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If These Walls

       Could Speak . . .

Knotts' Viewpoint

by Robin Gordon and Maricia Mlynek


Updated on Wednesday*:

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Our county’s history is like a priceless stained glass window. Each interview, article, and tidbit of information is a piece of the overall picture.

When apart, the glass is exquisite and beautifully colored, but pieced together--then we have a true masterpiece.

Our next stop was at the original home of Howard and Vena Knotts, where truly the collection of delicate pieces of our stained glass window is a wonderful view.

View of Knotts' Viewpoint from Minnora Cemetery.

Howard Knotts was the eldest son of Joseph and Dora Knotts, who built the “Mansion House,” featured in a previous article, in 1905. He obtained property from his father, as did all of the Knotts’ children.

Howard married Vena Westfall, and their property was approximately 240 acres. They chose a beautiful hilltop to build their home, which would become known as “Knotts’ Viewpoint.”

Howard and Vena Knotts

A century later, the house continues to protect and shelter a generation of the Knotts family.

Today, Berdine Knotts Wayne and husband Wheeler call the house their home. Berdine is the seventh child of Howard and Vena, who had eight children: Eucle, Ruby, Opal, Raymond, Victor, Walter, Berdine and Charles.

As we sat in the living room of this lovely old homestead, Berdine smiled as she explained how her life began in the home, “In 1925 I was born in this room. At the time, it was my parents’ bedroom, but today it is the living room.”

Though the house was Berdine’s beginning, it was not Howard and Vena’s. They took to housekeeping in a little house of only two rooms that still sits on the property.

“Mother always loved that little house,” said Berdine. “It was tiny, but really all they needed at first.”

Howard and Vena's first homestead.

With a growing family, Howard began building a house from the same lumber his father was using to build the Mansion House.

With the help of some of the same craftsmen, such as Sam Wayne and Harvey Hall, Howard Knotts completed his home in about 1910. It was as lovely as his parents’ house and built just around the bend on a sunny hilltop. Even today, the view is wonderful.

Nestled between the two mountains and overlooking the West Fork, the house remains a site to see off of the main route. Originally, the road ran on the backside of the house, but today Rt. 16 runs directly in front of the home.

A far cry from the two-room house, the new home offered eight large rooms, six porches, nine entries and 31 windows. The double fireplaces were all that was needed to warm the downstairs, and Berdine remembers her mother’s swinging kettle that hung in the fireplace between the two rooms.

Backside of Knotts' Viewpoint that now faces Route 16.

The walls, floors and high ceilings were made of tongue and groove walnut and oak. The design, craftsmanship, and detail can still be viewed in the doors, door frames, handmade mantles, and wainscoting.

The banister rails were unique as they were made from one of Vena’s dining room tables. The main entryway is still as open and sunny as it was 100 years ago.

The floor plan has not changed much. The rooms circle into each other through many doorways that keep the house cool in the summer and allow warmth to be trapped in the winter, despite the lack of insulation.

The floors remain untouched and in their original state, but the walls have been painted, which offers an open and airy feeling to the rooms. No elegance is lost and the house, though grand in size, is quite welcoming.

Berdine and Wheeler have worked hard to protect and sustain the Knotts’ Viewpoint.

Some changes have been necessary. New siding has been added, two porches have been enclosed, and railings were placed on the remaining porches.

Overall, the house is still structurally the same. The basement, which Howard dug by hand, proclaims the ingenuity of long ago, as it remains dry as a bone.

The porches continue to exude friendliness and create an atmosphere where a person would like to sit awhile and have a glass of sweet tea or enjoy a quiet evening watching the fireflies.

Berdine’s stories of the family and events that took place in the Knotts’ Viewpoint are countless. From pulling taffy, popping popcorn, and playing hide-n-seek, the walls of this old house have tales to tell.

“We always had company,” recalls Berdine. “This house was full of family and friends!”

The Waynes have been married for 60 years. Both are Calhoun High School graduates. They have one son, Michael, two grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren.

We are sure they all love to visit Berdine and Wheeler. It would be exciting to sleep in a room that has its own porch entrance and overlooks the valley.

Also in view are the corncrib, barn, and the building Howard used as a grocery store in the mid 1900s. Even the walkway lends to antiquity, as it is lit by gas burning lanterns.

This former grocery store building was made into a garage.

Although we did not spend the night, our morning in Knotts’ Viewpoint was wonderful.

The fragments of our county’s masterpiece are coming together. The details are starting to appear. Our stained glass window is not only beautiful, but also a place to see our past.

The original Knotts’ homes are indeed a piece of our Calhoun County artwork and history.

The following is from a picture in the hallway of the home:

  In loving remembrance of our loved ones

  Precious ones from us have gone

  Voices we loved are stilled

  Places are vacant in our home

  Which never can be filled

  God in his wisdom has recalled

  The boon his love had given

  And though their bodies molder here

  Their souls are safe in heaven.

The legacy of the Knotts family lives on in the homes and people that remember the days when the Mansion House and Knotts Viewpoint first graced the valley of the West Fork.

“I am so thankful for the good times I had with my grandparents and parents and for their Christian heritage. I thank them,” said Berdine.

Her eyes misted as she spoke of the faith and labors of her ancestors and family.

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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