Oak Ridge plans 20thÂ anniversary celebrations page 6
Spring gardening tips page 8
Test your northwest-area knowledge page 12
Historic buildingâ€™s future hangs in the balance page 14
Traveling in stages page 16
Old Mill of Guilford: 251 years page 18
Farm living page 22
Real Estate: Did you know? page 28
St. James AME Church page 30
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There is much to celebrate as Oak Ridge prepares to turn 20 Ringeman: Celebration should have ‘a lasting effect’ by KEVIN SPRADLIN OAK RIDGE – The Town of Oak Ridge is turning 20, and there is likely to be a party. You’ll be invited.
Town Councilwoman Ann Schneider is leading an effort to form an ad hoc committee to plan how the town will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2018. At least 16 people so far have volunteered to serve on the committee. The first meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Tuesday, March 27, at Oak Ridge Town Hall and all are welcome to attend.
“Oak Ridge is big on citizen-led committees, “ Schneider said, “and the mission of this committee is to come up with ways to celebrate and recognize our 20th anniversary.” Schneider said she was bowled over by the response from town residents and stakeholders and their willingness to volunteer during the Explore Historic Oak Ridge event in September 2017. “People just came out of the woodwork to support that event,” Schneider said. “We didn’t realize … how big it was going to become.”
Her secondary goal – alongside planning for the town’s 20th birthday – is to create a volunteer pool so people interested in volunteering have a single, steady source of opportunities. Schneider said she wants to harness the energy of the town’s talent pool. But first, Oak Ridge has a birthday coming up.
“The way we celebrate the anniversary is completely up to them,” Schneider said. The committee might choose to have “one big event,” – or, possibly, “all of those things, any of those, or any combination are possible… we could have a booth at RidgeFest, maybe (have) T-shirts. It could be as simple as that.” For its 10th anniversary, the town had a series of events, an effort chaired by longtime Oak Ridge resident and former town councilman Danny Yanusz. Schneider recalled the community spelling bee that was part of the town’s 10th anniversary celebration, in which local businesses and non-
Oak Ridge Town Council members participate in a groundbreaking ceremony for Oak Ridge Town Hall in 2005. Shown in photo (from left), council members Roger Howerton, Myra Aderholdt, Mayor Ray Combs, Karen Dodd and David Rowe. Oak Ridge Town Hall was completed in 2007.
profits formed teams and dressed for the occasion – including then-Mayor Ray Combs in a seersucker suit.
In part, Schneider said, it boils down to a single question: “What’s so special about Oak Ridge after 20 years?”
Schneider, an Illinois native who moved to Oak Ridge from California about 10 years ago when her husband landed a position at High Point University, said the town has a laundry list of accomplishments to highlight its first 20 years. The creation of the town park out of farmland, the construction of Town Hall and the establishment of the Historic Preservation Commission – which Schneider previously chaired – are among the things people can look to with pride. The town is also a part of the 1,175-mile Mountains-to-Sea Trail and recently formed a committee to help develop the trail route through the town. Of course, Oak Ridge has a budding walkability about it, along with
a vibrant town core with a grocery store, restaurants and services.
There is a campsite in the town park for MST hikers, but that is not what catches the eye for Katy Ringeman, who moved to Oak Ridge from Winston-Salem seven years ago. Her daughter, Lillie, is a first-grader at Oak Ridge Elementary School. Lillie’s sisters are ages 2 and 4.
“We go to the park every opportunity that we can,” said Ringeman, who will serve on the town’s 20th anniversary committee. “We adore the park. It’s just a great family place to go and it’s inherent in a small town that almost every time we go, we don’t have to pre-plan a playdate (and) we see somebody we know. It turns into an impromptu playdate. I love that about Oak Ridge.”
Involvement is key
Oak Ridge residents, Schneider said, “didn’t want to get swallowed up (by)
Greensboro. They wanted to have a unique identity. I think that Oak Ridge has done a pretty fantastic job of preserving its kind of unique, rural and historic charm … that makes it still a wonderful place for people to move to and live in.”
She emphasized the “incredible” involvement of elected town officials, town staff and the large number of volunteers who have served on various committees over the past two decades. That involvement, she said, was noted during the town’s recent search for a new town manager. Candidates conveyed that in those other towns, “people don’t volunteer. The only time we hear from them is if something’s really wrong.” “This isn’t the case in Oak Ridge,” Schneider said. “We have this huge group of people (for whom) a big thank-you event (could) recognize the many volunteers and elected officials (and) staff over the years. Those are
in Los Angeles. “I fell in love with the historic district early on. It was something I knew about and could plug myself right into.”
Photo courtesy of Town of Oak Ridge
Phase 1 of Oak Ridge Town Park on Linville Road, which included walking trails, a playground area and athletic fields, was largely finished in 2008 and a dedication ceremony was held in May 2009 to coincide with the town’s 10th anniversary. Construction cost for Phase 1 of the 80-acre park was about $2 million; that amount was offset by a $500,000 matching grant from the N.C. Parks and Recreation Trust Fund. The town has since completed Phase 2 of the park and is discussing Phase 3.
the people who have made Oak Ridge what it is today.”
Schneider described Oak Ridge as a “rural, crossroads farm community” but one that offers residents and visitors alike something unique from any other North Carolina town – what is
now Oak Ridge Military Academy. The school’s history predates the start of the Civil War by nearly a decade.
“That brought in some beautiful architecture,” said Schneider, who was involved with architectural preservation while working for a nonprofit organization
Ringeman was a volunteer last fall with the Explore Historic Oak Ridge event. In Winston-Salem, she was active with the Junior League of WinstonSalem in a number of events through fundraising or event-planning. One project established a library at a school, which has the long-term impact she hopes the town’s 20th anniversary might offer. “I enjoy those types of events,” Ringeman said. “We had a gala tied with a book drive, then the books (were) donated to kids that need them and don’t have access to them on a regular basis.”
Ringeman said she is hopeful any celebration, in whatever form it takes, “has a lasting effect. You drive a bigger impact when it’s not a one-and-done.”
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Now’s the time to start thinking about upcoming gardening activities. So sharpen up the mower blades, get out those pruners and hoes, and get ready to go to work. THINGS TO DO IN APRIL
•C RAPE MYRTLES. Spread a light application of 10-10-10 fertilizer early in April and again in early June. (Heavy applications produce lush vegetative growth but fewer flowers.) If the tree appears healthy, omit the June application. • PERENNIAL PLANTS should be set out this month so they become established before hot weather sets in. Prepare beds using leaf compost or pine bark.
•S UMMER BULBS. (Dahlias, Gladiolus, Tuberoses, Fancy-Leafed Caladiums, Elephant Ears, Amaryllis and Cannas) can be planted in late April.
•S PRAY ROSES every 7 to 10 days until frost, beginning with the onset of
• AZALEAS. Lacebugs are the most common insect pest on Azaleas. Watch for whitish, stippled leaves with tiny flecks on the undersides of the leaves and spray with a systemic insecticide, such as Cygon or Orthene. •P OST BULB PERFORMANCE. After the petals fade and fall off, remove flower heads with scissors or hand pruners, and allow the foliage to die a natural death. Do not fold, twist or braid foliage.
• IS THE SOIL TOO WET? Stay out of the garden when the soil is wet! Our clay soils are already compacted. Working in or on wet soil worsens
this by decreasing the pore spaces available to hold oxygen. Plants can’t survive without oxygen. To decide if the soil is ready, take a handful of soil from 4 to 5 inches below the surface and squeeze it in your fist. If it crumbles, the soil is workable. If it holds its shape, it’s still too wet.
•F LOWER BED PREPARATION. Prepare new flower beds now. Although it’s too early to plant, it isn’t too early to till, incorporate organic matter, lime and fertilize. •A ERIFY WARM SEASON LAWNS to warm the soil temperatures and allow for better water infiltration.
THINGS TO DO IN MAY • PREPARE PLANTS FOR DRY WEATHER. Conserve moisture and control weeds by using a 2- to 3-inch layer of pine straw, wood chips or pine bark. •F ROST-SENSITIVE BEDDING PLANTS can be safely planted the first week of May.
•D IVIDE CANNAS. Clumps of Cannas should be divided every three or four years to encourage flowering.
•C RAPE MYRTLES. Watch plants carefully for evidence of aphids and spray as needed.
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•P RUNE WISTERIA now and throughout the summer to control size and shape.
•P OISON IVY can be eliminated with multiple sprays using 2,4-D Amine, Amitrole or Roundup. To prevent injury to desirable plants, do not apply herbicides on a windy day.
•H ANG UP HUMMINGBIRD FEEDERS.
THINGS TO DO IN JUNE •R EMOVE FLOWER HEADS. Clip away faded flowers. You can prolong the bloom period of annuals and perennials by “deadheading” the spent flowers.
•B ULBS need dividing every few years. Crowded bulbs produce fewer flowers or may stop blooming. After foliage turns brown, dig over-crowded Tulips, Dutch Iris, Narcissus and other hardy bulbs.
Divide and replant bulbs immediately.
•S UMMER PRUNING. Major pruning of spring-flowering shrubs should be done immediately after bloom. Pruning these shrubs after July 1 will decrease next year’s flower production. All shrubs can be pruned lightly to maintain shape or remove a few
continued on page 10
GARDENING CALENDAR continued from page 8
long straggly shoots throughout the summer but not after Aug. 1.
•P RUNE CLIMBING ROSES after they bloom, then fertilize.
•B AGWORMS are relatively easy to control at this time of year. Inspect susceptible plants for tiny worms and spray with BT (Dipel), Sevin, Diazinon, or Acephate (Orthene). Later, when the worms are inside the bags, chemicals are relatively ineffective. The only control then is hand-picking the bags. • J APANESE BEETLES hold their family reunion in June/July. Hand-pick by holding a container of soapy water under the branch and tapping the branch or spray with Sevin, Acephate or Malathion. Beetle traps are not recommended. If you do use them, put them as far away as possible from the plant you want to protect, and be sure to empty them every two days.
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NOW’S THE TIME TO:
q Snap off growing tips of your Chrysanthemum plants when they’re about 6 inches tall. They’ll branch and bloom more profusely. q Lightly feed Nandinas with 8-8-8 fertilizer so the berries will last through winter. q Stake and tie brittle new Clematis stalks. Prune after they bloom. q Stake Dahlias when you plant them so they’ll have support later.
q Mulch Azaleas, Gardenias and Camellias with 2 to 3 inches of compost.
q Keep newly transplanted ornamentals or new Fescue well watered, at least one inch per week.
THINGS TO DO IN JULY • F ESCUE naturally goes semi-dormant during extremes of hot and/or dry weather; it can survive three weeks without water. Water only when grass shows sign of wilt (footprints will show when grass is walked on). Unless the water reaches the roots, you waste both time and water. Water in early morning or late at night; late afternoon or early evening is the worst time to water as the grass stays wet for a longer time, encouraging diseases. •S HADE TREES MAY NEED WATER. Shade trees in declining health may be thirsty. Water should be placed at the outer reaches of the root system (the “drip line”) where the small root
hairs are located. When you water a tree, water deeply so the soil is moist to a depth of at least 8 inches.
•B AGWORMS ON EVERGREENS. Hand pick the bags. Pesticides are not effective once bags have been produced.
•D ON’T BAG GRASS CLIPPINGS. Leave them on the lawn and save 25 percent on your fertilizer needs for the year. Clippings take up unnecessary landfill space and can be best disposed of in a home compost bin. •C RAPE MYRTLES (photo below). Prune spent flower blossoms and you’ll prolong the flowering period.
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Test your knowledge
President Harry S Truman once said, “There is nothing new in the world except the history you do not know.” Just how well do you know the northwest area and its history? See how many of these questions you can answer correctly. Some are fairly well known, while others border on the obscure.
What type of business is now located in the Stokesdale structure that was used File photo as a hotel in the early 1900s? Laughlin Professional A. A hardware store Development Center B. An insurance agency in Summerfield once C. A maker of soaps and other natural played an important products role in the education of northwest-area children. D. A funeral home
How was the property of Charles Bruce, a patriot and the founder of Summerfield, used to aid the Revolutionary War effort? A. As a mustering ground, where area men who supported the American effort gathered to practice military drills B. As a mustard green field, which helped feed local soldiers’ families C. As a militia mule stable, where mules that helped pull cannons and artillery to battlefields in North Carolina and Virginia were fed, shoed and cared for D. As a ministering ground, where local residents gathered to pray about the war
What happened to Oak Ridge Military Academy during the Civil War? A. Alumni Hall was used as a Confederate hospital B. The school closed for five years when nearly all the staff and students left to join the war effort C. The campus was fenced and used as a Union prison D. The school continued to operate as it had since it opened in 1852, largely because many of the school’s trustees were Quakers and opposed to war and violence
What mode of transportation helped shape commercial development in the towns of Stokesdale and Summerfield? A. Shipping along the Haw River from thriving towns located to the east B. Wagons moving along the Plank Road. C. The railroad, which went through the two towns D. The trucking business on U.S. 220
What was the original name of Piedmont Triad International Airport? A. Lindley Field B. Friendly Field C. Friendship Township Airport D. Market Street Flying Field
A grave marker for Summerfield founder Charles Bruce is located on Summerfield Road.
By what moniker was N.C. 150 between Summerfield and Oak Ridge originally known? A. General Greene Road B. Danville-Salisbury Road C. Greater Greensboro Road D. Great Dane Road
7. George Stephens is cred-
ited with catching football’s first forward pass during an 1895 game between UNC and the University of Georgia. What connection did the play that greatly affected modern football have to northwest Guilford County? A. Stephens was a graduate of Oak Ridge Institute (now Oak Ridge Military Academy) B. Stephens’ maternal grandfather was Charles Bruce, the founder of Summerfield C. William Johnson, a native of Stokesdale, was the referee who did not see the thenillegal play D. The football was made from the hide of a pig from a Summerfield farm
The Martin House, located at the N.C. 150 and Summerfield Road intersection (across from Summerfield Town Hall), was built around 1838 – who built it, and for whom was it built?
A. U.S. President Martin Van Buren built the structure as a home for his elderly mother, who only spoke Dutch and required a translator B. George S. Martin, a Summerfield leader and prominent Greensboro businessman, built the house for himself and his family as a retreat from busy city life C. Alexander Martin, a patriot who later served twice as governor of North Carolina, built the house for his illegitimate son, Alexander Strong Martin Photo courtesy of Oak Ridge Military Academy
The hotel at Oak Ridge Military Academy provided a place for families of the school’s students, and other visitors to the area, to stay.
For many years, Laughlin Professional Development Center in Summerfield, a facility owned by Guilford County Schools, was known as Laughlin Primary School. What was the original name of the historic school? A. Charles Bruce Academy for Boys B. Young Women’s Institute of Summerfield C. Summerfield Negro School D. Bruce’s Crossroad’s Boys School
D. Summerfield native Stephen Martin built the house that was owned by his great-grandson, comedian Steve Martin
A hotel at one time existed on the campus of Oak Ridge Military Academy. It later became a dorm and dining hall, and was then used for storage, before it was destroyed by fire as a result of a student prank in 1993. What was the original name of the hotel? A. Oak Ridge Hotel and Spa B. Oak Park Inn
C. Oakhurst Resort
D. Oakland Park Hotel
continued on page 33
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Historic Gordon building faces uncertain future Southard: A ‘tragedy’ if it is torn down by KEVIN SPRADLIN SUMMERFIELD – Linda Southard, a lifetime Summerfield resident, cannot bear the thought of a treasured historical building in Summerfield becoming no more than a series of memories and lasting impressions captured by artists on canvas and tapestry. That, she said, simply will not do.
By consensus, this past January Mayor Gail Dunham and all five members of the Summerfield Town Council rejected a $3.7 million proposal from CUBE, an architectural firm out of Chapel Hill, to renovate the historic R.C. Gordon Hardware building located on the southeast corner of the intersection of N.C. 150 and Summerfield Road. The two-story brick structure dates back to approximately 1877, when it was known as the Ogburn-Gordon Store and owned by George J. Smith. The building is a key component of the Summerfield Historic District, an area of mostly residential buildings with a few commercial ones, and it is recognized by the North Carolina State Historic Preservation Office.
The town purchased the Gordon property, including the Gordon Hardware building which rests on a .35-acre lot and a separate 13.39-acre tract bordering U.S. 220, for $399,000 in 2014. The previous town council had long stated plans to turn the building into a public meeting facility with potential for additional town staff office space, but until January there were no initial cost estimates for bringing those plans to reality. CUBE’s $3.7 million proposal includes $750,000 to stabilize the building, and another $850,000 to ready the building for a certificate of occupancy in order to be open for public use. The remaining $2.1 million would have been used for an addition at the southern end of the building, plus code-required stairs, an elevator, heating, air conditioning, plumbing, electrical and technology upgrades, and landscaping. “I want to see it restored,” said Southard, who was raised in the Wilson house only a few doors down Oak Ridge Road and recalls the R.C. Gordon Hardware building as a community gathering place. “I do not really want to see add-ons because it takes away from the historical significance. It
Photo by Kevin Spradlin/NWO
The R.C. Gordon Hardware building dates back to about 1877, when it was built by George J. Smith and known as the Ogburn-Gordon Store. would change the building completely.”
After rejecting the $3.7 million proposal in January, the council asked CUBE to come back with less costly options for renovating the building.
At the Feb. 13 council meeting, CUBE representatives presented four scaled-back design/renovation options for the building, with cost estimates ranging from $1.6 million to $3.1 million. Council members then discussed other ways to use the historic property – and even debated just “mothballing” or selling it, which some fear would put the building at risk of being razed – but no decisions were made at that meeting, nor have any been made since.
the Gordon building. Cheryl Gore, town events planner, provided access to the building and joined the tour.
Southard attempted to stay on a particular train of thought during the hour-long discussion, but often was interrupted by a particular recollection that came to mind – sparked by something that caught her eye in a building still full of surprises.
“They had groceries up here in the front,” Southard pulled from her memory bank. “Those racks … on both sides. Back here in the back, there was a plumber.”
People like Southard, who support preserving and restoring the building, are paying attention.
That scene was from the mid-1940s or so. Howard Pope was the plumber. Gordon also employed Ervin Eldridge, a blacksmith who worked from a shop once located behind the building.
Southard has been a member of the Town of Summerfield’s Historical Committee since 2001 and serves as its chair. She spoke with the Northwest Observer during a recent tour of
Southard and Gore carefully made their way up a steep staircase to the second floor. Upon
“Surely, surely, the town would not allow it to be torn down … it would be a tragedy if it were,” Southard said.
“The garage was right over there, which is gone,” Southard continued. “But these four were the center” – Town Hall, the Martin House, the Gordon building and a garage once located on the northeast corner of the intersection.
entering the wide-open space, the smell of chemicals commonly associated with old-fashioned film photography floods the nostrils. Bill Gordon, Southard said, was R.C. Gordon’s son. He worked for an area media outlet. There are four black-and-white photos still tacked to the wall – two of car wrecks, one of a young woman wearing a tiara and a fourth that captured a moment in what appears to be a solemn ceremony. There is an old – a very old – electric stove on the second floor. There is no date visible on the apparatus, but Southard assures all within earshot that it certainly predates herself.
As Southard makes her way through her memories, she is acutely aware of those in Summerfield who resist the idea of the town spending money to renovate the building. During the town council’s regular monthly public meeting on March 13, Summerfield resident Geoffrey Gregg equated the building, along with the Martin House on the
adjacent corner, to the 1986 comedy film “The Money Pit.”
Renovating any historic structure comes with the opportunity to spend much more than budgeted, Gregg told the council. “There are surprises at every turn. We don’t have the resources nor the expertise to tackle that kind of thing. Why we own the buildings in the first place is beyond me,” he said.
Fellow town resident Doug Stanley said the town has already spent far too much money on the project without having a “clear understanding how this building can be used.” Councilman Reece Walker opined during the same meeting that while $3.7 million “is way too much … it’s an important historical building and the town is lucky to have been able to acquire it.”
Walker said he hopes that in the future the town can “give that building a little bit of glory.”
From the patio to the gutters,
we’ve got you covered! April 28 -29 & May 5- 6 • 1-5pm Admission is FREE Parade of Homes magazines will be available at the Parade homes as well as area Harris Teeter and Lowe’s Home Improvement stores
Utilize the MyHomeFound mobile app to map your tour!
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A tradition of
Saunders Inn, Old Red Hotel provided respite for weary stagecoach travelers
THREE GENERATIONS OF HELPING FAMILIES
BUY AND SELL HOMES IN YOUR COMMUNITY
Photo by Sandra Smith
The Old Red Hotel, located on Bunker Hill Road at Stafford Mill Road, was built in the 1780s and served as a stagecoach stop and inn. The property where the former inn rests is now the site of the annual Colfax Persimmon Festival.
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COLFAX/SUMMERFIELD – It’s hard to imagine setting out on a journey today and stopping about every 20 miles, but such stops were obligatory when travelers depended on the stagecoach to transport them from location to location.
Stagecoaches were able to move passengers and mail along regular routes faster and more easily and comfortably than riding on horseback. But the horses pulling those coaches had to rest frequently. They were generally changed about every 20 miles with coaches navigating a total of 60-70 miles per day at a pace of about 5 mph. The sites along the route where coaches stopped for fresh horses were known as stages.
Some stages began offering food and sleeping accommodations for those travelers who could journey no farther as night approached or who needed a place to rest until another coach going a different route collected them. One of the more celebrated local stagecoach stops, the Saunders Inn, belonged to Hezekiah Saunders (1775-1863) of Summerfield. Saunders is oft celebrated for enticing two overnight visitors in 1822 – Sidney Porter and Nathaniel Boyden – to stay in the area. The two were passing through from New England to South Carolina and Georgia to seek their fortunes. Porter stayed and taught school in the area before moving to Greensboro and opening
continued on page 34
Old Mill of Guilford: 251 years and countless grains of history by PATTI STOKES OAK RIDGE – In 1977 an ad in the Wall Street Journal listing a historic grist mill for sale in Oak Ridge, North Carolina, caught the eye of Charlie Parnell. A hardworking, resourceful man who had once lived on a sailboat and run a marina in the Bahamas, Parnell was mindful of the energy crisis gripping the nation. The notion of a water-powered mill intrigued him. Parnell, then 58, knew nothing about running a waterwheel grist mill and millers who could teach him were few and far between – but that didn’t deter him. Having stood unused for two years, the mill located on Beaver Creek just off N.C. 68 inside Oak Ridge had found in its fifth owner someone committed to bringing it back to life. Through a friendship Parnell
developed with the owner of a mill in Seagrove, he eagerly absorbed all he could. Along with the knowledge imparted from that miller and others he met in his travels, he read everything available to him about running a grist mill and learned the rest by trial and error. Six years after purchasing the mill Parnell married Heidi Brandt, whom he had met years earlier when they both lived and worked in the Bahamas.
After their marriage, Heidi came to live with Parnell in a small house perched on a hill overlooking the mill. For the next 24 years the couple worked together sunup to sundown, seven days a week, to keep the mill operating. Along the way they garnered the help – and the love – of a small army of volunteers. Annie Laura Perdue first started
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Annie Laura Perdue (left), a longtime customer of the Old Mill of Guilford who began volunteering and later, took over as miller, and Old Mill co-owner Amy Klug stand outside the mill, where countless photos have been taken in front of the bright red 24-foot waterwheel. Klug and her husband, Darrell, have owned the Old Mill since 2008. coming to the mill in 1964 to buy cornmeal and wheat flour (which at the time were the only products the mill sold, she said). When Parnell purchased the mill, Perdue’s husband, Jack, who was then chairman of the Guilford County Historic Properties Commission, was relieved, as he had been concerned about the mill’s future.
“He and Charlie got to be good friends,” Perdue said. “They were exactly 20 years apart in age, and Jack had studied this area and knew a lot about its history… He was working as a land consultant then, and if the weather was nasty and he couldn’t go out and tromp around he would come out here and help Charlie. “By then, Charlie was selling hush puppy mix,” Perdue continued. “Charlie, Jack and Leo Phelps, they would be back here bagging and mixing while Carol Hunter, who lived on Alcorn Road, and I would cook hush puppies out on the front porch. We cooked hush puppy samples in a little crockpot, and people
would smell them when driving by on (N.C.) 68 and they would turn in.
“It was just a thing we started doing, and we all sort of adopted Charlie – and Leo Phelps.”
After Heidi came on board, Perdue began volunteering in the summers, when she had time off from her job with the school system. “It wasn’t on an everyday basis, I just came when I could,” she said. As the friendship between the Parnells, Perdues and Phelps grew deeper over the years, Perdue spent more and more time at the mill and eventually transitioned from volunteer to part-time employee. Parnell became like a father to her, Perdue said, and he began to teach her the art of milling.
“He was always showing me things,” she said. But still, Parnell was reluctant to turn over the milling to her. “A few times he had some health issues, and one time he was in the hospital. We got down to a 2-pound
Photo by Patti Stokes/NWO
A historic marker stands near the entrance to the Old Mill of Guilford, which was establsihed in 1767. The mill is on the National Register of Historic Places.
bag of flour, and I said, ‘Heidi, you have got to get Charlie to let me grind.’ He had been setting the stones and I had watched him do all that. And once he got the stones set he would go take a nap and I would finish whatever he was grinding. “Heidi told him we needed wheat and he called the next morning and said, ‘It’s against my better judgment. but, I’m going to let you grind,” Perdue recalled.
“But wheat is a little more critical than corn – you’ve got to put your stones closer together,” she said, explaining the process is like hitting two flints together and the miller must be mindful of sparks flying. “So he said, ‘You better not blow up my mill!’” she said.
Admitting she was “scared to death” the first time she ground flour without Parnell’s presence, Perdue said she trudged ahead, putting the wheat in and tightening the stones down.
“I had Charlie’s little bag of wheat. And I would tighten a little bit and I would grind a little bit,” she said. “And I finally took mine and I took Charlie’s and I handed them to the girls and said, ‘Whose is this?’ And they said, ‘This is Charlie’s.’ And it was mine. So, I knew I had my stones set right.” With a successful solo run under
her belt, Perdue said Parnell would let her grind meal and flour from then on. Eventually, she became the mill’s first full-time paid employee.
Saying Parnell always made her “do things that I didn’t want to do,” Perdue recalled him telling her, “You’ve got to learn to fix things – if your boat breaks down in the middle of the ocean, you can’t walk home.”
In March 2007, Parnell passed away at age 88, just a few weeks after a brain tumor diagnosis; until shortly before his death, the mill was still a part of his daily routine. Sadly, as the community was still mourning the loss of her husband, Heidi passed away exactly five months later.
sons, Klug said she and her husband had been discussing what her next step would be after their youngest entered kindergarten. It never occurred to her then that she and Darrell might someday own the historic landmark on N.C. 68 – until one day she was reading the daily newspaper and saw it was for sale.
“I thought, ‘Oh, that would be fun. I like their product and I bet I could do that!’” Klug said. “So I called Darrell, who was in Brazil on a business trip, and said, ‘Let’s buy that mill.’ “When he came back we came out here and talked to Hans and Freddie, and the people who work here and the volunteers. And then we volunteered a little bit to get a feel for it,” Klug said. “We really liked it. I love the products and I love the way they’re made – that’s what really drew me.” Although Perdue welcomed the
continued on page 36
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The mill’s ownership fell to Heidi’s brothers, Hans and Freddie Brandt. Both in their 70s, the brothers had lives elsewhere and although they knew that running a 240-year-old grist mill was something they didn’t want to do longterm, it was important to them that the mill was sold to someone who would love and care for it as the Parnells had. Enter Greensboro residents Darrell and Amy Klug. Amy Klug had been a longtime customer of the mill and said she loved “the products, the atmosphere, and everything” about it.
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How ya gonna keep ’em down on the farm?
Photo by Kevin Spradlin/NWO
Summerfield Farms has diversified its offerings since the property was purchased by Summerfield resident David Couch in 1996. During the winter, The Market at Summerfield Farms offers a wide variety of off-site products, including locally sourced produce.
Although it’s a tough row to hoe, those who work the land say, ‘it’s in your blood … it’s hard to get out’
Colley said he has tried working for others, but finds it “aggravating.”
NORTHWEST GUILFORD – Nine-yearold Wyatt Colley can often be seen riding a wheelie around the family farm north of Stokesdale. “He rides a dirt bike on the rear wheel everywhere he goes,” said his father, J.B. Colley. The child is free and living the dream.
Will Wyatt’s child be able to do the same in about 30 years? J.B. Colley does not think so. If farming is a “dyin’ breed,” the best advice he could give his son when the time comes is to “go to college and get a job.” Farming in northwest Guilford County, said Colley, “is a good lifestyle. I’m at home.
in hopes of grossing $500,000 – and “you hope at the end you can put $30,000 in your pocket.”
For Colley and other area farmers, though, working the land is a tough way to make a living. It is a profession that might not even be possible for the average family anymore – much less when Wyatt comes of age.
Colley joins forces with Oak Ridge farmer Alex Nelson, of Nelson and Sons Farm based along Pepper Road. The majority of the land they work is leased. Colley owns roughly 100 acres and leases out another 600 acres; Nelson owns about 30 acres but rents 100 more. Nelson raises tobacco, wheat, hay and has 12 cattle. Colley has tobacco, wheat, soybeans and “one wild-ass kid.”
The business plan is simple, if convoluted, Colley said. He has to spend about $200,000
“It’s gettin’ harder and harder now to get financin’ for tobacco farmin’,” Colley said. “Banks are scared and don’t want to stick their neck out on something that’s a dyin’ breed.
“It’s a whole lot easier to farm and go on your own schedule,” he said.
by KEVIN SPRADLIN
I don’t have to answer to anybody. (Wyatt) gets to do a lot of things because his mom and dad are at home every day.”
“I don’t know how long you can keep doin’ it,” said Colley, 38, whose primary crop at Colley Farms is tobacco. “When I signed the first tobacco contract, if I’d have listened to one of my neighbors, I’d have run like hell. And I wouldn’t have a half million dollars’ worth of equipment and not know from one year to the next if I have a job or not. You’re taking a gamble.”
There are many issues with farming specific to northwest Guilford County. Much of the region’s good farmland has been sold for development, making it increasingly difficult to find large swaths of land suitable for farming. Instead, Nelson and Colley farm acreage scattered throughout the area.
Photo by Kevin Spradlin/NWO
Alex Nelson owns 12 beef cattle but figures he needs 500 to break even. “I’ve always had ‘em,” Nelson said. “I’m just tryin’ to hold on.”
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, every little farm had a patch of tobacco. Now, where I live, there are four or five of us. Ten years ago, probably 20. We have to travel three counties to get 100 acres.” And 30 years ago, Nelson chimed in, “probably 100 of ‘em over there.”
And that’s not all. Tractors are not as welcome on area roads as they once were. With motorists becoming ever more impatient, there is a concern for farmers’ safety.
“I can’t even hardly drive down the road on a tractor,” Nelson said. “You’re gonna get cussed out, the bird thrown at you, people passin’ you and cuttin’ in on you. You’re sittin’ on an open-face tractor. People’s gotta realize … Walmart, Food Lion … they’ve gotta get their produce and milk and cheese from a farmer.” And then there’s the economy, of course, which doesn’t help.
“The price of everything
goes up every year and we hardly ever see an increase on what we sell when it goes to market,” Colley said. “Labor’s gone up every year. Machinery, supplies … everything else has gone up. I wouldn’t recommend anybody starting into it, I can tell you that.”
To help make ends meet, both men have diversified their portfolios – though neither would be caught saying such a phrase. Nelson restores antique tractors and offers small-engine repair services. He used to do landscaping as well. Both Nelson and Colley are contractors for the state Department of Transportation to clear snowy roads. Despite all of that, Nelson and Colley couldn’t imagine doing anything else but farming as their primary occupation.
“It gets in your blood,” Nelson said. “It’s hard to get out.”
continued on page 24
DOWN ON THE FARM
continued from page 23 Nelson knows there are alternatives to farming, but “I’ve done about every option a man can do.” He always comes back to the land.
Colley knows a time could approach when he has to give it up. After all, he is on the younger side of the average farmer. “If I’ve got to put my house and my farm up for me to plant another crop, I’ll just have to be done,” Colley said. “You’ve got to have somewhere to go.”
Summerfield Farms, owned and operated by David Couch, offers a very different atmosphere but in many ways faces the same set of problems. Two acres are used exclusively to
grow organic garden items, including broccoli, tomatoes, leafy greens and “pretty much every summer garden product,” Couch said. The farm also raises grass-fed beef. The cattle begin on a ranch in Montana and then finish at Summerfield Farms until ready for processing.
But Couch, too, has had to diversify to stay relevant. The farm has become a sought-after venue for weddings, corporate events, special celebrations and photo shoots. Schools also bring busloads of children for tours.
When Couch acquired Summerfield
Photo by Kevin Spradlin/NWO
Alex Nelson says it’s becoming dangerous to operate a farm tractor on area roadways, in large part because of impatient motorists and an increase in traffic volume.
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Photo by Kevin Spradlin/NWO
J.B. Colley, left, and Alex Nelson are two area farmers who fear for future farmers as development gobbles up quality farm land and the economy makes it increasingly difficult to make a living. Both men have had to get other jobs in order to make ends meet.
Farms in 1996, none of that was a part of his business plan, not until about six years ago, when the farm hosted a community table event.
“That night, seeing 135 people at an amazing dinner under a beautiful oak tree, I had people encourage me to do more” things to invite the public onto the land.
School trips have been a favorite.
“We do try to get (the kids) out, get their hands and knees dirty,” Couch said. “It’s just amazing what happens when kids learn what’s happening with our soil quality nowadays and a nutrient cycle.”
The farm also hosts information sessions on a wide range of healthrelated topics, and the main barn serves as a central spot for local musicians during the spring and summer.
Will offering a wide range of services be enough to help young Wyatt maintain a career as a farmer? It is, at the moment, too soon to say.
“He knows how to do everything and drive every piece of equipment we have,” Colley said. “Not saying I don’t want him to (farm), but I want him to do something that is more stable in life. It’s too late for me to start over now.” Farming, and more importantly the value of farmers, has “got to come back around” to the consciousness of mainstream America. Couch thinks it will.
“My kids grew up outside,” Couch said. “We were always out on the land.” The events offered at the farm offer a lot of people the chance to have a relationship with dirt and grass.
“It’s become quite popular today,” Couch said of attending special events in rural settings. “I think there’s a movement where people want to be back on the land and connect with it.”
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Attention, Realtors Throughout the year, we offer many opportunities to promote yourself and your listings
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Please think of me as your ‘trusted advisor’! My duties as a real estate agent involve so much more than listing your home for sale or helping you buy a new home. My mission is to create value for you. That may be with a market analysis on your current home or it may be just keeping you up to date on the market. My influence as a broker will be greatly determined by putting your interests first. So if you have ideas floating around about a potential change, please give me a call. Let’s talk! It would be my pleasure.
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What do I have in common with James Bond? Sure, he’s an international spy and I’m a Realtor, but we both place a distinct value in our ability to deliver. Like Bond, I’m a results-driven person focused on adding value through structure and accurate execution. I just do it in the real estate arena. In this ever-changing industry, I’m constantly searching to provide the most innovative and strategic service possible. Just call me Hess. Nancy Hess.
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Working with Bobbie Gardner & Keller Williams Realty was a very satisfying experience for both of us. From our first meeting when Bobbie sold us our house several years ago through our recent resale, Bobbie was extremely responsive to our many questions and very informative. Her knowledge of real estate was extremely helpful and reaffirmed she is an expert in her field. We were very lucky to have her as our agent! We highly recommend Bobbie to anyone looking to buy or sell a home. – Harlow & Ann Davis
Appearing in the Northwest Observer’s third issue each month, this section serves as a guide to what’s happening in our local real estate market. To learn about the front cover package or other display advertising: (336) 644-7035, ext. 11 firstname.lastname@example.org
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17 Rezoning hearing set for March 22
What’s going on beside GTCC?
Update on Autumn Ridge
know? The Town of Stokesdale encompasses
21.4 square miles and has 2,863 parcels listed with the Guilford County Tax Department, with a total tax value of
The Town of Oak Ridge, the geographically smallest of the three northwest Guilford County towns, encompasses 15 square miles. It has 3,308 parcels listed with the Guilford County Tax Department, with a total tax value of
The Town of Summerfield encompasses
26.56 square miles and has 4,817 parcels listed with the Guilford County Tax Department, with a total tax value of
According to the Realtors Property Resource, the median estimated home value in northwest
Guilford County is . The median estimated home value for Guilford
of all northwest Guilford County adult residents are married.
This compares to of Guilford County adult residents,
County is . The median estimated home value for North Carolina is
$205,270 – and for the United States, the median home value is $228,560.
51.1 percent of North Carolina adult residents and 51.6 percent of United States adult residents.
The average househould income for residents of
The median age for residents of northwest
northwest Guilford County is . This compares to an average household income of
Guilford County is
$67,513 for Guilford County residents; $63,250 for North Carolina residents; and $72,809 for United States residents.
42.3, compared to a median age of 37.2 for Guilford County residents, 38.3 for North Carolina residents and 37.7 for United States residents.
27.7 percent of northwest Guilford County adult residents have a bachelor’s degree, compared to 23 percent of all Guilford County adult residents, 19.3 percent of all North Carolina adult residents and 18 percent of all United States adult residents. According to the U.S. Census American Community Survey,
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According to the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office, crime throughout District 1 decreased
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8 percent in 2017 compared to the
previous year. The District 1 office, one of three district offices in Guilford County, encompasses Oak Ridge, Summerfield, Stokesdale, Colfax and northwest and northern Greensboro. It is bounded by Rockingham County on the north, runs east along U.S. 29 South, west along Forsyth County and south along the Greensboro city limits. According to the National Association of Realtors, Remodeling Impact Report: Animals in Homes,
Image courtesy of National Association of Realtors
61 percent of U.S.
households have an animal or plan to
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get one, and of those households have a dog.
52 percent of animal
owners will undertake a renovation to accommodate their pet. The most popular home renovation projects for an animal are all dog-related, including: a fenced yard (23 percent), a dog door (12 percent) and laminate flooring (10 percent).
81 percent of U.S.
households say that animal-related considerations will play a role in deciding on their next living situation.
The following data for home buyers and sellers is taken from the National Association of REALTORS®’ annual Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers.
Millennials – those born after 1980 and the first generation to come of age in the new millennium – are the largest share of home buyers in the United States, at
36 percent. Sixty-five percent of these buyers were also first-time home buyers.
Gen Xers – those born between
Younger Baby Boomers – born in the mid-
to late 1950s through early 1960s –
make up of recent home buyers in the country. They have higher median household incomes and are more likely to have children under the age of 18 at home. Buyers in this age group tend to stay at similarly priced and sized homes.
Older Baby Boomers – born between
the mid-1960s and 1970s make up
1946 and the mid-1950s – consist
recent home buyers. They are the most racially and ethnically diverse population of home buyers, with 26 percent identifying as a race other than White/Caucasian. Those in this age group tend to trade up to a larger and more expensive home when they buy.
of of recent home buyers. They typically move the longest distance, at a median of 30 miles, due to retirement, a desire to be closer to friends and family and a desire for a smaller home.
26 percent of the country’s
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St. James AME has ‘stood the test of time’ With a dwindling congregation, historic church embraces its past and prays for its future by KEVIN SPRADLIN OAK RIDGE – Bass, Benbow, Dick and Dyson. Goodwin, Hayes, Martin and Miller. Pass, Russom, Searcy and Siddle. Smith, Taylor, Wadelington and Wright. At least one veteran each from World War I, World War II and Vietnam. More than five dozen surnames are engraved on markers behind St. James African Methodist Episcopal Church on Sandylea Road, situated off N.C. 150 in Oak Ridge. The stories of the people behind the names date as far back as 1829 – nearly 70 years before the start of what many believe to be the first church for African-Americans in the Oak Ridge area, and only 13 years after the AME Church was
Photos courtesy of St. James AME Church
(Above left) St. James AME Church was deeded in 1889 and constructed in 1895. What is seen in this photo is the original sanctuary, in which members still congregate today. The original building was “hand-built … by just ordinary people,” said Rev. Marcia Isley. It was once used as a one-room schoolhouse, and over the years has been added on to multiple times. (Above right) St. James AME Church as it looks today.
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Photo courtesy of St. James AME Church
Eliza Searcy Russom Dick, who passed in August 2015 at the age of 105, stands in front of the St. James AME Church Schoolhouse in this photo dated c. 1925. Dick, about 15 when this photo was taken, is in the third row from the top, first on the left.
founded in Philadelphia.
It is a history, Rev. Marcia Isley said, that is worth preserving.
The church began in about 1895, but the deed goes back another six years, Isley said. The area’s first known Negro school was housed in what is now the sanctuary. A separate building for a school was constructed beside the sanctuary, but it is long gone. Isley was appointed in May 2008 by the Western North Carolina Conference of the Second District of the A.M.E. Church. Approaching her 10-year anniversary at St. James, she reflected on her tenure, the stories of the people who came before her, and what lies ahead for her congregation of 21 members.
Time might not be on the side of the building or its parishioners. Isley, a 60-something resident of Burlington, is on the younger side of her flock. Though there are a handful of members in their 40s and 50s, well over half are over 60 and at least four are in their 80s. At this point, the church has more than three times as many people buried in the adjacent cemetery than the number of people who sit in the pews each Sunday. Growth is possible, Isley projected –
but only with change.
St. James AME might be a good match for “new people coming into Oak Ridge who don’t have a church home,” Isley said. “This would be an ideal place if they want traditional (services).” But to foster growth, “we might need to become contemporary. But the contemporary will probably come with a new and younger and more exciting pastor. I’m old-fashioned. I like hymns. I like a little bit of the gospel music, but I still have the hymn tradition in me.”
Isley said she understands how music can help attract new – read: younger – members. And the church does have a choir, an organ and a drum set. It does not have the luxury of a musician, however. “We have good music from time to time,” Isley said, “but right now we don’t have a musician. A good musician is also a drawing card. You can’t get people to come and listen to preachin’ when you don’t have music.” It is here, during a 90-minute conversation inside the sanctuary – the original part of the building that was constructed somewhere around 1895
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continued on page 32
Mirah Searcy Pass died Feb. 10, 2010. In the 94 preceding years, Pass was a force to be reckoned with. It is a story that causes Isley to chuckle.
ST. JAMES AME
continued from page 31 – that Isley begins to mention names of many former church members who have passed on. Plenty of names. Too many names.
Mary Ellen Goldston was a key member of the church’s unofficial outreach committee. Goldston, Isley said, was “a go-getter. If you saw her in the store … she was tellin’ you about her church. She was inviting you to her church. The others here, they are not that into it. They just come.”
Isley said members are currently tasked with passing out salvation leaflets that have the church’s name on each one. She shakes her head. “Everyone has some they’re supposed to be passing out,” Isley said. “I guarantee you haven’t seen one. What they don’t understand is that the preacher can’t do it all. I’ve been here nine years and it may be time for a change.”
“The story is, the church was really falling apart, sitting almost on the ground,” Isley said. “The conference wanted to close it, just close the doors.” Images courtesy of St. James AME Church
Former members of the St. James AME Church Board of Trustees, (L-R): Mirah Searcy Pass, Peggy Miller, Wendell Taylor, Curtis Russom and Christopher A. Williamson.
Goldston passed in May 2017 at the age of 88. She was the daughter of the late Eliza Searcy Russom Dick, who passed in August 2015 at the age of 105. Dick’s son, Curtis Russom, was an active church member and caretaker of the cemetery that has more than five dozen graves listed on FindaGrave.com. During a recent midweek visit to the cemetery, American flags were strewn about, and leaves and dirt indicated it had been a while since the graves had received any thorough maintenance.
The church building has, as they say, “good bones.” The foundation seems solid and since Isley has arrived, workers have installed a new heating system, a new roof and completed some other repairs, including the bell tower. Isley said it is hoped that a historic grant the church has received from the Town of Oak Ridge – a $2,000 grant with a $1,000 match by the church – to paint the exterior can be used instead to address some holes at the corners of the roof, and replace some gutters, so rodents can’t get into the attic.
After learning a pastor was not going to be appointed to the church, Pass, who was adamant the church remain open, intervened. Isley said Pass told the bishop, “’You will close my church over my dead body.’ They did appoint one.”
“The future is that it will always be an AME church,” Isley continued, “and it will always be used for church meetings, celebrations, history … that’s my desire, that it will always be a historic place and it will never be destroyed.” Isley wants people who drive along N.C. 150 to look at the building behind Oak Ridge First Baptist Church and note that “it’s still here … it has stood the test of time.”
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TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE continued from page 13
The original train depot in Stokesdale burned in 1908 and was replaced by a new depot. Although trains continued to use the tracks until 1980, they eventually no longer stopped in Stokesdale and the depot was deemed unnecessary. What happened to the Stokesdale depot? A. It was sold to an individual in 1977, who moved it and converted it to his home B. It was moved in 1958 and turned into a gas station, but it was later demolished C. It was burned by the Stokesdale Fire Department in 1994 D. It was hit by a train that jumped the tracks in 1936 and was not rebuilt
By what name was the community around Piedmont Triad International Airport once known? A. Love C. Truth B. Honesty D. Friendship
After the Town of Oak Ridge was incorporated in 1998, where was the first town hall? A. Oak Ridge Military Academy B. Central Baptist Church C. Oak Ridge Fire Department D. Oak Ridge Swim Club
What dream did the owner of the Old Mill reportedly have prior to a skirmish involving the mill during the Revolutionary War? A. That his hair was on fire B. That his toe was on fire C. That he was wearing a powdered wig D. That he was covered in powdered sugar File photo
p The Old Mill of Guilford was at one time extremely important to area commerce. Although the original mill precedes the Revolutionary War, the current structure was built circa 1819.
Photo courtesy of Oak Ridge Fire Department
t This photo shows charter members of the Oak Ridge Fire Department wearing dress uniforms.
Fire departments in Stokesdale, Summerfield and Oak Ridge all began as volunteer departments in what decade? A. 1910s C. 1930s B. 1950s D. 1980s
1. D; 2. A; 3. B; 4. C; 5. A; 6. B; 7. A; 8. C; 9. C; 10. D; 11. B; 12. A; 13. D; 14. C; 15. B
continued from page 16 a drugstore; his grandson, William Sidney Porter, grew up to become the famed writer O. Henry.
Boyden, a fledgling attorney, practiced law and served as a member of Congress before becoming an N.C. Supreme Court judge. Today, the Saunders Inn on Oak Ridge Road at Deboe Road is dilapidated from years of neglect and sits on property zoned for future commercial use.
Another, lesser-known structure is located near the corner of Stafford Mill and Bunker Hill roads in Colfax. The
house, said to have served the same purpose as Saunders’ establishments, was called the Old Red Hotel.
Gene Stafford, owner of the property where the annual Colfax Persimmon Festival is now held, says his great-grandfather, Edward Lindsey Stafford (1858-1935), owned 550 acres. His holdings comprised the area from N.C. 68 in Oak Ridge to Bunker Hill Road and contained the land between Reedy Fork and Beaver creeks. With 12 children, Edward Stafford’s land was divided among his seven sons (daughters often did not inherit land in those days). Gene Stafford’s grandfather, Charlie Eugene Stafford, inherited the tract that included the old
Charlie restored and lived in the house that he obtained in 1912, and Gene grew up there. Historians at Winston-Salem’s Old Salem and Mendenhall Homeplace in High Point have dated the modest house to the 1780s, Gene Stafford says. Its frame construction, unusual for the time, features hand-hewn rafters with wooden pegs and individually fashioned rose head nails.
Although identified as an inn or hotel, structures where travelers shared a meal or stayed overnight barely resemble hotels today. Guests generally ate at a common table with the innkeeper, his family and
other travelers – who could range from the well-educated upper class to those with no formal schooling or social decorum whatsoever. Locals might also stop in for food, a drink, or news from the outside world. The quality of the food, service, cleanliness and other conditions were whatever the innkeeper elected to offer, and travelers had little choice about the accommodations. Those who ate their meals and slept at the inn enjoyed little to no privacy.
An entry in the Encyclopedia of North Carolina titled “Inns and Taverns” says, “Travelers staying the night might find themselves sharing a bed with two or three others, if they were lucky
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enough to get a bed at all,” since a full house might force some occupants to bed down on the floor. Outdoor trips to the privy were obligatory. Female travelers often avoided sleeping or eating at public inns, instead staying in private homes.
The exact routes of stagecoaches are difficult to trace. Along with the two local inns, stagecoaches were known to traverse today’s N.C. 150, then called the Danville-Salisbury stagecoach road. Coaches certainly went to New Garden Boarding School (now Guilford College)
and took well-to-do young men to Oak Ridge Institute (now Oak Ridge Military Academy), a highly touted preparatory school. Stagecoaches also took the sisters of Oak Ridge students to Salem Female Academy (now Salem College) in Winston-Salem for their educations. Although stagecoaches are now but a footnote to the history of transportation, their existence helped shape the northwest Guilford County we know today.
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OLD MILL OF GUILFORD continued from page 19
idea of the mill being bought by someone who valued the products and the process used to make them, she said she “wasn’t nice to Amy the first time I met her… And then we got to know one another and now I feel like she is my little sister. It’s a family.” That sense of family is evident as soon as you step on the front porch that leads into the mill room. There, you’re likely to be greeted by one of the handful of faithful volunteers who give of their time while sharing plenty of laughs and stories.
For Carola Schroeder, volunteering at the mill goes back 30 years.
“We were friends (with the Parnells), so when Christmastime rolled around, I asked Heidi if she needed a hand,” Schroeder said. “And she said, ‘Yes, Carola, I always need a hand around Christmas!’
“So, I started coming in during the Christmas season and helped as much as I could. Then, after they both passed away, Amy came. And she said, ‘Carola, why don’t you stay on?’ And that’s what I did… and of course, I love history.”
Photos by Patti Stokes/NWO
(Above) Barbara Hooks, one of several faithful Old Mill volunteers, can be found at the mill almost every Friday morning “at the table,” where her specialty is bagging mill products for sale. (Below) Barbara Stevens began volunteering at the Old Mill several years ago with her mother, Carola Schroeder, during the busy Christmas season. Stevens went to work at the mill full-time over a year ago and is credited with wearing many hats and being a “great fixer.”
Schroeder said after the Parnells died she “hoped and prayed” that someone with an appreciation for history would buy the mill and keep it running. She also hoped new owners wouldn’t change the mill too much and make it “too modern.” “And Amy hit exactly the right note,” Schroeder said. At that, Klug nodded her head, noting she’s implemented only a few changes since taking over – i.e., the mill now accepts debit/credit card payments and has a website and a Facebook page.
Barbara Hooks has volunteered at the mill on Friday mornings for the last several years.
Hooks had visited the mill when she visited her daughter, who had moved
Spring 2018 Photo by Patti Stokes/NWO
to the area in 2006. She remembered reading an article about the mill’s volunteers, some of whom come from miles away. “Then my husband passed away and they finally talked me into moving up here in 2011,” Hooks said. The mill was a perfect fit for her, and she for it.
After volunteering at the mill with her mother, Schroeder’s daughter, Barbara Stevens, now works full time at the mill, where she wears several hats.
Perdue, who will turn 76 in April, said there are many things at the 251-year-old grist mill that she and Stevens have learned to fix, while adding appreciatively, “Barbara is much better at fixing things than I am. She grew up on a farm and her dad taught her a lot. “And we’re blessed to have volunteers to help us when we can’t,” Perdue added. “One volunteer was an electrical engineer and one was a civil engineer. All these men volunteered here and still, to this day, we could call them if we need them.”
As for Klug, she said when she first took over ownership of the mill almost 10 years ago she focused mainly on the product packaging process and how the retail store worked. It wasn’t until a few years into it that she decided it was time to learn at least some milling basics.
“That is the hardest thing we do,” she said. “There is definitely an art to it.” When Perdue had to have knee surgery several years ago, Klug was put to the full test. “Annie Laura threw me in with both feet when she had her surgery,” Klug said with a smile (at least, she’s smiling now). “She was out for almost eight weeks. I had been here a while and knew I could do it (the milling). Before she left she went over everything with me. And Barbara Stevens was here.”
“I did grind a lot of stuff right before I left,” Perdue added. “But we knew it wouldn’t last for two months.”
Both women agree that working at the mill has stretched them in good ways.
“I’ve learned to do a lot of things that I never in a million years thought I would learn to do!” Perdue said.
“And we have good resources,” Klug added. “Thanks to the many volunteers, it’s not often that we actually have to pay for repairs.”
Barring the few changes that Klug has instituted, much remains the same as when the Parnells operated the mill – even the fact that some customers still have products shipped, get the bill with an envelope in their shipping box, and mail their check after their order arrives. “We still maintain that policy. And we still get people calling to place their order… but more people order online now,” Klug said.
Over the last few decades the mill’s retail store offerings of stone-ground flour and cornmeal have expanded to include a variety of muffin, bread, scone and pancake mixes, grits, steelcut oatmeal, “the best raisins in the country” (according to Sheryl Johnson, a longtime customer), homemade jams, honey, and local pottery and crafts. Whether it’s to buy products made the old-fashioned way, to have their picture made in front of the 24-foot bright red waterwheel, to visit with Millie, the resident cat, or to just sit on the front porch and “rest a spell,” visitors from all over the world and “just down the road” continue to drift in and out of the Old Mill, seven days a week. Daniel Dillon, who established the mill in 1767 to grind grain for early settlers of Guilford County, could not have foreseen that his creation would endure five more owners and over twoand-a-half centuries of change while attracting customers who seek much the same as what he offered way back when – natural stone-ground products, a welcoming smile and an abundance of country charm.
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Golden Antiques & Treasures...................24
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Don Mills Builders.....................................40
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Chris Cowles, BB&T Mortgage................. 19 Dede Cunningham, Keller Williams..........26 Gail Kerber, KERBAPPEALS.....................26 Gil Vaughan, Keller Williams....................26 Johnnye & Jake Letterman, BHHS........... 16
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REAL ESTATE PROFESSIONALS & SERVICES Andrea Wilhelm, The Art of Southern Realty....26
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