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Historic Houses - Bain Honaker House in Texas

Updated on November 17, 2016
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Peg worked for a global telecom company as a project manager traveling the US. She owned her own business and worked in a variety of fields.

Built in 1865, this Victorian Era house was recorded as a Texas Historic Landmark, 1996.
Built in 1865, this Victorian Era house was recorded as a Texas Historic Landmark, 1996. | Source

Nestled into a quiet rural street one block east of the Farmersville square, the Bain Honaker house serves as a reminder of the struggles of daily living in the 1800s. Constructed the year following the Civil War, its builder and first owner, Anna Melissa Bain, was the widow of John Alexander Bain, 1823 - 1862. She was a woman of vision who with keen foresight, bought nearly seven acres in a small town fifty miles northeast of Dallas.

Texas Historical Commission, Landmark
Texas Historical Commission, Landmark

The interior of the house holds the memories of a generation of hard workers, gun owners, revolutionaries, widows, orphans, music, style, elegance and lasting architectural design. Inside, one can view muskets, cannon balls, books, photos, clothing, antique furniture, and more.

The Foyer

Enables access to the parlor at the left or the music room.
Enables access to the parlor at the left or the music room.

The pine-floored foyer allows access to the parlor (pictured below) at the left front of the house or the music room to the right of the entry through the framed archway. Period correct wallpaper and furniture decorate each area of the house. A guest register is available to log in visitors. A two-sided fireplace shares a wall of the parlor and the sitting room behind it.

The Front Parlor

The room to the left of the entry door often used to greet and entertain guests who visited.
The room to the left of the entry door often used to greet and entertain guests who visited. | Source

"Mid-nineteenth-century homes included a formal parlor, sometimes described by social historians as a sacred space, where weddings, funerals, and other public events were held." At times, it might hold the body of the deceased on display for visitation by friends and relatives prior to the funeral. The parlor was likely the most expensively furnished and elegant room in the entire house.

"The parlor furniture was made of richer materials and included the piano for entertaining guests. The cozier sitting room was used by the family for reading and sewing."2

Ash Container

This ceramic, hinged ash canister sits by the fireplace in one of the parlors.
This ceramic, hinged ash canister sits by the fireplace in one of the parlors.

A ceramic and enamel ash can would be placed next to the fireplace to dispose of excess ashes in the hearth. As the fire was the primary source of heat, it would need to be cleaned of debris on a regular basis. Hot embers often remained in the ash posing a risk of fire if not properly contained.

Farmersville, Texas

show route and directions
A markerFarmersville Texas -
Farmersville, TX 75442, USA
get directions

B markerDowntown Dallas -
Downtown, Dallas, TX, USA
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Downstairs Second Parlor or Sitting Room

The fireplace shown is on the backside shared wall of the front parlor. On display are costumes worn during the era.
The fireplace shown is on the backside shared wall of the front parlor. On display are costumes worn during the era.

What is a Sitting Room?

"A family would gather in the sitting room in the evening, drawing close together to share the light of an oil or kerosene lamp. Reading was a popular activity, but instead of reading individually and silently, the family was likely to listen to someone reading aloud. Typically, the man of the house would read aloud, while women engaged in some form of sewing or handwork." 3

The writing desk in the sitting room, next to a music stand and assorted quilts.
The writing desk in the sitting room, next to a music stand and assorted quilts.

A writing desk and a comfortable chair were highly valued items in a sitting room

The main parlor held a piano, rosewood chairs, a wool tapestry rug and antique photos.
The main parlor held a piano, rosewood chairs, a wool tapestry rug and antique photos.

Music from the movie, The Piano, set in the 1850s

Clothing and Styles of the Era

Possibly an image of John Alexander Bain, Anna's deceased husband. (unknown)
Possibly an image of John Alexander Bain, Anna's deceased husband. (unknown)

Stairwell

Located directly behind the entry foyer, the narrow stairs lead to the second story.
Located directly behind the entry foyer, the narrow stairs lead to the second story.

The Widow Bain

Anna Hicks Bain, born in 1834, was eleven years younger than her husband, John Alexander Bain, who passed away in November 1862. A widow at twenty-eight years old, she raised five daughters in the house following his death. She smartly supplemented her income by dividing the 6.7 acres into smaller plots which became commercial properties and by taking in boarders in the spare rooms upstairs.

Back Porch

A small screened porch leads to the backyard  well and the path to the outhouse.
A small screened porch leads to the backyard well and the path to the outhouse. | Source

This room offered entry to the house through the back doors, possibly used as the servant's entrance, or to allow boarders a private access to the stairs. It served as a mud room in inclement weather to store wet boots and outer garments or in summer as a place to cool off. Off the screened porch is a brick path leading to the outhouse and the fresh-water well.

Backyard View

The covered well along the path is on the way to the outhouse which was used before indoor plumbing was installed.
The covered well along the path is on the way to the outhouse which was used before indoor plumbing was installed.

The porch allowed access to the informal dining area, possibly an eat-in kitchen where food was prepared. Cold food was stored in the wooden ice box in the corner. A sign would be put in the window to let the ice man know what size block to bring in from his truck.

Eat-in Kitchen and Dry Sink

The informal dining room and food preparation area. An old ice box is located in the corner.
The informal dining room and food preparation area. An old ice box is located in the corner.

Daily Activities

Many of the daily chores revolved around cooking, baking, cleaning, washing, mending, raising chickens, planting a garden, gathering the harvest. In the absence of modern appliances, most work was done by hand. Sundays were a day of rest and worship.

The American Civil War

When the Bain-Honaker house was built in 1865, it was during a time of national unrest with the war between the states just winding down. Supplies were scarce, tensions were high and many wounded men were returning home after battling neighbors, friends and brothers over issues of States' Rights versus Federal Authority, Westward expansion and slavery. The years 1860 - 1864 marked some of our nation's most difficult times, certainly a difficult time to lose a husband and raise five children alone.

Cast Iron Stove

Cooking was done on cast iron stoves that also provided heat during winter months and the heat of summer.
Cooking was done on cast iron stoves that also provided heat during winter months and the heat of summer.
The music room and front main room
The music room and front main room

Music played a large role in daily life in the absence of telephones, television or radio. Books and reading, singing, sewing and hand crafts kept idle hands busy and productive.

Baked goods for sale during the open house in June 2016 after the Audie Murphy parade in town.
Baked goods for sale during the open house in June 2016 after the Audie Murphy parade in town.

Entertainment

Heavy, solid wood bookcases containing vintage volumes and prized books.
Heavy, solid wood bookcases containing vintage volumes and prized books.

Furniture for Leisure Time

Velvet upholstery, lace curtains and dark rooms
Velvet upholstery, lace curtains and dark rooms

Sleeping Quarters

Room and board provided supplemental income for the household. Washbasins, rag rugs, hand made quilts, all products of the time.
Room and board provided supplemental income for the household. Washbasins, rag rugs, hand made quilts, all products of the time.

Rooms for Rent

Female college attendees from the nearby nursing school rented out rooms in the house.
Female college attendees from the nearby nursing school rented out rooms in the house.

Vintage Items from Old Times

Museum pieces on display
Museum pieces on display

Upstairs in the southeast corner bedroom, cabinets filled with antique items used during those times are on display including an old musket from the 1700s. The cool June morning quickly heated up in the absence of air conditioning. With temperatures that reach triple digits in Texas, finding a cool place would have been a challenge in times of old.

Museum Pieces

Antique and vintage items
Antique and vintage items

Anna Bain's daughters, Mary and Catherine (Cassia) married brothers Henry Honaker and Andrew Honaker. Cassia lived in the house until her death in 1928. Five generations lived in the house.4

The house was donated to the Farmersville Historical Society by a descendant in 1989.

The Indoor Facilities

The bathroom was upgraded over the years.
The bathroom was upgraded over the years.

In case you were wondering, the bathroom was upgraded over the years. This is the upstairs bathroom with the old cast iron bathtub. There is another bathroom downstairs which has also been remodeled.

Farmersville, Est. 1873

If you enjoy quaint, old fashioned towns with plenty of antiques and curiosities, then, Farmersville is the place to visit. Located near Highway 380 and Highway 78, the town offers friendly merchants, good food, a quiet laid-back environment and possibly the largest yarn store in Texas, Fiber Circle.

Sources and Notes

  1. John Alexander Bain, March 15, 1823 - November 1862. Facts from Ancestry dot com
  2. Anna Hicks Bain, 1834 - 1906
  3. Sitting room
  4. Collin County Texas dot Gov, Bain Honaker House

© 2016 Peg Cole

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    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      I just love this sort of thing. I'd rather walk through history like that house than read any old history book. Great article, Peg!

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 7 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Thanks so much, Bill. Me, too. Standing in the rooms where these pioneers lived, loved and passed away brought a sort of reverence to the visit. I love antiques and history.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 7 months ago from USA

      I love old houses like this. She was such a brace and resourceful woman to be able to rais 5 young children alone in an age of such turmoil. This was a beautiful and nicely descriptive hub that makes me want to visit!

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 7 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      How true, Flourish. I genuinely admire women of this era whose duties and responsibilities seemed unending. She was wise to invest in that property several years before the town of Farmersville was even established. Thanks for coming by to check this out and for the thoughtful comment.

    • marcoujor profile image

      Maria Jordan 7 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

      I believe I would greatly enjoy exploring the antiques and curiosities of Farmersville, dear Peg. Your photography is the next best thing to being there.

      I was inspired by the story of Anna Hicks Bain as well. Beautiful work.

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 7 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Mar, I'm so delighted that you took the time to visit this historic piece and that you enjoyed the photos. I would love to go exploring with you. We could have a nice lunch at the Sugar Hill Cafe and visit my friend, Doris, at her store, Main Street Antiques. She is another one to admire, working and investing in the downtown area, now into her nineties.

    • profile image

      Izettl 7 months ago

      I love it! Amazing how everyday chores took up the bulk of the day and with all our modern conveniences we seem to have less time. I just live the idea of the man reading while everyone listened or sewed. That sounds nice. About the only activity we have as a family is eating dinner together. And lots of families don't even do that. Very self sufficient back then too. You portrayed the scenes nicely.

    • pstraubie48 profile image

      Patricia Scott 7 months ago from sunny Florida

      Great photos...it is like being transported back to another time and place to visit such historical places. When I get to Texas again my sister and I will include this on our tour.

      Angels are on the way to you this morning ps

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 7 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Thank you, Izetti, for the insightful comment about modern conveniences. It's amazing to think what the people in this house had to endure just to light a fire and get warm, milking the cows, churning butter, hanging the wash outside to dry, dragging water in from the well to wash up. And it continued day after day. Amazing. I think the family unit was stronger back then because of the daily interactions and fewer distractions. So glad you dropped in.

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 7 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Pstraubie48. It's so nice of you to come by. Touring Texas with your sister sounds nice. I hope you plan your trip for the cool months like April or October. There are some great places to visit here.

      Thinking about you and yours this morning and sending hopeful thoughts.

    • vocalcoach profile image

      Audrey Hunt 7 months ago from Nashville Tn.

      I'm passionate about history and particularly the civil war. Thank you Peg for this grand tour. Spectacular photos and videos. Excellent presentation.

      Sharing and pinning.

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Isaac Weithers 7 months ago from The Caribbean

      It is easy to imagine family and family activities in this house. The idea of Lady Bain remaining in the house, raising her children and finding a way to earn an income is inspiring. The wallpaper throughout the house is interesting. Thanks for the tour and the history.

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 7 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Audrey, Thanks for coming by and for taking the tour. I certainly appreciate your kind words and visit. Thanks for pinning and sharing, too.

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 7 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi MsDora, It is easy to imagine living in the house particularly when surrounded by the artifacts of that time. I'm glad you stopped by as it let me see where I was not clear that Lady Bain was the one who built the house three years after her husband passed away. Thanks. I revised the text a bit. I think I remember from the tour that she moved from their rural farm to be closer to town. She truly was an inspiration and ahead of her time with investments and financial wisdom.

    • mckbirdbks profile image

      mckbirdbks 7 months ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

      Hello Peg - This is an excellent tour of the Bain House. Great photography and lots of research. I see in the comments, that some would rather walk through history, than read an old book. Not me.

    • bravewarrior profile image

      Shauna L Bowling 7 months ago from Central Florida

      Peg, I always look forward to your hubs. You have such a diverse range of interests that deem you unpredictable. And I mean that in the most respectful way!

      I love Victorian houses, antiques and the architecture of the past. I really enjoyed browsing through this home with you.

      Adding the video of the Civil War was a nice touch. I even saw one of my ancestors. I'm a descendant of Stonewall Jackson's. My maternal grandmother's name was Jackson. Pretty cool, huh?

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 7 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hi Mike - Thanks for joining in on the tour. Reading about history is fascinating and teaches us so much about our past. As children, we visited museums because they were cheap entertainment for a family of five. I remember walking through the rooms where Abraham Lincoln died even though I was only six or seven at the time. It leaves a lasting impression. Nice to see you here.

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 7 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Shauna, What a nice thing to say! Thank you. I stumbled on this historic house when my brother and I went to look at antiques in our nearby town of Farmersville. We happened to go on the same day as the Audie Murphy Parade, too, so it was a double delight.

      Wow, Stonewall Jackson for an ancestor. Cool! My Dad's paternal grandfather served in the Civil War and was wounded. I'm writing a story about he and his wife. It's still in the early stages with two chapters written. Thank you for the great comment and visit.

    • profile image

      Alyssa 6 months ago

      Wow! What a beautiful house! I would love to visit and learn more! Thank you for sharing!

    • PegCole17 profile image
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      Peg Cole 6 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Alyssa, I hope one day you will have a chance to visit this beautiful old house. It's full of memories and items from the past, rich in our history.

    • profile image

      Gayle Jordan 6 months ago

      My husband, Terry Jordan, is the nephew of Dora Honaker. As the story was passed down to him, Dora may have been one of the last of the family to live there. She had a son Billie Bain who was killed in WWII. He was on a ship and she had said she was sleeping that night and the minute he hit the water she woke up and knew something happened to him. We did correspond with her until her passing and Terry does remember meeting her as a child.

      We have recently moved to Texas, Sulphur Springs, and are hoping to come by and show the houes to our Grandson. We would like to know when you are open and the hours.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 6 months ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Gayle, It's nice to hear from a descendant of the Honaker family. What a nice article your story about Billie Bain would make. I am a freelance writer who visited the Bain-Honaker house last June when I was in Farmersville. I have no connection to the historical society or the people that manage the tours. You may be able to obtain information on the operating hours from the website in the notes above. All the best to you and thank you for sharing your story here.

    • aesta1 profile image

      Mary Norton 5 months ago from Ontario, Canada

      A House full of memories such as this one always evokes nostalgia and an affinity for the life and the women who lived in here. I have great admiration for them.

    • Coffeequeeen profile image

      Louise Powles 6 weeks ago from Norfolk, England

      Goodness, that looks a lovely house to look round. I really like things like this. I'd love to visit here. I hope some day I can. It's really interesting.

    • PegCole17 profile image
      Author

      Peg Cole 6 weeks ago from Dallas, Texas

      Hello Mary, I agree, the women of the early towns are figures to be admired and in particular, the entrepreneurial and brave woman who built this house. She was smart and way ahead of her time. Thanks for taking time to stop in.

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