Nestled amid the noise, the lights, the food booths and other attractions of the Statesboro Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair is a quiet log house.
It stands on rough-hewn pine log blocks, has an old well casing, and all the other accoutrements of an old family farm house. It is filled with primitive antiques like those used in the house’s heyday — chamber pots, old crockery, cane-seated chairs, and hand-sewn quilts made from clothes that had seen better days.
But unseen are the whispers of yesterday; the memories held as treasures by the family who grew up in the old house, and the remnants of their existence, such as initials carved onto an outside wall by two of the Aldrich grandchildren.
Known as the “Old Aldrich House,” the exhibit draws visitors nightly during the week of the fair. For the rest of the year, it stands as a testament to time; a symbol of the hard work, the rustic lifestyle, and the strength of character that the Aldrich family built while living in the home.
The house came from a short distance away from the fairgrounds many years ago, after Monroe Aldrich struck a deal with the Kiwanis Club to take and preserve the log house, according to Aubrey Aldrich, one of the children of the late Monroe and R. E. Aldrich.
The family of eight children – Margaret, Sybil, Talmadge, Aubrey, Joyce, Jerry, Harold and Deborah – grew up in the home. Many were born there, including Harold, who said he was about three years old when the family moved a few hundred yards down the road into a larger, two-story house.
The old Aldrich House was crowded, with “a couple of beds in every room,” Aubrey Aldrich said. “But it was fun because we had family to back us up and we enjoyed life.”
Elbert Deal, now deceased, grew up a short distance from the Aldrich family on Josh Deal Road. He told tales of how he and his brothers would take turns spending the night with the Aldrich family, and vice versa.
In an interview several years ago, the late Mrs. R. E. Aldrich recalled the Deal boys sleeping over in the tiny house. “They were stacked up like logs in the bed,” she said.
Monroe Aldrich moved from the Barnwell, South Carolina area in the early 1900’s, and lived in a large house near Pretoria Rushing Road, Aubrey said. His mother’s relatives, the Hendrix family, came from Bulloch and Screven county’s Rocky Ford area. The two met, married and began raising a herd of children while they farmed.
Monroe Aldrich raised row crops, produce and helped Statesboro businessman Josh Hagins haul horses and mules in a big truck, Aubrey recalled.
Neighbor Virgil Harville remembers his father and Monroe Aldrich traveling to Atlanta to pick up the first “corn breaker” in Statesboro. “It was called the ‘New Idea’ and I remember as a boy, seeing my daddy and his younger brother assemble that,” he said.
The Aldrich children, like their neighbors, grew up working on the family farm, picking tobacco for other farmers, and living a rough, but enjoyable country life, Aubrey said.
He remembered cold nights when the wood stove worked hard to keep the chilly house bearable. “It took a lot of wood to keep it going,” he said, adding that the house also had no electricity.
To see the house kept alive as it is, even if only for a week out of the year, means a great deal to the family, he said.
“It means a lot to me to see it,” he said. “The Kiwanis Club could keep it and restore it so much better than we could. I spent a lot of time there in that house.”
When he visits the fairgrounds, a spark of warmth spreads through his heart. Monday, he listened as volunteers read from a recorded history of the house, and it made him feel good, he said.
Seeing the home preserved as it is means a great deal to the whole family, Harold said.
“I’m glad to see it there, still standing,” he said. “It’s an old log house from older days, and you don’t see too much of that anymore.”
The Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair is an agricultural fair, and having the Heritage Village (old general store, blacksmith shop, grist mill, agriculture equipment barn, animal barn and more) in addition to the Aldrich House helps keep that theme. Fairgoers can sample freshly milled sugar cane juice and cane syrup as they explore the whispers of yesterday, touring the house and its surroundings.
The Aldrich House is open to the public during all fair hours.
Holli Deal Bragg may be reached at (912) 489-9414.