Step back to 1800s-era Christmas

David Broyles Staff Reporter

November 29, 2013

The Surry County Historical Society will give those with a holiday hankering to experience the sights and smells of Christmas in the 1830s an early gift on Saturday.

According to Society President Dr. Annette Ayers, the theme of the annual celebration this year will be an antebellum Christmas at the Edwards-Franklin Home. Previously, the home featured decorations, food and music from Colonial and Victorian eras.

“We will have the house decorated as it would have been in the period,” said Ayers. “At this time in the late 1800s the home had been renovated. The next chapter in the family’s life would be when the Franklins moved west to more fertile lands. The land would be sold to the McMickles family.”

Ayers said she finds it interesting the home, by one calculation, has been in the hands of four families. She said Gideon Edwards left the home to his grandson, who was a member of the Franklin family, and the McMickles’ younger daughter married into the Blevins family before the home was eventually purchased by the society in 1973.

“This proved helpful us in our efforts to restore the house,” Ayers said. “Not a lot of work had been done to it and much of the original work still existed to be discovered.” Ayers said the home’s decorations, true to the antebellum period for affluent families, will contain a lot of holly, ivy and cedar. She said regular participants will notice trade was having its impact on Surry County because oranges and apples as well as lemons were making their appearance on holiday tables.

Ayers pointed out that by the antebellum era, Meshack Franklin had served in the House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., and has also been involved with the state legislature in Raleigh so he had seen how others were living and brought some of the traditions back with him.

She said admission for the event is free and will be held from 1-5 p.m. Musician Pamala Branscum will be dressed in period clothing and entertain participants on the mountain and hammered dulcimer from 2-2:45 p.m. Ayers said costumed society members will be on hand to share local history as they conduct tours of the house on 4132 Haystack Road in Mount Airy.

“We take a lot of time researching how we decorate so it is accurate,” said Ayers. “We have looked up all they used so you will see sweet potatoes and pumpkins on display in the dining room. We try to make it look like you stepped back in time. Refreshments will also be from the period.” The outside of the home will be decorated in pine roping and the dining and living rooms will also be decorated true to the period.

Ayers stressed the society invites the public to attend. She said sharing the history of the area and the era is one of the most important things the group does for participants in addition to preserving local history. She said the area around the house) was a progressive region with affluent families in Surry County.

“We want people to tour the house,” said Ayers. “We have a third bedroom open for the first time with original period furnishings.” She said the event will also feature “savory” treats including sugar and gingerbread cookies, fruit cake, mulled cider and miniature ham biscuits. She recommended the tea cakes which will be featured at the event. Ayers explained they are from a historic recipe and not often seen at holidays because of the work involved.

“We want to encourage everyone to come. It’s free,” Ayers said. “You can bring a family out and enjoy the first Christmas event of the year without hurting you holiday budget.”

Reach David Broyles at or 336-719-1952.