Sunday, October 4, 2015

Historic Carson House, Marion, NC

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A site on the official North Carolina Civil War Trail and the Blue Ridge National Heritage Area Trail.  
If our exploits this summer are any indication, you may have guessed that I am a lover of history and old houses.  The Carson House, known as "Pleasant Gardens," is a lovely 1700's home that began as an old clapboard walled cabin and grew and was later renovated to look more like a southern plantation home with a grand two story front porch.  This house actually ties in nicely to our state historical tour we took this summer which included Tryon Palace in New Bern.  Colonel John Carson, a Scotch-Irish immigrant, received land grants of over 6,500 acres in several counties in the western part of the state, including the 640 acre plantation on which the Carson House sits.  Much of those land grants came from Lord William Tryon, the provincial governor who built Tryon Palace.  The Carson family was also a very influential political family in the state.  The Carson House also served as an early public and government place where early county government was organized in its dining room in the early 1800's.  Voting and court also took place here.  Colonel John's youngest son, Jonathon Logan Carson, inherited the property in 1841 and transformed the clapboard style cabin into the more elegant plantation home as it exists today.

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The dining room that was part of the original 1793 structure set with period furnishings either belonging to the Carson family or to various families in the area.  I love the old blue china.  The big blue platter, an English Ironstone Platter from the 1790s, belonged to John Carson's wife, Mary McDowell Carson, and was carried on her lap to her new home after her wedding.  An unusual feature of the room is that the wall with the window on the right side slants noticeably down because of a flood that lowered the foundation at that point.  The room was later painted with the current finish by a man that owed the Carsons money and paid them back with his services.  The picture of a young girl above the fireplace was Margaret Carson, the youngest daughter of Jonathon Logan Carson and the last Carson child born in the house on March 7, 1855.  
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The man's picture above the piano was Sam P. Carson who was actually a very handsome man.  He served as US Congressman and first Secretary of State of the Republic of Texas.  He was also involved in a famous duel as evidenced by his letter in the center picture to Robert B. Vance, a Congressman and doctor.  This duel occurred in 1827 after the other famous duel of John Stanly and Richard Dobbs Spaight in 1802 outlawed the practice.  So yes, they were breaking the law as well as committing murder.  In 1825, Carson and Vance ran as opponents for Vance's Congressional seat.  Carson won the election, but Vance ran against him again in 1827 and again lost after a particularly dirty campaign in which Vance called Carson a coward and spoke harshly against him and his father.  Carson challenged Vance to the duel in the above letter.  Vance was shot and fatally wounded by Carson.  It still shocks me that folks actually settled disagreements this way.  The book next to Brody's hand in the picture below the letter is the Carson family Bible.  The picture to the right is of a homemade fly "shooer" that a slave would have used to shoo flies off the master of the house.  

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A picture of Colonel John Carson himself above this fireplace mantle.  The man pictured on the right side was the legendary Davy Crockett who visited the house as a friend of Samuel Carson.  I assume they met in Texas since Carson later settled there as the Secretary of State.  

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The exhibit of quilts was probably my favorite part of the house.  I love old quilts and wish I had more of my Granny's old ones.  The old quilts on display in the left and center picture were Antebellum quilts made by African-American slaves.  Quilts became a way for these women to use creative designs and colors to express their cultural aspirations.  These women mastered the most sophisticated styles and patterns in an effort to rise above their enslaved status to become true artists of their crafts.  The quilt on the right was a beautiful pieced quilt with its own story to tell.  The pattern is called "Crazy Patch," and a Massachusetts mother made the quilt for her son who was a minister to the Cherokee Nation in the area.  (Side note:  We still have a Cherokee Indian Reservation in the mountains to the west of Marion and Asheville for anyone who wasn't aware.)  The minister and his quilt later accompanied the Cherokee Indians on the infamous Trail of Tears on their forced relocation to Oklahoma.  The quilt was later returned home according to the minister's family's wishes.  
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The canopied bed was owned by the Carson family.  I love all the beautiful old period furniture.  
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These were the work rooms and living quarters for the household slaves.  They lived and worked in the home with the Carson family.  I loved the old double rocking chair that could "convert" to a bassinet for a baby to be rocked beside someone.  I would love to have one of those and think Babies R Us needs to add this product to their stock.  I also love the room filled with an old quilting loom, spinning wheels and the giant weaving loom.  All of the cloth for clothes making could be made right here in the home.  The quilting loom makes me long for the days when I sat with my Granny, mom and aunts around our quilt loom and learned this art.  What great times we shared talking and laughing together while we worked!  Evan enjoyed seeing an old waffle iron since he had enjoyed waffles for breakfast that morning at the hotel.  The center picture is especially touching.  It depicts possibly the longest living survivor of slavery from the area who died at the age of 121 in Asheville.  She was born and lived on a neighboring plantation to the Carson House and later gave the most detailed account of slavery in the county.  

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This room makes me wish I could home school these boys here.  This was the home school room for the Carson children.  

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And oh how I would love to sit and have tea in this sitting room with the lovely lady in the beautiful, stylish purple dress.  Baby Mattox could nap nearby in the little cradle.  
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The House has an interesting history of the Civil War as the site of one of the last skirmishes of the War where Stoneman's Raiders ransacked the house and grounds.  This display contained some relics from the War, including a sword, rifle, cannon balls, military dinnerware, and canteen. 

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We enjoyed walking around the property as it was a lovely early Fall day with a breeze blowing the first leaves off the trees.  The stone next to Evan and Brody was a part of a stone mill grinder used for grinding corn into meal. 

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The road leading to the house was lined with old Walnut trees which were just beginning to lose some leaves.  I tried to get a few early Fall pictures since we likely won't get back to the mountains later this Fall.  Evan refused to cooperate and just wanted to pretend to do karate.  

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The boys in the little garden behind the house.  I love that Evan feels comfortable holding Mattox now standing up.  He is such a big boy.  I just liked this large flag blowing in the wind with the mountains in the background. 

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Playing in the grass beside Buck Creek next to the house. 


  1. Another twinsie similarity- I too love visiting old homes like this. I like the pictures and stories and especially the furniture. I just find it fascinating to think about how people lived their everyday lives so many years ago. It's neat to see the things they used for cooking and storage and soothing babies, etc. I definitely get this from my parents because they both enjoy tours like this and took my brothers and I on a bunch when we were kids.

    It's awesome that Evan can carry Mattox now. That will make pictures so much easier. Well, until Mattox can pop out of his hands and run away, which you know is going to start happening soon!

  2. This is so cool. I love all the history you shared. I would totally drink tea with you in that sitting room. Heck -- I'd even wear the purple dress :)

    And yes, Sam hasn't been wanting to cooperate for pictures lately either. sigh.

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