Family and Caldwell history for sale

May. 11, 2014 @ 08:11 AM

Not much in the recorded history of Caldwell County happened without Cecil Scroggs, Agnes Thompson Scroggs or one of their ancestors here to hear about it. Their little house may not look like much now, sitting as it does next to Grease Monkey on Hospital Avenue, but it was built in 1952 on part of a large Thompson family farm stretching up U.S. 321, with the old homeplace visible out back. The Thompsons had been in the Lower Creek area since the 1750s.

And like most folks, the Scroggses accumulated things, some of them boxed up and squirreled away so long that they didn’t even remember them.

Some of those things, at least a couple dating from before the Civil War, are about to go up for sale.

Brian Groh of G and W Estate Liquidations in Mount Holly said he has been handling or attending estate sales for years, but the age of the oldest pieces he has found in the Cecil and Agnes Scrogg’s house, and how long they have remained in the same family, sets this one apart.

“It is rare finding a family that has kept as many of its treasures,” he said. “It’s like anybody – you can only keep so much.”

Cecil Scroggs died at 77 on Aug. 18, 2000. Agnes Scroggs died at 83 on Sept. 2, 2013. The couple’s children and their families already have divided up what they want, and more remains in the house. At an estate sale this Saturday and Sunday, the family hopes to empty it all.

The contents of the Scroggses’ house is a typical mish-mash of a long life, 1970s couch and 1990s window treatment and 1940s desk, but also family heirlooms from Agnes Thompson Scroggs’ parents, Greene and Vera Thompson, or John Cecil Scroggs Sr.’s parents, John and Mary Rabb Scroggs.

One of the largest pieces is a stepback cupboard made by hand, perhaps as early as the 1920s, by John Mason Scroggs, Cecil Scroggs' father, a cabinet maker who lived on Ashe Avenue in Lenoir. Another handmade, hand-planed piece, also by John Scroggs, is a walnut gate-leg table made using peg construction.

One of the smallest is a tiny box that originally contained DuBarry Face Powder, a kind of makeup. Groh said it dates from the first part of the 20th century, but what makes it really rare is that usually small boxes like that wound up in the trash. In this case, however, Agnes Scroggs kept it as a place to store tiny buttons and dress hooks.

Early last week, Groh had just begun the two-week process of sorting through everything left in the house, deciding what needs to be thrown away, what has value and assigning prices to it all. Leading a visitor up into the attic, which had been cleared except for two cedar chests, he pointed to one – and realized he hadn’t gone into it yet. He opened it and started sorting through it, and soon came to a small, silver-clasped, beaded purse of the kind that flappers carried in the 1920s. The gold thread on the seams, the beads and the silk inner lining shone in the light of the attic’s bare bulb.

“You never see them like this,” Groh said. “They always shred inside because they’re silk.”

But stored away in this cedar chest, it escaped little girls ever pulling it out to stuff it full of playthings, and no sunlight shone down and bleached it.

“These attics a lot of time are where you find your treasure because people stick things up there and forget,” he said.

How to explain the chipless exterior of a handmade, mid-19th-century clay jug? Maybe luck, and staying in the family, Groh said.

“Because they’ve always owned it, this is the place they’ve been, it’s probably (made in) Caldwell County,” he said.

A mantel clock that has hand-carved, wooden works inside instead of metal likely is the oldest item in the house, dating to perhaps the 1830s. It was made in Plymouth, Conn., by a man named Seth Thomas, according to the text on the paper pasted inside of it. The clock still works. It was made in a time when some clocks had wooden gears and others had metal gears, Groh said.

“The wood works were the cheaper clocks,” he said. “That’s what you would have had (in most of Caldwell County). … A farmer who wanted a nice clock would have had wood works.”

Times have changed. Clocks with metal works abound. But now those wooden gears may seem more desirable. Groh will find out by the end of May 18.