Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. In September of 2014, Mercer University Press will release her next book titled Farming, Friends, & Fried Bologna Sandwiches. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter here.
I usually write about gardening, and sometimes sprinkle in stories about spectacularly special people I meet during my life-journey. Today I want to tell you about a magical place, The Historic Monteith Farmstead, located in Dillsboro, North Carolina. Those who have boarded the Great Smoky Mountains Railway when it departed Dillsboro probably missed a hidden gem, one that was nestled down in the flatland within walking distance of the train depot. Perhaps that is why the house survived. Sometimes the best place to hide is in plain sight.
It is no secret that old homes call me. They whisper come … see … listen to the secrets I have to tell.
Every home has a story waiting to be told; just like every person.
The Monteith Farmstead was constructed in, or around, 1908. It is a simple house. Two stories. Front porch. Gabled roof. A structure built to shelter a family for many generations. It was what I call a working house, which was required during the time, one that would withstand the elements, be functional, and eventually … loved by the small community of Dillsboro. The walls and ceilings are beaded board and almost pristine, rare in today’s doze-it-down-and-develop-it mentality. The fact that the structure remains today, is nothing short of a miracle.
Take a moment to look at this photograph. What does it say to you?
Sisters Edith and Edna were born in the first two decades of the 1900s. Change had come to their tiny community. Roads. Traffic. People. Noise. Edna’s father, E.B. Monteith, was the postal clerk. Edna followed suit and became a clerk at age 20 in 1928. Edith stayed home with her mother and tended the farm.
Unique to the property is a canning house, a treasure you just don’t find in the rural mountains of western North Carolina. Here is an image of the canning house. This, my friends, is one of the reasons why we must save this property. This, Dear Ones, is history you will find nowhere else in Appalachia.
Here is a shot of the interior of the canning house. Couldn’t you just swoon? Don’t you want to get inside?
If we are honest, most of us are descended from hard-working folk like the Monteith family. The Monteith sisters, like many women of that time, knew the importance of being frugal. They canned. They saved. They held onto their little piece of heaven even while a major highway was being constructed. And then, sadly, in 2001, E.B. Monteith’s lineage came to an end with the death of the last remaining heir, Edith. The house sat empty.
I believe that homes get lonely. They miss people walking the halls. Miss people raising the windows to let in a cool mountain breeze.
That’s where you and I come in.
Recognizing the historic significance of this property, the citizens of Dillsboro rallied to protect this home. Their plans: to create an Appalachian Women’s Museum. A place of honor where our children, your children, and children from all over the world can come and learn about the heritage of the area and, in doing so, learn something about themselves. The property is protected from development, but protection is only a small part of the project. It will take $16,000 to restore the roof. We can make it happen. You. Me. Our friends. Our neighbors. We can own a little piece of history. A place where we can walk the grounds, touch the earth, listen as the house tells us the stories of her people. I’m pretty certain that she will whisper the words, Thank you for caring.
So today I ask you to donate $20. If your budget allows a larger contribution, the fine folk of the Appalachian Women’s Museum will be over the moon, elated, thrilled. I not only ask you to donate, I am asking you to become ambassadors for the women of Appalachia, whose stories deserve to be told. I am not affiliated with the Appalachian Women’s Museum. I don’t sit on the board, don’t have a vested interest other than to see this house saved. That is why I ask you to do more than just share this blog on Facebook, write a personal message with the post. Send an email. Talk about this project. Mail a check!
Because you, yes you, hold the future of this property in your hands. There’s been talk, you know, talk of the negative variety. “You can’t raise the money. That old house ain’t worth saving.” People talk when you try to change the world; some even try to discourage others. Can you help me prove them wrong?
Of course you will. You’ve seen the house. You’ve felt her magic. She has whispered words in your ears. She is depending on you.
Donations in any amount are accepted via electronic payment at this link:
Please mail personal checks to:
The Appalachian Women’s Museum
PO Box 245
Dillsboro NC 28725
Is it coincidence that your check will be processed in the town where sister Edna once worked? I don’t think so. Do you?
Author’s note: Images for this blog were taken from the Museum’s Facebook Page. Learn more here.