Monday, October 31, 2011

The Sugar Creek Gang

I was doing a bit of early shopping for the holidays, and I found this vintage children's storybook from the 1940's on Ebay. And as if wasn't enough for me to find this book, I realized tonight that there is an entire SERIES of Sugar Creek Gang books. Hand over your wallet, hubby. These books are adorable, and they're the correct reading level for our nine year old. This is going to be fun!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Friends of Sugar Creek

Here is one of my favorite photos of the dog-trot. The man on the horse was nicknamed "Pot" and he worked for (and was a dear friend to) the Sims/Robinson family. The Sims family bought THE HOUSE IN SUGAR CREEK in 1902, and I'm not sure how long afterward Pot began to work for them. But somewhere along the way, according to the caption written on the back of one of his photos and based on many, many personal accounts from the living descendants, Pot became very close friends with several members of the family. I have been given MANY photos of Pot. In fact, I have more historic photos of Pot than I have of anyone else! According to old-timers in the area, Pot was an amazing man. He had quite a voice and was a member of a local band that played all around the Sugar Creek area. I now have five photos of Pot that were taken at Sugar Creek, and this photo clearly shows the complete house INTACT, including the kitchen/dining room (to the far left) that was torn down in the 1940's.

Check out the old chimneys that were originally on THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK by scrolling to the photo below. Architect Lestar Martin calls these chimneys "rope chimneys" because they were design to contain chimney fires. A rope would have been tied to the skinny chimney tops, and in case of a chimney fire a mule or a horse could have easily pulled down the chimney and saved the house from burning. Two of the three original chimneys in the below photo will be rebuilt in our restoration, and the fireplace hearths will be framed with the original mantles. And on one of the mantles, in a frame made from the old wood from the chicken coop, I will sit this photo of Pot.

Pot and his horse, circa late 1930's or early 1940's.

Persimmons and Pomegranates, oh my!

A few weeks ago, while we were spending a few days at SUGAR CREEK, our Chi-Weenie (yep, she's a Chihuahua and Weiner-dog mix) came running up to me with a persimmon in her mouth. I haven't seen a persimmon in years, so I was thrilled! My grandparents actually had a few persimmon trees on their property, and I spent many a long Sunday afternoon in my youth climbing and shaking the limbs and gathering the persimmons that would fall to the ground. I remember the day that my grandfather took out his pocket knife and cut one of the persimmon seeds open to show me that "silverware" can be found on the inside of the seed. The presence of either a fork, a knife, or a spoon indicates the type of weather that we should expect in the following winter. Click here to see the Farmer's Almanac's winter weather prediction from last year, which they based on the findings from a split persimmon seed.

I followed Montana as she sniffed around the overgrown fence row behind THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK and began looking for the persimmon tree. She held her little head up and sniffed, then played around in the leaves for a while before trotting off with another persimmon in her mouth. Our little sweet Montana taught me that we have persimmon trees on the property! I happily snapped a few photos, ate a few persimmons, and then explored the fence line a little more until I found that we have pomegranates growing wild, too! These lovely fruits are clearly a remnant of gardens and orchards past, and I can't wait until next year when I'll take these "goodies" back into the house and find a way to use them in a few old-fashioned recipes.

Montana sniffing for persimmons.

A pomegranate I found growing behind our dog-trot.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Vera Taylor Oden's Memoir (SECTION XVI)

This posting contains section sixteen of twenty-one sections that describe life in Sugar Creek, Louisiana prior to 1902. If you haven't read the post about the significance of VERA TAYLOR ODEN's memoir, click here.



Another big occasion was my first trip to Shreveport a few years later. (After the Chatauqua.) As before, we drove to Arcadia and took the train. Anniebel went with us as she often did, when we took trips. We arrived at night and went to the Henderson boarding house near the depot, which had been recommended to us. The occasion for this visit was a street fair or carnival which was the most wonderful thing I had ever seen. Two or three blocks of Milam Street were set off for the amusements. It must have been something like the gladway at the fair. The place was brilliant with electric lights which I had never seen before. I saw a lady hypnotized, dressed in a long white robe, who flew. She rose from the floor, and the man passed a hoop around her to show there were no wires. The first time I ever talked on a phone was this trip.

We also took in some of the stores. It was a never to be forgotten experience. Another memorable trip we took by train was to a circus at Monroe, another memorable experience. Another time we drove to Arcadia to see a home talent play "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." Mrs. Barnette who then was Miss. Eula Yarbrough, was the tiny, blond "Snow White." Ray tells me that he was one of the dwarfs, so that must have been the first time I saw him.


Can you imagine seeing electric lights for the first time, and also seeing a woman fly, too? What an exciting night it must have been for Mrs. Vera! Maybe she came face to face with the Victorian-era magician Harry Keller that night. What an exiting time to live. Mrs. Vera really did live to see many of the modern innovations (that we take for granted today) come into popularity.

Harry Keller's Magic Show Advertisement, circa the late 1800's.

A Foggy Morning at Sugar Creek...

This morning I was walking through the field beside THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK, and this view took my breath away. (Click on photos to enlarge them.)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Light Fixture from HEAVEN

I've been brainstorming about a way to "preserve" some of the old canning jars that we found in the root cellar beneath THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK, and I just found the PERFECT way to do it. Now I must begin searching for an old chandelier to rework into something that can showcase Mintie's jars! I'd like to give a special thanks to my friend Vicki for introducing me to the Facebook page where I found this photo. This is a fantastic idea!

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Three years ago, I had the privilege of meeting Mrs. Peggy Carter of Louisiana Tech University's Archives department. I was researching for an article I was writing about the WWII-era POW Camp in Ruston, Louisiana, and Mrs. Peggy cheerfully led me to a wealth of resources. I was floored by the incredible amount of history in the Archives department, and before I left Tech that day I had another story in mind. For on that day, Mrs. Peggy asked me if I knew anything about the RUSTON CHAUTAUQUA. "No, I don't think so," I said. "Oh, Jackie. You're going to love this..." she said and sat me down at a wooden table near her desk. And within a few minutes, I came to realize that Mrs. Peggy Carter was right.

Since that day, I've been obsessed with all things Chautauqua. In fact, I published Wesley Harris' article on the subject in the March / April 2011 edition of The Minute Magazine. See the article (written by Wes Harris) on pages 58 and 59 by clicking here. So you can imagine my surprise when I found a link between the RUSTON CHAUTAUQUA and THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK. Amazingly enough, Mrs. Vera Taylor Oden writes about the Chautauqua in her memoir. With great excitement, I give you post fifteen of twenty-one sections that describe life in Sugar Creek, Louisiana prior to 1902. If you haven't read the post about the significance of Vera Taylor Oden's memoir, click here.


SECTION XV: (Summers at Chatauqua)

There are so many incidents which I remember so well, one of which was my first train ride. I think I must have been three or four years old. We drove to Arcadia and took the train to Ruston to attend Chatauqua. As we stood on the platform the big black engine pulled in, whistle blowing and bell ringing, it nearly scared me to death. I screamed and they had to hold me to keep me from running away.

Every summer they had a series of Chatauqua attractions at Vienna, near Ruston, and people came good distances to attend. The ones I recall were lectures Bob Taylor of Tennessee, Sam Jones and Dewitt Talmadge. There were several buildings on the shady grounds, one a round pavillion where the lectures were held. I remember going down a long row of steps on a hillside to springs where people drank water.


Unfortunately, I only had room to publish one photo of the Chautauqua along with Wes Harris' article. But now I will share a few of the other photos in Louisiana Tech's collection with you. Enjoy!

The Chautauqua Membership Book, circa 1892-1893.

The Chautauqua Hotel (photo circa 1900) was located just outside of Ruston, Louisiana.

The Chautauqua Auditorium circa 1900.

Photo of the 1854? Chautauqua Taken from Pierian Springs looking toward the auditorium.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


This posting contains section fourteen of twenty-one sections that describe life in Sugar Creek, Louisiana prior to 1902. If you haven't read the post about the significance of VERA TAYLOR ODEN's memoir, click here.



We always had a lots of cats, but no dogs, until after Curtis was born. We also had pet chickens, some squirrels which had a house in a large gourd in a mulberry tree. I also had a rabbit for a few days but it disappeared. One of our cats lived for a long time and when he died we buried him and cousin Jeff wrote an epitaph for his head-board.



I can't even begin to explain how excited I was when I read this section of Mrs. Vera Oden Taylor's memoir. I started squealing, then started laughing hysterically. My eyes filled with tears and then I held my breath for a few seconds. I guess this section of the memoir really made the history of THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK very real to me. It's one thing to realize that somebody had to build the house, and that somebody had to live there before you. But to know the people so well that you even know their pets' names is another thing entirely. Somewhere on the property, little Sam is buried. I don't know where, but I do know one thing. We're definitely going to recreate his headboard and place it somewhere at Sugar Creek.

Monday, October 10, 2011


We went on a treasure hunt last weekend, and our hunting grounds were very tiny. This outbuilding is a former chicken coop, a place to smoke hogs, and now houses the remains of a very worn dining table. Hubby cut down a few trees and shrubs to clear the way to the dilapidated door of this outbuilding, and then we happily stepped inside to find a tiny room full of treasures. I've been wanting to make my way into the building for months now, but I wasn't all that certain that both the building and/or I would survive the opening of the rotted door frame.

The chicken coop, viewed from inside THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK.

View from the door of the chicken coop.

As expected, we found the old table. But there were many other goodies hidden away beneath layers of dust and sediment. We found a piece of a very old fishing pole, a beautiful little candle holder, an iron corn-bread pan (WHOO HOO!) and a mystery item. We're not really sure exactly what this enormous piece of metal was used for, but it was clearly a piece of something much bigger. Hubby and I like to think that it was part of the old cotton gin that was once on the property, but who knows.

A few of the "treasures" we found in the old chicken coop.

I love this old outbuilding, though it's much too far "gone" for us to save. But I want to salvage pieces of it for a future project... I'm thinking coffee table, or maybe a rough-hewn trunk. WHAT WOULD YOU MAKE using these well-worn materials?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011


I have just found a WONDERFUL case study done at Mississippi State University that explains the theory behind dog-trot design. (Click on link to view the exact study.)

To quote directly from the Mississippi State University case study, "Measurements show wind speeds at the central breezeway to be substantially greater than those at the exterior of the house. This strong breeze pulls air through the adjoining connections to the log cabins, keeping the interior spaces cool."

AWESOME! There is no air conditioning/heating in THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK as of yet, and on the work days that we've had the doors and windows opened I have noticed a SIGNIFICANT difference in the wind speed going through the dog-trot and the wind speed outside of the house. This wonderful case study explains exactly why I noticed this difference, and it has made me think about modern architecture. Maybe we should incorporate this "outdated" design into modern homes and celebrate the dog-trot once again-- this time for its energy efficiency.

Wind testing performed by Aaron Gentry and Sze Min Lam, Mississippi State University School of Architecture

The Miller Dog-trot in Webster Parish

Hubby and I recently visited with Mr. and Mrs. Larry Jernigan, the owners of THE MILLER HOUSE just outside of Minden, Louisiana. (Click on the link for more information on the Jernigan's lovely home.) Hubby and I toured the Jernigan's early 1800's dog-trot a few weekends ago, and I have to say that we were more than impressed. Mr. Jernigan has lovingly restored this beautiful property and was eager to share a few tips with us. The Miller house is very similar to our dog-trot, and I have to admit that I had chills while I was walking through another early settler's home. Would the Miller family have been friends with the Taylor family? It's certainly possible.

Below is a photo of Mr. Larry Jernigan in front of THE MILLER HOUSE. Notice the lovely dog-trot that cuts through the center of the house, and the beautiful metal roof. This house has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places, and as we were walking through the wooden-walled rooms of THE MILLER HOUSE it was very easy for us to imagine what our own home will look like post-restoration.

Larry Jernigan standing in front of THE MILLER HOUSE, his beautiful dog-trot home just outside of Minden, Louisiana.

There were many unique features of the Jernigan's dog-trot that intrigued us. We loved the doors that enclose the dog-trot itself during harsh weather, and we have similar plans to enclose our dog-trot, too. But one of our favorite details of THE MILLER HOUSE was found in a window sill. A small hook was placed on the top of the window sash, and a nail was curved around a hook above it. When the window was raised, the bent nail was placed in the window's hook. This was a very primitive, and brilliant, way to prevent the windows from slamming shut. It took us all of two seconds to realize that we should adapt this technique within the windows of THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK!

Curved nail hook in window of THE MILLER HOUSE.

THE MILLER HOUSE and THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK are less than thirty miles away from one another, both located in northern Louisiana. But their location is not the only characteristic they have in common. After comparing their architectural details, it's easy to see that these two homes are nearly identical. With both of our homes, the porches are of the French-styled dog-trot design common to southern Louisiana. The fireplaces of both houses were made of red brick. The wooden floors in both houses are identical as well, as are the original columns for both homes' original front porches. And both houses use cypress planks for siding instead of traditional logs. Both of our houses were once clad with wooden shingles for roofing, though both houses' wooden-shingled roofs were removed because of deterioration. All in all, despite the differences in dimensions, the front four rooms and the dog-trot in THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK are almost an exact replica of THE MILLER HOUSE.

There are a few differences in these two historic homes, however. Our dog-trot has a second story and a staircase, and the upper floor of THE MILLER HOUSE was never used for living quarters. Our dog-trot still has an additional four rooms located behind the traditional four-roomed dog-trot design, but THE MILLER HOUSE does not. THE MILLER HOUSE is also surrounded by many original outbuildings, but THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK has only a deteriorating mule barn and an unsalvageable smokehouse/chicken house. Our house has been painted white, and THE MILLER HOUSE proudly wears unstained, unpainted cypress siding. So despite the fact that our historic dog-trots are very similar, they do appear to be very different from the outside.

Which do you like? If you were building a new dog-trot, would you paint it white (and then scrape and repaint it again through the years) or leave the wooden siding unpainted? We're staying true to the history of our home and repainting it white again. But I have to admit that I'm a little bit jealous of the Jernigan's maintenance-free unpainted siding!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Post-Restoration Rendering

Rendering of THE HOUSE AT SUGAR CREEK post-renovation, painted by Architect LESTAR MARTIN.