Owned and operated by the Caswell County Historical Association (CCHA), the Richmond-Miles History Museum is located in the Graves-Florance-Gatewood House in Yanceyville, North Carolina. The museum is named for the paternal grandmothers of its benefactors, Thomas Richmond McPherson, Jr., and Kathy Sue Simmons McPherson. Tom and Kathy's Richmond and Miles ancestors were in Caswell County before the Revolutionary War. Tom's Richmond ancestors lived in the old Richmond District of the county, the Leasburg/Hightowers area. Kathy's grandmother, Minnie Ethel Miles Simmons (1900-1996), was an active member of the Cherry Grove community her whole life, which spanned more than ninety years. She was a lover of history, a teacher, and the cafeteria manager in Caswell County Schools. Tom and Kathy's act of generosity greatly extends the ability of the CCHA to serve those interested in the history of Caswell County. That act will never be forgotten.
Built around 1822, the Graves-Florance-Gatewood House is formally named for its owners in chronological order; but, until converted into a museum, it simply was referred to as the Gatewood House. The house was built by the prominent Graves family, which at one time owned all the land around the Square in Yanceyville and radiating out for miles. In 1880, the Florance family purchased the house and it remained in that family until acquired by the CCHA. The structure became known as the Gatewood House when John Yancey Gatewood (1893-1954) married Mary Lea Florance (1903-1995), daughter of the second owner, Thomas Jefferson Florance (1858-1926). Mary Lea Florance was born in the house in 1903, and a plaque outside the room in which she was born commemorates the event. The building served as a residence, a school, and possibly a small hotel. That it was constructed in parts over time is attested to by the many "ghostmarks" throughout the structure, which show the various stages of construction. The age and historical importance of the house made its use as a museum almost inevitable.
Here is a "technical" description of the building by professional architectural historian Ruth Little in her 1979 An Inventory of Historic Architecture: Caswell County, North Carolina:Gatewood House. Early 19th century. Two-story frame house with four exterior end brick chimneys, apparently built in the early 19th century and remodelled during both Greek Revival and late Victorian periods. In the mid-19th century it is said to have been a hotel run by the Jones brothers.
Also born in the house that now is the Richmond-Miles History Museum was famous Yanceyville artist Maud Florance Gatewood (1934-2004). Maud was the only child of John Yancey Gatewood and Mary Lea Florance Gatewood. Accordingly, it is only appropriate that the room in which Maud Gatewood was born now serves as the focal point of the extensive Maud Gatewood art exhibit, including the canvas upon which she was working when she died in 2004.
The rooms of the museum (on two floors) contain, in addition to the Maud Gatewood exhibit, items relfecting the depth and breadth of Caswell County's history. These range from a pistol once owned by Senator John Walter Stephens, who was murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in the historic Caswell County Courthouse, to a portrait of Bartlett Yancey, Jr. (1785-1828), for whom Yanceyville is named, to the typewriter used by Caswell's beloved Register of Deeds, John Burch Blaylock (1909-1995). There are American Indian tools and arrow heads, and uniforms and related items from the various wars in which Caswell County men and women served. There is an ancient spinning loom. And the portrait gallery contains images of the famous people of the county. On display is Thomas Day furniture and lawyers' chairs from the historic Caswell County Courthouse, which is just across the Square from the museum. The museum also is fortunate to have on loan many of the antique clocks of local collector Leon Richmond.
And, one of the museum's most-prized possessions is the 1840s Tobacco and Slave Ledger, a full reproduction of which is available to museum visitors. The CCHA hopes to obtain the restored original.
The Sallie Anderson Room includes shelves of reference books and decades of genealogical records that are available to those who visit the museum. A nominal charge is made for copies.
In the Gift Shop visitors are able to purchase books, videos, and other items relating to the history of Caswell County, which now covers more than 230 years.
On the museum grounds is a tobacco barn, which is symbolic of the importance tobacco has played in the economony of Caswell County.
As a samplying of what is in store for museum visitors and for the benefit of those who live afar, the CCHA has assembled images of the museum as part of the Caswell County Photograph Collection. This can be viewed online at: Richmond-Miles History Museum Photographs. The collection includes some exterior views of the museum building. For more, visit the Gatewood House.
The museum is open 1-4 pm Wednesday thru Friday (and other hours by appointment). Contact the CCHA.