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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.