Vacation / Genealogy Trip
Day 7 – October 20, 2016
Headed to Siloam for a ride around… taking photos, a stop at the cemetery and whatever else comes our way. As usual, I’m always hoping to catch the new owners in who bought my grandfathers farm….
I never tire of riding through Siloam, it brings back memories of when I visited my grandparents and weekends spent on their farm. Every time I go to Siloam, the small strip of brick buildings in town… get smaller and smaller. When I was little there were several stores, with the small corner general store belonging to granddaddy’s cousin, Lawson and Ulma McKinley… it was always fun to visit… as whatever I wanted, I could have… it just went on granddaddy’s bill; I can still hear the slam of the old screen door as I entered.
I wish I had paid more attention to Ulma’s craftsmanship in there… she was an expert at caning chairs, often working on several at once. I knew she painted too, but I never saw her paint. I was lucky enough to see one of her paintings at her son Kenneth’s house, it was a still art of a watermelon and it looked so real.
Ulma’s many chihuahuas, who occupied the couch in the back, always interested me; at any time, they’d pop their heads out from under the quilts if they thought you might sit on “their” sofa… and you’d be run off pretty quick. I’m sure I teased them many times! After eating my favorite Baby Ruth candy bar, I’d walk next door to Johnson’s’ Pharmacy, the perfect place to look for the newest comic book. First I needed to find granddaddy, as he always gave me money… and I couldn’t wait to spend it. My favorites were Casper, Cecil and the Sea Serpent, Little Richie…. and then I graduated to Archie and Veronica. If granddaddy was still busy over at the filling station, I had more time to check out the last general store, which I can still visualize in my head. There were oak curved glass cabinets on top of the oak counters and a huge cast iron stove way in the back. Behind the glass cabinets was lots and lots of candy…. decisions were always so hard! By the time granddaddy was ready to go back to the farm, my shopping was done, I was set with comic books and a bag of candy; my favorite spot to enjoy my candy and comic books were the front porch swing… every Southern house had one and many still do today!
This is the front of Johnson’s Pharmacy… what’s left of it in 2014. In photos below you can see that it is now boarded up in 2016.
I take photos yearly and these are from 2014 and 2016. You can see the two stores with open windows, but the second store on the left has windows that are now cracked and broken. The top photos show how it looked in 2014.
I take photos of the old stores on every visit, and sadly watch them slowly deteriorating… sadly caving in over the past decade. In April of this year, Johnson’s Pharmacy lost it’s roof, but the front of the building with its glass showcase windows were still intact. But on this trip in October, I found it now boarded up. Once it comes down, there will only be one store left standing, and that is the corner store of Lawson and Ulma’s, and it’s already showing signs of deterioration. It originally was the Bank of Siloam until the late 1930’s; the original bank vault still remains inside.
We rode out toward Slip Rock, and where the cabin mama was born in. I need to find out who owns the property where that cabin is, as I’d like to walk into it on another trip. Slip Rock Road is still a graveled dirt road, and if you don’t drive slow, you’ll bump all over the place. When I was growing up, Slip Rock was the place to go; mama took me there so many times. The small stream that fed down toward the slippery rocks was crystal clear and fun to walk in with your toes squishing in the clean sand; little fishes would swim around your feet. The best part was inching out on the rocks to sit and slide down into the waiting pool of water at the bottom – and those rocks were slick! Today that running stream is totally dried up as I saw no running water on either side of the road as we drove over; it’s now posted “no trespassing.” Mama said it’s been closed for years now and it’s only the older generations that experienced what it offered and even know and remember it. The new generations have sure missed out!
After we were back on the main road, we drove over to Syrup Mill Crossing and decided to take a ride by my grandfather’s farm, just incase we found anyone home. We were in luck today and after meeting the new owners, they graciously allowed us to walk through the old farmhouse. I was so excited! It’s been many years since walking back in granddaddy’s house and I still knew it like the back of my hand. Please Note: If you happen to know the location of the farm, or the owners, please respect the new owners privacy… don’t mention its location or their names.
I spent many weekends here, arriving usually late on Friday nights around 9 p.m. It was always so dark there at nighttime, and the dark nights there scared me. I remember jumping from the car and running toward grandmama and granddaddy standing on the back porch with the lights on… shining through the open kitchen door. I also ran super fast because of the little frogs that were in the yard at night… I didn’t want to step on them. Once I was on the bottom cement step… I knew I was safe. Of course I was barefoot, if I had worn shoes I wouldn’t have had that problem.
The old farmhouse still looks the same from the outside, but it’s in the process of being remodeled… so I wasn’t sure of what I’d be seeing, or not seeing. I was excited… and couldn’t wait to walk through the kitchen door – one more time.
Before walking in I told them that years ago, the only steps here was a large square concrete step on the bottom with two big irregular granite stones that made the next steps. While not in use now, they are still there on the property. I did see them once many years ago when we stopped, and wondered if that was them sitting off to the side under the trees. I enjoyed sitting out on the back stoop, on those very stones, with granddaddy; that’s where he taught me how to whistle to the Bobwhite quail perched out in the fields. You whistle to them… and wait. On most evenings, they answered you.
The Coca Cola clock probably hung there by the kitchen door for many years; I can’t even remember it ever not being there… Read Friday Night Family Heirlooms: The Coca Cola Clock
As I walked up onto the back porch, I looked down and thought about all the times I played out there running up and down, sneaking inside through the other door that led into the dining room off the porch. By the kitchen door always hung a Coca Cola thermometer, probably dating back to the 1940’s and as long as I could remember, it was always there. After I married and brought my husband to visit, it was the first thing he noticed, and for the first time…. I really looked at it. It left in my suitcase that day and hangs in my kitchen today. Another little gadget that hung on a nail on the porch was a little gingerbread weather house, if you’d like to read its story, you can follow the link to Friday Heirlooms: The Weather House.
Walking into grandmama’s kitchen brought back memories, but I quickly saw the biggest transformation there – no more old kitchen cabinets or her country sink, and no jar of blackberry jam waiting for me!
The deep porcelain old sink was where I played, when no one was looking. My entertainment was to make mounds of soap suds in the sink, then pull the plug and look out the window, watching them flow out toward the field in the cement ditch granddaddy had made. Grandmama’s sink water ran directly down the one pipe, right into the trench which carried the water away from the house to end up in the cow pasture. It’s ok that the sink and cabinets are all gone – the memories will never fade from my mind… at least I hope not.
The old kitchen counters always held some of my favorites… blackberry jam and peach preserves. Grandmama made the best! I only wish I could have watched her make them. Mama said she would start the blackberries brewing at night by putting them in a big pot and covering them over with sugar – she let them sit overnight before cooking the next morning. I guess that was the secret for her jam being so tasty. If I didn’t see any jars on the counter, I would immediately start opening the cabinets until I found what I wanted.
I moved on to grandmama’s dining room, and was immediately greeted by her old corner cabinet that granddaddy built. That was her pride and joy because she stored her canning jars there for the winter – she was so proud of all her hard work in preserving vegetables and fruits they grew. When I asked if it was coming out, I was happy to hear that they liked it and after the new floor is put in, it’s being moved to the opposite corner; grandmama will be happy to know it will continue to be used!
As we walked through, mama told stories of how the rooms were used and what was original when her father bought the house, and what he later added. When she looked at the door in the dining room that led to the back room she told them how Aunt Lena (McKinley-Van Dusen) actually cut the wall there for a door, and also even made the door. Mama said grandaddy finally helped her after she started, but he hadn’t really wanted a door there. Aunt Lena knew grandmama really wanted another exit out of the dining room, so she built it for her; she probably knew her brother would eventually help. When there was no door in the dining room, if you wanted to get to the back room, you had to go through their room into the back hallway, which led to the back room. It made sense to have a door directly in the dining room, but not necessarily to granddaddy!
When my grandparents lived there, the front room off the dining room was a combination of bedroom and sitting room…. we spent all our time in that room. Odd to think that anyone who came to visit, sat in their bedroom room, but that’s how they wanted it. Granddaddy had his favorite rocking chair in there, but you didn’t or shouldn’t dare sit in it. That chair was his chair where he watched wrestling; he would rock back and forth while beating the floor with his cane at the same time…. especially if his wrestler was losing. The second room behind their bedroom was once the parlor, but I guess as they got older and another bedroom was needed, their bedroom became “the room” for everything. My favorite spot to hang out was usually the small rocking chair by the window; it was an advantage spot to watch for headlights coming down the road if granddaddy was out fox hunting. That small rocking chair was where grandmamma rocked her babies, sewed and quilted. It had no arms, so you could easily sew without hitting your elbow. I featured Grandmama’s small rocker in Friday Heirlooms: grandmamma’s rocking chair.
I only knew this other room as a bedroom off their room, just across the back hallway, and we slept on the two metal beds in there. I remember laying in bed and staring at the wood tongue and groove walls with the knotty pine knots showing… and seeing faces stare back at me. Some of the walls mama had painted years ago, but the back rooms are still all wood, even the ceiling; at one time it was mama’s bedroom.
The new owners mentioned that they hoped to buy a swing for the front porch… I liked hearing that and told them that there once was a swing on that porch, but it resides now at my house. Mama took it from the farm when it was sold and I packed it up one summer and shipped it to CT. I spent many afternoons swinging out on the front porch holding many of the wild wiggly kittens I’d capture; often only for a few minutes before they made their escape. I love the stories mama tells of her father sitting out in the swing during storms, he enjoyed watching the lightening while singing “You are my Sunshine.”
When granddaddy bought the farm in 1940, it was an old shabby house… the government bought and remodeled houses, built barns and sold them to farmers on government loans. Granddaddy was so proud of that farm – many lost their farms, but he worked hard to pay that loan every year and pay it off – way ahead of schedule.
Standing there and looking around, I could still visualize every piece of their furniture and where it sat, just like it was yesterday. Grandmama’s vanity sat just inside the door and granddaddy’s razor strap for shaving hung on the door facing.
There was no indoor bathroom when I was little… but there was a potty jar that was emptied outside. They had an outhouse, and while I did venture inside a few times, it wasn’t very often… it was a scary place to me. When mama moved back in the early 70’s to care for her father, she insisted that he put in a bathroom; and although he still didn’t want one…. mama got her bathroom! The oversized closet in the back room became the new bathroom. The new owners laughed about the bathroom telling us how extremely heavy the old cast iron bathtub had been to remove.
As we continued our walk through the house, the new owners learned much history of the previous owners… it was once a house filled with love and now a new family will enjoy it, bringing love back into the house. I’m sure my grandparents will smile knowing the house will continue on.
As we walked back into the kitchen upon leaving, they talked about the oak cabinets which would be installed soon and pointed to the old cupboard doors leaning against the boxes. I had not even noticed them when I first walked in, as there was too much that I was tyring to take in all at once. She began telling me how she saved all the doors when they pulled the cabinets down and was planning a project with them; her plan was to make a coat rack with one of the long cabinet doors. Then she offered me a door… and when I couldn’t make up my mind as to a short or long door, she gave me one of each – I was thrilled beyond words! I am not easily excited over gifts, but no one could have given me anything better and I couldn’t wait to put those doors in my car… to know they were really mine! (Now to find the perfect project for my doors)
I walked around the house taking photos and when I walked over to the smoke house, they said that’s where they are going to put up a farm bell. Mama said, “that’s a perfect spot as that is where my father originally had his, so mama could see it from the kitchen window.” I was always a little scared to go inside the smoke house, I think they used to tell me that there might be snake’s insides, so I’d open the door, peek in, but never lingered long.
The well house is now gone, but there was once a thriving well there that kept the milk cold when granddaddy lowered it down. Mama’s chore was to pump water and keep the buckets filled on the back porch; a job she hated! They wondered if there had been a pump… I laughed,…”yes I have that also!”
When I looked up at the tin roof, I thought about the cow weathervane that once was there, but by accident. Mama arrived home one day to discover that a weathervane and lightning rods had been installed. The neighbor, just down the road, stopped to tell her that they were suppose to have been installed on his house, but instead stopped at hers. As they couldn’t be removed…. they were hers now for free! While my husband and I were home one year and discovered them, hubby took the ladder out and the weathervane was no more…. it headed to CT.
It was definitely a walk down memory lane and I’ll never forget their farmhouse and no matter how it’s remodeled, it will always look the same to me; I’m happy that it will offer love to another family. I left that day with more than just a couple of doors, I left with new friends that I can visit again – they truly made my day and I’ll never forget their hospitality to me and my mother.
Our final stop in leaving Siloam today was the cemetery where granddaddy and grandmamma are buried. I’m sure they understood why I came, to tell them that the farm was still there and would continue on – my grandfather loved that farm so much.
The slideshow of photos show the graves of my grandparents, Edgar and Ola McKinley, their son, Leroy McKinley, who died in WWII and my sister Monica Y. Bryan, who lived a short life of only six months; they are buried in the McKinley cemetery plot. My grandparents belonged to the Siloam Baptist church which sits just across the street from the cemetery; note the granite picnic tables there.
To read more posts of my Vacation Genealogy trip, click on link.
Please Note: If you happen to know the location of the farm, or the owners, please respect the new owners privacy… please don’t mention the location or their names.
© 2016, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved