Fire reveals hidden treasure about Milhouse home ‘If these walls could talk’

Joyce M. Searson, Publisher

The old saying, ‘If these walls could talk,’ could be said about the beautiful old historical home of Sammie Milhouse in the Hunters Chapel Community that was destroyed by fire on April 24, 2012.

Sammie, a well known plumber in the Bamberg Community, lost everything he owned except the clothes he was wearing that morning.

“I lost all my belongings, my family pictures, clothes, furniture…everything. I am just so thankful that I was not home when the fire occurred, because I would probably not be here today,” he said.

Little did Sammie know that when he went back to the charred remains of what used to be his home the next day, the treasure and secret that he was about to discover.

As he was walking around looking through the ashes and debris, he looked up at the brick wall that was still standing and noticed something in between what was left of the badly burned studs just above his bedroom window.

“I could not tell exactly what it was…I even thought that it was money…but the closer I got to it, I realized that it was some kind of papers nailed to the wall…It was almost like it was just waiting on me to find it.”

When Sammie was finally able to get it down, it was a letter hand written by the man who built the house in November of 1948, along with a Bamberg Herald newspaper dated November 25, 1948, a News and Courier dated December 2, 1948 and a News and courier dated December 4, 1948.

Sammie said it was amazing that the letter and newspapers were hardly damaged by the fire because everything else around them was destroyed.

The letter which was written by Lt. Colonel Andrew Burbidge Padgett stated that he built the house in 1948 for his father, Lemuel M. Padgett, and his mother, Alma Getsinger Padgett. The contactor was Charles Rentz, III. It also listed the individual carpenters: Donald Nettles, Lonnie Ayer, Dick Rhoad, J.C. Smoak, Jr., G. H. Smith, Edward E. Smyly, Furman Smyly and H. H. Blummel or Bessinger. The painters were I. L. Ratterle, Perry Johnson and Henry Jordan.

Lt. Colonel Padgett had nailed this letter along with the three newspapers to the wall during its construction.

Colonel Lemuel M. Padgett was retired from the Army and his wife, Alma Padgett, taught high school in Bamberg.

Lester and Dorothy Moulder purchased the home from the Padgett's in 1966. The Moulders relocated to Bamberg from south Florida with the help of Dr. Norris J. Knoy, who was like family to the Moulders.

Ironically, the Moulders only lived in the house for three years, because Dorothy Moulder was badly burned in a fire while living there.

Sammie and his wife, the late Reverend Betty Milhouse, purchased the home from the Moulders in the late 60’s. The Milhouse's lived in the house for over 45 years.

Back in those days it was a tradition for contractors and carpenters to sign their names somewhere in the house during construction…But to find a handwritten letter and three newspapers from the time it was built is an even greater find.

Sammie says he is not sure whether he will rebuild or just buy something else.

“That house has a lot of memories…I am not sure what I am going to do yet. I will just have to wait and see.”

Yes, because of a fire that destroyed a 60 year-old home, its walls were allowed to talk and reveal a part of history.