One of my favorite parts of researching local history is re-discovering the stories of people and places that have been lost. Their stories become buried in courthouse documents and the pages of old newspapers. In genealogy circles, it is said that people are forgotten within four generations. This statement is also true for homes and landmarks that have been torn down by previous generations in the name of “progress.” With the passage of time, their existence is forgotten.
I recently discovered an article written by historian Clara Hill Carner that told the story of one of Marion’s oldest brick homes. She referred to the dwelling as the Stallard House. The stately home sat at the intersection of “Hospital Hill” and Main Street. The car lot for East Main Rides now occupies this space. In the 1800s, when the home was built, this area was prime real estate. She explained that “when Smyth County was formed and the town of Marion laid off, there were several homes scattered in this locality. As Staley Creek furnished water power for several industries after Marion had been settled, many homes were built facing the creek. To designate where anyone lived, if in that locality, it was spoken of as ‘up Staley Creek,’ or ‘up the creck.’ Today, this street is known as Pendleton.
“The location of this substantially built house was then no doubt considered a choice spot, being at the intersection of Main Street and busy Staley Creek road.”
The origins of the home are not known. No one has been able to pinpoint exactly who built the home, or when it was built. In his book, Marion Landmarks: Past and Present, R.E. Harrington, notes that “the house was already on the property when an attorney, John W. Stallard, purchased it in 1868. It seems possible that J.M. Crockett built the house around 1853, but it is possible that a previous owner could have built it.”
Clara Hill Carner interviewed a longtime resident of Marion, “Uncle Henry” Smith, who was born during the Civil War. In 1952, she asked him when he thought the home could have been built. He responded by telling her that “it was an old house when he was a boy.”
There is some debate about when the Stallards purchased the home. Clara Hill Carner maintains that they purchased the property from Joseph Atkins in 1873 for $1,410, consisting of about six acres. R.E. Harrington’s book states that the Stallard family purchased the home in 1868.
“The Stallard family consisted of John W. Stallard, his wife, Emily M. of Minot, Maine, and a daughter, Beulah, who died when 14 years of age, the same year in which Mr. Stallard died—1898. All are buried in Round Hill Cemetery in Marion.”
Following the death of her husband and daughter, Emily sold the property. J. Oscar (Rabbit) Stephenson and his wife, Dora, bought the home in 1909. Dora told Clara Hill Carner a story about the construction of the home. Her father’s mother, “Grandma Pruner,” lived on Main Street near the old Francis Hardware Store, just across the street from the “Stallard House” and recalled an incident during construction.
“A man by the name of Pickle had the contract to build this house. The framework had been put up. One day, while Mr. Pickle had gone to dinner, it caught fire and burned down. The owner, whose name has been forgotten, said he would build one of material that couldn’t burn down.”
A thorough description of the home is offered in Carner’s article. “The brick part of this home consists of two halls and four 16 by 20 foot rooms. The floors are made of 5-inch planks. The walls are plastered and papered. There is much fancy molding extending around each room. The molding and baseboard are painted black.
“The walls are finished in wooden panels. Each panel is painted to imitate cream marble streaked with brown and black.
“A wide picture molding extends around the rooms the height of the doors, which are a little more than six feet. The doors are 38 inches wide and consist of four large panels.
“A wide chimney is built at each end of the house, which of course, carried four fireplaces. The mantels are rather large and are trimmed with the herring-bone effect molding and painted black.
“A very substantial stairway extends all the way to the attic. The many newell posts are small, but artistic.”
The home gained one very unusual scar in June 1897—the year before John and Beulah Stallard died.
“The town was thrown into a pandemonium when a drunken stranger alighted from a morning train and started up Main Street, shooting right and left. Word had reached the town sergeant, Luther L. Scherer. The late Charlie Snider, father of K.K. Snider, was a deputy sheriff. He heard the commotion and walked down Main Street from the Seaver Block to make an investigation.
“Just as he was going around the curve where the Marion Hardware Store was located, he saw a wild-eyed looking man in the middle of the street. Mr. Snider advanced towards the man, making some remark. The stranger replied by aiming his gun at him, shooting Mr. Snider down in the street, the bullet penetrating his left shoulder near his neck. People thought he had been killed.
“Mr. Stallard heard the shooting and rushed to his front door. The man, Joshua Grubb of Grayson County, saw him and took a shot at him. He missed Mr. Stallard, but the bullet made a hole in the left pane of glass in the transom over the front door. The bullet hole remained as evidence of that exciting day in June 1897.”
This magnificent home was “conveyed by the Stephensons to Charles H. and Mary S. Funk in 1943. After Charles’ death, Mary sold the property to the Boy’s Investment Club in 1968. The house was demolished in 1969 to make room for a car lot.”
This is the story of just one of Smyth County’s lost homes. There are countless others, whose stories should be preserved for future generations. If you have a story or photograph that you would like to share, I may be contacted at email@example.com.