The History House Museum: Come Walk Through History's Front Door
The History House Museum stands on former plantation land worked by generations of Black slaves. After the Civil War, Black family farmers as sharecroppers lived and labored on the former plantation lands of Tillery.instituted his New Deal Resettlement Program, a program offering Black families the opportunity to purchase land. Today the History House Museum, a former Resettlement home owned by Louis & Glendora Thomas, stands on Black owned land and houses a community historical exhibit. The museum has been collaboratively designed by CCT's History Committee and 2004-2005 Documentary Study Students at Duke University, using the photographs and oral and visual histories collected since 1995 by the Concerned Citizens of Tillery.
Remembering Tillery: Our Land, Our Community
The Tillery Resettlement Farm was one of approximately 113 rural Resettlement "experiments" conducted by the U.S. Government in the 1930s and 1940s under President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal. The Tillery Resettlement Farm was one of the largest Resettlement Projects in North Carolina and one of only 15 African American Projects in the United States. The Resettlement Farm, whose name was changed to the Roanoke Farms in 1936, spread over a land area of over 18,000 acres.
The Farm was eventually segregated with white settlers located in west Halifax and the African American settlers located in Tillery in the Roanoke River Flood Plain. Although plans for 300 farm homesteads were approved, at its peak, the Roanoke Farms provided homes for approximately 150 African American Families and about 110 white families in its initial stage.
The Tillery section of the Resettlement farm is located on 4 large sections in Southeast Halifax County. The first, and largest section of the farm, constructed beginning in 1935, was near Caledonia Prison. The next section of the Farm with construction also beginning around 1935 was located near the Conoconnara Swamp. It was here that the original Tillery Community Center (which burned in 1940) and the cooperative store (the current Tillery Community Center building) stood. The Tillery section of the Resettlement farm also had a grist mill and a potato curing house. All of these structures were located at the corner of Conoconnara Road and Community Center Road (the former highway 561).
Farm Units Making up Tillery
Here is a map as the land was originally laid out for the Tillery project.
The final two and the smallest land area sections were the Crowell's section and the Dawson section.
The Tillery Resettlement boasted six different styles of houses throughout the Farm. According to residents who helped build the houses, two story homes with plans for in-door plumbing were constructed in the section of the farm where the white settler were originally supposed to settle. Other two story homes and all of the one-story homes did not include plans for in-door plumbing. Some of the homes had enclosed porches on the back and some were screened in.
All of the homes were supposed to include a barn, a chicken coop, a smoke house and a privy. However, because the project was under almost constant construction, some families purchased farms that did not have all buildings as planned.
Settlers on the Tillery Farms Project were initially loaned land, a home, tools and livestock for three years. In this time, they were expected to learn the basics of farming, home management, and community cooperation. They were expected to follow strict home and farm guidelines, keep a record of expenses, and pay monthly installments toward purchasing their farm. If, after 3 to 5 years, they had demonstrated adequate "interest and potential, " settlers, gained title to the land, paying the remainder of their loan over a forty year period.
While most settler families came from neighboring counties such as Nash, Edgecombe, Warren, or Northampton, some settlers came to Tillery from great distances, as far away as Virginia, Georgia, Florida and Arkansas.
When the Federal Government liquidated the project in 1943, ninety-three African American settlers had become landowners. In 1947 and 1948, a new group of African American landowners settled on the former resettlement, most buying their property from the government through Farmer's Home Administration (FmHA) Loans.
These landowners changed the social landscape of this former plantation region. While long-time residents of Tillery fought incessantly for their right to a safe home, a well paying job, and quality education for their children, the new landowners brought the crucial independence and the financial security that, along with the support of non-landowning Tillery residents, was the first step in challenging the racial injustices of the "Old South."
The History House provides a unique educational experience for visitors of all ages to not only learn more about our nation’s history, but to become inspired and involved with one community’s determinations and triumphs.
Who should visit the History House?
Senior Citizen Groups
Groups Interested in Environmental and Social Justice Issues
and other Concerned Citizens
The History House can be a historic destination on your canoeing trip down the Roanoke River, or a stop on your next cycling trip. Call us for more information:
(252) 826-3017 - 826-2234
The History House
Located at 321 Community Center Rd.
Tuesday - Friday -- 10 am - 5:30 pm
Other Times By Appointments
Please call (252) 826-3017
To arrange for your visit.