Monday, September 15, 2014

A Frame Around Our Days - Living and Writing in Woodstock, GA

Carrie Wood Reeves, her husband, Luther, and four of her eight children

People are the most fascinating component of the world; humans cause object and setting to come alive. Writers know that a bounty of information can be easily and subtly revealed in one scene of narrative. With paint and brushes, visual artists do the same, but under much more difficulty. In one captured moment of time, motivation, movement and thought must be implied. For two years, a local artist has been doing just that. Her name is Kristina Laurendi Havens, and she has created enchanting pictorials of contemporary Woodstock townsfolk within the backdrop of our city. These portrayals in oil touch you with their vitality, beauty and pensiveness. Her depictions have put a frame around our citizens happily living their lives. The 40 works will be auctioned very soon to benefit the rescue of a favorite structure here. After restoration, the 1897 Reeves house will eventually landmark the Elm Street Cultural Arts Village. With careful vision, the organization has poured their artists' knowledge, business expertise and sweat into the effort. I am so glad. The Reeves house holds sentimental meaning to me.

Carrie Wood, loving and driven, lived in that home. Generations apart from her, I feel as if I know her. Born in 1879, she married Luther Reeves builder of that vintage abode we cherish today. My affection for this turn-of-the-century lady developed as I made preparations for the Preservation 2013 Woodstock exhibit highlighting some of our earliest female citizens. I've read the Reeves family history several times. On my errands, I often drive by the land, north of Main Street, that her family (the Wood clan) once cultivated. Most recently, at the Reeves house, I peeked inside those rooms in which she labored at a wood-burning stove, stored dried apples from her own trees, embraced hardworking Luther, chided her children, cried and laughed. She was something. Certainly her eight children thought so. Determined Carrie had the strength of an ox. In the family history, her son Sam Reeves tells of Carrie's never-ending household duties: growing everything they ate, making their clothes, doing laundry in a pot over a backyard fire, cooking meals and two fresh desserts, daily, for a family of ten.

You may wonder how a woman managed to do all the above without electricity, grocery stores or modern appliances. I think I know what gave this petite woman, light as the cotton that grew around here, her inner steel. More than anything in the world, Carrie wanted to give her children a tranquil, secure home where their needs were well met; Carrie's childhood had been quite different. Her father died when she was two years old. Her mother succumbed when Carrie turned five. I shivered with empathy when I first read her brief account of a time soon after her mother's death. Orphaned Carrie stood on a box in the kitchen to look out the window as her siblings (the oldest only fifteen) scrambled to "save the harvest." Heartache and fear must have haunted them all. By the way, at the window, little Carrie was busy making their bread. Know any kindergartners who can do that?


The following years are unclear concerning Carrie, but it's likely the younger children were shuffled off to others who took them in. Years later, in 1896 Woodstock, fully-grown Carrie joined in a Saturday night dance at the Haney farm where she met Luther Reeves and married him the next year at eighteen. And aren't we glad. Luther became a store keeper and selected twelve acres on which to build their home, and the couple quietly went about living. Their endeavors were far from easy, but life contained many rewarding days. For that simple reason, I know they would adore the painted vignettes of Woodstock townsfolk enjoying their lives, today. . . . Brava, Kristina Laurendi Havens! Stop by the studio she shares with Ann Litrel and see what both these artists create as if by magic as they strive to save an old house.
Carrie Wood Reeves


The earlier version of the Reeves house


More children necessitated expansion. The Reeves eventually had 39 great-grandchildren.



Patti Brady is a member of Preservation Woodstock, Inc., and author of the Woodstock novels.