Historic Houses - Bain Honaker House in Texas
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.
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 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
"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
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.
Downstairs Second Parlor or Sitting Room
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
A writing desk and a comfortable chair were highly valued items in a sitting room
Music from the movie, The Piano, set in the 1850s
Clothing and Styles of the Era
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.
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.
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
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
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.
Furniture for Leisure Time
Rooms for Rent
Vintage Items from Old Times
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.
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
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
© 2016 Peg Cole