WHITE OAK — Blue skies and unseasonably warm temperatures joined together with cannon fire and old-timey gospel music at Harmony Hall Plantation on Saturday and Sunday during the annual Christmas Celebration.
The two-day event attracted numerous folks from throughout the region, who came to experience life back in the 18th century around the circa 1760 plantation home.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better weekend,” said Seth Lewis, an officer with the Harmony Hall Committee. “Apparently we did something right.”
What the committee did right was have a wide variety of activities going on across the property — including self-guided tours of the old Colly District No. 41 one-room schoolhouse and Harmony Hall Chapel. But the highlighted tours took place at the home built by Col. James Richardson, located a mile from the Cape Fear River.
“This is a wonderful home — I love all of it out here,” said Thelma Edge of Whiteville, who was visiting for the third time in recent years. “It brings back memories of the way life used to be.”
Edge said she “came up in the Bladenboro area” in a home nothing like the one at Harmony Hall.
“In our house, you could see sunlight through the roof and the chickens under the floors,” she said. “And we did a lot of work back in those days.”
The two days included numerous demonstrations and historical discussions about how everyday tasks were carried out. A blacksmith was on site working with metals; there was a display of old glass bottles used in the 1700s; there was an antique doll-making demonstration on the front porch of the home; a local folk band entertained folks throughout the day with hymns and other songs; and there was an in-depth demonstration back in the pines on making tar, pitch and turpentine.
Every now and then, the handful of cannons set up in the field between the plantation home and the old General Store could be heard exploding, piercing the otherwise quiet day with their snorting of smoke and sound.
And at about 2 p.m., the quiet days were interrupted in earnest as re-enactors put on a Revolutionary War-style skirmish in the woods near the home. One one side were the British loyalists and on the other side were the local patriots — which led straight into the legend that is attached to Harmony Hall Plantation, which is that during British Gen. Cornwallis’ takeover of the home during the revolution, Col. Richardson’s wife overheard a plan for an attack on patriot troops near Wilmington while she was in a stairwell next to the upstairs bedroom.
Mrs. Richardson sent word to Wilmington about Cornwallis’ plan and it helped turn the tables on the British troops.
Whether the legend is true or not is of little consequence to most who visit the 255-year-old home.
“It really isn’t important,” said Joseph Silver of Garland. “We’ll probably never know for sure, but if it helps get people out to see this property and learn some history, it’s a good deal.”
Visitors to the weekend event were treated to chicken bog being cooked over an open fire by Sunday Allen, advisor for the East Bladen History Club; Boy Scout Troop No. 622 out of Dublin sold barbecue plates.
According to Lewis, the plantation home is nearing a makeover when it gets its roof replaced. He said the western cedar shingles are being produced in Canada.
“Once we get that behind us, we can start taking care of some other things around the house,” he said.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.