A writer named Jack Findley once noted that the past is always with us – an antique car, golden oldies and a 140-year-old home on Beaverdam Road outside Aiken.
Earlier this week, sisters Mary Ann Sizemore, of Aiken, and Martha Anderson, of Dothan, Alabama, happily puttered around the house their grandparents, Luther and Sally Seigler, purchased in 1907.
Built in the early 1880s, the home is old and looks it. Yet it has a new heart that delights all the descendants, thanks to Martha’s husband, John.
He might be described as a jack-of-all-trades. Now 84, the longtime pastor did a major fixer-upper while in his early 70s, rebuilding the porch and repairing much of the interior that was close to crumbling. He restored the chimney and cleaned the smokehouse, the fruit house, the barns and the outhouse – still the only bathroom option for visitors.
“There are workaholics and crazy people, and John qualifies for both,” Martha said cheerfully.
He finished most of the work by 2002, and “I just decided to do it,” he said. “I guess I’m just stubborn and got too caught up in it.”
The home is filled with charming beds and cupboards, sofas, chairs, cabinets, tables, dishes, iron pots and more. Some relatives donated pieces, and others were found through flea markets, neighbors, strangers and even on the side of the road. That’s where John found a very usable trunk he would later refinish.
Mary Ann and her husband Olin, who recently passed away, moved to Beaverdam Road in 1981. Mary Ann is grateful all four of her children live close by. Still, there’s something special when Martha and John visit from Alabama to share the past.
This family tale, and the home that centers around it, can’t help but bring alive another world – where people managed to fully live without electricity, running water, cars and grocery stores. The Seigler’s home had a detached kitchen, because the fires started there and was almost unbearable. The sisters and their siblings grew up down the road from their grandparents, and John was just a few miles away with his family, The girls would run across it to play and enjoy Grandma Sally’s mustard biscuits. She was a fantastic cook, and they cherished her.
Often, they would sit on a porch behind the house, and their “bad” brothers would sneak up behind them. The girls would leap over the steps and run until they saw their brothers and get so mad.
They didn’t make it to downtown Aiken very often, if at all. The adults would go in for supplies and to get items like coffee and sugar, while tea only showed up later. They had to learn how to make tea, and if the ice truck missed its weekly visit, the tea wasn’t much use anyway. But they had plenty to eat – sausage, ham, bacon, vegetables, fruit and eggs.
Times would change in the 1940s. Their grandparents died. Electricity arrived, more cars drove past and the road was paved. Martha was 18 when she married John, who is five years older.
“He had to wait for me to grow up,” she said.
Over the years, an aunt and other people unrelated to the Seiglers would live at the house until about 25 years ago. The collection of furniture that decorates it is a mishmash that just works. When he and Martha visit, John always manages to spend two or three nights there. That’s too much for Martha, who prefers the air conditioning at Mary Ann’s home.
The Andersons own all the property now. They, as well as Martha’s siblings, want to retain the house for future generations. Mary Ann has four children, eight grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Martha and John also have four children, eight grandchildren, nine great-grandchildren and another on the way.
A reunion is scheduled later this year at the old house. Where else?
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard’s education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT Martha, left, and her husband, John Anderson, are joined by Martha’s sister, Mary Ann Sizemore. They are holding a quilt that commemorates the sisters’ grandparents, Luther and Sally Seigler, and lists their descendants. Behind them is the home - built about 140 years ago - that the Seiglers purchased in 1907. Their grandchildren still own the property.×
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT John Anderson, 84, finishes a clean up effort in a barn behind a 140-year-old house in north Aiken, purchased by the grandparents of his wife, Martha more than 100 years ago.×
STAFF PHOTO BY ROB NOVIT Sisters Mary Ann Sizemore, left, and Martha Anderson are joined by Martha’s husband, John, in front of the house the sisters’ grandparents purchased it in 1907. The sisters lived down the street as kids and spent much of their childhood in this home. It remains in their family, and John did some major work on the structure in 2001.×