Southern Heritage

Discovering the Past

When I purchased my home, I wanted to immediately find out as much as I could about who had built the home and who had lived in it. I traced back the deeds online on the county records website as far as I could possibly go. When I had gone as far back as I could, I Googled the name of the lady who was on the oldest deed I could find. I found her obituary, which of course had the names of her parents and her children. As I already had an Ancestry.com account, I began a new tree, adding in all of the family members that I possibly could find. From there, I discovered the name of John James McCuiston. Through the census records, it seemed the McCuistons were consistent in staying in our small little community.

I found the phone number for one of the daughters of the lady who had owned the house and left a pretty detailed voicemail, hoping that by providing the information I had found she wouldn’t think me to be a crazy nut of some sort but see that I was serious in getting the history of my home. Thankfully, she and her husband called me back in a short amount of time, and we had a lovely conversation of her memories at the old farmhouse. She was able to provide more information and recommended me to speak with her sister, who had been the last of the family to own the home. As the sister was preparing for knee surgery, I decided to wait and not disturb her. Eventually, about a year or so later, I found her on Facebook and sent her a friend request and a very long private message with current photos of her old home. It started off a wonderful dialogue, and she scheduled a visit with her family the next time they were in my area.

During the holiday season last year, I had a lovely visit from the great-granddaughter, great-great-granddaughter, and great-great-great-grandson of John McCuiston. The great-great-granddaughter was the last of five generations to have lived in this house. Her grandmother had been born in the bedroom that is to be the library, as had all of the children of Mr. McCuiston.

Mrs. Betty Carlson (Mr. McCuiston’s great-granddaughter and last family owner of the farmhouse), her son, her daughter, Mrs. Dawn Carlson-Trotter (the fifth and last generation of the family to have lived here), and Mrs. Carlson-Trotter’s son (Mr. McCuiston’s great-great-great grandson) visited with me at the old farmhouse this past Christmas.
Mrs. Carlson has been so gracious to allow me to share their family photos and names with you so I can preserve the history of this lovely old farmhouse.

Devoe Clinard, 1930s(?)

Meet Mr. Devoe Clinard, the son-in-law of Mr. John James McCuiston. He married the only daughter of the McCuistons–Lettie. She was a nurse, and they met when she took care of him after he lost a leg in an accident. He and an employee were moving a boiler down cellar steps of a customer’s house. The employee accidentally dropped his end and the boiler fell, crushing Mr. Clinard’s leg.
If you look closely, you see he is smoking a cigarette as he walks around his father-in-law’s home. This picture was possibly taken in the 1930s, most likely right before Lettie McCuiston Clinard began her renovation project on her childhood home. Notice the details–wood shingles, turned porch posts with simple corbels, an old screen door on the L-shaped front porch, and two wide steps at the center of the front porch. The windows on the first floor remain to this day, but the upstairs windows were replaced when the porch was changed to a Mt. Vernon style shortly after this picture was taken. The bushes lining the walkway to the front porch also remain to this day. It seems to me that the right side of the porch (the L) is screened in. I plan to return it to this style in the next few years.

Devoe Clinard, 1950s ?)

Here is Mr. Clinard again. Notice the changes made to the farmhouse. Also notice the sweet little beagles behind his leg. The one on the right is enjoying a big yawn. The McCuistons and their descendants always loved dogs, and the family tells me there were always dogs in and around the house. Beagles, poodles, German shepherds… they were a dog-loving family.

 

Lettie Shaw and the beloved family dog

In the next picture, a young Lettie Shaw is seen showing some love to her beloved pet beagle on the front yard of her ancestral home. Her great-grandfather, John James McCuiston, built the home when he decided to marry. According to the family, he had been living on the property with his brother and his family, helping work the large tobacco and dairy farm. When he met a special young woman, he decided it was time to get on his own. He wanted his own place before marriage, so the family says he built this house. As he married in September of 1884, this information has helped me establish the age of this house. Ms. Lettie was the first contact I had with this family and provided the first leads for the history of the old farmhouse.

 

Mr. McCuiston’s descendants and their friends were enjoying a break from farm work on what appears to have been a lovely day. I have been told by long-time residents of our community that this family was well-loved by their neighbors. Stories of large suppers after tobacco priming are fondly told by those who remember this house crowded with people. I have been told that the family would often help out other farmers in the community when a need would arise.

 

Lettie McCuiston Clinard, early 1960

Mrs. Lettie McCuiston Clinard, daughter of John James McCuiston, getting ready to leave for Sunday morning service at the local Baptist church. Her parents and herself were all buried there. Some in our small little town still remember her niece (whom Mrs. Clinard willed the home to after her death), Mrs. Adelaide McCuiston Shaw, fondly as a lady with a great sense of humor who loved life, loved lending a helping hand, and loved giving massive meals for the community on the property of her home. There have been several times when getting groceries just down the road that I will get into conversation with an elderly resident of our small town. When they ask where I live, I tell them where my house is, and their eyes brighten up and their stories run about this way: “You are the one who is fixing up the old Shaw House? I remember spending many days there, helping prime or get in the tobacco or helping with the cows. Ms. Adelaide would always feed everybody real good. We always loved going there as kids because we knew we were gonna have a good time and great food!”
Here’s a view of the old place from the Beeson’s field across the street. See that old tree right in front of the car in the driveway? That’s a kefir pear tree. That tree is probably as old as this house, because Mrs. Carlson tells me that her mother (the granddaughter of the builder) told her that old tree was already old when she was a tiny girl. It still stands today and has a good-sized crop every summer. The current Mr. Beeson (who owns the field and property that belonged to his father) knew Devoe and Lettie McCuiston Clinard. He tells me they were right proud of their cows, and that this farmhouse had always been considered by many to be the grandest home in our little community. He said he always loved to look at it as a little boy and everyone always talked about how fine the place was.
I am honored to have the opportunity to preserve the history of this old place and to slowly restore it back to the lovely old farmhouse she has been!

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