If you’re looking for an outing that will teach your children some history of the region and make mom glad she doesn’t have to cook over an open fire and lug water hundreds of yards from a spring to the kitchen, the Kings Mountain National Military Park in York County, S.C., has just the ticket Saturday.
And, like all activities offered by the park, admission is free.
The park’s Brigade of Friends – a volunteer group that supports park activities – will host a visit to the Howser House, a two-story home that Revolutionary War veteran Henry Howser, a stonemason and distiller, built for his family in 1803.
The house, located at the end of a dirt track, is only open for tours twice a year: the day before Mother’s Day and the day after Thanksgiving. Visitors must park their cars some distance from the old structure, but rides to the house will be provided by tractor-drawn wagons. (If you want to reach the house on foot, it is recommended that you wear good walking shoes.)
The house, according to Brigade of Friends member Anita Campbell, is thought to be the oldest constructed from stone west of the Catawba River. Its sturdy walls conveyed affluence at a time when most people were living in log houses.
It served a family that farmed a parcel of land where a group of men who trekked across the mountains of eastern Tennessee in 1780 convened to help local patriots defeat a group of loyalists to the British crown, led by Major Patrick Ferguson, in the Battle of Kings Mountain. Thomas Jefferson later said the battle, fought in 1780, was a turning point in the Revolutionary War.
Howser soon learned that the corn he grew on his farm was easier to transport to market – and a more lucrative venture – if distilled into whiskey, Campbell said. And operating a distillery was a legal occupation during that era.
The Howser House remained in the family for several generations, said Park Ranger Cephus Bragg, and was occupied by permanent residents until the 1950s. The National Park Service purchased the old homestead in the early 1970s, he said, and added it to the military park (just across the North Carolina line south of the City of Kings Mountain) that commemorates the Revolutionary War battle.
It was in need of repair when the park acquired it, Bragg said. “Between the 1950s and 1970 it served as the home of squatters.”
There also is more to see than the house. Foundations of a corn crib and several cabins thought to have been occupied by slaves are nearby, and the graves of Henry Howser, some immediate family members, and later descendants are in a family burial plot just up the dirt track.
Members of the Brigade of Friends, dressed in period attire, will conduct tours and demonstrate cooking meals over an open fire.
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