Jeff Harvey

Before getting into the homes of Athens,courtesy of Ella Holroyd’s notes as printed in the 1987 Mercer County Historical Society’s “History of Mercer County”, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I received an email from Concord University President Emeritus Dr. Jerry Beasley regarding a recent column. He said that it wasn’t uncommon for families to come to Athens to improve their children’s educational future, citing the Elmore family and Mrs. Webb, the mother of Ruby Webb Carter who gave the endowment to help Concord become a university and start a master’s degree program. Mrs. Webb operated a boarding house in town.

He also cited “the baseball house” where many baseball players lived.

Getting back to Holroyd, we return to South State Street and a home which had seen better days in 1969. It was being torn down then for a new home for Basil and Sadie Shumate. The site had seen Wade and Annie Dunn living in a four-room cottage in 1894; Dr. Allan Martin moved from Beckley to join his three brothers in town. He served as a dentist. The Maces lived there before Basil Shumate’s father and mother, Bud and Maggie Shumate, bought the home. Basil and Sadie lived in the old home for a short time before building the motel.

The next home on the street was for sale in 1969. Jennie Shelton and her children lived there in the 1890s, then Mrs. Crawford and her family, then the John Syndenstricker family, the Frenches (roomers),the Browns and the Ambroses. Col. Forest Ambrose was the son-in-law of the Browns and bought the home after their deaths. Later on, the Ambroses’ son David bought the home which had been in limbo since his parents’ death.

The Sage home was originally a home in the shape of a trailer. The Houchins family lived there including “Miss Lizzie”, Ella’s teacher at the “Free School”. Her brother Gilbert was allegedly murdered at Flat Top and was buried in the Athens Cemetery. John Sydenstricker made it a two-story home. The Thomases were the first residents of the new home, followed by John and Mae Shumate, the Eddie Bailey family, the Sages who remodeled the house and lived there until they went up to run the motel, the Grimms and the Lillys.

The Beckett home was built by a Rev. Ashworth, who lived there with his family until his death. He was a widower who remarried, then his widow remarried. After that, Tom and Pauline Beckett lived there with their family. Rev. Ashworth taught at the Free School on North State Street.

Jeff Harvey is a freelance reporter and columnist for the Princeton Times. Contact him at

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