As a continuing story from last week I will explore the history of the uses of the house at 503 North Ash St. in Springfield.
There is very little knowledge of any history while the McCartney family lived there. From the elegant style and size of the home, we know that they led a privileged life. Features like the entrance into the house at buggy level were a luxury of the times. Brick walls 14 inches thick were also expensive building features.
The first record gleaned about those living in the house is from the Mingledorff family. Dr. E. B. “Bim” Mingledorff, a retired dentist, related the story of the house and his family connection in an oral history found in the archives of Effingham Museum.
In 1919, his grandfather, N. D. Beckwith, a dentist from Burke County, purchased the house. His mother Mary Beckwith (Mingledorff) grew up there. His grandfather had a dental office on the second floor. My 97-year-old great aunt, Myrtie W. Exley, recalls going there to see the dentist. There was an outside stairway entrance at the back of the house to the second floor.
“Bim” Mingledorff recalls that the Beckwith family also boarded teachers there. A student at the time, Jaunita “Nita” Carr (Edwards), remembers her teacher, Mary Will Lanier (Shearouse), sending students from the classroom to her bedroom on the second floor to get something she wanted to use in class.
Ethel Earl (Morgan) boarded in this house when she first came to Springfield to teach seventh grade at Effingham Academy. Boarders recall that Mrs. Beckwith was stingy with the firewood she supplied and they were not warm enough in winter, except if they gleaned wood elsewhere.
For a while after her marriage Mary (Beckwith) and Ernest B. “Cap” Mingledorff resided upstairs there and then built their own home after they started having children. Ernest B. Mingledorff later became superintendent of the Effingham County School System.
Apparently the Beckwith family always had company, and when Mary and “Cap” could build, she desired a very small home so that there was no room for company. Mary Mingledorff conceded through the years to adding on to her “little house” to accommodate Bim and his siblings Walter “Buzzie” and Gretchen.
The ARGYLE house was also used for apartments. Arthur Exley and John Tebeau remember working for the local grocers and delivering groceries for different families who were living in different apartments or sections of the house. They took the groceries upstairs for those living there. In those days, the stores delivered groceries to people at their homes.
Mrs. Dorothy Shearouse used a room in the old home to teach music classes in the early 1950s. Catherine and Lester “Buzzie” Morgan Jr. were two of her students.
About 1955, after Effingham Academy burned, the typing classes were held in a ground floor room there. Charles Hinely and Julia Exley (Rahn) recall this, and she remembers that the house was probably empty except for that use at the time. When they wandered about she said, “it looked empty.” Julian Collum was their typing teacher. The school used any available space following the fire to continue educating the students.
In 1958, the home, and by then a single lot it sat upon, was purchased by Bill and Ruth Bridges. Their oldest child Virginia recalls them moving in at Christmastime with no heat except a fireplace and a pot-bellied cast iron heater her father fixed to heat three rooms downstairs that they lived in for a good while.
She remembers being her dad’s helper in the basement, since she was the oldest child, installing gas pipes to fuel heaters that were installed throughout the house. The Bridges children were: Virginia (Clary), Thomas, Joseph, Carolyn, Diane, Cay and Barbara. At the time they moved there, only one bathroom existed and it was upstairs.
I fondly recall going there to play with Carolyn. There were friends of the children in and out all of the time — it was fun to go there to play. It was a favorite activity to slide down the wooden banister of the stairway.
Tom Bridges shared much information about the house and his memories of living there as a child. Virginia, known as Ginny, recalls some items that the Beckwith family had left there. The stuff was later retrieved by the Mingledorff family. One item was a huge dental cabinet with glass doors filled with instruments. The wooden cabinet had a bad leg and was propped up, she recalls. She also remembers that it fell over in some calamity and surprisingly, the glass in the doors did not break.
There was also a foot-pedaled dental drill that operated somewhat like the treadle on a sewing machine. A huge armoire with glass mirrored doors was downstairs and a very large wooden chest sat in the upstairs hallway and was some type of storage box, like a cedar chest, perhaps for blankets. It sort of resembled a coffin, and Ginny recalls having to walk with younger siblings to the bathroom because it frightened them to cross the hallway. Young imaginations ran wild in the big house with all of the children.
A downstairs room had 12-foot tall sliding glass doors. The 14-foot ceilings were flanked by horsehair plaster walls. The mantels and woodwork were quite elaborate. The children remember smelling pipe smoke and feeling temperature changes in the air in areas of the house at different times in the drafty dwelling, likely when the weather became damp, conjuring up ideas of ghosts. Mary B. Mingledorff’s sons retrieved the items, moving them sometime after the Bridges family had lived there awhile.
In 1972, Bill Bridges and his family left and sold the house.
The house has gone through many hands and lots of changes and is currently the residence of Robert and Patricia Payne. It certainly is a treasure, still remaining in Springfield from the time when Springfield hit its growth spurt with the building of the Brinson Railroad. If the walls could talk, I bet there would be plenty of tales to tell.
An oral history by Dr. B. E. Mingledorff, a conversation with Tom Bridges and chat with Virginia Clary and others provided information for this story. This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org