When all the world, at least in the South, was young.

This Civil War story from Fannie Powers Dodd, great-granddaughter of Dr. Samuel Wait and Sarah “Sally” Merriam Wait, was recently rediscovered during an overhaul of the museum’s vertical files.

The original pages were typewritten on July 25, 1938.

Brewer House

“In April 1865, the old Brewer Home in Wake Forest, N.C. must have been singularly attractive. A white house with green blinds amid spreading green lawns and over-arched by many graceful elms.

Winding walks, the one on the southern side of the house leading to an old fashioned flower garden; many years later could be seen a hint of its beauty. A Safrano rose here, a brilliant cherry red peony there and stars of Bethlehem everywhere. On the northern side of the house, beyond the lawn, a similar walk led to a gorgeous orchard of fruit trees, extending north to what is now Pine Street and west to North College Street. This orchard extended behind the house and offered a blissful place for the young. The house itself was square in shape, with wide halls and ten large rooms. The kitchen, of course, was separate and to the rear. The lower floor of this home was made of hand hewn virgin growth logs–so cool was my grandmother’s sitting room; I can see now the deep window seats, on one was laid a Bible and a New Testament, each in large print. In the other were blooming plants. This was the heart of the home.

The wide staircases were easy of ascent and on the landing between the second and third floors was placed a closet, almost room-like in size.

On this April day in ’65, dread filled the air–the Yankees were marching through this little college town. A division of Sherman’s Army, on their way north, all day long, the troops came through. Of course the horses, cows and so on would be stolen but could the hams and bacon be saved? Yes, they could be–this precious provision for the rest of the year, for this family at least, was stored (along with some valuables) in that closet on the second floor stair-landing. Then the shrewd grandmother of little Hattie Brewer (now Mrs. Hattie Brewer Powers of Wake Forest), Mrs. Samuel Wait, drove nails across the door of this concealed closet on which were hung many old capes, coats and clothing, completely hiding any suggestion of a door or closet. Yes, the meat was saved; up and down the stairs soldiers went, always passing the shabby old clothes, behind which, if they only knew, were dear possessions.

And what was little Hattie Brewer doing? As children will–she was standing on the fence watching the enemy go by–red golden curls shining in the sun. No doubt many a glance made these men think of their little ones at home–but all at once–one soldier lifted his gun and in jest with bayonet fixed–pointed to this little girl. It is needless to say how that smiling little face changed and how those chubby little legs raced for home and safety.

In the picture, taken years later, oaks have replaced the old orchard on the north. A large elm conceals in part the upper and lower porches but the old pillars of the porches can still be seen. I have heard my grandmother say the lower pillars were especially admired when the house was new–and all the world, at least in the South, was young.

This old home, located on North Main Street, just half a block off the College Campus is now known as ‘The Colonial Inn.'”

Fannie Powers Dodd
Wake Forest, N.C.
July 25th, 1938


  1. It is so amazing you have recovered this great lady’s letter. I knew Fannie Dodd in the Fifties as a ten-year old. My best friend was Mary Ella Dodd, her granddaughter.. Grandmother Dodd opened up her room, filled with Victorian lace, windows, mahogany tables and history, to us two young “artists,” who loved her flower picture book. My dear friend named her Christmas doll after her grandmother. While I was too young to understand the light-filled presence of this great, elderly lady, I knew how much love there was in that home. They shared it so freely with me,a seminary student’s child. This family and these gentle spirits are the dearest memories of my childhood, along with trips to Mr. Keith’s Grocery Store, and Mrs. Peggy Memory’s fourth grade.I shall always keep them and the kindness of these special people.

    Thank you for all the miraculous recovery work you are doing to keep the lights of these histories burning.

    1. Thank you so much for your comment, these are beautiful memories.

      We’ve spoken with Hallie Arrington Hearn, who’s a younger cousin of Mary Ella’s and simply adored her. Hallie grew up next door to Mary Ella and recalled all these things you’ve mentioned.

      Hallie was also able to fill in some history you might want to know. Mary Ella married and had a happy life, but developed cancer and passed away about five-years-ago. She had two children and at least three grandchildren, and was living in Wilmington, NC. The house you recall remained in the family until around 2005, when it was purchased by a couple who have worked several years on a complete restoration. It’s turned out beautifully, and reflects precisely the era and style you’ve described.

      Again, thanks so much for writing. What you’ve said is a wonderful addition to our historic record. If you’d like to message with Hallie directly, we can help put you in touch.

      1. Dec. 4, 2013,

        Oh, you have made my Season!. Yes, I would love to be put in contact with this lovely person who responded.

        I am grateful for the opportunity to know more. This dear family is a special part of my best childhood memories.

        Thank You, Again. I hope to visit Wake Forest soon.

        Cherie Cox
        Charlotte, NC

        1. I have forwarded your information to Hallie, and I do hope you hear from her!

          Have a very Merry Christmas and a wonderful holiday season. Please visit Wake Forest soon… we’d love to meet you in person!

          1. Hello, my Mother was Mary Ella Dodd and I remember her telling this story of her grandmother. Ms. Cox I also remember her speaking of you and my memories of the old Powers, Dodd Home are just as you described. I was always amazed at the Parlor room with its Victorian furnishings and portraits of Dr Powers and his Wife. So glad to see this article here. Thank you to the Wake Forest Museum.

Leave a Reply