Society history week wraps up at Edwards-Franklin House

David Broyles Staff Reporter

October 18, 2013

The Surry County Historical Society moved smoothly from offering a taste of sonkers to a sample of colonial tasks around the historic Edwards-Franklin House Thursday afternoon.

According to Local History Week Chairperson Emma Jean Tucker, the event has changed over the years as volunteers and society members have fine tuned the event to three days as they opened the house up to more than 450 local students since Tuesday.

“We especially like having smaller groups come through because we like for everyone to get a chance at the hands-on activities we offer to get them engaged in daily tasks from colonial life,” said Society President Annette Ayers. “We’re also looking towards the future because we want the students to come back with their families. This is just a taste for them of what we offer here.”

At one station volunteer Dave Whitfield told students how homes from the colonial period typically were sited on low ground or used a well for water.

“One of the things we take for granted now is running water,” began Whitfield. “This was not the case for most homes of this period. Old Salem was one of the few municipalities offering running water. This house’s family sited the house up high on rock. They got the water from over 1,500 feet away from a spring.”

Noting that trips for water at this distance weren’t practical he demonstrated how the family at the circa 1779 home drilled holes in logs and joined them with tapered ends and formed a wooden pipeline to carry the water to a reservoir behind the home. He showed the students some of the exposed logs in a creek behind the home which were discovered when state road crews installing a culvert uncovered them.

“These trees were cut and put in place more than 200 years ago,” said Whitfield. “They are still visible because they are under water and in mud where there’s no oxygen. They have been around since right before we were a country.”

Tucker ushered students over to another area near the house where two pots boiled on a fire. She told the students much of the work around the Edwards-Franklin House was done by slaves with men, women and children working the fields of corn, tobacco and some cotton.

She talked about some of the animals routinely kept by colonial families such as chickens, cows, horses and sheep. Tucker said the sheep were particularly valuable because of the wool they provided. Tucker explained how local plants, berries and flowers were used to make dyes for wool and showed a different range of colors which could be created by varying the amount of ingredients in the boiling water. Students were invited to dip wool samples in the pots to see what colors were held by the fur.

“These children are the future historical society members,” said Ayers. “The kids were so appreciative of the activities we had planned for them. They loved looking at how we have preserved and restored the house. What is also wonderful about this is everyone here was volunteers. It takes many hands, community volunteers and society members to let us do this. “

She said the society’s next event will be to stage an Antebellum Christmas at the house. The group is looking at holding the celebration on the Saturday following Thanksgiving.

Reach David Broyles at or 336-719-1952.