Editor's Note: See also Giles Rock House Revisited, a 2003 research paper by Ronnie L. Walker, which shows that the “Giles Rock House” could not have actually been on the property of John Giles, but was more likely constructed by James Hart — or even possibly by John Pigg or Nathaniel Thacker.
An old rock house is located in the Weal Community on the original eighteenth century road from Callands to Chatham. This example of sturdy frontier construction sits on the front lawn of Caleb J. Moore's home.
The date of construction of the rock structure is not known, but it is thought to be well over two hundred years old.
Not only is the date of construction unknown, but also the intended use of the building is questioned. Mr. Moore has always heard the rock structure referred to as a kitchen. Mr. Moore's mother-in-law, Mrs. Richard W. Echols, used it as such, as did Mr. Moore's wife Mary. The kettle and hand-wrought utensils suggest that through the years hearty meals were cooked over the fire in the massive fireplace.
The building overlooks Bearskin Creek. (Early deeds spell the word “Bareskin,” leading one to wonder about the species and the nature of the creatures that cavorted there.) Large slabs of field stone from the immediate area were mortared together in erecting the compact, fort-like building.
There are actually two walls, one inside the other, and both are stone. This feature was discovered when a door frame fell off some years ago, revealing the hollow space between the walls.
The slab over the fireplace is about seven feet long and two feet wide. Stone masons must have trimmed the roks to the desired thickness.
The structure originally had a shingle roof, with poplar weatherboarding on the gables. The nails and hinges used in the building are hand-wrought. A trap door and ladder provide access to the attic. The trap door has an iron lock and chain, leading one to suspect that at times people were imprisoned in the garret. Legend has it that captured Indians and runaway slaves were locked in that upper room.
Daniel Edward Motley, Mary Echols Moore's grandfather, first saw the rock kitchen in 1830 when he was twelve years old. In 1839 he moved there. At that time the property was owned by Hezekiah Giles. On February 15, 1796, John Giles had purchased the farm (on which there were several houses) from a 3,000-acre tract belonging to James Hutchings.
Subsequent owners were William Giles (1799), George Giles (1802), and then Hezekiah Giles (1817). After Hezekiah Giles's death, the property was sold by a commissioner to Joseph W. Eaton, who sold it the next day, November 5, 1850, to Daniel Motley. The land has stayed in the same family since then.
The deeds all mention houses on the property, but do not describe the structures. One can only speculate as to which owner actually built the rock building. Only a few feet away from the rock building, the house in which Mr. Moore lives has quite an old log portion to which additions have been made.
Behind that dwelling is an area strewn with ancient bricks. Mr. Moore believes that an earlier house stood on that spot.
Mr. Moore, an 82-year-old county native, has gradually restored the rock building. The 1886 Charleston, South Carolina earthquake had split the rock kitchen down the middle. Mr. Moore bought a turnbuckle (two long metal rods which link at the center) with which he pulled the opposite walls together.
The original floor of the kitchen house consisted of two-by-four joists lying on the earth with plank flooring placed over them. One day Mr. Moore's wife, Mary, was giving one of the children a bath in the kitchen house when a snake shimmied up from between the floor boards. That put an abrupt end to the bathing session. Mr. Moore decided then that “as soon as he was able” he would put in a concrete floor. In 1952 he did so.
Besides its use as kitchen, and its current function as a pool room, the Giles rock building has served as a classroom. Mary Echols Moore's four uncles (John, Milton, Dick and Jim Motley) gave evening instruction to tenant families in the room. They burned pine torches for light.
When asked if any old letters or money had been discovered in the building, Mr. Moore told about this experience: In the wooden ladder leading up to the loft there was a hole plugged with a dry corncob. The corncob had been stuck in the hole longer than anyone could remember, but one of the Moore boys decided to extract it. He worked the cob out with his pocketknife. Behind the plug was money — old brittle paper money which had virtually disintegrated but which was still recognizable as currency!
Unfortunately, it had deteriorated too much to use or even date. “We wished we could have found more,” laughed Mr. Moore.
Fitzgerald: Pittsylvania: Homes and People of the Past
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