top of page

Foothills Heritage Farm's


Pounding Mill


The Old Place Project 

The Old Place Project is a proposed community initiative to provide a valuable resource for Wilkes County Schools and the surrounding nine county school systems, in their efforts to improve middle school academic achievement and character development. Using a 240 year old farm as a placed based outdoor classroom, an interactive student field trip experience with innovative lesson plans will engage students in the agrarian life and values of 18th and 19th century farm families. The intent is to address discipline areas of math, science, social studies and character values of hard work, morality and service learning. The farm offers an historical perspective that speaks to the educational and developmental needs of students. Research shows that placed based education models improve students’ understanding of the disciplines as well as their problem-solving, collaboration skills, and other critical thinking proficiency.














‘The highest worth was a man in agriculture’

 Historical Interpreter at Colonial Williamsburg


Lesson Plan Development

A library of lesson plans will be written for middle school grades 6 through 8 by volunteer retired and current school teachers. Initially, lesson plans will be produced for only the Central Wilkes Middle School in Moravian Falls, located a little over a mile from the farm. Wilkes County School administrators have allowed Wilkes Central Middle School to be a means to introduce, implement, refine and evaluate the program including lesson plans, teacher development and field trip logistics.

          Place and Community Based Education (aka Project Based Education): The Rural School and Community Trust defines place- and community-based education, as teaching and learning that is rooted in what is local—the unique history, environment, culture, and economy of a particular place. The community provides the context for inquiry-based learning; student work focuses on problem solving around community needs and interests; and, community members and organizations serve as resources and partners in every aspect of teaching and learning.[i]


Related Article: (Attached PDF)

Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Education

Place-Based Education

Gregory A. Smith


Short Stories:  A very important curriculum resource is a series of short stories, with accompanying lesson plans, commissioned from accomplished children’s author and former middle school teacher, John Claude Bemis from Hillsborough, N.C. The short stories are read by students within thirty minutes and are designed to illustrate the elements of Growth Mindset / Academic Tenacity. The stories will endear the students to the farm and build excitement in anticipation of the farm field trip experience. To personalize the farm, the characters are members of the Hubbard family and their farm animals who worked the farm and called it home from 1783 until the early 1900s. Selected stories will be read as homework with lesson plans taught in the classroom or while visiting the location on the farm relative to the story. This will maximize the benefits, if students are familiar with the farm’s generational inhabitants and activities, and understand the farm’s local and national historical setting. To assist the students, a genealogical family tree chart and an historical farm chronology will be produced.

Farm Motto

‘To Do My Best’

Academic Achievement:        “To Do My Best”

Curriculum Alignment- Lessons will integrate the local history, culture and agrarian society with requirements of Common Core, Next Generation Standards, and 21st Century Skills.

Academic Tenacity – The following quotations are from the 2014 Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation white paper entitled, Academic Tenacity: Mindsets and Skills That Promote Long Term Learning by Carol S. Dweck, Gregory M. Walton and Geoffrey L. Cohen.


“In our pursuit of educational reform, something essential has been missing: the psychology of the student. Psychological factors—often called motivational or non-cognitive factors—can matter even more than cognitive factors for students’ academic performance.”

“The research reviewed in this paper shows that educational interventions and initiatives that target these psychological factors can transform students’ experience and achievement in school, improving core academic outcomes such as GPA and test scores months and even years later.”


 “At its most basic level, academic tenacity is about working hard, and working smart, for a long time.



The Stonemason’s Apprentice:        Short Story               Lesson Plan on Growth Mindset


The Fieldstone Chimney: The following is the description of a possible interactive lesson plan, implemented during a field trip and after the students have read The Stonemason’s Apprentice and discussed in the classroom its lesson plan on Growth Mindset.

        The teacher assembles the class in the side yard of the farm house, directly in front of the fieldstone chimney. The teacher emphasizes the intricate placement of the different size stones in the construction of the chimney: large stones on the bottom, smaller stones on top, etc., and the stonemason’s skills as illustrated in the short story.  The students are then separated into three equal groups with each positioned around one of three small piles of fieldstones on the ground. Pointing to an existing stone wall of about one foot wide and two feet long, the students are asked to take 15 minutes, with each group working as a team, to duplicate the stone wall with the stones from their pile. The stone sizes and weights used in the wall and in the piles are scaled down from the size of the chimney stones to reflect the student’s average hand and body size. The objective is to give the students an appreciation of craftsmanship.


     Craftsmanship: Demonstrating craftsmanship is an important aspect of the curriculum. There are many examples of craftsmanship on the farm. The following quotations are from former middle school teacher Ron Berger's Fostering an Ethics of Excellence.


“In carpentry, there is no higher compliment builders give each other than this: That person is a craftsman. This one word says it all. It connotes someone who has integrity, knowledge, dedication, and pride in work—someone who thinks carefully and does things well. I want a classroom full of craftsmen—students whose work is strong, accurate, and beautiful; students who are proud of what they do and respect themselves and others.”


 “Work of excellence is transformational. Once a student sees that he or she is capable of quality, of excellence, that student is never quite the same.”


     Farm Chores: The traditional method of teaching children a good work ethic is to promote chores and to demonstrate hard work. On the farm, children performing chores properly was a responsibility essential to the family’s wellbeing. Discussing and demonstrating farm chores is very beneficial. A future short story on farm chores will be written with a lesson plan on hard work and responsibility.

Community Involvement


 The ultimate success and sustainability of the farm and The Old Place Project is heavily dependent on the involvement of the community. As the project progresses and funding has been ensured, an effective publicity campaign will inform the community and request volunteers to assist in a broad range of operations. A PowerPoint presentation will be made to civic clubs, associations and professional groups. An organizational structure will be in place to coordinate an anticipated positive response.


Operations:  Initially, operations of the farm will be under the direction of the Foothills Heritage Farm, Inc.’s Executive Director. In the near future, a salaried, operations manager will be employed. The Old Place Project will be managed by a volunteer Director of Education. Volunteers from the following community resources could handle these suggested tasks.

  • Civic and Church Groups: Maintenance of Grounds and Structures

  • 4-H and Future Farmers of America: Orchards, Vegetable Garden, Farm Animals (The farm will be available to these organizations for their associated projects)

  • Scouting: Special projects

  • Professional Associations: Services including engineering, accounting, legal, insurance, etc.

  • Garden Clubs: Orchards, Vegetable Garden

  • Friends of the Farm: Businesses and Individuals asked to contribute time to a variety of specialized tasks. 

  • Current and Retired School Teachers: Lesson Plan and teacher development, Educational Consultation.

  • Historical Interpreters: Field Trip Logistics

  • County Cooperative Extension Service: Consultation

  • NC Forestry, District Office: Forest management, Consultation

Safety Protocol: Engineers, arborist, county fire marshals, inspectors, first responders, and school administrators, in conjunction with a safety consulting firm, will ensure public safety on the farm.

          Insurance: Insurance policies will cover, General Liability, Property Damage, Volunteer Workman’s Compensation, and Board of Directors Liability.


The Field Trip Experience

Web Site: The field trip experience starts with a user friendly web site which would allow teachers to log into a resource rich catalog of lesson plans and short stories along with a guide in developing a rewarding field trip experience. Predetermined, set programs will be offered for different grade levels to include specific farm activity related topics and short stories to compliment and coincide with the teacher’s yearlong planned course of study. (Note Appendix A) Teachers will also have the flexibility to customize their own, preferred program, choosing more specific farm activities, short stories and lesson plans. As choices are made, an interactive farm schematic layout will automatically be developed to lead the teacher through the farm tour, from one farm activity and short story location to the next, within an allotted time frame.

The web site will inform the teacher of when historical interpreters and storytellers are scheduled for specific areas and will include a weather forecasting component to avoid potential inclement weather days. The web site will have a reservation system to ensure availability. Initially, farm availability will be restricted to certain days and teachers will be encouraged to combine classes to allow efficient and optimum operation.

A customized computer program, upon a reservation, will automatically calculate and record the transportation reimbursement cost from the Foothills Heritage Farm, Inc., to the school system. This reimbursement plan will be based on a formula consisting of the school’s cost per gallon of gasoline, the average gallons per mile consumed by school buses and the round trip number of miles from the particular school to the farm. If a reservation is canceled, the reimbursement cost is removed from the record.

Reception Center: A log structure, to be constructed, featuring a centered open passageway, will be situated directly over the Old Burke Road bed, which runs parallel to Hwy 18 and in front of the historic farm house. The students will enter the passageway, with an orientation room on one side and restroom facilities on the opposite side. The orientation room will display farm artifacts and feature a short, narrated slideshow introduction to the farm. The students will exit the rear section of the passageway and walk up the old road bed to the farm house. The reception center will have an ample school bus parking area.  

Historical Interpreters / Storytellers: Teachers will conduct lesson plans, but as the project mature, knowledgeable, historical interpreters, dressed in costume, will conduct the lesson plans when available. The interpreters will form a group to be managed by volunteers selected from within the group. Members will log into the web site to schedule appearances. It is anticipated that a large number of volunteer interpreters and storytellers will participate.


Conclusion: Starting around 1750, colonial farmers settled along the eastern foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. The vast forest, open meadows and fertile river valleys were inhabited by buffalo, elk, mountain lions, bears and wolves. It was a wild frontier to the pioneers and an ancient homeland to the Catawba and Cherokee Indians. These early settlers were farmers when agriculture was characterized by ox power, wooden plows and seeds sown by hand. Crops were cultivated with a hoe and harvested with a sickle. It was a hard life, enabled by the protestant work ethic, the assistance of neighbors and the motivation to accumulate wealth. The colonial farmers prospered, formed communities and promoted commerce. Our agrarian heritage was established, and it dominated society for over two centuries. The knowledge and understanding of this heritage by school children is important, because it provides an avenue to reach an understanding of ourselves in today’s more complex society. The Foothills Heritage Farm is a valuable, tangible link to the colonial history of North Carolina. Historical sites, and their context, play a universal role in providing cultural continuity and perspective.

The lessons of the colonial farmer – courage, hard work, resilience, responsibility, respect, integrity, helping neighbors, citizenship and an appreciation of nature – will build strong character traits in our young citizens.

Appendix A

Program Schedule






This initial draft curriculum for an 8th grade, 3-hour program has been designed to serve as a basis for further development into curricula and programs for 6th and 7th grades at Central Wilkes Middle School.


8th Grade, Three-Hour Program

On the day of Arrival at Foothills Heritage Farm

  • 3rd Core – 10:15 AM – 11:30 AM

    • 10:45 AM – Read short story commissioned from John Claude Bemis highlighting the Hubbard family and the Foothills Heritage Farm (30 mins.)

    • 11:15 AM – Provide a brief overview of the assets on the property using a version of the hand drawn map used to reconstruct the farm (15 mins.)

  • Lunch at Central Wilkes Middle School (11:30 AM – 12:05 PM)

  • Trip to Foothills Heritage Farm (12:05 PM – 12:30 PM)

Arrival at Foothills Heritage Farm

  • 12:30 PM – Orientation (15 mins.)

    • Front porch of house until construction of the Reception/Orientation Center

    • Visual identification of assets on the property ( Note Map Below )

      • Tobacco Barn, Blacksmith Shop, Split Rail Fencing, Charcoal Kilns, and Corpse House.

      • Highlight the farm’s location relative to The Old Burke Road and the importance of the road running from Wilkesboro to Morganton.

    • Introduction to the National Register of Historic Place designation given to the house

  • 12:45 PM – Tour of Hubbard Home (25 mins.)

    • Historical narrative of Hubbard Family – connect to the short story from John Claude Bemis.

    • Role of William Henry Hubbard as a Justice of the Peace prior to the Civil War and the Magistrate Court sessions held on the front porch of the house.

    • Story of the militia gathering on the farm to attack Fort Hamby, occupied by the remnants of General Stoneman’s men.

    • Purpose of Corpse House and traditional handling of the death of a member of the community.

  • 1:10 PM – Tour of assets on walk to Barn (20 mins.)

    • Lye/Ashe Hopper – Introduce the process of saponification to make soap.

    • Garden, Alfalfa Field, and Apple Trees – Highlight the variety of food produced on a farm in this region of North Carolina.

    • Smoke House and Double-sided Corn Cribs – Methods used to preserve and store food beyond the growing season of Western North Carolina.

  • 1:30 PM – Tour of Barn (15 mins.)

    • Architecture as a Tool for History

      • The connection of the Half Dovetailed Notch to the Great Wagon Road and German immigration from Pennsylvania south.

      • The importance of design in creating a long-lasting structure (i.e., water shedding)

  • 1:45 PM – Walk to Pounding Mill and Spring House (35 mins.)

    • Demonstration of the Pounding Mill – Showing students how the action of water falling into and running out of the box on one end of the mill creates the constant grinding of corn into grits or hominy.

    • Spring House – Explanation of how groundwater rises to the surface through springs to provide clean drinking water versus potentially contaminated stream water.

  • 2:20 PM – Walk back to House (25 mins.)

    • The “Modern” Garden House – Teaching students about the role of organisms in decomposing organic waste and their part of the process in the composting toilet. Discuss the benefits of this composting toilet to municipal water systems utilizing chemicals to treat sewage.

    • Tobacco Barns – Discuss the importance of tobacco to the economy of North Carolina and the role of tobacco barns in drying the leaves to be sold as a cash crop.

    • Blacksmith Shop and Charcoal Kilns – Explore the process of the charcoal kilns in transforming wood into pure carbon, as charcoal, and the use of the charcoal in producing high temperatures to forge local iron ore into metals to produce and repair common tools and items required for the farm.

  • 2:45 PM – Conclusion and Boarding Bus (15 mins.)

    • Concluding Statements – An overview of the context of the late 18th century into the 19th century that the farm existed. The difficulty of survival for early pioneers to the Appalachian frontier and the links to this past that are still recognizable in Wilkes County today.

    • Final Call for Questions from Teachers and Students

    • Board Bus to Return to School

  • 3:00 PM – Return to Central Wilkes Middle School during ‘Enrichment’ period before ‘Announcements’

End of Program













Assets Fulfilling N.C. Standard Course of Study and Clarifying Objectives

8.H.1 Apply historical thinking to understand the creation and development of North Carolina and the United States.

  • 8.H.1.1 – Construct charts, graphs, and historical narratives to explain particular events or issues.

    • Narrative of Hubbard family history (settlement of western Piedmont); utilization of Corpse House (social traditions); purpose and construction of Pounding Mill (economic and agricultural); drawn map of Foothills Heritage Farm property

  • 8.H.1.3 – Use primary and secondary sources to interpret various historical perspectives.

    • Drawn map of Foothills Heritage Farm property; architectural style of half-dovetail notch two-story log house (German/Scots-Irish traditions); use of Census documents to understand family structure

  • 8.H.1.4 – Use historical inquiry to evaluate the validity of sources used to construct historical narratives.

    • Construction of historical narrative of Foothills Heritage Farm using critical inquiry of primary source materials including architecture style of structures on the property, arrangement of structures, location of farm relative to The Burke Road

8.H.2 Understand the ways in which conflict, compromise and negotiation have shaped North Carolina and the United States.

  • 8.H.2.1 – Explain the impact of economic, political, social, and military conflicts on the development of North Carolina and the United States.

    • Militia attack on Fort Hamby from the farm in the context of Wilkes County during the Civil War, Tobacco barn and the importance of tobacco to the economy of North Carolina


8.H.3 Understand the factors that contribute to change and continuity in North Carolina and the United States.

  • 8.H.3.1 – Explain how migration and immigration contributed to the development of North Carolina and the United States from colonization to contemporary times.

    • Great Wagon Road and the German and Scots/Irish Immigration to Wilkes County, Moravian Falls in the Granville District of North Carolina

  • 8.H.3.2 – Explain how changes brought about by technology and other innovations affected individuals and groups in North Carolina and the United States.

    • Learned agricultural techniques from Native Americans (growing corn, corn cribs), the pounding mill, half dovetailed notch, composting toilet

  • 8.H.3.3 – Explain how individuals and groups have influenced economic, political and social change in North Carolina and the United States.

    • Work of William Henry Hubbard as Justice of the Peace and the role of Magistrates Courts up to the Civil War

  • 8.H.3.4 – Compare historical and contemporary issues to understand continuity and change in the development of North Carolina and the United States.

    • Highlight the continued agricultural traditions in rural Western North Carolina from the 18th century to today


8.G.1 Understand the geographic factors that influenced North Carolina and the United States.

  • 8.G.1.1 – Explain how location and place have presented opportunities and challenges for the movement of people, goods, and ideas in North Carolina and the United States.

    • The opportunities afforded by the presence of ample clean water, rich soil in the Yadkin floodplain, and the movement of goods along The Old Burke Road.

  • 8.G.1.2 – Understand the human and physical characteristics of regions in North Carolina and the United States.

    • The variety of crops and availability of clean water afforded to settlers in the foothills versus agricultural traditions of the eastern Piedmont, more focused on cash crops, and the climate challenges of farming in the higher elevations of the western mountains.

  • 8.G.1.3 – Explain how human and environmental interaction affected quality of life and settlement patterns in North Carolina and the United States.

    • Location of the farm at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, near to the Yadkin River, and on The Old Burke Road.

8.C&G.1 Analyze how democratic ideals shaped government in North Carolina and the United States.

  • 8.C&G.1.1 – Summarize democratic ideals expressed in local, state, and national government.

    • The role of the Magistrate Court in local government with William Henry Hubbard serving as the Justice of the Peace and holding court sessions at the home.


8.C.1 Understand how different cultures influenced North Carolina and the United States.

  • 8.C.1.1 – Explain how influences from Africa, Europe, and the Americas impacted North Carolina and the United States.

    • Influence of Native Americans on the use of corn in agriculture as well as the corn crib; influence of European culture in the architecture of the barn and the home.

  • 8.C.1.2 – Summarize the origin of beliefs, practices, and traditions that represent various groups within North Carolina and the United States.

    • The movement of German and Scots-Irish settlers southward into Western North Carolina along the Great Wagon Road

8.P.1 Understand the properties of matter and changes that occur when matter interacts in an open and closed container.

  • 8.P.1.3 Compare physical changes such as size, shape and state to chemical changes that are the result of a chemical reaction to include changes in temperature, color, formation of a gas or precipitate.

    • The role of the Charcoal Kiln in converting wood to pure carbon to create higher temperatures necessary for working iron ore into usable tools; the organic processes that occur within the Composting Toilet.

8.P.2 Explain the environmental implications associated with the various methods of obtaining, managing and using energy resources.

  • 8.P.2.2 Explain the implications of the depletion of renewable and nonrenewable energy resources and the importance of conservation.

    • Reducing the chemicals necessary for sewage treatment by using organic treatment of waste in the composting toilet; utilizing the natural energy of fast flowing streams to process corn in the Pounding Mill.


Appendix B


Farm Activities and Possible Lesson Plan Topics:

Math / Science:  The Pounding Mill    


From colonial times through the 19th century, if a farmer had on his land a running stream with a waterfall, he could use the ancient technology of a pounding mill to process small amounts of corn or grain for daily consumption. At the beginning of the day, dried corn kernels would be placed in the mortar (a hollowed section of a hardwood tree) and the machine would be set in continuous motion with the placement of the box under the falling water. As illustrated below, the weight of the water would lower the box and raise the pestle (a section of hardwood tree). As the water spilled from the box, the pestle would come crashing down into the mortar. This action would repeat continuously throughout the day, pounding the corn into grits or a coarser hominy.



Math (Geometry):  Half Dovetail Notch  

The logs for construction of the Hubbard barn were cut, hand hewn and delivered to the Hubbard farm in 1846 by the Saner family as a wedding gift for William Henry Hubbard and Jane Saner. The Saner family, of German descent, influenced the design and construction methods for the barn, which included the half dovetail notch form of joining log wall corners. The notch is created with a hatchet and mallet cut on the end of each log. The additional weight of each stacked layer enabled a non-slip wall locking system. Another interesting benefit of the notch was the shedding of any penetrating water along the sloping angle toward the wall’s exterior.





Half Dovetail Notch



Science: Blacksmithing

Many farmers settling in the area of Moravian Falls had minimal blacksmithing skills to produce and repair agricultural tools, nails, hinges, chains, kitchen utensils, etc. Blacksmiths of this era worked by heating pieces of wrought iron in a forge, fueled by charcoal, until the metal became soft enough for shaping with hand tools, such as a hammer, anvil and chisel. Color is important for indicating the temperature and workability of the metal. As iron heats to higher temperatures, it first glows red, then orange, yellow, and finally white. The ideal heat for most forging is the bright yellow-orange color that indicates forging heat. Iron ore was discovered on Moravian Creek during George Washington’s presidency.



Science: Making Charcoal for use in Blacksmithing

Charcoal can be made from anything containing carbon. Wood has been the raw material used to make charcoal. Wood consists of three main components: cellulose, lignin and water.  These compounds are composed almost entirely from atoms of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon.  Charcoal is made by removing the hydrogen and oxygen in the wood while leaving just the carbon. Traditionally this was done by piling dry wood into a dome shaped mound. The mound was then covered with smaller branches, leaves and dirt.  Covering the mound limited its exposure to oxygen. A flue was left open in the middle to introduce hot coals which caused the wood to smolder. Vents in mound help control the amount of oxygen. If there was too little oxygen the smoldering ceased. If there was too much oxygen, the mound would catch fire, consuming the wood. After a certain period of time, based on the size of the mound, it was allowed to cool and when uncovered, the charcoal was retrieved.   











Math / Science: Making Soap

Soap is not found in nature; but it can be created by very simple processes. Saponification is what happens when fatty acids from fats or oils, are mixed with lye, a strong alkali. Lye was produced on the Hubbard farm by placing hardwood ash from the fireplace into a wooden ash hopper lined with corn husk. Water was slowly poured onto the ash. After filtering through the ash, the liquid lye, potassium hydroxide, collected into a container at the bottom.

Meat fat was collected from pork processing and heated in a large iron pot on an outdoor fire. The liquid lye and water were added and the mixture was stirred until thickened like pudding. It was left to cool and when hard, cut into bars. Soap Recipe: For each pound of fat, add 5 ounces water and 2.2 ounces of lye.












Science: Composting Toilets

The Hubbard children raised on the farm referred to the outhouse as ‘The Garden House’. When this structure is constructed as part of the farm restoration, it will contain a functioning composting toilet.

Composting is the bio-chemical decomposition of organic matter by aerobic organisms, i.e., organisms which get oxygen from the atmosphere and give off carbon dioxide. Composting takes place in all soils which support plant and animal life. The compost toilet employs the same process in the controlled environment of the compost chamber. Organisms found in the composter include bacteria, actinomycetes, fungi, arthropods, and earthworms and are added manually once the system is operating. Energy, carbon dioxide and water vapor are released by the organic matter in feces through the activity of the composting organisms. A less chemically complex, more chemically stable substance, rich in organic matter, is produced. Feces volume, which is mostly water, is reduced by over 90%.






                                                      The Garden House                                                               Composting Toilet



Social Studies (Civics): Judicial System

William Henry Hubbard (1823-1893) raised eleven children on the farm and was a Justice of the Peace (Magistrate) prior to the Civil War and a county commissioner afterwards. Magistrates Courts (1670-1868) had jurisdiction over small debts, marriages and petty differences. Squire Hubbard held many court sessions from the front porch of his house on the Burke Road. During this era, the local justice of the peace was the most visible government official in the county.





History:   Fort Hamby

In March of 1865, General Stoneman of the Union Army occupied Wilkesboro.  Stoneman’s men committed many depredations, destroying a great deal of property.  On leaving Wilkesboro, a number of them deserted, joining other lawless men and terrorizing a large portion of Wilkes County by their frequent raids. Because most local men were in military service, the county was almost completely at the mercy of this band of robbers. Their hideout was the Hamby house situated on a strategic high spot overlooking the Yadkin River and the valley. A local militia from Wilkes and surrounding counties attacked Fort Hamby, but were forced to retreat, assembling the next morning at Squire Hubbard’s farm near Moravian Falls. A larger force was soon assembled and Fort Hamby was destroyed.













Wilkes County Schools
Letter of Support 
Short Stories & Lesson Plans
bottom of page