“Daddy, if I draw the plans for a house, will you build it?” the pretty young lady with dark brown hair and blue eyes asked.
This may have been the question asked to Keith Axson Quarterman around 1920 by his daughter, Mary Helen Quarterman. It was somewhat unusual back then for a girl to design a house and draw the plans for it. Mary Helen attended Franklin College — now the University of Georgia in Athens — and studied architecture. She drew the plans, and Mr. Quarterman proceeded to build it.
He owned many acres of land and produced all the pine and cypress trees used for building the house. He operated a small sawmill for his own use and planed the lumber. The flooring boards were made of heart pine. Long boards reached from the bottom of the first floor to the top of the second without being pieced together. Cypress shingles covered the sides of the house. The shingles and boards were put in barrels of red stain and soaked before putting them on the house. Cypress paneling was used on the inside walls. It was trimmed with white paint. The house was three stories high, but the top story was used as the attic. The Thomas Carter Funeral Home was built by the Martin family using the same house design, just not as high. Lightning rods stood across the top of the roof. A deep artesian well furnished water. Georgia Power came through the area around 1938, and Mr. Quarterman’s son George rewired the house through the gas pipes and turned the gas chandeliers into electric devices.
I talked with Keith Rahn, who recently retired from the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office. He worked in the courthouse, where people had to pass through the detection device. Keith’s mother was Mary Helen Quarterman Rahn. Henry Irwin Rahn was a carpenter helping to build the house and he fell in love with the architect, Mary Helen, and they were married. Keith’s grandfather was Dr. Keith Axson Quarterman of Walthourville, who enlisted in Captain Winn’s Company with the Confederate Army in October of 1861. Helen’s father hauled the huge Stewart-Screven monument in sections with an ox-pulled cart from the Seaboard Coastline Railroad in Midway to the Midway Cemetery. Mary Helen, a direct descendant of Brig. Gen. Daniel Stewart, was one of the young ladies who helped unveil the monument when it was dedicated in April 1915.
Keith remembered getting on the school bus and being let off at his grandparents’ home to spend the day there. That afternoon, the school bus would stop and pick him up on the trip back. There were many things he could do to help around the farm. He said the large pecan trees — which still are in the yard — were planted at the same time the home was built. It produced soft-shelled pecans. Every year, he was scooted up the tree to climb about and shake the pecans off the limbs.
Grandma Maneta Harden Quarterman (1870-1968) loved flowers. The front yard was surrounded by a curved, white picket fence. The yard had no grass but many flower beds. Grandma kept the yard clean as a whistle by sweeping it with a brush broom. In the late 1930s, grass only was allowed to grow in the front yard as push lawnmowers came into existence.
Grandma’s favorite place was the front porch. She sat in a large green rocking chair and read the Bible. Keith recalled that she had him sit beside her in the warm sunshine while she read to him. Flower boxes filled with many varieties were on either side of the front doorsteps. She had arbors covered with running roses. She named two rose bushes Ann and Susan after her granddaughters. A small table, which she graced with a vase of fresh flowers every day from her yard, sat inside at the base of the stairs.
The yard had many beautiful shrubs and trees in it. The huge Southern magnolia tree in front of the house immediately captured one’s eye. Several varieties and colors of Camellia bushes still bloomed there. Many crepe myrtle trees were around the edge of the yard. I saw one that was so old it was completely covered with long strands of gracefully hanging gray moss. Trailing periwinkle with bright blue flowers had overcome the area around the home. Heart-shaped ivy randomly ran everywhere and climbed the porch posts. Yellow hyacinths freely shed their fragrance. Honeysuckle, day lilies, irises and daffodils still were growing strong. This had to have been a beautiful place in the springtime several years ago.
At about age 4, Keith had the delightful job of crawling under the house to gather eggs. There were many chickens, Rhode Island reds, black and white speckled Dominiques and colorful bantams that had the run of the place. A hole under the house in the double chimneys was a favorite place for the hens to build a nest. Keith said he loved going under there and crawling into the hole and getting the eggs. Never a thought of a snake or spider biting him!
The pear and sand pear trees produced an abundance of pears, which Grandma made into delicious pear preserves, relish, cobblers or just plain pears. A fig tree located by the kitchen at the back of the house produced large green figs. They were eaten raw or made into fig preserves and eaten with mouth-watering biscuits. If one didn’t like pear or fig preserves, the grape arbors provided the makings for many jars of jelly. Cakes with jelly soaking into thin layers were a common item in the pie safe.
Grandpa Keith peddled turnips, mustard, collards, cabbages and pork in his Model A truck to the Pembroke chain gangs around 1938. Little Keith enjoyed going on these trips. They crossed the ford at landing eight, which is now on Fort Stewart. This was an all-day trip.
Olan Fraser had precious memories of Mrs. Helen Rahn teaching Bible school for a week during the summer at the Flemington Presbyterian Church. She taught the little boys how to make a little stepstool. She was still using her architecture skills.
Grandpa Keith died in 1942, and Grandma and George stayed on in the large home. Five rooms were added after Grandpa’s death to accommodate soldiers. They had eight fireplaces. To make additional rooms, the right part of the porch was closed in. Remember, this was when Camp Stewart was opened and there was no room for the people. Everyone had to help. Between these rooms, there were partitions that since have been made into solid walls.
Andy and Margie Kozma bought the house in February 1964.
They made bedrooms in the upstairs rooms that had partitions. They knocked out two fireplaces and one of the three chimneys, rewired the house and installed indoor plumbing. They also repainted the house red. In the upstairs bathroom, the gray marble counter top of the old Hinesville Bank served as the floor tile. This still was beautiful when I toured the old place. I saw the old elevator system that Andy Kozma had rigged using an electric boat hoist that they used whenever they needed something to go to the attic. The attic had a 10-foot space from the floor to the roof. I asked Keith how they got into the attic. He said there was a ladder in the back closet that pulled down but he went up there only one time. It was dark and spooky and he was scared! No wonder I did not see this entrance into the attic. The window was broken and honeybees were swarming in the room near the closet. They built their beehive in the closet with the attic pull-down ladder.
Part or all of the dark-green shutters came from the historic Midway Church when it was remodeled about 40 years ago. Mr. Fraser got a truckload when they were tearing them off and gave Kozma what he needed for his house.
The 84-year-old three-story red home that stood beside Highway 84 between Flemington and the McIntosh overpass and the land surrounding it had been sold to the Liberty County Board of Education for expansion of the high school grounds. It was burned by the fire department as a training exercise April 3, 2004. The house was in need of repairs. Many expressed feelings of sadness over the demolition of this house, but progress comes whether we like it or not.
The house’s lumber was burned, but the memories of the loving home that had been created many years ago will live forever in Keith Rahn’s heart.