I can’t think of any happier occasion than this. My girl Dacie is turning 90 this morning! She and I have been confidants these last 20 years as we navigated the trials and tribulations of a bunch of sticks of wood that have a spectacular history dating back to the times of the American Revolution.
No, she wasn’t a member of George Washington’s first Spy Ring. Don’t even think it! She does, however, have a connection to the father of our country.
Along with her and her late husband Lynn and his cousin Hugh and his with Anne, we formed a ragtag group of volunteers that were set on rescuing this bunch of sticks from a place in the sticks to keep it from being lost to history.
My story begins in 2001, as it should be, on the Isles of Shoals, where Phillip Babb, the legendary fishing master of Hogs/Appledore Island lived. In 2001 I attended my first Babb Reunion. This is where I first met Hugh Babb.
While we first met at the 2001 reunion, it was at the 2004 reunion, in Greeneville, TN, where I first really got to know Hugh. The final day of touring came down to a visit to the 1787 Homestead that was built by Seth Babb, who had fought in the Revolutionary War. There is a great story about him fighting alongside George Washington, but that isn’t a story I need to tell today.
After this final day of touring, we gathered at the General Morgan Inn, as we always do during our stays in Greeneville, TN. Once all was said and done, I asked Hugh to come to a quiet end of the lobby by the front windows. We sat down in opposing Armchairs, and I told him, “We need to do something to save this house from falling down.”
You see, It already had a serious lean and we later found out that some of the lower beams that supported the foundation had decayed and were broken. The house wasn’t safe to enter and we had to take all our pictures from the outside. In my imagination we had a couple of years tops, before it simply fell over during a storm and was lost to time. That was just a fate that I could not bear.
I wasn’t anyone in the Association at this time. I was barely a new member. But Hugh’s ears perked up and he drew his daughters Brenda and Kathy into the conversation. It seemed to me that they all wanted this but were afraid to ask.
To this day, I don’t understand their trepidation. Yet, I have an idea. At the time the Babb Family Association had done nothing more than collect dues to mail a newsletter. Everything was based on cost recovery of the bare essentials of getting the printed newsletter to its intended mailbox.
Our ability to raise funds was completely unproven. Yet, each and every one of us that night pledged our support to find a way to save these very old sticks of wood from ruin. It was shortly after this reunion that Hugh introduced me to Lynn and Dacie.
We first set about the task of trying just to fix the broken beams underneath the foundation and to place a new roof on the place to prevent further damage. Then one thing led to another and before we knew it the Babb Family Association was the owner of the Homestead and the IRS required us to keep it in our possession in order to obtain our 501(c)3 Status as a non-profit.
We needed to move the Homestead to decouple it from a tenuous situation at its current residence, so we took up a collection and had the Homestead dismantled after every piece of wood was tagged so that the place could be reconstructed exactly as it was before. Hugh, who was the initial driver behind this effort, coordinated with Lynn and Dacie to make sure we had the money to take those important next steps.
Dacie, throughout, was a magnificent fund raiser/arm twister! She had the drive and energy to pull donations out of sometimes not so willing family members that had connections to the Homestead.
I suspect that Lynn’s energy about the project was really an extension of her dedication. She was, after all, a bookkeeper by trade and as a woman with the strongest of wills, she does not take no for an answer!
This uncompromising point of view has served Seth’s Homestead well and today it once again thrives as an important part of Greene Counties’ history with 50,000 visitors/year coming to visit.
All of the people mentioned above saw me as the steadfast force that saw that this Homestead through the rain. I don’t agree with their analysis, however. The way I see it each and every one of them has given me the strength and courage to pursue a dream that had no promise of a future.
When Hugh grew too feeble to carry on, Lynn stepped in to fill his shoes, but right behind him with this Lioness of a woman standing at his side.
When our first builder abandoned the project, I was on the phone with both Lynn and Dacie commiserating and seeking advice. Lynn did most of the speaking, but I imagine that Dacie had a sharp instrument behind his back prompting him to push me to abandon my allegiance to the man that had brought us so far.
I remember so well, her saying, “I think we have gotten all from him that we are going to.” I didn’t heed those words and it cost us about a year of lost time on the restoration.
When the flooring that this same builder was holding in his warehouse “disappeared” we again set about finding a way to recoup our losses. Many will not realize and it is not obvious, but the first floor of the homestead is made from the original first and second floors. Enough was stolen that we were only able to use the remainder to cover the lower floor, so that it is original. The flooring of current second floor is actually a replacement. While it is not on display to the public it still bears an important place in the stability of the Homestead.
At every turn, I spoke with Hugh, Lynn and Dacie. This was their legacy, and I was just the vessel.
The Homestead is “finished” now and as Hugh and Lynn have passed on to their next lives, I have slowly assumed the role of Caretaker of this most treasured part of our collective family history. Someday I will pass the torch on to the next soldier in its journey.
While I still don’t think I’m worthy, I know that my girl Dacie does and that gives me the strength to carry on!