By Kerria Weaver
The NC Rural Heritage Center in Laurinburg honors a local inventor, John Blue, who helped revolutionize modern farming. The center also celebrates the “rich historical and cultural fabric of Scotland County and the surrounding areas,” says board chair Lyle Shaw.
The center opened for visitors in 1977 and includes four separate areas: the John Blue House, Heritage Village, Museum of Agriculture & History and the Indian Museum of the Carolinas. They are all in close proximity to each other.
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The John Blue House serves as the main attraction. The house was constructed 25 years after the end of the Civil War and was designed by John Blue Sr. Blue was a successful inventor and manufacturer of farming equipment.
He also had a keen interest in riverboats after a visit to Mississippi, which is why the Laurinburg house has many of the design elements of the iconic, paddle-powered boats.
The house is undergoing $275,000 in renovations. The center received two grants toward repairs, one from the state for $150,000, the other a federal grant through the National Park Service for $128,000.
Shaw recalled how Hurricane Florence seriously damaged the foundation..
“When Florence came through, a little over 26 inches of water stood, so the house got drowned,” said Shaw. “The house sits on bricks made of sand and over time they crumble and the floors become uneven. It’s just not safe.”
Shaw, 64, has served as a board chair since 2016. She grew up in Scotland County and enjoys helping with the center.
The NC Rural Heritage Center is operated by the Scotland County Historical Properties Commission. The board consists of 12 members along with two alternates who have management and oversight over the museum.
The museum is open to the public on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.. The Heritage Village remains open for visitors even when the museums are closed.
An average of 29 people a month visit the center from April until the end of August.
“Numbers are improving, and that’s pretty good for only being open one and a half days every week,” said Shaw. “We get visitors from all over, even internationally, which surprises me how many people are interested in (our) history.”
Heritage Village serves as the centerpiece of a collection of homestead structures. Settlers and farmers built the structures elsewhere and museum supporters moved them to the John Blue grounds.
The Museum of Agriculture & History features equipment built or repaired by the younger Blue and his father.
“John Blue was an inventor mainly of farm equipment. He got credit for making farming much more efficient,” said Shaw.
In 1886, Blue’s invention of the Rex Guano fertilizer distributor and the John Blue Cotton Planter revolutionized farming. Both can be viewed in the farm inventions section of the Museum of Agriculture History.
The fourth area of the center is the Indian Museum of the Carolinas, holding treasures and artifacts from North Carolina Native American communities. The museum includes two main exhibits.The front room focuses on North Carolina Native American history and includes an area of rotating displays of North Carolina Indians and other tribes.
The museum has 40 exhibits featuring unique items such as fishing tools, pottery, and an old Native American canoe.
Shaw noted that the museum has a storage room filled with other historical items that could be put on display.
“I love hearing the conversations when a grandmother brings her grandkids and she explains in great detail about the woodstove and how they used one when she was a little girl,” said Shaw. “Each story is a passage through time; it’s like memory lane.”