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Stop Twenty-One

STOKES MCHENRY HOME

On the corner of Hill Street and Old Post Road, to the right, is the Stokes McHenry Home, one of the oldest houses in town. The property was once called Rose Hill because the family rose garden occupied the high point next door. Originally the lot extended to Central Avenue, but over the years portions were sold leaving only the corner lot.


This is the only home in Madison that has been in the same family since the 1820s, with eight generations occupying the house. For many years, it was the family’s plantation town house with a large smoke house, scuppernong arbor, and a row of slave quarters to the rear of the house. The house was enlarged around 1840 and the style changed from Federal to a Greek Revival style. Ten years or so later, the exterior was embellished with Italianate details.


There are two little, interesting war stories about the house, passed down from generation to generation. The first is from August of 1864 when remnants of General Stoneman came through Madison. Mr. James Smith reprimanded one of the northern soldiers for a rude remark made in the presence of two young ladies. The soldier responded by pulling his pistol and shooting the old man. Mr. Smith managed to get back to this, his sister’s, house, leaving a trail of blood all the way. Pursued by a posse of soldiers under the false impression that Smith was the perpetrator, Mr. Smith died at the base of the stairs never making it to a bedroom.


The second story is from the March to the Sea. Family lore says that when Union forces passed through, at least two apparently drunken northern soldiers entered the house. One proceeded to sit down and play the piano in the corner of the parlor, while his buddy rode his horse down the hall and into the dining room, pulled out his saber, speared the chicken on the table, and rode out with it. The family was obviously upset; however, the concern was not so much about the chicken, but that the horse’s iron shoes had ruined the special linoleum brought from Europe in 1857 and installed in the hall. It was a black and white checkerboard design and the horse’s iron shoes left deep cuts and scrapes.

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