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Old homes house more than people
Shirley Says
Carrie Harden Smith, one of the first residents of the Smith house - photo by Photo provided.
Have you ever gone back to the house where you grew up? Did you want to stop the car, run inside and see if your favorite truck or doll was where you left it years ago?
Perhaps it’s easier to imagine it’s still there. We try to picture every detail and even try to remember the way it smelled there.
I don’t play this pretend game anywhere else, nor do I ache for another place like my grandparent’s house. I’ll never go back there and if I did, it would be changed. All I have is what’s stored in my mind.
I remember the way the drawers smelled of clean sun-dried clothes and where my “Big Ma” had her treadle sewing machine in a small bedroom…Pa’s big desk was in front of the living room windows…I liked to sit on the stool and play with his Justice of the Peace seal. Oh, to go back in time for an hour…what I would give.
Bryan County Sheriff Clyde Smith shares my sentiments. We hold onto precious memories and keep them in perfect balance with our childhood illusions.
Clyde was born in his Grandma Carrie’s house on Oak Grove Plantation. Memories of her house overlooking the bluff and miles of marsh are safely tucked away in the tenderest part of his heart.
In 1901, Oak Grove Plantation was turned over to Clyde’s grandparents, James Archie Smith and Carrie Harden Smith. They moved from Kilkenny to Oak Grove Plantation with their children.
In 1918, shortly after World War I, the family home burned to the ground. With the help of family, a new home was built on a nearby site overlooking the bluff.
Some of the lumber used came from an old hotel in Sunbury. The lumber was brought to the bluff by barge. On of the boards beneath the house is written “Shipped to J.A. Smith, Sr., Ways Station, Ga. 1920”. If you crawl under the house today, you can still see this marking.
The home has a front porch the width of the house. In fact, the front steps and porch are original. There is a hall that runs from the front door to the back porch. When Grandmother Carrie’s house was situated on the bluff, the doors were usually open during the hot summer months, allowing a breeze to come across the marsh and cool the whole house.
In the wide hall was a large couch, a favorite spot for the grandchildren. In the parlor was an organ, the only piece of furniture saved when the original house burned.
Most of the furniture in the new house was given by the Clay family of Strathy Hall…and it was very nice. The dining room table was nearly the length of the room. It was always full of delicious country cooking from a wood-burning stove.
Archie Smith served as an elder in the Bryan Neck Presbyterian Church. He served on the Trustees Board for the Ways Station School. He died Nov. 14, 1926, at the age of 68.
Carrie was a Sunday school teacher for that church for many years. Their home was always open to missionaries and ministers, who stayed during revivals and vacation Bible school.
Carrie died Jan. 1, 1967, at 89 years of age. She and Archie are buried in the Bryan Neck Historical Cemetery at the Bryan Neck Presbyterian Church in Keller.
The home remained in the Smith family until 2007. Henry Abner Smith’s widow sold it to Louis A. Arnsdorff in January 2002. Louis is the great grandson of Archie and Carrie and son of Ray and Mary Helen Arnsdorff.
Robert and Janice Anderson bought the house from Louis in 2007. They moved it from the bluff to Stillfield Road, a short distance away and within a stone’s throw of Clyde and Dorothy Smith’s home.
Bob and Janice, owners of Anderson Jewelers in Savannah, moved the house to a secluded area in Richmond Hill. Bob jokingly named the beautiful lush property where he moved the house “Bugger Woods,” and he named it “the Shotgun House.” (A shotgun house is one with doors at each end. It was the most popular style of house in the southern United States from the end of the Civil War through the 1920s.)
Mary Helen Arnsdorff, granddaughter of Archie and Carrie, has many fond memories of her grandparents and their home on the bluff. She vividly remembers when Sheriff Clyde Smith was born in the front bedroom where there was a fireplace. She was babysitting his older sister Annette nearby. She and Annette were one of the few people to see Clyde shortly after a midwife delivered him.
When I asked Mary Helen to tell me her favorite memories of her grandparent’s house, she said, “I never went back looking for a doll…I only had one through my childhood years and she was out in the smoke house. That was the area we were given as a playhouse.”
Becoming quite pensive, Mary Helen said softly, “I just love the house…If I could go back one more time, I’d be pulled to my grandmother’s bedroom. That’s where we would gather. My grandmother was always there, rocking in front of the fireplace and reading her Bible ‘til she fell asleep.”
Bob Anderson, charmed by the old house, candidly admitted, “I love the oldness…it’s got a sweet spirit.”
He spends as much time there as he can, tending his vegetable garden, dogs and chickens.
Janice, a beautiful sophisticated lady said, “I like it there, too. However, I’m still ‘a working woman’ and have few opportunities to go to the farm.”
I understand one’s love for a special house and how important it is to hold onto tender memories. I live in a house that was once home to Mary Helen’s mother, Ms. Emma Smith. Although there have been a lot of changes, one thing hasn’t…there is still the presence of a peaceful atmosphere.

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