Rev. Sidney D. Bumpass

The Greek Revival home at 114 South Mendenhall Street in Greensboro, North Carolina, was the fulfillment of a dream for 39-year-old Rev. Sidney D. Bumpass. A painting of the Parthenon in his father-in-law’s home had inspired him to build a home in the ancient style, but the project had to wait until he was no longer riding the preaching circuit. The chance came in early 1847, when Sidney began his new duties as Presiding Elder of the Salisbury District in the North Carolina Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South. At the same time he became one of the first trustees of the newly opened Methodist school, Greensboro Female College (now Greensboro College). As a trustee, he could move his pregnant wife and two young daughters from New Bern, NC, into a dormitory on the “College Hill” campus until he could buy land and build the house. On Oct. 12, 1847, he bought two acres from College trustees for $122. According to family legend, the money for the land and house came from the settlement of his father’s estate that same year. Before year’s end, construction began on the two-story, eight room, red brick structure whose crowning glory was a row of four white Doric columns, tapered at the top, to support the portico roof. The columns and portico were the reverend’s salute to the Parthenon. Two wooden outbuildings (now long gone) — a smokehouse/kitchen and a carriage house — stood on the northwest side of the house. The date of completion is lost to history, but the Bumpass family probably moved in during the spring of 1848. On Oct. 26, 1849, Sidney Bumpass purchased an additional two acres adjacent on the west from the college trustees for $280, on which he planted an apple orchard.

The Weekly Message Begins

Events between 1851 and 1865 ensured Sidney and Frances Bumpass a place in southern Methodist history. In May 1851, he began publication of the state’s first Methodist newspaper, The Weekly Message. On the masthead an engraving of a white dove represented the Holy Spirit. The slogan below the dove read, “Everything on earth, well-pondered, leads the soul to heaven.” Neither a newspaper nor a literary magazine, Bumpass omitted, as corrupting influences, partisan politics and secular fiction. He wanted the paper to accomplish two things: to rebuke the insolent strangers who jeered Conference clergy as unlettered yokels and to “build up” Methodist institutions by teaching people “to love and appreciate their ministers, and above all, to care for their own souls.”

Because Rev. Bumpass’ printing press had not yet arrived, the first edition was printed for free by his friends, Swaim and Sherwood, publishers of the town’s Whig newspaper, The Greensboro Patriot. The paper was offered at $1.50 per year and drew enough subscribers to begin regular production in October 1851. From October 1851 until January 1854, it was printed on Bumpass’ press by job printers S. W. James in Greensboro.

Sidney Bumpass lived to produce only eight issues of his newsletter. After serving the North Carolina Conference for 16 years, he succumbed to typhoid fever in his wife’s arms on Dec. 12, 1851, only a week after the disease had claimed the Bumpass’ 3-1/2 year-old son, Terrelius. On his deathbed, Sidney had secured Frances’ promise to “conduct” his newspaper after he was gone.

For the first year, she was the paper’s “proprietress,” with Conference minister James Jamieson succeeding her late husband as editor. In November 1852, however, Providence left the paper in her control when, for reasons unknown, the ministerial brotherhood granted it ambiguous status—endorsed, but not staffed by the Conference. Without hesitation, she seized the unprecedented opportunity and become the first southern woman to edit a denominational family paper—a position until then reserved for clergy.

Published for 20 years, at its peak The Weekly Message boasted more than 3,000 readers from the east coast of the United States to the mission fields of California and China. Although the meager profits helped defray household expenses, editing was primarily what Frances called “my beloved work left to me by my dear husband.” Trained as a teacher before her marriage, the widow Bumpass kept food on the table by operating a small elementary school in her home from early 1852 until sometime in the 1870s. By 1856, she had moved the press to the first floor of her house and moved her own room to the second floor. She printed The Weekly Message herself, with the help of black apprentices, college girls, and her daughters.

Unlike most southern religious newspapers, The Weekly Message continued publication throughout the Civil War, with a brief hiatus between May and August 1865.

Civil War Comes to the Bumpass House

After North Carolina seceded from the union in May 1861, Frances Bumpass was cut off from northern publications and most of the southern Methodist papers suspended operation. With such gaps to fill, the content of the newsletter became more eclectic. Between 1861 and 1865, The Weekly Message reported battle news and casualties, ran letters from soldiers and chaplains, published Sunday school materials for adults, and reported news of revivals in Lee’s Army. Bumpass’ wartime editorials boosted morale, warned against spiritual complacency, urged abstinence from alcohol, and reveal Frances’ belief that God was testing the South.

Lee’s surrender on April 15, 1865, brought the war’s end directly to Frances Bumpass’ doorstep. During the next few months, an occupation force of more than 1,000 Federal troops moved into Greensboro to preserve the armistice. Sometime in May 1865, men in Sherman’s Army, probably from 3rd Division of the XXIII Corps of the Army of the Ohio, under the command of General Jacob Doldon Cox, encamped in the orchard behind the Bumpass house, with two regimental officers housed in a second-floor bedroom. Colorful stories about the soldiers at the house emphasize Mrs. Bumpass’ piety and kindness to Confederate and Yankee alike.

Changes at “The Old Home”

Frances Bumpass at midlifeThe year 1871 marked a new phase at 114 S. Mendenhall St. After younger daughter Duella married a Confederate veteran and college professor named Robert Preston Troy in August, and son Robah began his ministerial career in Raleigh and Goldsboro, NC, only Frances and her eldest daughter, Eugenia (born in 1844), were left at “The Old Home.” On Sept. 28, 1871, two days after her 52nd birthday, Frances Bumpass laid her newspaper down and devoted herself to the founding of a Woman’s Foreign Mission Society (WFMS) for southern Methodists. She was among a small band of determined women whose six-year campaign convinced local congregations all over the South of the need for such a society. “Ladies, arise!” she told them. “Too long we have waited in our appointed sphere!” When the General Conference of clergy approved the WFMS in 1878, Frances Bumpass became its first corresponding secretary for the North Carolina Conference (later the Western North Carolina Conference), a post she held until her death. She also organized a branch of the WFMS and founded a children’s mission society, the “Bright jewels,” at her home church, the West Market Street Methodist. Her work as editor and missionary advocate earned her the coveted appellations “Saint” and “Mother in Israel.”

On July 18, 1872, Frances, Eugenia, and Robah Bumpass deeded a tract of land adjacent to their property on the south, to Duella and the Rev. Robert P. Troy, on which the couple built a house. By 1888, seven Troy grandchildren, four girls and three boys, had come along to delight the widow Bumpass in her old age.

Eugenia BumpassFor 26 years Eugenia supported her widowed mother by teaching science and mathematics at Greensboro Female College. After Frances Bumpass’ death at age 78 on May 8, 1898, Eugenia Bumpass inherited “The Old Home,” according to the terms of her father’s will.

Eugenia Expands the House

Uncomfortable living alone, and after trying various alternatives, in 1911 67-year-old Eugenia remodeled the home to make room for several boarders. She increased the total living space to its present size, approximately 4,400 square feet, by expanding the attic, adding a five-window dormer over the expanded front portico, adding several bedrooms, and expanding the west wing to include an indoor kitchen and sun porch. At Duella Bumpass’ death in 1915, her seven children inherited the Troy house and land next door to the Bumpass house. On Sept. 13, 1916, six of the Troy siblings sold their home to their brother Melville for $10. Sometime in 1917 or 1918, Alla, Lota, and Ethel Troy accepted their Aunt Eugenia’s offer to let them move in with her and pay rent, in exchange for board. The remaining sister, Nina, joined them after her stint as a Methodist missionary in China. When Eugenia Bumpass died at age 77 in 1922, Allah Troy inherited the Bumpass property, and the four Troy sisters lived the rest of their lives in what became known locally as the “Bumpass-Troy House.” Brothers Arthur (living in New York) and Melville Troy (living in England), who both worked for British-American tobacco companies, relinquished any claims to the house. The middle son, Eugene, had moved to Greenville, SC, where he was the secretary for the YMCA.

As Ethel predicted, the sisters died in the order of their birth, each passing on the home to those remaining—Allah in 1962, Lota in 1963, Nina in 1972, and Ethel in 1975.

Family Ownership Comes to an End

The Rev. Sidney Bumpass’ dream home stayed in his family for 128 years. In 1975, Ethel Troy’s bequest of the house to Greensboro College completed the circle begun by her grandfather’s land purchase more than a century earlier. The College appreciated the home’s historic value, but lacked the funds either to maintain the six apartments in it or to restore it. Looking for a buyer, but loath to yield to land-hungry developers, Greensboro College trustees finally sold the home in 1977 to an Oak Ridge couple, William and Margaret Stevens. With restoration fiscally impossible, the Stevens continued to rent the apartments, thus saving “The Old Home” from the wrecking ball.

Also in 1977, historic preservationists succeeded in getting the Bumpass-Troy House listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Several years later, its entire “College Hill” neighborhood was declared a historic district.

After some years of decay, the house is currently enjoying a secure old age. In April 1992, Charles and Gwen Brown bought it, repaired the structural damage, modernized the kitchen, redecorated and converted the house to a bed and breakfast called “Aunt B’s Troy-Bumpas Inn.”  Dr. John Wimmer and wife Andrea purchased the inn in the early 2000s, renaming it “Andrea’s Troy Bumpas Inn.” The Wimmers oversaw an extensive update to the kitchen, guest room bathrooms, and landscaping. The inn’s third set of innkeepers, Judy and Larry Horn, have owned and operated the inn since 2011.

Hover over the photos below for a caption; click on the photo for a larger view.