Lonnie Reynolds - Former Caretaker
24 Jul 2009
Remember when I previously told y'all about a Mr. Lonnie Reynolds? He was Rose Hill's first security guard and caretaker back in the days when John Sturgeon owned Rose Hill Plantation (1946 - 1978). Mr. Reynolds had a house located near the entrance and his main job was to watch the place & protect it. He and Mr. Sturgeon grew to be friends and after Mr.Sturgeon's death, he continued to guard this place from harm.
This morning Lonnie's son, Randy Reynolds, came over for a visit and brought his two pretty daughters with him. I'm sure I kept them here much longer than they had planned, but he was so full of memories of this place and this is, of course, my subject of greatest interest! He hadn't been back here inside the plantation in nearly 30 years. The last time was back when he and Jim Ellington (Jimmy as he called him) and others were doing an inventory of household items after Mr. Sturgeon's death. This was just shortly before the Weltons (our developers) bought Rose Hill.
The daughters took plenty of photos for their family and certainly for their grandfather, whom I was so pleased to find out is still living nearby in Ridgeland! Randy presented me with plenty of memory snap shots of my house in a very different time. Let me walk you through Rose Hill Plantation House with him.
The entryway was much as it is today, but with that fabulous chandelier - destroyed by the fire of 1987. The planter's office was Mr. Sturgeon's office - paneled and off limits as mentioned before. The parlor (a library in the Sturgeon's time) had a big table desk where Mr. Sturgeon and friends would play poker on occasion. It was another room that was considered off limits - almost as if it was treated like a second office or study for Mr. Sturgeon. It had wallpaper that was later destroyed by the fire, a very different mantel (again destroyed by the fire) and a second door that could shut off this room from the divider hall between parlor and office.
The gentlemen's room was the main receiving room/ living room with a white marble mantel. The conservatory had a large glass topped table in it and a delicate chandelier hanging where the ceiling fan is now. The dining room had that rare, antique, Chinese patterned wallpaper and a long table (much like today) where Mr. Sturgeon would usually sit and read an enormous stack of newspapers. There was a television in there as well, oddly enough. And, at any given time, Mr. Sturgeon could be heard yelling out to the maid,"Charlotte! "
The butler's pantry had a silver closet with silver pieces stacked up floor to ceiling. The kitchen had a different configuration of appliances, but room dividers in this section of the house are still unchanged. There was a kitchen table sitting in the middle of the room where my island is now located. The present day laundry/ironing room had been a servant's dining room, where ironing would also be done as well. There was a birdcage in the back corner where Reggie the parrot was kept. Remember him?
Reggie seems to be a story all by himself - a comical pet capable of remembering words or phrases like, "Chalotte!!!!!!!! " He was also known to suddenly squawk out, "Red River!" No one knew why? Sometimes the bird would scream out Mr. Sturgeon's most often used exclamation, "Oh hail!"
Randy talked about ghost stories with my housekeeper Marceen, who could already write a book about this subject herself! Out in the front yard, he told me about the differences to the outside of the house - wrought iron porch being replaced after the fire by the Weltons with wooden posts to take it back to it's more accurate 19th century appearance. The little wrought iron balcony that used to be positioned in front of the arched front window is gone now, but I told him that we had saved it after finding it out back in a pile of debris in 1996. It can never be put back onto the house again - the outside of house being protected by historic covenants, but we wouldn't want to change what we fell in love with all those years ago anyway.
We talked about Mirror Lake and the fields of hay and the Aiken's house over where the golf course is now. He confirmed that Mr. Sturgeon had indeed once fired his weapon from the front porch here - shooting a deer for its meat. I think about this tale, told to me years ago, sometimes when I'm sitting out on the front porch watching our large group of anywhere from 9 - 23 deer that come up to forage each afternoon. I remember that the Sturgeons had also made a pet of a little deer once, as well.
He chatted out back for a bit with our Ben "Shack" Johnson - rehashing old Bluffton days and "did you know this person or that person" and "remember how it was before the traffic came" and such. They talked about all the common ground they shared, like those men they both knew who worked this plantation - Freddy Bush (known to sing on occasion when he'd taken a little drink) and "Big John" Campbell and other "characters" of that long ago time.
The Reynolds were here for over an hour, and what a grand opportunity for me that didn't seem long enough to ask everything I'd like to know. Randy promised that he'd try to bring his father back soon for a homecoming. I can't wait, of course, and will have pen and paper ready for proper note taking next time!
Another window just opened up for me today. Another missing piece to the puzzle has been found! It's all I've ever wanted from my time here - the knowledge of what took place on these most precious 12 acres and beyond. And to be remembered myself as someone who truly loved "this old house" - enough to seek out its complete story, write it down, and share it with anyone willing to listen. Hoping that it won't ever be forgotten again.
Another Rose Hill homecoming. Randy Reynolds - son of Mr. Lonnie Reynolds who had been Mr. Sturgeon's friend and confidant, and the protector of 1960s and '70s Rose Hill Plantation.
Rose Hill Plantation House
July 24, 2009