Video: ‘Here comes the Yankee Army!’

Local youth get tour of Leak-Wall House

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

Photo gallery – 400 images
Video – chamber pot
Video – the record player
Video – the “horse”

ROCKINGHAM — Macy Steen was asked to enter a cellar that could be more than 160 years old.

The steep pitch of the concrete steps provided an eery entrance into the dark room. She was, in a word, terrified.

“Are there snakes,” Macy asked her host, Tom MacCallum.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Macy Steen, 10, is all smiles after conquering early fears of entering an unlit root cellar on Tuesday at the historic Leak-Wall House in Rockingham.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Macy Steen, 10, is all smiles after conquering early fears of entering an unlit root cellar on Tuesday at the historic Leak-Wall House in Rockingham.

MacCallum, for his part, chuckled and continued to lead the way.

“You’ll be alright,” he reassured.

MacCallum was right. Macy removed the pre-staged produce from blue milk creates and put them into her basket, then ascended the stairs to show 27 other children in the Freedom Baptist Church summer program. Her ear-to-ear grin reflected the fact that she had, indeed, survived the harrowing ordeal.

Tom and his wife, May MacCallum, conducted the 90-minute walking tour of the Leak-Wall home and garden. The home is owned and maintained by the Richmond County Historical Society. The idea was to relate to more than two dozen youth and their adult caregivers that life today was not always this way — no iPads and smartphones and grocery stores filled with anything one needs or wants.

There was no Food King, Tom MacCallum noted during a tour of the Leak-Wall House on Tuesday. Construction began on the home, located on Fayetteville Road, in about 1853. There was no indoor plumbing, no citywide sewer system, no running water — and no supermarket. There were few neighbors, and much of the surrounding land was farmland home to, among other things, free-rang hogs.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Young people in Freedom Baptist Church's summer program help move "the horse" — an early mobile fire suppression system.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Young people in Freedom Baptist Church’s summer program help move “the horse” — an early mobile fire suppression system.

Farms featured cows and horses and chickens and, at the prompting of one young tour member, snakes.

“Oh yeah,” MacCallum said. “Snakes everywhere.”

Of course, snakes weren’t necessarily fundamental to the success of a working farm. The dark coolness of the root cellar, however, was essential to food preservation. Kids chewed on handout soft dried apricots and pecans and, later, beef jerky that might have come from the smokehouse in the 1850s — clearly the class favorite.

Fire protection wasn’t quite what it is today, either, MacCallum noted. He shard with the kids “the horse,” a single fire hose made mobile by a two-wheel carriage. It was pulled from a primitive fire station to where ever it was needed. By the time it arrived on scene, however, the hose was usually unable to do much good.

MacCallum said the downtown Rockingham area burned and was rebuilt multiple times before 1908, when the city of Rockingham developed a water system.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com The white pot on the table was not, Tom MacCallum said, used for cooking.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
The white pot on the table was not, Tom MacCallum said, used for cooking.

To protect homes like the Leak-Wall House, the kitchen was constructed separately from the main home. Today, only large rocks mark the area where the kitchen once stood. In the 1850s, the kitchen was staffed by servants — slaves — and the food was taken into the home after it was cooked to help keep the heat, and the risk of fire, outside.

That wasn’t the only thing that was kept outside. MacCallum was insistent the home once had an outhouse — a place where servants and residents alike could relieve themselves.

“None of the family will talk about such a thing,” MacCallum said, “but I don’t care what they say. The was one out there.”

Not everyone, and especially not the ladies of the home, went outside to do what people do. Inside, chamber pots slid into the bottom of a designated chair. Servants, then, were used to keep the pots clean.

“Well, they had to go somewhere,” said Lori Patrick, camp leader.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com With no running water, residents and servants of the Leak-Wall House depended on well water.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
With no running water, residents and servants of the Leak-Wall House depended on well water.

MacCallum firmly implanted in the children that most of them — those 8 years old and above — would, if living 150 years ago, already be working at the mills. He presented a day in the life of such a young worker: 12-hour works, six days a week — and the tidy salary of 25 cents per day.

Of course, there were worse things than a long day of work in the 1800s. From 1861 to 1865, the men of the Leak-Wall House fought for the Confederacy. MacCallum stood on the front porch of the home in the shade of the Cedar of Lebanon tree and shouted, as they would have then, “Here comes the Yankee Army! They’re all around us! Everywhere!”

Union troops, MacCallum noted, left the people of the Leak-Wall House alone. They were far more interested in advancing to Fayetteville than causing much damage in Rockingham. Union troops did burn the Richmond Manufacturing Company — what later became Great Falls Mill — in March 1865.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Dried apricots received a certain reaction from young people; beef jerky was a favorite, though.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Dried apricots received a certain reaction from young people; beef jerky was a favorite, though.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Macy Steen chooses her preserved produce from the Leak-Wall House root cellar.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Macy Steen chooses her preserved produce from the Leak-Wall House root cellar.

Filed in: Education, Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Rockingham

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