalty, bravery, and unending service of the Brown Family will remain a living standard for the people of Rowan County as well as others who are interested in the role pioneers have played in our great country!”
Although most settlers in the area built log cabins, Michael had loftier goals. Building his house from stone carried by oxen, it took seven years to complete. The effort, materials and time spent in building the house was well worth it because although log cabins in the area have disappeared, the granite and local field stone house on the hill still stands.
Left unattended for many years, the last time descendants of the Braun family actually lived in the house was in 1904. Eventually regaining possession of their ancestral home, family members began a renovation. When the Rowan Museum took ownership in 1959, the dedication and commitment to restoring this part of history brought a ray of hope and light which shines even today.
The original plan for the DAR visit in April consisted of a preliminary organizational meeting on the grounds, to be followed by a tour and then lunch. Being a chilly day, with almost freezing temperatures, those plans changed quickly. Recalling events of the day, Ashley Shoaf said, “Even though it was a bright sunny day, a chill blanketed the spring morning, forcing the events inside, taking minds back into history …”
Ashley was correct with that assessment because approximately 30 ladies squeezed into the dining room, which seemed an appropriate place to meet since Michael Braun’s family spent time in that room on cold, chilly days. With the bright sun shining through the large windows, it was easy to imagine life in this period of American history. Even visions and sounds of children playing with their toys in the adjoining room were easy to imagine.
After an initial greeting from Maxwell Elizabeth Steele Chapter DAR Regent Jane Smith-Steinberg, Kaye explained the procedures for the tour, dividing the ladies into groups. One of the first stops for my assigned group was the children’s room. Registrar and docent for the day Trudy Hall shared how German families, being superstitious at the time, often laid the herb Rosemary in children’s cribs and beds, hoping this would keep them safe from “witches.”
One of my favorite parts of the tour was climbing tiny steps to the second floor to see Kaye weaving rugs on a loom near a window. Fascinated by her feet going back and forth moving the warp threads, some of the ladies commented on how much time pioneer women must have spent doing this one task. Kaye explained weaving was only a part of the process, with sheering sheep, carding and cleaning the wool part of it as well. After hearing the details, we all expressed gratitude for living in modern-day America and not colonial days.
Tricia Creel, education coordinator for the museum, said in later years women were able to buy material from traveling salesmen, thus freeing them up for other tasks. She also said, sometimes when the women couldn’t afford new material, they might instead have enough money to buy buttons to make an old garment seem like new. As an example, she showed what was believed to be Michael’s granddaughter’s dress, trimmed with beautiful wooden buttons all the way down the front.
Kaye said, if anyone has cotton material they don’t want, please not to throw it away, but donate it to the Rowan Museum. Children attending colonial camps in the summer are given the task of tearing the material into strips. Once the strips are tied together, they wrap the long strands onto spindles to be used in the weaving process. Elementary- and middle-school students not only learn how to weave, but learn how to write with quill and ink, make soap, paper and so much more. Some items, including rugs made on the loom upstairs, are sold on the property and at the Rowan Museum.
After an hour tour that morning, a brief business meeting followed, with members of the DAR treated to a luncheon by local caterer, Matt Trexler. To everyone’s pleasure, his mother, Ellen Trexler, a retired teacher, a long-time DAR member and past regent, as well as good friend to many, was able to attend the event. With it being her 88th birthday, everyone joined in singing Happy Birthday, followed by an original song, written and sung by Jim Gobble. Everyone left that day not only having learned a little more about Rowan County and their heritage, but also having fond memories of the fellowship enjoyed by all.
If interested in joining or learning more about the Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter of the DAR, contact registrar, Trudy Hall, at 704-638-1271. To learn more about the Old Stone House, check out the Rowan Museum website at www.rowanmuseum.org.
The Old Stone House is open for tours Saturday and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. An easy drive from Salisbury down U.S. 52 to Granite Quarry, turn left at the caution light onto Old Stone House Road. You can’t miss it. If you happen to drop by and see a lady in a long dress, apron and a bonnet welcoming you in, that’s Kaye. Traveling back in time to the 1700s, she gets carried away, but then again, she’s entitled. After all, a direct descendant of Michael Braun, without a doubt, he would be proud.

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