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By Kathy N. Ross  May 9, 2003

Canton -- Haywood County's oldest house and its 200-plus years of history have been guaranteed a future, thanks to its purchase by a descendant of the man who built it.

   Joseph S. Hall of Washington, D.C., purchased the Shook-Smathers house this winter, and work has begun to stabilize the structure, which has remained vacant since 1981.  Hall plans to convert the Clyde building into a museum, preserving and cel4ebrating its t2o styles of architecture as well as the history of a building dear to the hearts of many Haywood County Methodists.

   The Shook-Smathers house easily seen off U.S. 1912-74 in Clyde, has traditionally been recognized key to Methodism’s history in Haywood County.

   Hall’s great-great-great grandfather, Jacob Shook, built the earliest portion of the house about 1795 on land he ws granted for service in the American Revolution.


   “Shook forged nails in his own blacksmith shop and cut boards from virgin timber a foot wide to build the house at a time most homes were simple log cabins,” according to a history of the house from Ruth Morgan Jones, a descendant of the Smathers family who purchased it in 1850.

   Tradition states that Shook experienced Christian conversion after settling in Haywood County.  Of a certainty, Shook dedicated the third floor of his house to religious worship.  That floor was one big room, 30 feet long, 18 feet wide and 9 feet high.

   The shook house became a stop for traveling Methodist preachers, including Francis Asbury.  Asbury was the first bishop of the Methodist Church of America.  That first bishop, who traveled 250,000 miles in his journeys for the gospel, referred to a stop at eh home of “Vater Shuck” (Father Shook) in his journals.  Shook also set aside ground for holding camp meetings, and tradition states that he also provided room on the threshing floor of his large barn for holding services.

   In 1798, then-Bishop Samuel Edney organized a society of Methodists that met in the Shook House.  The Group became known as the Campground Church.

   Before he died in 1834, Jacob Shook donated land for the church.  A log building was constructed and named Louisa Chapel, after his granddaughter.  Louisa Chapel still holds worship services and is the oldest Methodist Church in Haywood County.

   A check of the house by the N.C. Division of Archives and history found names and dates of preachers carved in wood paneling in the chapel room, going back to 1800.  Those dates support the idea that this house is the oldest remaining structure in North Carolina west of the Blue Ridge.

   Smathers family moved I about 1850, Levi Smathers bought the Shook House.  The Smathers family continued to dedicate the third-floor chapel to the worship of God.

   “On warm Sunday afternoons, Lev and his wife, Sally Cook Smathers, sat on the front porch, one on one end of the long porch and one on the other end, and read the Bible,” states Ruth Jones’ history of the house  “Their food for Sunday dinner was always prepared on Saturday.”

   In the late 1800s, Levi Smathers had the house enlarged, doubling its size.  Clapboard siding was placed around the original sawn-board siding, and two gallery porches were added, one for the first floor, another for the second.  The stairway was moved from the original front room to a hallway in the center of the house.

   Levi’s son, D.I.L. “Dock” Smathers, inherited the house in 1896.  Dock and his wife, “Mattie” Killian Smathers, opened their home to anyone wanting to visit the third-floor chapel.  Mattie Smathers served as superintendent of the Sunday School at Louisa Chapel for 12 years.  She walked to church, carrying a lantern when it was dark.  Her husband called it the “gospel lantern.”

   After his wife died in 1924, Dock Smathers asked his daughter Mary, and her family, to live with him.  Mary inherited the house in 1937.

   Mary Smathers Morgan would live in the Shook-Smathers house for 94 of the 150-plus years her family owned it.

   Mary’s daughter, Ruth Jones, was 12 when her family returned to the Shook Smathers House.  She lived there until 1942, four years after her marriage to N.C. Highway Patrolman Edward White Jones.  Ruth Jones is one of here owners who sold the house in a double transaction, first to the N.C. Preservation Trust, then immediately to Hall.


Growing up in the house

   “My mother … invited women from the Louisa Chapel United Methodist Church to come to the Shook-Smathers house for quilting parties,” Ruth Jones remembered.  She set up her quilting frames in the room on the second floor, where the stairs go up to the third-floor chapel.  The women brought patterns they had sewn together.  …They sewed the patterns together, then attached the lining and filled it with cotton.”

   “I could hear them talking and laughing while they quilted.  They caught up on the news of the community, told funny stories and shared their favorite recipes.  And the quilts they made were beautiful.  … Back then, women took a little time from cooking, keeping house and raising children to share a common interest, and they had a goodtime doing it.”


Home of fine cooking

   “My mother loved to entertain at dinners and any occasion that was a cause for celebration,” Jones added.  “…She loved to cook good food and invite people in for a meal.  She cooked vegetabl3s from her garden, made cornbread, biscuits and rolls, and always had a homemade cake or pie on hand for dessert.  … Every summer she put up 500 cans to last through the winter months.  “Preachers and their wives came from out of town and stayed for two weeks at a time while they were holding revivals in Clyde.”

   “The meals she cooked for farm hands and thrashers were just as good as the ones she fixed for preachers and their wives, highway patrol officers, friends and family.”

   Ruth Jones remembers a summer afternoon when a Texas socialite sat on her mother’s porch talking with farm hands who had come in from plowing.

   Ruth and Edward Jones lived at the Shook-Smathers house until after their first child, a daughter, was born. They lived in Canton for three years, then returned to the homestead to live while building their own house.  Their second child was also born at the Shook Smathers House.  In 1958, Edwards Jones was transferred to Raleigh, and retired there in 1977 as commander of the State Highway Patrol.  Ruth Jones has continued living in Raleigh since her husband’s death in 1988, and lives with daughter, Nancy.

   Jones owned the home with her niece and nephew until it recent sale to Hall.  It had been on the market since 1993.  As a widow, Jones did not want to return to Clyde to live alone in the rambling structure, and the other two owners lived in Houston and Hickory.  The decision to sell the house wasn’t easy, Jones said, but the most difficult challenge was to sell it in a way that would preserve its history and heritage.

   It took 10 years to find an owner who would commit to that same dream.