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Recollections of the Ft. Savannah Museum and Inn

1966 - 2013

Paul Detch

Museum     In 1964 while the Fort Savannah Village Museum was being created, Paul made a major acquisition – a bootlegger's still. He went across the street to the County Jail and asked Ernest Wade, the jailer, about getting a still for the museum. He took Paul to a storage room and told him he could pick whichever one he wanted. As a 16-year old, he picked the biggest one and loaded it on his truck to take to the museum. As he was leaving, the jailer told him it was illegal for anyone to have a still. What is especially interesting is that Paul's father had defended the bootlegger in court. At the end of the trial, Judge Cramer said “Normally it's a problem for me to send someone to the penitentiary for violating the monopoly of the State, but since this is your third offense, you are sentenced to the penitentiary.”  Today, that still is on display at Robert's Antiques with a sign that says:

“XXX Chemical refining is one of West Virginia's leading industries. However home enterprise in this field is currently frowned upon. This particular plumbing apparatus was confiscated near the big Draft Road and is on loan thanks to the generosity of the Greenbrier County Sheriff's Office.”

     Several years  later, Paul came home from college and was to renovate the museum.  It was in the basement floor of the log building which was the Ft. Savannah Village visitor center. There had been a flood and the basement was an awful mess with silt everyplace. He had to clean out the entire area but because he had stepped on a nail while wearing tennis shoes, it was a painful task. He added a number of artifacts to the museum, including a die from the Donnally glove factory that was used to cut leather blanks for gloves and a framed copy of a newspaper article about the Scopes Monkey Trial. Paul also created a wax figure of a shopkeeper as part of the museum display. Unfortunately, the framed newspaper article was stolen from the museum. The family was not able to manage the museum so it was transferred to the Barracks where the State paid for a person to run the museum. Later, the museum was transferred to the North House.

Kitchen addition    Logs for the kitchen addition came from the Oliver house which was between Friars Hill and Williamsburg. Elmer Zimmerman had removed the flooring from the house (it was not used at Fort Savannah) so only the log walls remained. The logs had to be dropped off the side of the building and since Paul had learned about rock climbing and how to belay, it was his job to get them down safely. Fink, a laborer on the job, also helped with a rope and while Paul was belaying a log, Fink's watch got loose so he grabbed for the watch and dropped his rope. Paul was barely able to get the log down without anyone getting hurt. Elmer Zimmerman later set up a large tripod to lift the logs into position to form the walls of the kitchen.

     The Oliver house had a large chimney with a fireplace on the outside where the kitchen once had been located. Rosalie was impressed by the design and eventually had a similar chimney and fireplace built as part of the Barracks restoration. However, the chimney itself was not salvaged and brought to Lewisburg.  That explains why the Barracks chimney has the odd looking fireplace on the outside.

     An interesting side note – Rosalie was very interested in saving and reusing old bricks. When a building at Sweet Springs was being taken down, she was given one day to salvage bricks. Paul was home from college and was part of the work crew the cleaned and carried the bricks from the work site to the truck. Fink was also on the crew. After an exhausting days work, they stopped at the Eagles Nest at Crows and were treated to a steak dinner as a reward for their hard work. Fink said that was the first time in his life (he was well over 30 then) that he had ever had a steak. That made Paul realize that not everyone had the same opportunities that he had had.

Barracks: The Old Red Mill, Inc under the guidance of Rosalie purchased the Barracks from Walter Cabell in 1968 (deed 246-270).  He had lived there with his wife since 1937. The building had been covered in wooden siding, Rosalie had it removed to expose the original log walls. The foundation for a chimney was also discovered. The Oliver house had a chimney with a fireplace on the outside where the kitchen was located. Having a detached kitchen kept the smells of burning wood and cooking food out of the main living area of the house. She had a new chimney built on the original foundation using stones from the Oliver house with a fireplace constructed on the outside so that someday an outdoor kitchen like the house could be built. Fred Zimmerman was the mason and he carefully trimmed the top of the original chimney foundation so that it sloped towards the house. That way when the chimney settled (They often did because the foundations were often not strong enough to support the weight of the chimney.), it would tilt towards the house and not create a gap where fire could spread between the chimney and the wooden building. In 2002, Rosalie donated the Barracks to the Historical Society with the deed stating her desire that the property “be used for public and historic preservation purposes”.

Jerry Clemons

 Inn:    Rosalie Detch was an an interesting person and a prominent person in the community. She had her way of doing things - that's the way it was - she was very stern and definitely a business person. She was very involved with politics and interested in the community, and sometimes controversial.

     She ran the Ft. Savannah Inn and a lot of people stayed there.  Many of the visitors to Bendix stayed there because there wasn't any other place to stay in Lewisburg. Skip Merrill, from the Bendix sales and service office in Houston, often stayed there.  Rosalie ran the motel for several years, sold it, and then got back into it a second  time. There were several other restaurants in Lewisburg so they didn't serve any food , it was just a place with small rooms to sleep in. A dozen years after she sold it the second time, it got pretty dilapidated and people didn't want to stay there. The motel up behind Shoney's was built  and a lot of people stayed there and quit going down to the Ft. Savannah Inn.


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