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The poker house


Betty Stone



Rachel George is busy moving into her new-old house in Columbus. That is not especially newsworthy; people move every day. But there is a neat little twist to this particular story. She is moving into a house one of her ancestors once owned after winning it in a poker game. 


You have heard of "betting the farm." Apparently that was not uncommon back when there were fewer people and more land. Here is the story, although it may be legend. 


Marcellus Hatch bought the house that later would be named Hamilton Hall, from Henry Whitfield. His father, former governor James Whitfield, had it built for him and his bride, Laura Young Whitfield, as a wedding gift. They sold it to Marcellus Hatch. 


Late one night in early November 1868, Hatch was playing poker with Richard E. Moore, who was Rachel's ancestor. They had been playing for many hours when Hatch put the house up against Moore's Prairie plantation. 


The only record of the transaction says certain parts of Square 60 became Mr. Moore's for $9,000, "half of which was paid cash in hand." The house became known as "The Poker House." (I can't help wondering what Mrs. Hatch thought about it. They had possessed it for only seven months, so perhaps they never lived in it. I do not know.) 


The Moores, however, lived in it for several generations. R. E. Moore served in the Confederate Army as a captain in Company G in the 8th Regiment Cavalry. He and his wife, Frances Antoinette Swoope, had seven children. Several died early. His wife, Fanny, died in 1880. 


Moore later married Eugenia Morgan Drummond, a widow, who owned Camellia Place. Theirs was a stormy marriage. They divorced and later remarried; but although they were married at the time of his death, she is not mentioned in his obituaries.  


Moore was mayor of Columbus from 1887-90, was alderman for many years and postmaster. At his death in 1903, Richard left the house and contents to his children, Edward Swoope Moore and Fanny Saunders Moore, to be split evenly. He left his son, Jacob, only one dollar. It is thought Edward and his wife, Alice Hairston Moore, lived there for a little while. 


For years the house was vacant, and many people called it "haunted." 


Mrs. Annie Hamilton bought it in 1925 from Edward Swoope Moore. It did not immediately become Hamilton Hall. It is thought that with the first Pilgrimage of ante-bellum homes, the houses had to have names and that "Miss Mary" Billups, who lived in Snowdoun across the street, suggested Hamilton Hall. 


Rachel has renamed the home Baskerville Manor, because her branch of the Moore family were Baskervilles. It is, in fact, her middle name, and that of her mother as well. And, yes, it is that same Baskerville family that figures in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book, "The Hound of the Baskervilles." Rachel's great-great-great uncle was Charles Baskerville, who was a close friend of Doyle. 




Blending old and new 


The back part of the house was built first and was once used as a tavern. The front part was built around 1860. The home's original carriage house is still standing, the last one in Columbus. The house is a splendid example of Italianate architecture. Its many rooms are gracious and large. In the front rooms there are a wedding alcove, a funeral niche and a christening area, providing for all life's great events. 


In time, it has passed through many hands and worn many decors. Rachel is in the process of putting her own stamp on it, while trying to maintain authenticity in furniture and style.  


In the older back part of the house she has left several areas of the brick exterior exposed. The brick foundation extends four feet into the ground. She is planning on using part of the older space to hang some primitive paintings and some by Columbus artists. 


The most conspicuous stamp of the new owner's taste is the use of her "signature color" -- blue -- which can be seen on some of the walls, as one of the colors in a lovely Kirman rug, in some hardware, and in a number of examples of stained glass by Jane Crawford of Columbus. 


Restoration has been an arduous task, and there are still boxes to unpack. But Rachel is already entertaining, with a party for a bride and groom. Rachel is one of those "can-do" people, able to cope with what many others might find daunting. If she gets tired, though, she can always take a refreshing dip in the beautiful pool that figures prominently in the landscaping. Big projects offer big rewards. 


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


Betty Boyls Stone is a freelance writer, who grew up in Columbus.


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