As this new series begins, we confess that we are uncertain of
exactly what life was like in the early 1900’s in Calhoun.
We are working to collect information from families, books, articles
and documents about some of the great homes in the area.
We have found that anyone who has a taste for history could spend
hours on the four-course meal that is Calhoun County.
Our first serving is a scrumptious delicacy called the “Mansion
House.” Located on Rt. 16 in Orma, this beautiful house still stands
stately and majestic.
Possibly a Colonial-style, with a touch of gingerbread trim, the
house looks like it should be on the streets of Philadelphia.
Yet, it sits on a lovely knoll with a brook flowing behind it, tucked
nicely into the valley as if the landscape was made for it, not the
other way around.
The structure was the original home of Joseph Knotts. Construction
began in 1905 and was completed by 1911 as the etched-in date on the
chimney stone proclaims.
According to current owners Ernestine and Kenneth Keaton, the Knotts
family began living in a log house, than moved into a plank house, until
the Mansion House was finished.
The original homestead, which contained a planning mill, grist mill,
and rock quarry, was said to be between 500 to 1,000 acres. It was a
full- functioning farm.
“Forty men would have to work the scythes each day just to take in
the hay,” said Keaton, “The family had hired hands living here full
The house was built from timber--cut, sawed and planed by Andy
Parsons in the mill next to the house site.
“At the time,” said Keaton, “enough lumber was planed for three
houses to be built by Joe Knotts and his two sons. The total cost of all
that timber was $500; all three houses still stand on the West Fork
Kenneth Keaton, with his father’s picture in background.
Stone mason and master carpenter Sam Wayne was to have led the
construction, with the help of others, one being Keaton’s grandfather,
Isaac Norman, a stone mason from Beech.
Facing the West Fork and the original Creek Road, the Mansion House
made people stop and stare, as it still does today.
The original walnut and oak wainscoting is as rich and divine as the
day it was crafted. The 10½ foot ceilings are also the original wood,
and the design of the hand-hewn banisters is absolutely exquisite.
Entryways still welcome guests with the elegance of the original stain
Take a step into the “preacher’s room,” and you can imagine the
important guests that must have spent the night in this elite guest room
of its day.
Even the two fireplaces are the original stonework, and the mantels
that must have warmed several generations of families.
Originally, the house had five entries and five porches, and it still
boasts of 40 windows. Each room is close to 15 feet square, and each
bedroom was fitted with plenty of room for a couple of beds.
An antique telephone still hangs on the wall to remind dwellers of a
time before high speed internet and cell phones. The “bucket house” and
“out house” remain on the property as further evidence of days past and
Keaton’s parents, George and Judith Ann (Duncan) Keaton, purchased
the Mansion House in 1946. He and Ernestine have worked on restoring and
repairing the house since 1996.
Their hard work and respect of the structure’s antiquity and elegance
has made a beautiful piece of Calhoun history a part of the past that
will be appreciated into the future.
Kenneth and Ernestine have been married for 52 years. They became
sweethearts when they met at Calhoun County High School. Ernestine was a
Brannon from Little White Oak and graduated in 1955.
The Keatons moved back to Calhoun County 12 years ago and have made
the Mansion House a beautiful home once again.
“We have done our best to protect everything that we could, and yet
remain comfortable,” said Ernestine.
Ernestine and Emily Keaton.
The tales that could be told by the walls of the Mansion House are
From the stories of an old aunt and uncle napping in the caskets they
had built in one of the bedrooms, to children sliding down the low
banisters, one could imagine many a story or legend being told as the
family sat around the table.
The walls have stood for a century, and, if nothing else, they
testify to the years gone by and the legacy of the people who once
called the Mansion House home.
Slow down a little on your next trip along Rt. 16. The Mansion House
still stands--and is as beautiful today as it was in 1911.
Rear of the Mansion House now faces Rt. 16.