I am undertaking the restoration of the circa 1884 John James McCuiston house, located in a rural community of North Carolina. She’s gone through quite a few changes through the last 130+ years, but I am slowly peeling it all back to a close resemblance of her original appearance. Five generations were raised in this house, which was once the center of a tobacco and cow farm. Some of the older folks of the community still remember the tobacco primings where some of the community would show up to help and be treated to a big meal in and around the house. Many also tell me that they considered the McCuiston House to be the finest house in the little town when they were young. After it was sold out of the family, it passed through a couple of hands until it ended up in foreclosure and sat abandoned for about two years. A friend purchased it, had the wisteria, ivy, and massive overgrowth cut off of the house and made some much-needed repairs. I then bought the house from him. I am slowly peeling back the layers and restoring the house back as best I can to its original circa 1884 appearance.
I have loved old things ever since I was a child. My grandpa, Tom Bennett, instilled it in me. He grew up in the foothills of Surry County as a poor sharecropper’s son. In many ways he was a generation behind many others because of his life experiences. When I was a little girl, my grandpa still had a working wood cook stove, a collection of oil lamps, and two sets of plows and mule harnesses “just in case the tractor broke down.” My grandparents’ old house was a log one built in the 1790s–the second-oldest homestead still standing in Guilford County. (The next door neighbors had the oldest.) They heated by wood in the winter and cooled off with open windows in the summer. I spent most of my childhood on my grandparents 50-acre farm. My best childhood memories came from a week-long stay on that farm during the big ice storm of 1995. Power was out for a week, and we lived by lamplight and cookstove. I loved hearing stories from my grandparents on how they grew up, especially stories from my grandfather about life as a boy. He valued the old ways and wanted to pass them down to me and my sister. Our family had been farmers since around 1624 when Bennett’s Welcome was started by our ancestors near Jamestown, Virginia. Not too many families of the South can claim such a solid line of farmers, which is something I am honored to be able to do.
When I am not working on restoring the circa 1884 McCuistion House, I usually find myself in my office where I serve the Lord as our church’s secretary.
I have a love of good sweet tea, front porches, old-time bluegrass music, and history.
I am also the proud mama to Joy the Papillon, the princess of this farmhouse. She’s quite the little diva.