July 26, 2017 Edition

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Wood from LawCo.
home finds new life

Terry Freeman looks at the remains of what was his ancestors' home in Strawberry. The home has since been torn down with all of the wood and tin being repurposed.

Gerald and Carol Ann Driggers
Guest Writers

This is the story of how planks and frames from Lawrence County trees found a new life after serving for more than 100 years as a house/barn/whatever. It is also the story of how that aged and weathered lumber drew a scattered family closer together.

The family

In 1896, George Washington Durham married Carrie Betty Hooten, and they settled into a small house close to Strawberry, about a mile from the main road. There is no record of who built the house.

As was common, the first of 10 children came along not long after they were married. He was Robert Randy born Oct. 29, 1897, and on March 28, 1899, he fell into the fireplace, dying of his burns. Four of the 10 children died as infants or toddlers.

Lois May was born March 2, 1900, and died Nov. 19, 1900. Virgil Josaphine was born on Oct. 3, 1901, and died in April, 1902. Estella Marie was born on Feb.19, 1916, and the cause of her death is unknown.

George Durham died of an unknown disease in 1923. Ma Durham (Carrie) continued alone to raise the young children with the help of the older ones; she passed away in 1961.

The following lists the six children who grew to be adults in the order of their birth:

Claude was born in February of 1903; he married Annie Smith. They had three children named Boyce, Terry and Kathleen, and he was a teacher and a farmer. He died in a farming accident in 1961.

Elmus was born in November of 1905, and he married Beulah Norris. They had four children, Bobby, Carl, Barbara and Charles. He was a farmer. He died in 1953 of a heart attack.

Audie was born July 30, 1908, and he married Grace Ward. They had seven children, G.W., Alligene, Verdale, Noel, Edward, Bill and Ona Jean. He was also a farmer. He died in 1984 of natural causes.

Ed was born Sept. 21, 1910, and he married Ethel Mulligan. They didn't have any children. He died in 1955 after a tree fell on him.

Everett was born on Feb. 4, 1913, and he married Beulah Miller. They had three children, Max, Betty and Louann. He was a farmer and also drilled wells. He died of cancer in 1973.

Maudie Catherine was born on July 19, 1917. She married Roy Schrader who was a soldier in World War II. They had one daughter, Carol Ann. Roy died in 1975, and Maudie married Felix Harris, a farmer in Lawrence County. She was the youngest of George and Carrie's children and the only surviving female. Maudie passed away on March 14, 2013.

Carol Ann Schrader was born to Maudie and Roy on April 28, 1945. She lived in Strawberry until she was three years old, when Maudie and Roy began a series of moves that would take them away from Arkansas for 24 years. Carol Ann married Robert Freeman of Leeds, Ala., and they had three children. The oldest, Robert (Mitch) Freeman, was born on Aug. 22, 1964. He married Kim Schwandt from Canada and has twins Tobin and Kyra. They live in Marysville, Wash. Cindy was born on Oct. 11, 1967. She married Paul Chunn and they have two girls, Charlotte and Carson. They live in Raleigh, N.C.

Terry Freeman was born on Aug. 2, 1966, and he is married to Cindi Miller. Terry has two sons, Blaine, 20, and Braxton, 16. They all live in Longwood, Fla., outside of Orlando.

Carol Ann married Gerald Driggers on March 1, 2006, on St. Thomas, United States Virgin Islands. They live in Milton, Fla.

The house

Remember the house that George and Carrie moved into so long ago? On March 20, 2013, the paths of those timbers and the couple's offspring would once again cross.

Terry and Cindi Freeman, along with Mitch Freeman, were in Strawberry for grandmother Maudie Durham Harris' funeral. After the funeral, they and their mother walked out to the old homestead where Maudie was born.

The structure was sad to look at, being unsafe at that point to keep cattle in. Various modifications had taken place over the years to house stock, store feed, and herd cattle for shots and loading.

Terry immediately fell in love with the leaning, tilted, partially detached wood, and the thought that this was where his grandmother was born and grew up. He repeatedly told his mother how much he wanted to put the wood to good use where his family could enjoy it.

After returning to Orlando and his business, Terry called the owner of the land and his mother called a few of the cousins; they all agreed that Terry should have the timber from the old house if he could put it to good use. Terry owns a business, and it took a while to make it happen, but he eventually sent a crew up to Strawberry to salvage what they could.

They took apart the remnants of the house and took it back to Longwood. A lot of effort and long hours later, Terry, Blaine, Braxton and Cindi finished the inside of their double car garage, converting it to a recreation room for the family in the style of an 1800s saloon. The grandchildren of Maudie and the great-grandchildren of George and Carrie Durham relish in telling the story of the wood from Arkansas and how it wound up in Longwood, Fla.

The rest of
the story

The story does not end there, however. There was wood left over!

Terry sent remnants of the wood to his mother, Carol Ann. She had a vision, one that would resonate throughout the second generation of George and Carrie Durham's descendants.

Carol Ann follows the long-standing tradition of quilting in the family, and she saw an opportunity to preserve a piece of history for the family of George and Carrie. Initially, she wanted to make frames of the wood to go around pieces of a quilt that her grandmother, Carrie Durham, had made. The idea grew and expanded as she made preparations.

Carol had rare true tintypes of George and Carrie when they were young, and she located a single photo of all six grown children with Ma Durham standing on the end. She placed these and other items of history around the front of the wood constituting the frame, and in the middle she placed a beautifully quilted square from her Grandmother's quilt.

She made enough for all of her surviving first cousins, making sure that those still living would have one. Carol stated it simply: "I wanted them all to have a piece of the house and the quilt ... and a piece of history."

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