Bell-Jennette House in Hyde Co., N.C.

Bell - Jennette House

As one drives along Route 264 east from Lake Landing toward Engelhard, the old homes one passes makes you wonder how they looked during the antebellum period. One of the homes that can cause an imagination to go to work is the Bell-Jennette house.

This house is situated on a 185 acre tract and is nestled in a grove of pecan trees. The manor house is situated on a 367 acre 1797 Land Grant to Lovett Bell. Lovett Bell was married to Mary Gibbs, daughter of Thomas Gibbs, Sr. and wife Gilly. The grant described the property as the place where Lovett Bell and Thomas Gibbs, Sr. were residing. This fact, plus the unusual arrangement of the interior, has led some to speculate that this could have been an earlier house built for Thomas Gibbs, Sr. and incorporated into a larger house in 1808. The date "1808" was uncovered during alterations to the staircase, and is also found on two sides of the chimney stack.

This single-pile house with a five-bay main facade has an intrance to a side hall; a large interior chimney is placed off-center. The side hall contains a two-run staircase which runs back to front. The house retains its Georgian chair rails, HL hinges on one door and Georgian first-floor mantlepieces. Flat-paneled wainscoting appears on the first floor. The placement of the stairs and the richer detailing of the rear window surrounds indicate the house may have initially been oriented in the opposite direction, with the south wall as the main facade. The entire framework of the house is of heart cypress, and all the sills and joints are notched and mortised and put together with wooden pegs. The foundation sills are 42 feet long and run the full length of the house. The uprights run from the ground floor to the top of the third floor. Nails were used only in the finishing work and the floor and these were wrought from iron. Originally each of the ten rooms in the main house had a fireplace but only three of the originals remain. The original kitchen and dining room were in a separate building behind the house connected to the main house by a walkway. Beyond the kitchen was a building used by the domestics and also a smoke house. The smoke house still remains.

In 1834, Lovett Bell and Durant H. Bell (relationship not known) sold 155 acres of this Grant to John J. Fulford and in the same year sold 160 acres and the house to Robert Jennett, Sr. for $4,800. In 1857 Robert Jennett, Sr. devised that portion of the home plantation lying north and east of the orchard ditch to his sons, Robert Jr. (March 7, 1786-Oct. 5, 1857) and Jones Jennett, to be equally divided between them.

Jones S. Jennett became the sole owner of that part of the plantation which contained the manor house. In his 1894 will, he divised the property to his nephew, William Shaw Jennett (1853-1921). After his death in 1921, his wife Louisanna "Lutie" (Boomer) Jennett (1851-1955), daughter Annie L. Fulford (wife of Otis C. Fulford), sons Lawrence B. and Jones S. Jennett, and granddaughter Hazel Mann, recorded a document intended to be his last will and testament. In this will he left his widow, Lutie, one-third of all his property which included the 185 acre farm and house for her natural life. Each of his 3 children and granddaughter received a one-fourth undivided interest in the plantation and house, subject to his widow's life estate.

In 1926, Jones S. Jennette (1882-1970) and wife Lilly B. Jennett mortgaged their one-fourth interest in the 185 acre farm. In December 1928, O.C. Fulford mortgaged his wife's one-fourth interest to Walter Raleigh Gibbs who deeded this share to his wife, Nancy Dorcas Gibbs.

In 1934, Jones S. Jennette defaulted on his loan and his daughter, Millicent Jennette, purchased his share at public auction for $625. In December 1941, Nancy D. Gibbs and her husband Walter R. Gibbs deeded their one-fourth share of the farm to Millicent Jennette, making her owner of one-half of the farm.

By 1946, Lawrence B. Jennette and Hazel (Mann) Bishop had deeded their one-fourth shares to Jones S. Jennette so one-half of the farm was then owned by Jones S. Jennette and the other half was owned by his daughter Millicent (Jennette) Waits.

On December 16, 1946, Jones S. Jennette and his daughter, Millicent, quit claimed their shares to each other dividing the porperty. In May 1970, Jones S. and Lillie Belle Jennette deeded their half of the farm to Millicent, leaving her the sole owner of the entire plantation and house. By June 1970, a small house had been built near the manor house and the farm. After the death of her mother, this small parcel and the small house were to go to Millicent's brother, Jones M. Jennette, known locally as "King Paul".

This house has been the happy home for six generations of Jennettes.

(Photo from Historic Lake Landing Landmarks brochure submitted by Margie Brooks from the Greater Hyde County Chamber of Commerce. Information on the house was taken from High Tides; Fall 1983; pgs. 15-17 and Hyde County History.)

Copyright 1999

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