'House that 4-H peanuts built' finds a new home and purpose at Millstone 4-H Center
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Photo of raising the roof of the Peanut House by Becky Kirkland.

Photo of raising the roof of the Peanut House by Becky Kirkland



'House that 4-H peanuts built' finds a new home and purpose at Millstone 4-H Center

Raising the roof of the Peanut House was the first step in moving it to its Millstone site. (Photo by Becky Kirkland)

Ornate letter "M"
otorists along back roads west of Fayetteville early in February might have had to rub their eyes and move over. Crawling down both lanes at 20 to 25 miles per hour under diesel truck power was a two-story, six-room house bedecked with a huge 4-H cloverleaf banner, creeping towards the piney woods at Millstone 4-H Center near Ellerbe.

Thanks to the generosity of Dr. Sharon Ellis Joyner, North Carolina 4-H was on the move. The structure, dubbed by 4-H’ers “The house that 4-H peanuts built,” will be re-roofed, renovated and transformed into the N.C. 4-H Museum, complete with memorabilia from 100 years of North Carolina 4-H programs.

And the house comes with its own history.

In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, Fayetteville resident Rudolph Ellis grew, roasted and sold peanuts for a 4-H project. His efforts were so successful that he later used his earnings to build a story-and-a-half frame house on land he bought for his sharecropper parents.

When a developer bought the property 60 years later, Ellis’s daughter, Dr. Joyner, wanted to preserve her old homeplace. She donated it to the N.C. 4-H Development Fund with the proviso that it be moved from the property.

Dr. Joyner also recently donated to 4-H the $50,000 Rudolph Carl Ellis 4-H Scholarship to honor her father.

“The scholarship is designated to go first to a Cumberland County 4-H’er, then to a 4-H’er from any other South Central Extension District county,” says Sharon Runion Rowland, N.C. 4-H development fund executive director. Those counties include Anson, Bladen, Chatham, Columbus, Harnett, Hoke, Lee, Montgomery, Richmond, Robeson, Scotland and Stanly.

“The recipient will be an N.C. State student in crop or soil science or a related agricultural discipline,” she says. “We’ll be able to award a $1,000 scholarship that’s renewable.”

To help pay the erstwhile Peanut House’s moving costs, the N.C. 4-H Development Fund sponsored an alumni fund drive, which raised more than $37,000. The Richmond County-based Cole Foundation matched the funds with a $30,000 grant.

A fund-raising campaign for the house’s renovation begins in June, as well as a campaign to solicit memorabilia donations from generations of 4-H alums.

“Our goal is to have the museum open in 2009, marking the Centennial of 4-H in North Carolina,” says Rowland. “And with more than a million 4-H’ers in the state, we expect an enthusiastic response to our call for donations, as well as for memorabilia.

“The gift of this house embodies the mission and values of the 4-H program,” Rowland says. “Dr. Joyner’s legacy gift will allow us to celebrate the first 100 years of 4-H and will preserve that heritage for future generations. And her scholarship donation is a boon to 4-H’ers, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and N.C. State University.”

Rowland adds that without the assistance of George Autry, N.C. Cooperative Extension director for Cumberland County, “neither the museum nor the Ellis Scholarship would have been possible.  It was through his persistence in locating the Ellis family that Dr. Joyner learned about today’s 4-H program and our desire to create a museum to preserve the last 100 years of 4-H.”

For 4-H Museum project information, contact the N.C. 4-H Development Fund at 919.515.9267.

— Art Latham

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