Days Gone By - stories from the past

Mount Ada, Talladega, Alabama – home used in Birth of a Nation


County Road 11, Sylacauga, Talladega County, AL





And we never tire of hearing the tales of “Mt. Ida.” My aunts remembered it in its “heyday,” as they said, and never seemed to mind our questions and eager curiosity. My grandfather’s sister, Aunt Hannah, lived there. She married a widower with one son, who was only four years younger than herself. Her husband, Walker Reynolds, built “Mt. Ida”, adding four rooms and a columned porch after his second marriage.

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, FRONT AND SIDE VIEW S.E. – Mount Ida, County Road 11, Sylacauga, Talladega County, AL (Library of Congress)

“Mt. Ida” is located on a sloping hill, facing a circle of blue mountains. A boxwood hedge borders a wide brick walk, which leads to the house, now nearly hidden by great magnolias. In the yard are many of the old shrubs—cherry laurel and English cherry grown into trees, the ground underneath carpeted in trailing myrtle. Cedars shade the porch and at one end is a rose growing in a tangled mass, the trellis long since gone.

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, CLOSE-UP OF FRONT  – Mount Ida (Library of Congress)

Mr. Reynolds brought a landscape gardener from, Georgia to lay off the yards and surroundings. Around the yard is a sandstone wall to the ground level, and once there was a fence with brick pillars, topped with marble squares. Cape Jessamine bushes grew between the front pillars, and a Marchelniel rose on the trellis at the end of the veranda. In one corner of the yard was a summer house, vine covered, where the young ladies could entertain their beaux, When the family and guests gathered on the long front gallery in the “evening”, dressed in their cool muslins, branded peaches” were passed as an appetizer, before supper. All the romance, glamour and loveliness of the Old South must have been embodied there, for a brief time, in that happy family.

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, CLOSE-UP OF FRONT, EAST – Mount Ida (Library of Congress)

Marble steps lead from the wide brick walk, up to the gallery which runs the length of the front and is supported by six fluted columns, made of cement and painted white. On the inner side of each column is an iron rail to provide a footrest.

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, CLOSE-UP OF FRONT, SHOWING BALCONY AND COLUMNS – Mount Ida (Library of Congress)

The second-floor balcony is almost as long as the lower porch, with an iron railing in the shape of lyres. The side lights and transom of both upper and lower front doors are of amethyst glass etched in a design of grapes and grape leaves. This glass was imported and only two of the panes have been broken, There are fourteen rooms in the house, and three stairways. The front stair rises from the rear of the hall, and facing the front door is a niche for statuary. The walls now are a dull tan, but once they were papered in panels depicting the “Nuses”.

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, HALL AND STAIRWAY TOWARD REAR DOOR, S. SIDE OF HALL – Mount Ida (Library of Congress)

At the right as you enter, are the double parlors, paneled in maple, with great double doors between. Gilt cornices of elaborate design are still over the windows, mute reminders of the past when the front parlor was furnished as a “duplicate of the Blue Room in the White House, with its blue and gilt trimmings at the windows, blue Axminister carpet in one piece, the eight light chandelier hanging from the twelve foot ceiling center, with its white globes and prismatic glass pendants that reflected the colors of the rainbow; and in the space between the two front windows stood the handsome Pier glass mirror reaching from the floor to the ceiling, resting on its maple pedestal.

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, FIREPLACE IN DINING ROOM ON 1st FLOOR, MIDDLE ROOM ON S, SIDE – Mount Ida (Library of Congress)

The two sofas and chairs were trimmed in gilt and upholstered in blue,” so said the last member of the family-a man of 84 (Cousin Mallory Reynolds). The addition to Mt. Ida was completed in 1859, and Aunt Hannah and Uncle Walker went to New York in that year to buy the furniture described by Cousin Mallory.

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, MANTEL IN S.E. FRONT ROOM FIRST FLOOR – Mount Ida (Library of Congress)

In the back parlor was a rosewood set elaborately craved in fruit and flowers, and upholstered in red brocade, for in one of the arm chairs Aunt Hannah sat to have her portrait painted. On the walls is the original wall paper, a grey background with scrolls of gilt. Across the hall were the library and dining room with Aunt Hannah’s room beyond. A side door leads to a porch which in turn leads to a covered passage and into the kitchen, long since fallen to decay.

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, OLD KITCHEN AND WALK WAY TO MAIN HOUSE (KITCHEN FACES EAST) – Mount Ida, (Library of Congress)

On the upper floor, the “ladies rooms” were on the front with a solid wall separating them from the rear of the house, where the men stayed, and which of course has a separate stairway up from the backporch, Still another stair goes up in Aunt Hannah’s room to the room above where the girls stayed until they were considered “young ladies”. Later it was occupied, in turn, by two widowed daughters who returned to the old home: (“Cousin Eppie McGraw and Cousin Maude McLure”)

Survey Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, REAR STAIRS FROM MAIN BUILDING TO BACK PORCH – Mount Ida (Library of Congress)

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, REAR VIEW (WEST) – Mount Ida, (Library of Congress)

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, MANTEL IN N.E. FRONT ROOM (PARLOR) – Mount Ida (Library of Congress)

In the backyard is the large smoke house, so tall that the meat hung on tiered rafters. As many as two hundred hogs a year were killed in the old days to supply the plantation. A gin house and carriage house still stand, put now to other uses, but the old brick spinning room is gone. A saw mill, grist mill and flour mill were also operated by the owner, making the plantation a self-sustaining unit.

Survey Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, OLD SMOKE HOUSE, S. OF HOUSE ABOUT 30 FT., FACES N. – Mount Ida (Library of Congress)

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, OLD SPINNING HOUSE, REAR (W) AND SOUTH SIDE – Mount Ida (Library of Congress)

On a hill, perhaps half a mile distant, but easily discerned from the house, is the brick-walled graveyard where the builder of Mt. Ida and a few members of his family rest. It is a peaceful place, with boxwood and crepe myrtle adding their perfume and delicate pink color.

Alex Bush, Photographer, May 9, 1935, OLD GRAVEYARD, ® MI NORTH OF HOUSE – Mount Ida, (Library of Congress)

Tall monuments, in the manner of their day, mark the resting place of the owner and his wife. A small marble mausoleum covers the grave of his first wife, the walls are carved with verses of scripture and admonitions, to his then only son. As you enter there is a message, — yes, — to you —

“Whether curiosity or affection shall lead you to this spot And whether friends or strangers shall trace these lines Yet let this solemn impression rest on the mind and deeply impress the heart,

This is the work of Death! This is the end that awaits all living, and you, too, must die!”

Mt. Ida has passed out of the hands of the Reynolds family; (“) the furniture has been divided among the children, or sold, and tho’ I love to go there to see the stately old house, I leave with a feeling of sadness that it must be so, and wish that it might have been otherwise.

1Written in 1938 as an Alabama Day paper for a club in Birmingham,

ADDITIONAL NOTES COMPILED BY KATHERINE FLOYD:(Auburn, AL) J. B. VAUGHN (Birmingham, AL) Source of material Mr. I. R. Beard, Sylacauga, Alabama (7-3-1936)


Present Owner: I. R. Baird.

Previous Owners: Mrs. Mamie Flurnoy. From 1890 to 1922. Mrs. Walker Reynolds. From 1879 to 1890. Walker Reynolds. From 1833 to 1879.

Date of Erection: 1833. (Probably 1840)

Architect: Unknown.

Builder; Walker Reynolds.

Present Condition: Good state of preservation. The original house consisted of six rooms and two halls; Later there was an addition of four rooms and two halls. The old kitchen is connected to the house by means of a covered porch.

Number of Stories: Two.

Materials of Construction: Frame house with a solid brick foundation, composition shingle roof. It has six round fluted columns, with inverted bell shape caps, the base of the columns and the front steps are of marble slabs. There is a balcony which extends across the front of the house, the iron railings used on this balcony were imported from England. ~he interior walls are plastered and papered. The floors are of a heart of pine flooring. It has five exterior chimneys. There are four French windows and a fanlight to each front floor. The transoms to each door contains twelve cut glass panes, which are reputed to have cost thirty five dollars each. The wooden material used in the construction of this building was selected and prepared by the slaves. The marble used was also quarried from this plantation.


Mr. Walker Reynolds owned thirteen thousand acres of land, and three or four hundred slaves. He operated a saw mill by water power, a gin by horse power, also a spinning room, where the clothes, used by the slaves were made. He manufactured the iron used on his plantation. The following outhouses remain intact, and in good condition; the chicken house, milk house, bath, gin, smoke the carriage house, the old kitchen, and servants quarters.

The family grave yard is about one fourth of a mile, east of the house and contains the tombs of the following: Hannah E. Reynolds, the wife of Walker E. Reynolds. Born 1799; Died 1871. The following inscription is on the west wall of a one room tomb in this grave yard. “This monument is erected by a bereaved husband and dedicated to the memory of Mrs, Epsy Reynolds who departed this life on the 13th, day of September in the year 1839, in the 31st, year of her age. She was the daughter of Churchill and Mary Gibson, late of Monroe County, Georgia. Her mother Mrs. Gibson departed this life July 6, 1835, and her father November 14, 1838. Mrs. Reynolds was born in Warren County, Georgia on the 28th, of August in the year.1809 and was married to Walker Reynolds on the 13th, day of April 1826~ At the time of her death she left an only child, Thomas H. Reynolds, then in the 12th, year of his age. “May that son whenever his eye shall rest on this inscription, remember the fond solicitude of his dying mother, and may that remembrance set his heart on virtue and fix his thoughts on Heaven.” This home was used in the filming the Birth of a Nation.”


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TAPESTRY OF LOVE SERIES: Three Books in One (Kindle Edition)

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About Donna R Causey

Donna R. Causey, resident of Alabama, was a teacher in the public school system for twenty years. When she retired, Donna found time to focus on her lifetime passion for historical writing. She developed the websites www.alabamapioneers and All her books can be purchased at and Barnes & Noble. She has authored numerous genealogy books. RIBBON OF LOVE: A Novel Of Colonial America (TAPESTRY OF LOVE) is her first novel in the Tapestry of Love about her family where she uses actual characters, facts, dates and places to create a story about life as it might have happened in colonial Virginia. Faith and Courage: Tapestry of Love (Volume 2) is the second book and the third FreeHearts: A Novel of Colonial America (Book 3 in the Tapestry of Love Series) Discordance: The Cottinghams (Volume 1) is the continuation of the story. . For a complete list of books, visit Donna R Causey

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  1. I wonder is walker Reynolds was related to the Rev jeremiah and james sanders walker? My 6th ggf and his brother. Dissenters who risked it all to spread the Baptist church.

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