A visit to the farm

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dru Duncan and John Holt held open house Sunday, Nov. 21, giving friends and donors the opportunity to step back on their farm -- the Widner-Magers Farm Historic District, located one half mile north of Dell.

Marguerite Brownlee, retired Dell Postmaster, enjoyed a tour of the Widner-Magers Historic Farm near Dell. Pictured with Mrs. Brownlee is co-owner of the farm Dru Duncan.

C.A. Smith Grocery building was moved from Dell to the property and is filled with items any good company store would provide.

"We had people donate items and this gave us the chance to let them see what we have done with the antiques that are such a part of the area's heritage," Dru said.

They have gathered artifacts, photographs, information, restored barns and buildings and have brought back a little part of a working farm from the 1930s.

John Holt (right) shows old tools and equipment used in the early days on the farm.

Both love history and met while working in Colonial Williamsburg where they wore period costumes and got into character of the time and place.

The couple moved to Dell in 2006 and it has been a work in progress for them. They hope to eventually have their historic farm open to the public for tours offering living history enactments and storytelling.

They have opened their farmstead for a few tours where guests toured the renovated 75 year old farm house, barns and workshops with structures dating from 1912-1930.

The farm has been in Dru's family since 1930. She was raised in Dell and the farmstead has been in her family for three generations.

Inside the store building a section has been reserved for post office boxes used in the old Dell Post Office. Former Dell Postmaster Marquerite Brownlee was one of the guests at the open house. She was pleased to see the display of the old combination boxes used in the Dell Post Office during her early years as postmaster. Ms. Brownlee began her career as postmaster in August 1955 where she served for 43 years. She retired in 1998. As she looked through the bars once used in the post office it did bring back memories.

Some of the display cases and other items came from the Brownlee Store, and were donated by the Brownlee family. The store was owned and operated for many years by Dallas Brownlee. Ms. Duncan is very proud of the nice collection of old elementary school books, ice box, pick sacks, old cash register, and a variety of children's clothes, yard goods, and much more on display. Many items have prices marked in conjunction with what it would have cost in the 1930s.

They are in the process of putting back together a 100 year old log cabin that was dismantled and moved to the property.

John and Dru have moved in several shotgun units and hope to eventually open a B&B (bed and barbecue) with guests taking part in living history activities in addition to having it open for tours.

John had some new "old" tools to show as he recently received sawmill equipment from the Louis Lammers' farm.

Preserving history is very important to the couple and they appreciate all of the items donated.

They enjoy an interesting life from Colonial Williamsburg to the 1930's farm. John has appeared in the movies New World and Cold Mountain and has worked with producers to ensure historical accuracy. He also acted in "The Battle of Yorktown," "The Battle of Great Bridge," and "Brothers in Arms," films for PBS and BBC. Dru is a writer and hopes to complete two books, one on the history of Dell and the surrouinding communities and one on the larger 19th Century history. They like being part of today and holding on to a little of yesterday and hope to share their love of history with others.

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