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Living history meets cannon balls, encampments, and possible ghosts

By Emily M. Hobbs Staff Writer

February 26, 2014

Just down the road from the Averasboro Battlefield is a quiet area brimming with history, and this coming weekend the Oak Grove Plantation will be coming to life in a living history exhibit that the owners say will be full of exciting events and activities.


The house is one of three plantation houses, with the other two being the Lebanon and William T. Smith Plantations.


When Gen. William Sherman came through, it is said that he kicked the Smith family out of their house, then ransacked, and burned all the furniture. Sherman and his troops also killed all their farm animals and destroyed their plows. Sherman wrote about the house in his documents.


“Sherman used it as a hospital,” said Ronald Lewis, who now owns the property with his wife, Jennifer. “They used the porch as a triage.” Lewis said that at one point it is described that there were amputated limbs piling up as high as the windows, which means there had to have been a huge pile from all the surgeries.


Inside the house are the original floors, and approximately 30 percent of the original glass is in the windows, with only two new windows. The house is in great condition and has been restored in keeping with its history.


“There are still bullet holes in the walls from the war,” added Ronald Lewis, pointing to where the moulding was blown out from the force of the bullets. There are even some bullets still in the walls. The house has been used for filming he added, and it has been fully renovated. The house also has six fireplaces and was home to 10 children at one point.


There is only one one piece of furniture still in the house that was original to the house, a large armoire, which Sherman’s troops likely couldn’t get down the stairs because of the curvature in them.


“We are the sixth owners of the house,” said Jennifer Lewis.


“The house has been unoccupied since the 50s,” added her husband, who also mentioned that the house was struck by lightning in the early 1900s, causing a fire. One can still see scorch marks where the wood was burned.


Lightning isn’t the only thing unusual about the house — there have been three events since the Lewis’ family has owned it that haven’t been explained.


“I’m not saying that I believe in ghosts, but I have experienced some spooky stuff,” divulged Lewis.


“I was out sitting on the porch, working on replacing the spindles once,” Lewis said. “Something kicked a spindle a good 10 to 12 feet across the porch.”


“There was no wind that day either,” added Jennifer. The spindles he was working on were about two inches by two inches square, he said, and not something that would have rolled easily either.


A second time Lewis was talking to an insulation installer about some work on the house. They had a fire going and were sitting downstairs on the main floor.


“We heard someone walking upstairs with boots on,” said Lewis. The insulation installer said something about it to him.


“I told him that yeah, I had heard that too,” Lewis stated.


Yet again during renovations a third time something strange happened.


“The electricians were here working on some wiring,” Lewis said. “All of a sudden the front door opened, and we hear someone go ‘You-hoo’ into the house like folks do out in the country. We go to see who is there.” Lewis and the workers checked and they were all accounted for, and no one was around to have said that.


The house has not needed a lot of renovations for some parts of it. The beams that run under the house, for example, are exactly 11 1/2 inches by 14 feet and were all hand hewn from ancient trees by hand with slave labor. The beams, which are in the fully recreated basement, are massive.


When the Lewises bought the property they were asked to move it across the road, which they did.


“That was amazing, when they came in and sat the house down,” said Lewis.


“We wondered if it would fit exactly, but it did,” added his wife.


The property originally had 58 slaves, over 8,000 acres, and supported both lumber and crops.


Off behind the original property was the ferry system for the Cape Fear River, where the logs that were harvested were taken down the river to Wilmington.


“To get back they would have to either walk, get or horse, or take a train, when that was available,” added Lewis.


The family plans to make the property available to school groups, and it has already been used for weddings. Also on the property is a one room school house which they are currently using as a multipurpose room, using it as a church, school, and kitchen. The school house was originally in Godwin and was given to them to put on the property.


This weekend the house will come alive with activities and military history for everyone to enjoy, said Lewis. There will be a military encampment present for both Saturday and Sunday, as well as cooking demonstrations, period vendors, a potter, authors about Civil War history, and a blacksmith. The event will also be staffed with volunteer interpreters who will be in the rooms to enlighten visitors with history.


The Oak Grove Plantation’s living history will be from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday. There will also be food available for purchase.


Cost will be $5 for adults, and children under 12 will be admitted free. The money raised will be going towards getting a wheelchair ramp installed on the back of the house for handicapped visitors.


The Oak Grove Plantation is located down the road from the Averasboro Battlefield Museum off Hwy. 82. The address is 8640 Burnett Road, Godwin.


Emily M. Hobbs can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 122 or via email at ebrown@civitasmedia.com.