Sunday, January 2, 2022

2022 #52Ancestors Challenge: Week 1: "Foundations" - The Home of Zack and Madge Hunt

When I first looked at the themes for this year's 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge, I wracked my brain for an a suitable "Foundations" story. I bounced a few ideas around that involved more distant ancestors, but then I suddenly remembered that the best "foundation" story in my family was actually very close to me: the story of the foundation of my great-grandparents' home.

I am often guilty of forgetting the fact that places matter just as much as people when it comes to genealogy, but that fact is never so true as in the case of a beloved family home. 163 Maple Road, Belle, WV was home to many people over the years, but it started its life as a small "honeymoon cottage." Sometime during the winter of 1939, Ernest Zacharias "Zack" Hunt proposed to Madeline Eva "Madge" Moore. To his delight, she said yes! When he asked her when she wanted the wedding to be, she said "Oh, how about the 4th of July?" because to her "it sounded like a long way away."

163 Maple Road, circa 1942
I remember the day that Mamaw Madge and Papaw Zack told this story to me and my mother. It was a warm Summer day, and we were sitting at a little swing and picnic table area in their front yard. When Mamaw laughed about thinking that the 4th of July sounded like a long way away to her when Papaw proposed, Papaw said "Yeah, she was thinking about making the wedding a long way away... Meanwhile, I went home that very day and started building a house. I didn't get it finished by the 4th of July, but I did the best I could." And so that very day, the foundations of their family home were laid. They went on to share that home for nearly 70 years.

It wasn't long after the 4th of July that they got married. On September 20, 1940, Mamaw Madge told her mother and father that she was going to spend the weekend at her brother's house. That was not her destination, however - instead she traveled to Catlettsburg, TN with Papaw Zack; his father, Andrew; his sister, Margaret; and Margaret's young son, Roy. They were married by a justice of the peace on September 21, 1940, with Andrew and Margaret as witnesses. Mamaw later laughed about the fact that on both the journey and the return journey the next day, Papaw and his father sat in the front seat of the car while Mamaw, Margaret, and Roy sat in the back seat.

163 Maple Road, circa 1965. Two ground-floor rooms and two upstairs rooms had been added.
When they went back to Mamaw's family home to tell her parents that they were married, Mamaw's mother burst into tears and said "who's going to milk the cow?" Mamaw's father wasn't terribly happy about the union either, as he thought that Papaw wasn't a good enough match for her. Fathers frequently think this about their daughters' husbands, but Grandpa Moore didn't approve of the fact that Papaw Zack's parents were divorced. I can only assume that they both got over it, however, since by all accounts they grew to love Papaw very much.

The honeymoon cottage that Papaw built became the home that they lived in their entire lives. Over the years it was home not only to them and their children, but also to their grandchildren, brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews, and many others who stayed under its roof at one time or another. 

163 Maple Road, as it looks today.
The house underwent several renovations and additions throughout its life. It started out as two rooms: bedroom/living area and kitchen. A few years later four additional rooms were built: a bathroom and a bedroom on the ground floor, and two small upstairs bedrooms. During this time many other improvements were also made, including indoor plumbing and electricity. The house stayed like this for many years until the 1980s, when a large master bedroom and additional bathroom were built on. Seeing its transformation from small, simple two-room cottage into the picturesque little house it became always makes me smile. It was the culmination of a lifetime's work.

As is often the case when the progenitors of a family pass away, the house was sold after Mamaw's passing in 2017 (Papaw had preceded her nearly 9 years before). I never met the family that bought the house, but I hope that it brings them as much joy and happiness as it brought to our family. 


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