An Abandoned House

by Pat Turner Mitchell

William and Nancy Buchanan's home in Little Switzerland.

William and Nancy Buchanan’s home in Little Switzerland.

It makes me sad to see this picture. Once a home, an abandoned house becomes an empty shell when there is no one alive who made memories here. But they are here – the memories.
William Buchanan was 56 and Nancy was 53 when they began building it in 1895 and all their children were grown up. Three were still at home, though. The youngest had been an invalid since a toddler but they had a daughter and son who would marry in the next year or two. I wondered why they wanted a new house, a new location at this time in their lives. Unraveling their history I can begin to see what he might have been thinking.
William had lost his health and youthful vigor at Seven Pines, Virginia, taking a bullet in that battle of 1862. His older brother was killed at the North Anna River battle in 1864. Their mother needed him close by now to see to her needs. She lived near to this new house and two of their children had homes here, too. This, and their knowledge that the years were passing gave him and Nancy a push to relocate. He would live here for eight years.
His mother died in 1901. He sat down and wrote his Last Will and Testament on July 4, 1901, 40 years later to the day when he had left home to join the Confederate Army. He left this home place, its furnishings and farm implements to his wife, Nancy. But he, according to what was permitted at the time, also passed it on to their youngest son at his wife’s death. This, in his words, would be his reward for taking care of Nancy and their invalid daughter until their deaths. But their invalid daughter passed away in February and William died in April of 1903. And their youngest son was killed in 1908, leaving a young widow and two daughters. Nancy would live to be 93, passing in 1935. Yes, these memories are there for us to uncover.

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