From: Stephen Lauf
Subject: party line and the old Butler house
Date: 2001.01.16

20 January 1984
I like Old English words. Tote is wonderful, yonder, another favorite. Fixing to, as to get ready, prize as to pry, etc. People tend to use the same words they hear from others. T.V. is a horrible detriment to individual speech. The negroes on St. Helena Island, near Beaufort, S.C., still have beautiful Gullah accents and wordage, they will hesitate to use it when in front of white people. When I had my week-end house, Tombee, there I was so far in the country I had a party line. The other 'party' was Mr. Freeman, as in FREE MAN, my negro 'overseer' as he called himself. You would not believe the words and accents I heard on that line, unreal! When one of his children phoned and told him something he didn't quite believe he would make one deep sound, like the hum of the deepest note on a bass violin.

27 January 1984
Nature and old houses have always been of primary interest to me. I associate the two. When I was about 14 I saw the old Butler house, located between Gordon and Grandmother's farm house. It was going to ruin, no one had lived there for years. The wooden shingle roof allowed water to drop inside. The parlor had an old square grand piano, Brussels carpet, a charcoal portrait of Judge Butler over the mantle and melodian. The other rooms were partially furnished, all in bad shape.

It just sat on top of a middle Georgia country hill, nothing close by. Tall cedar trees with huge boxwoods led from the dirt road to its porch where a pair of doors opened to the stair hall. Two bedrooms upstairs gave an elevation to view the far, rolling hills and valleys. I could feel the presence of Miss Julia Butler, the unmarried daughter who could not marry because female problems caused her such distress.

Many tales were told of that place. I later bought the house for $65. in 1956 and used part of it in my first restoration job here. The two side panels and lights at Indian Bluff are from its front door. I couldn't use the top panel that ran horizontally because of height. The old pine mantle in the guest house there is from Miss Butler's bedroom.

[excerpts from letters written by a posthumously famous Savannah prison inmate.]



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