Please click here for recent photographs of Island Farm.
The Island Farm or Etheridge Homeplace traces its beginnings back to
January of 1783 when Jesse Etheridge acquired 150-acre tract from
Joseph Mann. In 1787, Jesse purchased another 150 acres, which
gave him access to Roanoke Sound and early maps indicate that it
was on this property that he built a home. But it was Jesse’s
grandson, Adam Dough Etheridge, who built the house that is the
heart of Island Farm today. An 1820 map (pdf approx. 900k) by Hamilton Fulton, Chief Engineer to the state of North Carolina, shows the Adam Ethridge (sic) farm location on the north-end of Roanoke Island.
THE MAIN HOUSE
The hewn and pit-sawn timbers that frame the two-story side-gable
dwelling indicate that the house was built between 1845 and
1850. Restoration, which began in 2000, has removed later “Victorian” additions
and replaced missing earlier elements. Reconstructions include the
porches and their “porch chambers” or enclosed rooms
at the north ends of both porches that could provide extra sleeping
space for family or travelers. The restoration team, adding new handmade
bricks to the old, also completely rebuilt the two fireplaces and
chimney. Because of their typically English size, some of the original
bricks came to America as ship’s ballast historians believe.
Remarkably, many of the nail patterns and much early whitewash
survived on the timbers downstairs so that missing stairs and partitions
could be identified. Whitewash on the inside of the house siding
indicates that it was the interior finish; there was no other interior
wall, lath, plastering or wainscoting – only
in the south room that may have served as the farm office is there a small area
of interior sheathing. Upstairs, which would have been a private space, there
is no evidence of whitewash. (Whitewash increases the brightness of dark wooden
rooms by reflecting more light– especially important by candlelight.)
In the spacious attic, small original windows with rising lower sashes stand
at each gable end; the window at the north end is just inches behind the chimney.
These windows were most likely intended for ventilation rather than indicating
any living space in the attic.
In 1850, Adam D. Etheridge reportedly raised 200 bushels of corn, 50 bushels
of peas, 20 bushels of Irish potatoes and 100 pounds of sweet potatoes on
fifteen acres of his 420-acre farm. The family had two horses and one ox.
By 1860, there were two cows, 35 pigs, 12 sheep and 40 heads of cattle, some
of which probably foraged in the uncultivated woodlands (or were kept on
Etheridge’s property on Bodie Island). In that year, 75 pounds of wool
and 25 pounds of butter were reported. The family also had five slaves, one
of whom was a four-year old boy.
Family documents and oral history recall the Etheridge Farm was well constructed
and lovingly maintained. However, compared to agricultural complexes on the
mainland, Roanoke Island farmsteads were simple at best.
Surviving period outbuildings are extremely rare and are mostly found on the
mainland. Here, a barn, a corncrib, a kitchen, a dairy, a privy, a smokehouse
and a slave house have been reconstructed by referencing deeds, records, historic
photographs and regional examples as a guide. The restored livestock barn was
moved to this site from Franklin County. A rail fence would have connected
many of the outbuildings to form an enclosure for the livestock.
UNTIL THE WORK IS DONE
Archeologists, historians, preservation carpenters, and volunteers
have already accomplished much of the restoration of the Etheridge
Homeplace. Still more lies ahead before Island Farm can fully tell
its story. Although still missing is period fencing, livestock, interpreters,
historic furnishings and housewares (as well as parking and restrooms),
the sheep in the pasture begin to tell the farm’s story to
those who pass by. Beth Burns and her looms carry on the legacy of
the “weaving Harnis” that was a part of the household
A LIVING FARM
One day the Island Farm will
welcome both locals and tourists who are interested in glimpsing the
life of an 1850s farming-fishing family. An ox will till the sandy soil,
sheep will provide wool for weaving and chickens will teach children
where eggs come from. Historians are planning interpretive programming
that should have the farm open to the public by the summer of 2008.
In the meantime, thank you for your interest!
Without the generous contribution of Etheridge descendants, Lee Zenovah Salet, Lou Salet Glad, and Natalie Salet Peterson, Island Farm would no longer exist. They donated the original farm house and one-half acre of land to OBC in the 1980s.
OBC is also grateful to Allen and Lorna Daniels, owners of Roanoke Island's oldest restaurant, Darrell's, the locals favorite, who both donated property as well as made the acquisition of additional Farm property available at less-than-market value. OBC thanks the Daniels Family for their contribution to preserving our island's history and culture.