Only the memories remain in an old, abandoned home

Published 9:07pm Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The old house has spanned many generations of my family. My great-grandmother, Mary Hunter Saville Roberts, was my last direct descendant to actually live there.  She died over one hundred years ago.
I was a child the last time anyone actually lived there at all. My father’s distant cousin, Charlie, and his wife Margaret had inherited the house and the farm along the way.
It seemed old and mysterious to me even then.
My great-great-great grandmother, Mariah West Brawner Overby moved to Stewart County after the death of my third great grandfather. This was before the Civil War.  She remarried and the house remained in the Overby family until this past year.
For the past four decades or so, I would drive by every few years.
After Charlie and Margaret passed away, no one ever lived there again. During one early visit I discovered the door was unlocked and went inside.
Furniture and books remained and I walked around almost feeling the presence of those who had gone before me. By my next visit, the house was obviously abandoned and somewhat ransacked. I took a book with my grandmother’s name inscribed as a memento believing that no other descendant was likely to save or want it.
With the passing years, the house continued its slow decline. I began to take photographs documenting the changes.  The old boxwoods lining the walkway grew huge and unkempt.  Hornets nested in one of the old grand columns. Later, the column was replaced with a timber, holding up the portico and delaying its collapse.
The porch became more and more dangerous to walk on, but I couldn’t help myself. Each and every visit I went inside, always finding one thing that I hadn’t seen before.
This was the same porch where my grandfather met my grandmother and later proposed to her. This was where my grandmother’s mother died at an early age.
This was the home my great-great grandfather returned to after fighting in the Civil War. This was where my great-great-great grandmother established our family’s South Georgia roots.
Most of them are buried in the family cemetery just a few yards away under massive magnolia and cedar trees. The slaves and later the farm hands are buried there as well.
In a steady, cold rain Monday, I made my last visit. The new owners had done what apparently no one in the family could ever bring themselves to do; the house had been torn down.
You could easily drive by now and never know that there had once been a grand house sitting back off the road.
It remains a beautiful place, sitting on a small hill with huge trees everywhere. The cemetery remains well kept, by whom I don’t know.
It was long past the time when the house should have been torn down. A half century after children had last roamed its halls, the house is finally gone.
In its place are scattered memories held by cousins I have never known. There are also my own memories, true and imagined, of a way of life that is no more.

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