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.
“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