Governor Aycock was a huge advocate for public education, desiring that everyone have the opportunity to receive an education. He was instrumental in establishing public education in this state.
Governor Aycock was last in a line of ten children. He grew up on the family farm, and his mother could neither read nor write. This impacted him greatly, and she taught her children the importance of gaining a good education. The Aycock’s helped support a small school for their’s and the neighboring farmer’s children. This was a real privilege at a time when everyone was needed on the farm and money was scarce.
The historical site for Governor Aycock’s birthplace in full of original period items. I especially appreciated the value of seeing things as they would have been when this man grew up.
The first thing you notice is that the home was small, and so is the furniture. There was a guest room at the front, a bedroom for the parents (in which many of the children would also sleep) and a room for the housekeeper. There was also a small room used as a community room.
The kitchen and eating area were separate from the main house for safety. The Aycocks made most of their furniture, but they had a table that they bought. There was not enough room for everyone to eat at once, so the family, slaves, and servants ate in shifts.
Food was stored in a cupboard, called a pie safe, that had tin holes punched in it. The holes were punched outward to allow the sharp edges to cut any insects that tried to get inside. Food was stored all week without refrigeration, and would often go rather rancid in the cupboard. The consumption of lacto-fermented vegetables and high salt content of the foods to aid in preservation helped combat the harmful bacteria in the stored food.
The Aycocks made most of their cloth for clothes and blankets. They kept the loom in the kitchen, while the spinning and carding was done in the main living area.
Quilts were important for warmth, and they allowed worn out garments to be used in another way to get the most out of the precious cloth. Quilts often consisted of multiple layers of tops added as one began to wear out. Many times the women used their quilting as a social time and a way to be creative, exhibiting many beautiful patterns and stitching. The quilting frame hung above the living area to be pulled down by ropes when the women had time to work on it.
Many things we would consider strange could be found in the bedrooms. It was a great convenience to have a chamber pot in the bedroom so one did not have to go out in the night to use an outhouse. There was no privacy for using it, no separate room. The one found in the parents room is quite elegant, with lovely flowers painted on. The housekeepers was quite small and plain.
Also found in the parents room we could see a bed warming pan, in which hot rocks or coals would be placed inside and tucked under the covers to warm them before the family went to bed. Another way of keeping warm in winter would have been to wrap hot stones from the fire in cloth and place them at the foot of the bed to keep your feet warm while sleeping.
In the kitchen, we were shown a sausage stuffer.
Nothing would be wasted in those days. The hog intestines would be cleaned and preserved for making sausage, brain, bones and skins would be used for tanning and rich soups. Herbs were hung in the kitchen for easy accessibility, especially those used to heal. Burns were common, and one of the leading causes of death for women, who wore up to 9 layers of clothes and had long, full skirts.
It was a fascinating trip, and the children quite enjoyed the experience. Beside touring the school and farm, we made beeswax candles. We were also able to see the heritage breeds of animals that would have been kept by the family. If you are ever in eastern North Carolina, I would encourage you to take your children to this lovely historical site!