The Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Home, a Hidden Pocahontas County Treasure
A recent visit to the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace near Hillsboro in Pocahontas County seemed like a great opportunity to speak with Laura Dean Bennett, one of the tour guides to learn more. This first installment of this two part story will be about this magnificent historic house. Later this week I will present to you the second part about the remarkable life and accomplishments of Pearl S. Buck. Laura talks about the house tours.
“Well, anyone grown up around here knows the Pearl Buck House and if they haven’t been in here, it’s a crying shame and they better get in here” says Laura. “The tour has changes a lot over the years and I think that right now we have the best tour that we have ever had here. I know that I was trained by the best tour guide that ever could be, Phyllis Lubin-Tyler.
Like a person I recently met who lived near Historic Fort McHenry in Baltimore, but had never visited it, many residents of Pocahontas County have never visited this historic gem in their midst – the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace. Laura talks about this.
“The people of Pocahontas County must understand that they are living near a treasure” Laura says. “Well, it would be like having Monticello in your county. It’s something that’s a legacy for our children and our children’s’ children to know. Not only because Pearl Buck was a fabulous American writer who won the Pulitzer and the Nobel, the first woman to ever do that, but because this house itself is unique and beautiful. Even if it wasn’t associated with Pearl Buck, the novelist, it would be a wonderful treasure.
Laura goes on to talk about the how the tours bring out the uniqueness of the house.
“We give a tour that is full of Pearl’s personal family history; full of American History; full of the history of this particular house which is unique because it was built by Dutch immigrants in the Dutch style” said Laura. “And furnished by furniture that they made themselves and not just the furniture, but the ironwork and clocks – everything. They made everything for this house. So it’s a unique treasure. It’s a legacy that belongs to the people of Pocahontas County, and they must never forget it.”
Laura talks about how the tour guides stay faithful to Pearl’s desires for the house.
“She was anxious for this not to be like a museum, a place where people couldn’t touch things, had to stand behind ropes. She wanted this to be the people’s house. That the people of Pocahontas County could feel this was their home too.”
Laura says that people can learn a lot about American History here, not just about Pearl Buck. She gives a couple of examples.
“Like where the song Pop goes the Wiesel comes from” said Laura. “That comes from a weasel wheel, and a weasel wheel was used to measure skanes of cotton or wool or flax. And actually the song was an original from England was about Charles Dickens and his love of a certain pub in London. And that melody carried over here to the colonies then eventually became Pop Goes the Wiesel because of the wiesel wheel.”
Laura also says you will learn about trundle beds, chamber pots and where the term “sleep tight” comes from – hint- old beds had rope mattresses.
Laura says that Pearl visited the West Virginia Women’s Clubs to get their help in restoring the house to get it on the National Historic Registry, and that support continues to this day. The house sees visitors from all over the US and the world, including China where Pearl remains well known. They had a visitor from Germany on the day I was there. She still would like to see more local people come then do, and would like to see Pocahontas County Schools bring busses of students to the house.
Laura asks that Pocahontas County residents be proud of the house, visit it, and help support the maintenance and repairs to it by donating to this non-profit historical home.