The family museum

·4 min read

Jun. 30—DAVIE COUNTY — Honestly, the small wooden structure at the old Anderson homeplace in Davie County doesn't exactly look like a museum.

But to Neil Anderson, the High Point man who owns the building — and the old farmhouse beside it — this place is historic. According to a plaque outside the small building, the 150-year-old structure has served as a doctor's office, a post office, a community voting precinct and a wash house, but now it's classified as a museum.

"There's a lot of history in this place," says Anderson, 81, who was born in the old farmhouse and has fond memories of growing up there. "I'm trying to get the people from Mocksville and Davie County to open a Davie County historical museum so we can preserve this stuff. None of my family cares anything about it, but it needs to be preserved."

The Anderson Family Museum, as it is called, stands on land at the corner of U.S. 64 West and Calahaln Road, in the small community of Calahaln, a stone's throw from Hunting Creek. Anderson's ancestors helped settle this community — which was once called Andersonville — in 1799.

The museum, established in 1994 by Anderson's father Zollie, is described on a Davie County tourism site as "an extensive collection of 19th- and 20th-century medical, dental, family memorabilia, and general artifacts."

The museum, open by invitation only, isn't really conducive for tourists, though. The structure, built in 1870 to serve as the medical office of Dr. John Anderson — Neil Anderson's great-uncle — needs some repairs and lacks climate control. Of late, Anderson has been battling a family of wrens that somehow got inside the museum.

Nonetheless, some of the artifacts inside are definitely museum-worthy and, as Anderson points out, need to be preserved.

One such artifact is the antique dental chair used by Dr. R.P. Anderson, another of Anderson's kin from the Davie County area.

"At one time, he was the world's oldest dentist," Anderson says, explaining that the dentist didn't retire until age 93. "He had an old pedal drill, but the Smithsonian Institution got that. I had to fight like everything to get the chair."

According to Anderson, he had to skip out on part of High Point's furniture market to attend an estate sale and bid on the dental chair, outbidding the Smithsonian and a dental museum interested in the chair. Anderson also has a display of the dentist's old tools hanging on a wall inside the museum.

Also of interest are a set of miniature buildings, made by Zollie Anderson, that are replicas of former places in the Calahaln community. The replicas include Noah's Ark School, the Anderson Bros. General Store, the Charles Anderson Sawmill, a church, Daniel Boone's cabin, and the little doctor's office that is now a museum.

"Dad made all of these himself, and they all have little furniture and stuff inside them," Anderson says. "You can even turn on the sawmill, which is electric."

Other artifacts in the small museum include John Anderson's original medical bag; a circa-1940 ballot box from when the museum was a voting precinct; an 1836 hymnal; and an assortment of Civil War memorabilia, in which Anderson's great-grandfather fought.

The walls of the museum are plastered with photographs and newspaper clippings, many of them paying homage to Davie County notables such as:

—Thomas Ferebee, the bombardier on the Enola Gay, which dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima in 1945. According to Anderson, his father was close friends with Ferebee, who lived just down the road from him.

—Former NFL head coach Joe Gibbs, who was born in Mocksville. He won three Super Bowl titles as the coach of the Washington Redskins, then turned his focus to NASCAR as a team owner.

—Fred Anderson — another kinsman born in the old farmhouse in Calahaln — who became a major-league baseball player. A spitball pitcher, he played for the Boston Red Sox (alongside Babe Ruth) and the New York Giants.

"I've tried to take care of all of this stuff, but it needs to be in a real museum," Anderson says. "I'm hoping that will happen soon, but somebody has got to get behind it and support it."

jtomlin@hpenews.com — 336-888-3579

jtomlin@hpenews.com — 336-888-3579

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