Several years ago, while researching my 1790s historical, Kindred, I took a road trip with my friend, Doree. We made quite a production of it, driving from Wisconsin to Cade’s Cove, Tennessee, then to Asheboro, North Carolina, the Piedmont area I’d chosen for the setting of Kindred. Actually, just a little west of Asheboro, in what is today the Uwharrie National Forest.

Contained in this small national forest and recreation area are the Uwharries, what are thought to be the oldest mountains in North America. I wanted a setting that gave the feel of mountains and rural isolation without actually being as far west as the Blue Ridge, and having visited this area several times in my childhood, knew it was the perfect spot to set my 18th century mid-sized tobacco plantation, Mountain Laurel. On my 1775 map of North Carolina this range of worn, heavily wooded ridges and hills is called the Carraways, and that’s what I’ve chosen to call them in my novel.

Scattered through these hills are the crumbling remnants of homesteads, gold mines and graveyards (it’s been a national forest just since 1961), so I knew this landscape had once been settled. While exploring the area gave me a good sense of the land’s physical contours and characteristics, I needed a model for the two-story farmhouse in which many of Kindred‘s scenes unfold.

I hunted on line for historic homes in the North Carolina Piedmont that Doree and I might be able to visit within the confines of our trip, and quickly zeroed in on The Alston House (aka The House in the Horseshoe), as the likeliest candidate. This two-story white farmhouse, built around 1772, sits in a bend of the Deep River, and was the scene of a brief skirmish during the American Revolution. The walls of the house still sport the bullet holes.

While the layout of the Alston House isn’t exactly that of the farmhouse at Mountain Laurel, walking the grounds and rooms of an actual 18th century home as near to my fictional plantation as this one is helped cement my sense of setting for Kindred like nothing else could have done.

A few photos of the house’s interior (red was considered a sign of wealth at the time):

 

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