Former church, schoolhouse gets new lease on life

ALBERTSON — Carol Tyndall can still recall the small white house on Tram Road, the chickens loitering in the dusty front yard as her mother drew water from a hand pump out back. She can still feel the way a horse made out of tobacco sticks and a young girl’s imagination would buck and gallop as it carried her down the steps, past the chicken coops and around the dark, freshly turned earth of her father’s garden.

“It was a simpler time,” said Tyndall during an interview last week, as she drew back the curtain on memories of the home where she was born and raised.

Tyndall said her parents, Alfred and Annabel Dunn, moved to the house in 1937 with her four older brothers in tow. One year later, the Dunn’s welcomed their first girl, Carol, into the fold.

Though nearly three quarters of a century have passed since that time, Tyndall’s images of the home are still vivid. She remembered the house, which was originally located across the road from the current site of Woodland United Methodist Church, as a simple, functional living space. “There was a partition separating the front room: one side was a bedroom and the other was used as a dining room. There was also a kitchen in the back,” said Tyndall.

While her mother washed their clothes with a wash pot and scrub board, Tyndall said her and the other children, which eventually included two younger sisters, would use homemade brooms to sweep the hard-packed dirt yard.

Tyndall said the home’s lack of amenities was quickly overcome by the children’s adventurousness. “We used to play under the house, that was our area. We didn’t have much so we just made up our own games.”

While her father spent the majority of his time working the small tobacco farm beside the families home, he would take on other jobs from time to time as well, most notably helping to construct Camp Davis, an antiaircraft artillery training center in Holly Ridge that was torn down in 1948. “He would work there during the week and then come home on the weekends,” remembered Tyndall. “He also sharpened saws, did construction—he was an all around handyman.”

Her father put his skills to good use on the Tram Road house, converting one of the homes two front doors into a large window and adding on a small side structure that was used as a bedroom.

Tyndall remembered her mother as being equally adept at putting her homemaking skills to use. “She was an excellent cook and seamstress,” said Tyndall, who recalled her mother accompanying her husband into town to pick out colorful feedbags to use for the girls’ dresses.

Every member of the family, said Tyndall, was expected to lend a hand around the farm. Tyndall said her main job was helping her father loop tobacco for wood firing in the barn behind their house.

While they worked “from sunup to sundown” the economic realities of the era made providing enough food for a growing family an increasingly difficulty task. “They were lean years,” said Tyndall. “We had an ice box and I remember my father would buy a bag of ice to keep what little food we had fresh.” Tyndall said the family supplemented their meals with eggs from the numerous chickens roaming the property.

Tyndall remembers small luxuries as among the ones most cherished by the family. “We had a wood heater in the front room and wood stove in the kitchen. We thought we were really rich when we got a gas stove,” she remembered with a laugh. Tyndall said the home was lit with kerosene lamps until 1944, the year she turned six, when electricity became available in the area.

One of Tyndall’s more striking memories from that period during World War II involves watching American dirigibles flying over the house on practice runs. “One of my biggest fears at that time was that the Japanese were going to come out of the woods and attack the family,” said Tyndall.

Tyndall also recalls the night the family came close to losing the few possessions they owned. “It was 1942; I was four years old. The house caught on fire from a spark from the chimney.”

Tyndall said the home was saved thanks to her mother’s uniquely resonant voice. “The neighbors heard her screaming and formed a bucket brigade and put the fire out,” recalled Tyndall. “My mother was a great yeller. She could have gone on at Spivey’s Corner the way she used to yodel for my father to come in from the fields for mealtime.”

The family lived in the home until 1952, said Tyndall, when they moved just down the road after purchasing property formerly owned by her grandmother.

The home sat vacant for decades, gathering dust and falling to ruin. In 1998, largely through the efforts of Woodland United Methodist Church member Hazel Ruth Adams Kornegay, the house was moved across the street onto church property.

Speaking to her daughter, Marilynn Hroza, it becomes clear why Kornegay, who passed away in 1992, was intent on preserving the home.

According to Hroza, a lifelong member of Woodland Methodist, the house has a history that stretches back well beyond the Tyndall family. Hroza said the house was built between 1904 and 1906 and was first used as the Woodland Methodist Church and School, serving in that capacity until 1928, when B.F. Grady, originally a 12-year school, was built.

The house continued to be used for church services until 1937, just prior to the Tyndall’s arrival, when the new Woodland United Methodist Church was built across the street. In a fortuitous bit of historical alignment, the home would eventually be donated to the church by a descendent of the very family, the Chessnutt’s, who donated the land for the new church building in the thirties. According to Hroza that descendent, Raymond Chesnutt, not only gave the building to the church but paid to have it moved as well.

Recently, the church procured an $18,000 Duke Endowment grant to begin restoration on the home, which they hope to use for Bible classes and as a location for youth and Boy Scout activities. As part of the restoration, the room that was added onto the house by Tyndall’s father has been removed, leaving the original one-room structure.

Hroza said the church has tried to leave as much of the tin-roofed home in tact as possible, keeping the original ceiling and replacing a few of the rotted, tongue-in-groove wall boards, which have been sandblasted to remove years of built up grime and mold. Hroza said contractors have also put in a new floor over the original sub floor. Additionally, a kitchen, handicap accessible bathroom, energy efficient windows, and outdoor deck have been added. “We tried not to change anything that couldn’t be changed back,” said Hroza, noting the home’s historical significance.

According to Hroza, work on the building is nearly complete. “It’s almost finished except for the cleanup,” she stated.

Tyndall said she has visited her former childhood home several times since it was moved.  “I’m very excited it’s been donated to the church,” she remarked. “It used to make me sad to see the way it had gotten so rundown.”

As the sole surviving daughter of the Dunn’s seven children, she said her thoughts often turn to the days spent with her family in their home on Tram Road.

“It was a good life,” said Tyndall, “ and it’s a neat old house. There’s a lot of good history in this area.”

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