Bill Stancil

Bill Stancil

Bill Stancil: A trip to the mansion’s wall is like going home

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If you figured that sooner or later in pursuit of a column or story that I would find myself up against a wall again, you were right.

This week, I found myself up against the stone wall at Stonewall Manor, with part of the neighborhood in which I grew up staring back at me from across the four-lane highway. It is not exactly the same view I grew up with, but neither is the wall, for that matter.

The wall was moved back toward the house some years ago to accommodate the U.S. 64 bypass as it was being routed through the neighborhood. The old wall was removed a block at a time and each block was numbered. Then the wall was reconstructed with the same historic blocks in place, a little closer to the house.

That did not change the significance of the wall, nor the mansion, nor my quest to once again feel the same awe I felt each time I sat on, walked barefoot on, or ran down the length of the old structure, some years ago. The wall was a good place to sit, rest and wonder what the future held in store for us.

The awe is still there. The mansion is the same magnificent and mysterious structure from up close, as it always was. This time things were different about my visit. This time, I did not have to sneak onto the property, but had permission from the “Friends of Stonewall” organization. I noted another difference when I walked up to the wall – I could see over it!

When I was 5 and 6 years old, I was about a foot shorter than the height of the wall and had to climb up to the top. This time, I felt taller than my actual height, as I could look down upon it and lean over on the wall to let my mind carry me to yesterday. I could not scamper up the rocks as before, no thanks to a broken hip a few years ago that put a hitch in my giddyup.

Changing the wall was nothing new to Stonewall. Its name was changed from “The Old Lewis Home”– as it was known when I first sat on the wall – to “Stonewall Manor.” And long before that, the house was sort of turned around when the back yard became the front yard and vice versa.

One thing I have learned is that change never changes memories of a joyful childhood, as long as memorable moments can be stirred again and again. And my jaunts to the wall were certainly memorable, in one way or another.

We did not know much about the house, not even that it was historic and became Yankee quarters during the Civil War. To us, it was just a big, pretty old house with a wall that we could play on, or sit and think about important things that children think about. And as we became a little older, it was a great place to hide behind to smoke cigarettes and repeat a few choice cuss words we had heard grown-ups use.

There is no telling how many cowboy outlaws we shot behind the wall and how many enemy soldiers we gunned down from that wall during the days of World War II. In our minds, the Homefront had to be defended, also.

The old highway had a sharp curve at a corner of the wall, and sometimes a car would crash into the wall. Then word spread quickly through the neighborhood: “The wall is down! The wall is down!”

In a short time, a crowd would gather to see the damage to the wall. Possibly, damage to the car would be noticed, also. The home belonged to someone else, but we felt that the wall belonged to us.

And as I made photos and notes at the wall, remembering how things were, back when I lived just down the road, I smiled when I realized two things:

First, today this beautiful property, the house and the wall, have been preserved and taken care of for us, through efforts of the Nash County Historical Association and Friends of Stonewall.

They can be reached through the Stonewall Manor website.

Second, Stonewall is not trashed up. Let’s all make an effort to keep our city and roadways just as beautiful.