Main House

The Mendenhall Homeplace was built circa 1811 by Richard Mendenhall, a Quaker. The Mendenhalls were originally from Pennsylvania, but settled here in the mid 1700's. Richard's grandfather James was one of the first settlers, and it is from James that our village gets its name. The homeplace is the interpretive center of the "Other South," in other words, the south of non-slave holding landowners.

The house has two levels and a basement. The original house had one major modification and that was done around 1840.

 

OLD KITCHEN

In use since 1812 when Richard Mendenhall brought the bride, Mary Pegg, to his new house. The house was lived in until 1957. Though plumbed and electrified by the Chadwick family (second owners), it is interesting that the kitchen was never really modernized. It is now very much as it was when the Mendenhalls lived here. Try to imagine yourself trying to prepare three meals a day under these circumstances. Remember, the family held no slaves. All the work, house and farm, had to be done by the family

 

GATHERING ROOM

This is part of the 1840's addition. We think it was formerly a kitchen garden. It has stone walls below the walls on either side. Simplicity is the prevailing word for Quakers. No ostentation allowed!

 

NEW PARLOR

This was part of the 1840 addition. With seven children and many wayfarers and visitors, Richard felt he had to expand the original house.

In this room is a portrait is of William G. Ragsdale who bought the house from the Chadwicks in 1957 in order to preserve it. His widow, who is our benefactress, gave the property to the Historic Jamestown Society in 1985. Mary Pegg Mendenhall's quilting frame is now on display here.

 

DOWNSTAIRS PARLOR

This room is part of the original house. This room has wide plank floors, original glass in the splayed reveals (windows), arches over the windows and doors, thick outer walls and thin inner ones. Secrets could not be told in this room. One of the many tasks of the women of the house was the making of cloth. After the thread was spun on the spinning wheel it was then put in the weasel (skein winder) in this room. When the weasel was full, it made a popping sound, which is where we get the song, "Pop Goes the Weasel".

 

OLD HALL PARLOR

This was the first parlor. Chair pegs are on the wall and the quilting frame was suspended from the

ceiling. Mary Mendenhall would lower the frame when she wanted to quilt, and raise it when she finished. Stairways were considered a waste of space, thus a narrow, curved one.

 

MASTER BEDROOM

The rope bed in this room was a Mendenhall bed. The tool on top was used to tighten the ropes when they became slack. The ticking was often filled with straw or sawdust, so when Mama said to the children, "Sleep tight, and don't let the bedbugs bite," she wasn't kidding. The half door was used to bring in furniture hoisted up on the outside since furniture could not be brought up the winding stairs.

 

MIDDLE BEDROOM

This room was possibly the nursery since there is a little niche in the wall to the left of the fireplace for a candle. The sealed window is a mystery. Why it was sealed in such a manner has never been discovered. This room is at the end of the original house, so the window looked outside.

 

GARRET

We don't know what this room was used for - perhaps the boys slept here, dormitory style. There are hand-hewn beams overhead. The east wall brick is the exterior of the original house before the exterior was painted many years ago. This is a fine example of Flemish Bond bricklaying. All of the bricks used in the house were made here by hand!

 

BASEMENT

The basement has several rooms. Richard is said to have lived in these rooms while building the rest of the house. Local legend says that runaway slaves were hidden here. This, of course, cannot be verified since there were law against helping runaway slaves and no written records kept of such activity.

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 required the return of runaway slaves, but in 1850 the law was made stricter. The Fugitive Slave Law said any person aiding a runaway slave by providing food or shelter was subject to six months' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.