For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. ~ Hebrews 3:4
In 1885 America was still a fairly new country with only 38 states in the union. It was the year Grover Cleveland was inaugurated president, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York’s harbor and indoor plumbing was still a distant dream for most rural areas.
It was also the year John Joseph Hitch decided to buy two lots in the “village” of Fountain Inn to build a home for his growing family. Education was obviously important to John Joseph and his wife, Margaret Jane. Giving their children an opportunity to attend school, held in the Masonic Hall, was the reason they gave for moving to the village. The education paid off. Their son, Young, eventually became an M.D.
I imagine how excited his children must have been as they saw their new home being assembled by strong men hoisting hefty beams. I’m sure the little ones chased each other up and down the staircase while their mother yelled from behind to be careful. Perhaps 13 year-old Young and his sisters were thrilled when they peered out the second floor bedroom window to see the train pull up to the new depot only two blocks away. And maybe there was some fanfare in the streets when the town was chartered just a year later while John Joseph and Margaret Jane watched through the large, beveled picture window in their living room.
If walls could talk.
As the children grew older the Hitch’s may have decided the house was too large for their empty nest because they sold it to Mr. Frank Edwards in 1909. Frank and his young wife, Effie, had their two children while living there—a son in 1913 and a daughter in 1916. As the family grew, so did the house. Frank added a grand front porch in 1916 with a graceful curve that wrapped around the right side of the residence. The twelve massive concrete Ionic columns that held its roof gave the home an elegant new facade.
Even though his children were still young, Frank sold the house only four years after the porch was added. On January 9, 1920, the cycle began again when Mr. A.G. Edwards and his wife, Nivea, bought the house and moved in with their two young daughters, Nell, five, and Mary Frances, three.
The girls were well-educated and I’m sure taught all the social graces in the front living room by their mother. Music must have been the background of their days when Nell learned to play the piano. Later, she taught the instrument to many of the town’s children. Those would be the only pitter patter of little feet roaming the halls from then on.
Both girls spent the remainder of their lives in the house. When Nell married in the early 1950’s, the family decided the home needed more space. Even though their father had died in 1935, the mother was still living with her daughters and son-in-law. So in 1954 a two story wing was added with two large bedrooms and a new downstairs bath. Sadly, Nell passed away from cancer in 1961, ten years before her mother’s death. Afterward, Nell’s husband moved away.
Mary Frances hadn’t yet married when her sister died, but in September of 1965, at the age of 49, she wed T. Lloyd Garrett, a bachelor 12 years her senior. The house once again had a male caretaker. And Mary Frances became known to us as Mrs. Garrett. As the years grew long, she witnessed the rising up and tearing down of homes and businesses around her, thus earning her the title of unofficial town historian. Mrs. Garrett lived out the rest of her 99 years in the home she loved.
As far as we know, there are only two homes still standing in Fountain Inn that pre-date the residence, both built in the 1850’s. And there were only eight constructed between 1880 and 1899. The house that Mr. Hitch built stands with an elite group of timeworn old beauties who’ve stood proud as they witnessed the town flourish.
Now, as the house is getting its makeover, its old frame still resting on roughhewn timbers and tumbled brick piers, it’s almost ready to welcome a new family. How exciting to think that once again, those old wood floors could carry the weight of energetic children with bright futures ahead. Soon, the cycle will begin again and a family’s love will warm the heart of the revived beauty that has stood the test of time.
Join me next week as we continue the story …