The Merry Weather Garden Club met on Thursday, 19th of March, 2015 at the antebellum home of Allen and Tina Hand on LaGrange Street in Greenville. Allen acquired the home of John Gaston over a year ago and has been steadily restoring the house, outbuildings and gardens-a long labor of love.
The home was built between 1838 and 1840 by Hezekiah Wimbush. Wimbush owned nineteen slaves at the time with one of them being the very talented untutored Elbert Wimbush, a skilled builder who built several houses in the Greenville area. The hand hewn underpinning of the home and mortise and tenon or peg joints make for a sturdy, well-built home that endures for years and has looked regal even in its past decay.
There have only been three homeowners before the Hands bought the property: the Wimbushes, the Anthonys, and then John and Pauline Gaston who bought the place in 1920 when John (Booker) was two years old. John Gaston lived in the house until he was 94. Allen met John when he, Allen, was eight years old and pretty much visited him every couple of weeks from then on so he is well versed in the house’s history and knows the property that was his friend’s. There are three springs on the back of the property that were the reason for the name of the nearby church, Springfield Baptist Church.
While Allen and Tina are restoring the house, they are living next door in a home that was originally part of the Gaston place. Years ago three rooms were removed from the Wimbush house and rolled next door to make another home. The Hand’s daughters, Theney and Milzie, enjoy the connected backyards and the ample playrooms and playhouses. The back of the house, in typical antebellum fashion, adjusts for the slope of the land and sits high off the ground and is open-perfect for more play area.
The garden club toured the yard noting the smokehouse, pomegranate and rose bushes plants that have been there a long time. Most interesting is the small building that served as a classroom for Joseph Meriwether Terrell who grew up to be one of Georgia’s governors! Allen’s mother some years ago bought the Terrell place in Greenville and gave Allen the portrait of Governor Terrell she found there. Allen plans for the portrait to have a place of honor hanging in the dining room-an interesting point as the young Terrell boy who played and studied on the Wimbush property had no idea his picture would hang in its home one day!
In clearing out the interior, Hand found newspapers and magazines dating back to 1906 that are a treasure trove of fascinating local information. He also has a hand written account of the Greenville Cyclone of March 3, 1893 and its devastation.
Restoration is a slow process and the club members were most complimentary of the care the Hands are taking with the historical house. It is not always easy, Allen said, as he has run into rats, squirrels, possums, bats, and snakes in the initial clean up.
Garden club members divided and shared with the Hands some plants from their gardens and also presented the Hands with a long handled pruner for fighting the wisteria in the yard. The sides of the front steps became an impromptu table where club members enjoyed refreshments and made club announcements. The next meeting of the garden club will be April 16 when it will join the Concord Club for its annual Lunch and Learn program.