Kidznotes extends a hearty thank you to Rosemarie and Joseph Gulla, who hosted our annual staff retreat on their beautiful 15 acre retreat in Randolph County on August 12. Their property includes 13 reconstructed outbuildings from historical sites in the county and a 1816 home that was originally a stagecoach stop on old Route 64 near Staley, N.C. At the retreat, 26 teachers and four staff prepared for the Kidznotes program at this historic site. They purchased the property this summer and it includes a 1816 house used as a stagecoach waypoint stop as early as 1840 and 13 outbuildings, most of which were moved from other places in Randolph and Chatham counties and reconstructed on site.
The property, on the National Register of Historic Places, includes a reconstructed post office house from Pluck, NC, (near Castle Rock), the Womble House, a mill house from 1835 including two back rooms and storage from the old Womble Mill on the Polly River near Pittsboro, an 1833 barn expanded and redone in 2009, and the McDuffie Barn, constructed in the 1930s.It also includes a tobacco shed, a meat packing house from 1850 that is now functioning as a pottery shed, a double corn crib, smokehouse and wood shed, 1930s frame chicken house, and several buildings from the 1840s with steel roofs, in the same period as the house.
This 15 acre parcel is a small part of a once-thriving 800 acre estate owned by Benjamin Marley in the 1790s including a mill, store and pond on the Brush Creek. Benjamin’s son, Thomas, and his wife Polly built the house in 1816 as a single pen log cabin. As the farm and mill prospered, they expanded the house, made a proper second floor with two bedrooms and a center hall in 1830s. Census records show that 22 slaves worked the land on the property at that time.By 1940 the propety was used as a Stage Coach stop, as a way station on the Salisbury Road running from Raleigh to Salisbury from 1840 until the Civil War. The old road is a mere eight feet from the front door of the homestead today, much closer than the current Route 64 that’s 150 feet from the house today. In 1850, two more rooms were added and then a final expansion in 1920 of one large backs room and a large wraparound porch, which is the final configuration of the house today.
A cemetery on part of the original land has a marker for an unnamed slave who died on the site in 1756 well before Benjamin Marley bought the land.Records show that after slaves were emancipated by the Civil War, at least some remained as sharecroppers at “Marley Mill and House” until at least the late 1880s. Polly Marley died in 1860, and Thomas married his second wife, Lavina, who bore him a son, George. She inherited the property after Thomas died, and she couldn’t keep up with the workload after the Civil War, and sold off parcels of the land.The property remained in Marley descendents’ hands until 1974. After going through several owners, in 1986, another couple bought the property and began bringing the historic outbuildings to the site until they sold the estate to the Gullas in June, 2013.
The Marley Mill, built in 1790 was used in the 1800s by at least 40 families in the community to grind corn and flour and as a lumber mill. In 1905 it was no longer used, and the family breached the dam and got rid of the latent pond and shut down the post office at the mill. They razed the Mill itself in 1927 to make room for expansion of a Route 64 state highway bridge over the creek and a bridge abutment still stands at the site. The 1850 era Marley Mill “store” was torn down in the 1970s due to disrepair. The mill area still contains dry laid stone from the dam, abutting a 7 acre pasture next to Brush Creek, and an upper 2 acre parcel on the opposite side of the property holds an orchard.
The Gullas are considering their options for how best to use this beautiful estate, but we appreciate their generosity in opening it to Kidznotes for our summer planning retreat by teachers and staff.
By MaryBeth Carpenter, Director of Develoment