Growing Up In An Historic House

By Kevin Gray

After her birth in 1952, Maxine Goodwin of Lane remembers a childhood growing up in what, even then, she knew was an historic house.

Our family, Goodwin said, always knew the house was old and historic. “As a child I remember how my parents and family referred to it as being 100 years old,” Goodwin said.

From what her family knew, Goodwin said, the house had been built by an Evan Gilbert as a hotel.

“Gilbert thought, as many others in those days did, that the railroad would come through Stanton. He wanted to have a hotel ready and waiting. The bricks were made on the property from what we’ve learned,” Goodwin said.

The railroad, Goodwin said, chose a different route on the other side of the river away from Stanton, but from that day on it had been known as the Gilbert Place.

That is until the Caylors moved in.

Her grandfather, Elmer Caylor, Goodwin said, was born in 1885 and had lived there for many years.

“I’m not sure when he bought the place but my grandparents (Elmer and Altha), my uncle Raymond and aunt Freda and their son, Sam, were all living there when my parents married in 1947,” Goodwin said.

Instead of moving elsewhere to set up house after their marriage, Marvin and Mary Caylor, Maxine’s parents, moved right in with the rest of the residents of what was already known as the Caylor Place. “Mom moved right in and pretty soon, they began a family. I have a sister, Marilyn, four years older than me and a brother, Jim, a year older than me. I was the baby,” Goodwin said.

The brick structure almost looked out of place from the earliest days.  Maxine said the family always believed construction began in the 1830s. When the house was destroyed in a Jan. 1, 2012, fire, the fire report mentioned 1865.

Generations of families from Stanton or from western Miami County, where the house sits overlooking 327th Street at Stanton Road, could not help but see a house that mirrored similar homes in northwest Missouri’s tobacco country.

Or in any number of southern states with a colonial architecture!  Not least, a rural home built, when everybody else in the country had been living in log cabins or simple wood-frame houses.

“The rooms were huge with tall ceilings. And the window sills were at least a foot or so deep. There was nothing small or crawly about that place. The mop boards were at least a foot tall, too,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin’s childhood home fit a familiar design: a two-story, rectangular structure with a centered front door and symmetrically placed windows. Many homes based on this same style from Virginia west to Missouri and beyond included chimneys on both ends, as did the Caylor home until the fire struck.

And, no doubt, building a brick house of this size in this location in those times stood as a mark of a successful business person.

Cedar trees grew all around the property, Goodwin said, and always smelled so good, as did the lilac and peony bushes.

“Now, the land in front of the house is all pasture land down to the road, but when I was growing up the trees and bushes added a lot of a decoration to the front of the house,” she said.

Trumpet vines, Goodwin said, crisscrossed the front and east side of the structure. Green shutters, white trim and an entry porch (long gone) welcomed visitors to the house.

“The front door was always open in the summer, as were all the windows. We didn’t need air conditioning, not if you opened the place up. And not with that normally strong breeze blowing up the hill from the south,” she said.

But, even with their welcoming front door open in warm weather, the everyday entry to the house came on the side facing east.

“A driveway brought visitors in along a drive right in front of the house and then around to the east side, where they could park. A little sidewalk led up to the door on the east side. People seldom used the front door,” she said.

The east door, Goodwin said, led through a small screened-in porch. “The cellar entrance was to the right with a cover you had to lift and the hot water heater was down there. From the porch you stepped into the dining room and the small kitchen was in an added-on section on the back of the house, as was the bathroom,” she said.

If a visitor actually entered the house through the front door, Goodwin said, they would step into an entry hallway.

“My parents’ bedroom was in the room to the right or the east and the living room sat to the west.  The hallway led back to the dining room straight ahead, but a stairway to the right of the front door led up to four bedrooms upstairs,” she said.

Goodwin’s sister, Marilyn Stevenson of Garnett, said the kitchen and the dining room areas had been the gathering points for family and friends.

“We were always in the kitchen ready to eat. Or to talk,” Stevenson said.

Grandpa’s popcorn, Stevenson said and Maxine agreed, had been something special.

“He popped the corn in bacon grease on the stove and smothered it in cow butter,” Stevenson said. “It just dripped butter, but of course people didn’t realize what healthy eating was then,” Maxine said.

Normal meals, Stevenson said, had consisted of homegrown chickens, eggs and milk.

“I wish we would have known what we do now about what people will collect. We used to throw those Log Cabin syrup tins out the back door and into the trash. I wish I had a few of those tins today, as much as they are worth,” Stevenson said.

Although much of the interior of the historic structure was destroyed in the recent fire, Goodwin was thankful her niece, Julie Roach, an Osawatomie Middle School teacher, had taken the banister from the home and had it in storage.

“Julie and her husband wanted to use the banister in their home, but it just wouldn’t work,” Goodwin said.

Roach admitted to being disappointed about not getting to use the banister.

“It is magnificent and big. It really did go up and up and around in the old house. When we built our house, I had asked about having 10-foot ceilings, so I could use the banister from the old place, but we just couldn’t do this,” Roach said.

The banister, Goodwin said, was a dark, almost black wood and very thick and wide. “It went up, curved around on the second floor, and went on around a landing. When we were kids, we loved sliding down the banister railing from the second floor,” she said.

As Stevenson pondered her sister’s description of the “huge rooms,” she said they were large with tall ceilings.

“The rooms were big but from the perspective of a little child,” Stevenson said.

The sisters described the interior of the home in their youth as wide and white painted woodwork with wallpaper.

“I’m not sure why wallpaper, but every few years Mom had to redo the wallpaper. She would make Dad haul the sawhorses inside and set up for pasting. She even papered the ceilings,” Maxine said.

As much as Maxine said she enjoyed the summer’s cooling breeze, the bedroom she shared with Marilyn upstairs on the front west side was cold in the winter.

“It was cold in the winter for us kids. The house was heated downstairs by propane, but we had electric blankets so that helped. The upstairs was still the best sleeping,” she said.

Running water was something they had in the house, Goodwin said, but there were also two wells.

“We didn’t use the one right by the side door on the east. It sat right next to the door. But there was another well a few feet on the other side of the sidewalk closer to the porch. Dad hauled water and kept that one filled and we could pump water from that one,” she said.

Once a year when the well they used dried up, Goodwin said, her father always had her brother go down to clean the sides of the well.

“Dad would lower my brother, Jim, down to scrape the sides clean. He’d always run into small snakes that didn’t bother him. But, Dad hated snakes so it’s a good thing Dad had my brother to go down there,” she said.

There were plenty of other buildings around the main house in her youth, including a garage, chicken house, smoke house and assorted other small buildings.

“We called it a smokehouse, but it had probably been a wash house to do their laundry in earlier times. And, we didn’t use the garage at all,” she said.

Their mother still used the wash house to do the laundry when Marilyn was about four. Maxine was not born yet, and Jim, Stevenson said, was a toddler.

“Little boys still used to wear shoes with very hard soles. One day, I was helping our mother, and Jim was playing and got his foot stuck in the drain. Mom couldn’t get his foot free, so she decided to run for help. But before she could leave, she ran into the house and grabbed an empty baby bottle.

“She gave it to me and told me, ‘Stick this in his mouth and it should make him happy till I get back.’”

But Stevenson said she had no plans of staying their alone without their mother.

“I stuck the bottle in Jim’s mouth and ran after Mom. Luckily, our uncle had been coming up the drive and was already running back to the wash house with mom,” Stevenson said.

Stevenson said her relief turned to alarm when she saw what her uncle had in his hand.

“He had a hammer, and I just knew he was going to kill Jim!  Keep in mind, I was only four. No, he wasn’t going to hurt Jim, he was going to use the hammer to break up the concrete around the drain,” Stevenson said.

Fortunately, Stevenson said, our uncle was able to wiggle Jim’s foot loose without using the hammer. “And by the time, I came along our parents had bought a washer and dryer for inside the house,” Maxine said.

Christmas brought back special memories of going out to chop down their Christmas tree.

“We always went out in the timber as a family to find the best tree. Cedar trees always smelled so good but any fresh cut tree smelled good, too,” she said.

The only Christmas disappointment came in the 1960s, when her parents brought home an aluminum tree.

“You know one of those trees with the colored lights. “That was a crummy tree. I missed the real trees and the scent of pine,” Goodwin said.

Her father, Marvin, had been a country boy, born and raised to farm. “Over his lifetime, Dad had three professions usually ongoing all at one time. He worked at the army ammunition plant in Olathe, farmed, and owned Caylor Brothers Hardware in Osawatomie,” Goodwin said.

And her mother, Mary, raised chickens. “If we wanted chicken for dinner, she just went out, picked out a chicken, killed it, and cooked it for dinner,” Maxine said.

From listening to Goodwin talk, she had no need for town or city living.

“We had games to play as children in and outside of the house, but most of our time was spent running down to the river, playing in the creek, or just going all over the countryside on our bikes or horses. If we wanted we’d just saddle up some horses and just go,” she said.

A pond located in the pasture down slope from the house has been long gone, but Maxine said it had been good for fishing.

A Shetland named Smokey, Maxine said, could be the orneriest horse. “He was meaner than dirt and loved to throw you off,” she said.

Right down on the corner at 327th St. and Stanton Road sat Brassfield’s Service Station.

“Brassfield’s was also a store with groceries, cigarettes, pop and ice cream.  We had it made, but we also learned not to abuse our privileges.

“Mom and dad had a charge account at Brassfield’s. We could charge a pop and an ice cream for each of us kids when we would get to go down there, and our parents would pay up each month,” she said.

Of course, as Maxine said, it only cost a dime for a bottle of pop and a candy bar in those days.

Goodwin had to chuckle about everyday attire for girls in her childhood and even out on their place.

“We had to wear dresses a lot! And, even though my sister was older by four years, Mom made us dress alike all the time. My sister hated it, too. She didn’t want to be dressed like her little sister. Plus, I was always getting my sister’s dresses when I grew into them,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin, who said she graduated from Osawatomie High School in 1970, said she left the historic house, when she turned 17.

“I got married in 1969 to Gary Goodwin from Osawatomie,” she said.

Trying to bring another fond memory into the sad story about the loss of an historic Miami County home, Maxine recalled when her husband-to-be first drove up to the house.

“He came to pick me up for our first date. When he saw the vines and the tall brick walls, he said, ‘Oh my God, she lives in a castle,’” Goodwin said.

But her brother continued living at home, Maxine said. “Mom and dad waited until us kids had grown up to build their new home, which they started doing in 1976 and finally moved out in 1978,” she said.

Marvin and Mary Caylor built the brown house that sits to the east of Stanton Road, just north of 327th Road.

“When our parents moved out, my brother and his family moved in. My brother was a bull-dozer operator, so they were only able to continue living there for about four years,” Maxine said.

Her father, Goodwin said, refused to rent out the old house. “He stored all the records in the old house from Caylor Brothers, as well as unsold stock and display items and equipment from the store. He also kept his military uniforms with all his medals from World War II in the house,” she said.

After her brother and his family moved on to another job, Goodwin said, the house was vandalized. “They stole Dad’s uniform, ripped down electrical wiring which destroyed ceilings. They broke out windows. Somebody had done this just for the fun of it,” she said.

Goodwin’s greatest regret and loss in the present fire has been not going back to retrieve the old marble counter slab in the kitchen.

“Nobody ever took that out, and I remember working in the kitchen, preparing food, and working on that marble. It’s probably all broken up and buried in the collapse of bricks,” Goodwin said.

Life in a piece of early Miami County history, built during or before the Civil War and Bleeding Kansas, had been memorable in the large house with plenty of land to run over with abandon. School had been the one-room school house in Stanton, a short walk away.

But when she was diagnosed with pneumonia during her eighth-grade year, she spent three weeks in the hospital over Christmas.

“I had missed so much school that I could not graduate with my Stanton class by the end of that year. To make up time missed, I had to transfer to the Osawatomie Middle School. Talk about culture shock. To go from my country school of several grades in one room to two classes of only eighth graders! I didn’t know a sole, either,” Goodwin said.

Admitting how much she cares about her family history and her family, Roach, who is Marilyn’s daughter, said she has fond memories of the historic home, too.

“I always think of it as my uncle and aunt’s place because, when I was little, they lived there.  The place was huge to a little girl, and we used to go over there all the time. I really liked to sled and their hill was perfect for sledding,” Roach said.

As Roach began to realize what was happening to the house, she knew she wanted to save what she could before it all disappeared.

“I had wanted to get the claw footed bath tub that had been left in a smaller building. When I got there, the tub was gone like much of my grandparents’ antiques and property stolen by vandals,” Roach said.

With luck, Roach was able to save a small, wrought iron baby bed. “It was my Grandma Mary’s baby bed, which I knew I had to get since so much was disappearing,” Roach said.

Roach also managed to salvage the old water pump and would like a few of the bricks, Roach said, to place in a sidewalk she would like to build.

Since the fire consumed the home’s interior and caused a few walls to cave in, people who live nearby have also felt the loss.

“It’s sad to see this every morning. So sad,” said Steve Hinote of Stanton as he drives by on his way to the Muffler Mart in Paola.

And, Karen Spencer Hill, who has lived just south of the Caylor house for 22 years, has been cataloging the home in photographs both before and after the fire.

“I just hate to see things destroyed…,” Hill said.



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Posted by admin on Jan 25 2012. Filed under News and Updates. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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