Thursday, April 15, 2010
By SUE WATSON
This weekend one antebellum home that has not been on the tour during the Holly Springs Pilgrimage in over 30 years will be open.
Cuffawa, Holly Springs’ oldest home, was built in 1832 by Charles Niles, and is the home of Diane Greer and family. The Greers bought the house in the spring of 1984 after falling in love with the yard.
“I’m still hooked on the yard,” said Greer as she relaxed in the sun room of the house that originally was a log cabin. “It’s just a good ole Southern yard. Irene Strickland told me when we bought the home, ‘Most of all, you’ll like the porch.’ And I do.
“This is home and always will be home,” said Greer, seated barefooted after a day at Marshall Academy where she’s worked 26 years, and serves as elementary principal and guidance counselor. “We’ve raised our kids here and it’s home to them and I hope it always will be.”
It is a place where Greer is at peace with the world.
Cuffawa sits atop a rise back off Chulahoma Street in Holly Springs. The 2.3 acre home site has spacious, sloping front and back yards. It was built as a log cabin when the town was still an Indian trading post.
The grounds are the initial handiwork of Louise Caffey Marbury, who was the former homeowner and one of the founding members of both the Holly Springs Garden Club and the Pilgrimage. Marbury served as president of the garden club two times, as has Greer, and is responsible for the plantings of several interesting and beautiful flowers and bushes.
After purchasing the home from the Marbury family, the Greers remodeled it, and after moving in, have furnished much of the home with period antiques.
“Dr. Al Hale helped me pick out many of my favorite pieces,” she said.
A large, almost floor-to-ceiling etagere in the front hall dates to the 1870s, and was crafted by Prudent Mallard. Greer is also fond of an old architect’s cabinet against the wall of the back hall. It had lots of thin drawers used for storing maps. Greer said the cabinet was modified for use as a bar.
“Everybody loves it,” she said.
Asked about ghosts, Greer said she has never seen their ghost but her son, Wright, did see the ghost, which would stand at the foot of his bed when he was a small child.
She has indirect experience with the spirit, which has not been active in a long while.
“People are going to say I’m crazy,” she said. “I would walk out of a room and come back in, and my clothes, which were left on the bed, would have been hung in the closet. I talked to Milton (Winter) about it. He said as long as it is a kind spirit, leave her alone.”
The ghost, which appeared to her son in old-fashioned clothing, likes to turn on the mixer in the middle of the night, she said.
When the Greers first bought the home and were remodeling it, the first spirit activity was noticed.
“We would prop books or heavy things across the interior doors at night to keep them closed and when we got up in the morning, the books would be across the room and the doors wide open. But I’ve never been scared. It’s just peaceful and this is home.
“I’m laid back and I enjoy entertaining and have done luncheons during Pilgrimage in my home. We were on the candlelight tour in the mid-80s, when Nancy Hagins Jones was Pilgrimage queen.”
Greer said she decided to open this year out of appreciation for the garden club and what it does to promote Holly Springs. Proceeds from the Pilgrimage are used to help with expenses of historic Montrose.
“The Pilgrimage is what originally put Holly Springs on the map,” she said. “I believe in the upkeep of Montrose and in the perpetuation of the Pilgrimage because it has promoted Holly Springs since the late 1930s. I believe in the vision of those women who began the Pilgrimage. We want the rest of the world to experience the beauty (during Pilgrimage) as we do here every day.”
Greer is excited about the activities this year including the Sweet Potato Queen Fling at Montrose Sunday afternoon and the Sunset on Salem on Friday night.
The garden club is offering tours and lunch to school groups on Thursday before the Pilgrimage.
With Montrose entrusted to the garden club by its previous owner, Mrs. Oscar Johnson, for its upkeep and perpetuation, the event raises funds to pay the day-to-day expenses such as the utility bills, lawn maintenance and insurance costs of the famous antebellum home on Salem Avenue.
The Greers moved into Cuffawa when their daughter, Anna, was 1 year old. She is now 27 and lives in Tupelo, Diane’s hometown. Son, Wright, 24, lives in Bozeman, Montana.
Cuffawa, an Indian word meaning “place of abundance,” was named for previous owner Joseph Dean’s family plantation along Cuffawa Creek, which runs throughout the central and western parts of Marshall County.
The original house, a three-room log cabin, has its main beam in the attic, a single tree, which runs the length of the house. The home is open afternoons on Friday, Saturday and Sunday during the week of Pilgrimage.
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