November 27, 2009

By Jerry Tate

Special to The Mountaineer

Bethel Elementary School’s third-graders took a field trip to the historic Shook House in Clyde to learn a little about the community’s agricultural past. Students and teachers were given a tour of the house by trained docents where they learned about the Shook family, one of the earliest of the pioneer families of Haywood County.

The Shook family settled in what is now Clyde before Haywood County was formed, while George Washington was still President of the United States. The Shook House is recognized as the oldest frame structure west of the Blue Ridge.

Students were also treated to demonstrations of some interesting mechanical devices used on the farm. Inside the house such "labor saving" devices as apple peelers dating from the 1880s and 1890s and a nut cracker dated at 1914 were demonstrated. Once shown how to use the nut cracker, each child was allowed to crack a nut. In the chapel located on the third floor, Mrs. Miller (one of the Bethel teachers) entertained a group of students by playing "Amazing Grace" and "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" on the pump organ.

Carrol Lindsey brought a number of tools from his collection to show students. These tools dated from a time when farms had to be much more self sufficient than today, when "make do or do without" was a way of life. Lindsey demonstrated a grind stone used for sharpening tools, allowing students to participate by turning the crank.

A corn sheller from the late 1800s grabbed everyone’s attention – a corn cob was fed into the sheller and with a few turns of the crank was clean of kernels. The next step was to put the kernels into a corn cracker dating from the mid 1800s to make chicken feed. Though just a glimpse into the past, these third-graders were excited to get a hands-on-lesson about farm life 100 years ago. Volunteers at the Shook Museum say they are pleased with the interest shown by teachers at Bethel Elementary in visiting the Shook House. AT $3 per student, field trips to the Shook House are affordable, and with enough notice, activities can be planned to enhance the students’ classroom experience. The Shook Museum is open to the public on Saturdays for tours and through the week by appointment. Call 565-0039.