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  May 04, 2012

Shook House opens for the season

By Vicki Hyatt
Beginning May 8, the Shook House Museum and Visitors Center will be open from 1 to 5 p.m. on Tuesdays, Fridays and Saturday.

This marks the first season the oldest frame house in Haywood County will be operated by the Haywood County Historical/Genealogical Society.

Joseph S. Hall purchased the dilapidated structure in 2003 and spent more than $500,000 to restore the historic home in Clyde. He donated the historic Shook-Smathers House, along with about $20,000 to start an endowment, to the nonprofit organization late last year.

Bruce Briggs, who helped arrange for the property transfer, is helping spearhead efforts to help promote the site to locals and visitors alike.

Docent-guided tours are $5 each, though there is a special rate for group tours or events, which can be arranged by calling Briggs at 456-8866.

Because the site must be self-sufficient, the Haywood County Historical/Genealogical Society has a number of programs that will be implemented. There will be a July gathering of all the Shook and Smathers descendants where information will be discussed on endowments or other gifts to help with the site's operations.

Briggs said special tour coupons will be prepared so that those with overnight accommodations can present them to visitors who might want to learn a little bit of history.

About the Shook-Smathers House

1749 —Jacob Shook born.

1776 — Shook and brother, Andrew, joined Gen. Griffith Rutheford’s troops to march against the Cherokee in a campaign known as The Rutherford Trace. Shook caught his first glimpse of the mountains of Western North Carolina.

1794-1800 — Jacob Shook married Isabella Weitzel when both were 37, married and settled along the Pigeon River near a town which would later be called Clyde and built a home.

1810 — The first historic documented notation about the home was found in a Nov. 30 entry of the diary of Francis Asbury, a Methodist Chursh bishop who stayed at the Shook house on a visit west.

1840 — William Welch bought the Shook House, but there’s no record he ever lived there.

1850 — Levi Smathers acquired the house and added on, doubling the size by building rooms that surrounded the original home. The third floor room of the original house continued to be used for worship services.

1896 — D.I.L. “Dock” Smathers inherited the house. Visitation to third floor chapel continued. Dock’s wife, Mattie Smathers, became superintendent of the Sunday school at Louisa Chapel, the oldest church in Haywood County.

1924 — After Mattie Smathers died, Dock invited his daughter, Mary Smathers Morgan, along with her family, to move in.

1937 — Morgan inherited the house. Ruth Morgan married Edward Jones and they lived intermittently at the house before moving to Raleigh in 1958. Morgan lived in the home until her death in 1981.

1993 — Jones, along with a niece and nephew, put the house they inherited on the market in search of a buyer who would maintain its historic characteristics.

2003 — Joseph S. Hall purchased the property. An agreement with the Historic Preservation Foundation of North Carolina, Inc. was filed to ensure the property at 178 Morgan St. in Clyde would be preserved in a manner that honored its architectural, archealogical and historical significance.

2006 — A completely renovated Shook-Smathers House, along with a newly build museum adjacent to the home, open for tours to the public.

2011 — Hall gifts the Shook-Smathers House to the Haywood County Historical/Genealogical Society.

How old is the house?
The first official documentation of the Shook House in Clyde can be found in the journal of Francis Asbury, the first Methodist bishop in America who traveled extensively to hold worship services and perform marriages, funerals, and baptisms. A Nov. 30, 1810, journal entry indicated an overnight stay at the home of Jacob Shook.

Local historians say the home is much older than that, dating back to the late 1780s or ‘90s, but for historic preservation purposes the date which can be documented must be used.

That date could change, however, said long-time Clyde resident Sara Queen Brown, who has worked diligently to see that the property is preserved in perpetuity. The Methodist Conference met in Baltimore in 1776 and created the Carolina circuit. Rev. Samuel Edney was the first Methodist minister given the circuit west of the Blue Ridge and "as far as it was safe to go."

In 1798, Edney organized a Society of Methodists meeting in the Shook Home. Learning this bit of information, Brown said, could be the key to getting an even earlier date attached to the house. This will require researching the Methodist Conference minutes.

Finding an earlier reference concerning activities at the Shook-Smathers house could result in an earlier official date of the home's use for historical purposes.


Photo by: Donated Family descendants shown in this photo include, from left, Nancy Medford, Jacob Shook's great, great, great granddaughter; William John Riva, a sixth great grandson; Julia Wyatt Riva, a fifth great granddaughter and Kathy Medford Wyatt, a fourth great granddaughter. All are descendants of of Joseph M. Tate and Nancy A. Shook Tate, the granddaughter of Jacob Shook.