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Finding Home: The Moreland Family Homestead, North Louisiana: The Story

The Moreland Family Home as it was built in 1852.

It is extremely rare these days for a home to stay in the same family for more than a few years.  But what if I told you I found a dogtrot home built in 1852 that has NEVER left the ownership of the original family? Be sure to read to end for a BIG, BIG surprise!

In the mid 1800s, wagon trains left the southeastern United States in droves and rushed westward.  Due to vast amounts of unsettled land offered for free by the US government, north Louisiana was settled by many pioneers from Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas. Some stopped on purpose and others stopped on the way to Texas due to illness.

In 1851, Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Tucker Moreland and Mr. and Mrs. A. A. Phillips, along with their children, and some siblings and their families, migrated west from Alabama and Georgia and stopped in north Louisiana to create a new homestead.

Joseph Benson and Mary Amanda Moreland

More specifically, these two families brought along two of their children who had previously wed in Alabama in 1851:  Mr. Joseph Benson Moreland (21 years old, son of Joseph Tucker Moreland) wed Mary Amanda Phillips (17 years old, daughter of A. A. Phillips).

It is believed that Joseph Benson, along with his father, Joseph Tucker, built a small, two room structure as living quarters, in the piney woods of north Louisiana once they arrived and claimed stake in the land.  In 1852, while living in this temporary housing, the two Josephs began to construct a larger dogtrot-style home for the Moreland family to reside.

Mary Amanda’s parents, Mr. A. A. Phillips and Elizabeth, built a classical, Greek style home just down the road.  It was dubbed Spring Lake (and sadly, burned down around 1924).  The Moreland and Phillips families established their homesteads and began a new agrarian lifestyle in north Louisiana.

Spring Lake Mansion: Home of A. A. and Elizabeth Phillips. Built in the 1850’s and burned down in 1924.

The Moreland Family Home pictured with the original central dormer.

If you aren’t familiar with dogtrot architecture, there is a large, open, central breezeway running the width of the home.  Typically, there are living areas on both sides of the central hallway. The dogtrot is open on either end to optimize the breeze flowing through the home.  Most dogtrots are located in warmer, southern climates and oftentimes the family dog(s) would lie in the open breezeway to cool off hence the name dog trot.

The original Moreland home mainly consisted of 4 rooms, each having its own fireplace, and an upstairs attic/living quarters.  The original smaller structures (built by the Morelands while the “big house” was being built) eventually were converted to an external kitchen.  Several other out buildings were present, including a barn that was used as part of a dairy, and also a well house.  The home sits atop a “pier and beam” type of foundation although the support system includes layers of rocks harvested from the land on which the home is built.

Mary Amanda Moreland (upper right) pictured with her son S. S. Moreland Sr. (to her left) and children seated on the porch steps of the Moreland Home.

Over the years, the family home was passed down, eventually to S.S. Moreland, son of Joseph and Mary Amanda, then to his son, S. S. Moreland, Jr. In 1986, my friend, Dr. John Moreland (great, great, great grandson of Joseph Tucker Moreland) purchased the home.  It was occupied by Dr. Moreland’s Uncle Sidney (aka S. S. Moreland, Jr.) until his death in May 1996. In almost 170 years, this home has always been owned by a member of the Moreland family, preserving their heritage and legacy.

Dr. Moreland believes the home was renovated in the 1930s. The central dormer was removed and three smaller ones were added, as well as the dogtrot was enclosed.

Sometime in the 1930s, Dr. Moreland believes the home was renovated. The dogtrot was enclosed.  The central dormer was removed and replaced with three smaller dormers spanning the length of the home.  And a large, southern front porch was added. In addition, new flooring was installed, as well as a new fireplace inside the master bedroom.

CENTURY CITY, CA – DECEMBER 22: Dr. John R. Moreland and actress/singer Liza Minnelli attend a press conference to discuss her successful hip replacement surgery on December 22, 1994 at the Century City Hospital in Century City, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images)

Dr. Moreland is world-renowned (retired) orthopedic surgeon based in Los Angeles, California (but born and raised in north Louisiana). Dr. Moreland has performed surgery on many timeless celebrities including Elizabeth Taylor, Liza Minnelli, Jane Fonda, Angela Lansbury plus many, many others! He received his collegiate degrees in Texas and greatly values his southern heritage.

January 2005: A tornado nearly demolished the Moreland Home

 

Over the years, the home fell into a great state of disrepair, particularly in January 2005 after a tornado ripped through the area. The great, Moreland home was almost lost.  All of the outbuildings including the exterior kitchen, dairy barn and well house were demolished and had to be fully razed.  Dr. Moreland was busy in Los Angeles with his medical practice and wasn’t able to invest the time he needed into the repair and restoration. His plan was to wait until retirement when he had the time needed to devote to the renovation. In addition, his son, Jack, was born just a week after the tornado struck. Dr. Moreland was able to quickly repair the roof and boarded up the blown-out windows. The home sat in solitude for nearly 14 years.

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Then, in early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit.  Dr. Moreland, retired since 2017, found himself unable to extensively travel internationally (as he had been doing since retirement) and had lots of time to ponder his family history. He became increasingly interested in genealogy which heightened his interest in restoring his familial home. Slowly, he explored the process and realized the time, money and effort needed to make this dogtrot home shine.  He also found it difficult to manage a major renovation from Los Angeles.

Here’s where the story gets really interesting. Have you ever experienced a fateful moment that can only be explained through divine intervention?

I am now connected to this Moreland family home and the legacy Joseph Benson and Mary Amanda created way back in 1852.

Back in June, I was in Birmingham and got a call out of the blue from my landscaper, Robert Jones.

Once Covid restrictions eased, Dr. Moreland began to travel again. One day while in Louisiana, he happened into Cone’s Nursery in Minden.  He was looking for a landscaper to assist with some design work at his ancestral family home.  Some older gentlemen were sitting around and when Dr. Moreland inquired about someone to assist with his landscape project and Robert Jones’ name immediately popped up.

If you follow me online, or know me personally, you know Robert Jones is my landscaper.

Robert and Dr. Moreland connected and met at the property to discuss rebuilding the landscape to match what could have flanked the home back in the late 1800s.  As Robert learned more about Dr. Moreland’s desire to restore this 169-year-old home, my name popped into his mind.

“You need to call Sara,” Robert insisted to Dr. Moreland.

Dr. John Moreland and Sara McDaniel of Simply Southern Cottage at the Moreland Home in north Louisiana

Initially, Dr. Moreland was hesitant because he was worried of what I would think about a stranger calling and asking for renovation advice. But Robert emphatically suggested he get in contact with me.

Now, if you know me, you KNOW my plate is full. I get asked almost daily to help someone renovate a home or to provide design advice or guidance.  And daily, I have to politely decline because I just can’t add ONE MORE THING to my plate.

But this was different.  When Dr. Moreland reached out, I was CAPTIVATED.  We started with an initial phone call where I learned more about his home and his ancestry.  As he shared, I was immediately drawn in and there was NO WAY I was going to say no to this opportunity. All of the sudden, I found time in my calendar to take on 169-year-old dogtrot home and help Dr. Moreland bring his familial homestead back to life.

A few weeks later, Dr. Moreland flew in from LA and we spent almost two solid days walking through the home and the property (which now includes thirty acres and is adjacent to a historical cemetery his family sold to an African American church around 1930; more on this later). Later, we visited old city cemeteries where Moreland ancestors are buried.  Dr. Moreland dove deep into his family history so I would have a strong understanding of his roots. He has done an excellent job researching his lineage and this old home place.

Moreland Home, Summer 2021, chimneys being rebuilt, new windows and fresh paint on the exterior. (El Camino belongs to Mike McGee of Shongaloo, La.)

Dr. Moreland shared a solid vision for the restoration.  He wants to return his home to its roots making the exterior and interior appear much like it did when Joseph Tucker and Joseph Benson constructed it in the mid 1800s.  He envisions a place his three daughters and son along with their families and other Moreland relatives can return and enjoy moments of peace and relaxation in a home built by their great, great, great grandparents. (Can you even image this? WOW.) He also envisions a museum of sorts inside the central hallway.  He has hundreds of photos of the home along with artifacts found on site. Currently, the home is an empty shell, consisting of four large rooms and the enclosed central dogtrot.  Therefore, we will be adding modern conveniences like a kitchen and bathrooms. There is no electrical, no plumbing, no HVAC or insulation.  We will be starting from the ground up!

Prior to learning about me and the work I have completed on homes I’ve restored, Dr. Moreland had already contracted to shore up the exterior, rebuild the four original brick chimneys and add new windows.  While the exterior is complete, I will be partnering with Dr. Moreland to totally restore the interior.

Sara McDaniel and Mike McGee in front of the Moreland home. July 2021

If you watch my Instagram or Facebook stories, you’ve been seeing snippets of this home over the summer and a POD.  I’ve already been busy working on this home and getting a plan in place for the restoration.  The first step was cleaning out the interior, storing away furniture in the POD, and prepping for my crews to get started.  Get ready to see some familiar faces like Bolin Construction, Bumgardner Electrical, Robert Jones, Mr. Donald plus many others.  This will be the 4th house I’ve completed with this incredible team. They are truly exceptional and we have such an amazing working relationship.

Not sure where your belief system lies, but for me, I wholeheartedly believe in divine intervention.  I’ve seen it play out TOOOOO many times in my life.  Nothing that has ever happened to me is happenstance.  Whether it’s a terrible situation like my divorce, or a WONDERFUL situation like the Morelands and Phillips migrating to Louisiana before the Civil War and Joseph Tucker’s great, great, great grandson stopping into a nursery in Minden and later connecting with me, I truly believe our steps are ordered.

The Moreland Home, August 2021, exterior almost complete

There’s so much more I have to share with you about this family home.  You WILL NOT believe some of the stories Dr. Moreland has told me.  (For example, when Mary Amanda’s mother, Elizabeth, died, her husband, A. A. stored her body in a vat of alcohol with plans to transport her back to Alabama.) There’s HUNDREDS of stories just like this one.

If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss any future Finding Home posts.  And be sure to follow on Instagram or Facebook for real time, daily updates in stories. The Moreland Home will take about a year to complete (fingers crossed) and I can’t wait to bring you along! (And not to worry! I’ll post here again soon with more interior pictures.)

Then, also stay tuned for additional homes I’ll be sharing as part of my Finding Home series. You won’t believe what I have on tap for you!

Let me know in the comments below what questions you might have for me or Dr. Moreland regarding his home.

 

 

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  1. Renee Brown says:

    Awesome story!! I can’t wait for you to tell more!! Perfect timing, finishing the cottage on fort. Ready for a new one..

    • Janice Stockma says:

      ❤️❤️❤️
      I adore 🥰 you!
      So thankful for your light!

    • Ashley Boyd says:

      Love reading about stories like this! So so happy this house has stayed in the same family and is being brought back to life!! So cool!! Cannot wait to follow along with this!! I so believe in divine intervention for sure! You were so connected at the right time to help with this! God is good!

  2. LeAnn Thames says:

    Wow!!! Beautiful home and story. Can’t wait to see what all y’all do to give this home a new life.

  3. Sarah says:

    Sara you are for sure the right person for this!!! God always leads us right where we are supposed to be!

  4. Claudia Wise says:

    I absolutely ❤️ this Sara !! I’m so excited to be a part of this amazing journey you have embarked on.

  5. So exciting!!! I can’t wait to follow along and see the amazing things you do. I too believe in divine intervention. God is truly using you and your many talents and blessing you all along the way.

    • Amy says:

      This is so exciting! I can’t wait to see it come to life inside. However, I must know, did the body make it back to Alabama to be buried? Did he keep her in the house somewhere? How did he get enough alcohol to submerge her and transport all that way? I’m totally intrigued by this family’s history! Keep the stories coming Sara!

  6. Michelle says:

    Fascinating! I’m excited to watch the progress!

  7. Melanie says:

    Such a beautiful home with an amazing history! I can’t wait to see the transformation.

  8. Debbie Brannon says:

    Sara, this is the most remarkable story! Robert was right—Dr. Moreland DID need to call you. Thanks for sharing your journey!

  9. Lois Arkt says:

    Such an amazing story! Can’t wait to see the place redone!

  10. Angie Jones says:

    Sister!! Our. steps. are. ORDERED!! Congratulations on this opportunity!!

  11. Penny says:

    This is such an intriguing, and unusual family story. Hard to believe one family owned this home for so many generations! Thank you for taking us on this journey, and God bless all your efforts to restore this gem!

  12. Jenna Bolin says:

    Forrest told me about this place, but your story of how it came to be is amazing. Literally brought tears to my eyes for some reason. I can’t wait to see the interior and watch how you transform it.

  13. Jo says:

    Wow! Just Wow!!!

  14. Connie says:

    It is like starting a REALLY great novel you can’t wait to read!! The pages that you turn in your Finding Homes blog will include even more interesting stories of the family history. They are blessed to have you on this journey!!

  15. Julie Curtis says:

    Sara, I’m speechless! I love dog trot houses!! It’s already beautiful on the outside and you will make it shine inside! I know Dr Moreland is relieved he found you. You are both blessed with this opportunity.

  16. Diane Moody says:

    When my inbox showed your website had crashed with this story, I knew I’d be hooked. WOW! You had me hanging on every word, and the history of this family immediately sucked me in. I can’t wait to watch your makeover! Another commenter mentioned it sounds like a novel … I would write that story in a heartbeat! (And I mean that literally!) Have FUN and thanks for letting all of us watch this amazing story unfold.

  17. Laura says:

    I love the story! Love the history and the future for this family. You are part of an appointed destiny. My grandfather actually had a dog trot home in Brunswick, GA. Have always loved it. We are looking to homestead in the near future. Thank you for sharing this great story.

  18. Eileen B. White says:

    I’m so excited !! I grew up with and went to school with John. His sister was one of my best friends, and I spent a lot of time with his family. I could not be happier to hear that you will be working with him to restore the interior! I’ll be following every step of the way!!

  19. Janine Bell says:

    Sara, this is just amazing! God is so good🙌🏻🙌🏻🙌🏻 I’m fascinated by this home and the history of the Moreland family and can’t wait to follow you on this journey💕💕💕. He definitely chose the right woman for the job!!!

  20. Rosemary says:

    This is such an interesting project and you are the one for it! Lots of work ahead but the challenge is a good one.

  21. Marianne M says:

    This is an amazing story! And meant to be…. I have a sense this story will end in the most beautiful & incredible way…. just as He ordered it. ❤️

  22. JoAnn Mize says:

    I am SO excited for you to experience working your magic on this wonderful home! Definitely divine intervention to bring everyone’s steps together for that moment. Congratulations Sara! Can’t wait to see!

  23. Shawn Vandenbrand says:

    Now I’m captivated!! Can’t wait to hear and see more

  24. Melissa Brantly says:

    Every time we drive by this home we are excited to see it being renovated! Now that we know you are helping makes it even more exciting!! The Brantly family was part of the Homer Oilfield community. So much history in our little town.

  25. Cindy says:

    I truly believe in divine intervention. Too many amazing things happen every day. I’m so excited to follow along on this journey with you. This is a beautiful house and it makes my heart sing whenever I see someone restoring a once lived home that hasn’t seen very much love in years. All good thoughts for you and Dr. Moreland as you go on this journey.

    I’m also excited to read about more houses in your Finding Home series. This is the 49th anniversary of our restoration journey of our Texas Cape Cod, so I’m so excited for all of the restorations.

  26. Wendy Sparacino says:

    Ok, now I am OBSESSED! I can’t wait to see the outcome! Would he consider writing a book? About the start of this house? All the memories? Up until completion of this renovation? This is so fascinating! It’s a beautiful home and I’m sure it will be exceptional!

  27. Joann Mize says:

    I am SO excited for this opportunity to work your magic on this beautiful home! It was definitely divine intervention to bring your steps to this adventure. Congratulations Sara!

  28. Lynne Eckman says:

    I’m so glad you’re following this on your site! I used to follow you on IG, but I’ve stopped all social media…except email lol. So very glad to have a way to follow you! This will be a wonderful story and im looking forward to it. Prayers to you, the rest of Miinden, and the state of LA with this hurricane heading your way 🙏🏻❤️

    PS I’m the one that sent you the story pages of “The Little Rabbit Who Wanted Red Wings” ages ago!

  29. Judy Davis says:

    I am beyond thrilled that Dr. John is undertaking this massive project. It truly symbolizes the spirit of Claiborne Parish to preserve the history and spirit of the North Louisiana hill country. I lived very near this property for 30 plus years, and sadly watched it deteriorate over the years. The day of the tornado, I remember driving down the highway and being thrilled that the Moreland home was still standing though being almost mortally wounded. Now I can look forward to seeing it in all of its new glory when I return home for a visit.

  30. Pam says:

    Congratulations 🎉 so very exciting and so happy to hear Dr Moreland has returned to his roots and beginning to restore the family homestead. Looking forward to following you on this journey Sara. ♥️

  31. Carol says:

    I love the outside now I can’t wait to see what you do with the inside

  32. Jody Johnson Groves says:

    I’m so happy to learn “ the rest of the story”. Over the last couple of years I drove my dad to dialysis three times a week. We would pass this lovely old home and were watching the updates on the outside. My dad had memories of the old house and it’s inhabitants, and my grandfather and Mr Sidney went bird hunting together. My dad passed away early this year and I so wish I could read this post to him as he would have loved following along. My dads hobby was genealogy and he was well versed in the history of Claiborne Parish, with an astounding memory. He had people calling him weekly asking family or local history questions. Thank you for sharing.

  33. Diana Juarez says:

    Another home! Another story to tell! I am so excited! What a divine intervention! I am anxiously waiting for your next segment!

    I am so excited and happy for you!
    The outside is beautiful and I am positive the inside will be AMAZING !!

    ❤️❤️❤️

  34. Kimberly Taylor says:

    There’s no doubt Jesus has brought you two together for this epic project and exciting adventure! What an amazing opportunity to help him restore his family’s ancestral home and family history! YOU are the perfect fit for this divinely-arranged partnership! ❤️🏠

  35. Becky Peterson says:

    I am so excited for you Sara. I truly am a strong believer in God and how He orchestrates our lives. From a little girl with her nose pressed to the car window looking at houses, to an older girl of 67, I love a good house/family story and restoration. God bless and thanks for sharing. p.s. the story of the relative being stored in alcohol was pretty er interesting.

  36. Robin Drewes says:

    Such an interesting story can’t wait to hear more stories . I’m very excited for you and this great opportunity . Excited to follow along

  37. Nancy says:

    Have you considered a installing water sprinklers on the interior, in case of fire, since the interior is gutted? No, I don’t sell them, or have any association with anyone who does. I just think it might be a good idea..

  38. Jill says:

    What a blessing to be a part of bringing this family home back to life! Excited to follow along.

  39. Kim Waldorf says:

    What an exciting time for you! I love this story and I totally believe all our steps are planned. It is the best feeling to see God at work! Enjoy this process and I am looking forward to seeing more as you renovate it!

  40. Rebecca Holley Forty says:

    Sara, this home is almost identical to the home in Augusta, Georgia where my mother was born. I don’t think it’s in my future to acquire that home and restore it (Of course with God all things are possible!!) but I sure do understand the tug on the heart you must’ve felt hearing this story.

    I am praying for y’all and asking God to take that storm high into the heavens and protect y’all!!

    In His Grace, always.
    Rebecca Holley Forty
    becbecholley40 in IG

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