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Celebrating 175 years on Pioneer Day Aug. 24

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, two of the landmarks in Hillsboro have reached their 175th anniversary this year – the Scott House and the Highland House.

As a last-minute reminder, Highland County Pioneer Day is this Saturday, Aug. 24, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Scott House Mansion at 338 West Main Street in Hillsboro. The event, organized by the Highland County Historical Society, will begin with a pancake breakfast/brunch from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Scott House Mansion tours will be held from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. A bake sale and competition will also begin at 9 a.m. and will run through 2 p.m. The Kona Ice truck will be selling refreshments from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Throughout the day, Grassy Run Historical Society will be sharing demonstrations on a variety of pioneer Appalachian skills, including: rope making; quill writing; cooking; tin punch; weaving; archery; blacksmithing; hunting; quilting; painting; and camping.

The Highland County Antique Machinery Club will host an antique machinery show, featuring antique tractors and farm machinery (corn shellers, grain hammer mills and so forth). Booths highlighting the history of Highland County communities will also be set up. Area Scouts will be volunteering to raise the flag and assist with the setup of primitive camping.

It promises to be a fun day, and Saturday’s forecast at the moment says partly cloudy with a high of 77, which sounds like fabulous weather conditions to me.

With that programming note out of the way, let’s spend some time looking at the history of the Scott House and Highland House (it’ll probably take more than one offering). A lot of the research comes by way of our good friends Jean Wallis, Bob Hodson and John Kellis, all members of the Highland County Historical Society.

The Scott House, a three-story abode currently owned by the Highland County Historical Society, was completed circa 1844 by Hillsboro attorney William Scott. The architect of the Federal and Georgian home, as speculated by many, was Christopher Arthur, well-known as the architect of the Highland County Courthouse.

The structure’s history is as interesting for its architectural elements as for the many uses over its 175-year journey. The mansion features an elegant widow’s walk surrounded by a wooden railing measuring 30 feet on each side. That portion of the roof features a cupola that provides access to the roof. The home for years was situated among a stately grove of trees that sat behind the gates and wrought iron fence along West Main Street.

It was built in what was known as “Log Cabin Country,” even as it now looks out over the downtown areas of Hillsboro. One of the largest sweet gum trees around still stands at the west entrance of the property along West Main Street.

Just a few blocks away, the Highland House, the two-story brick house at 151 East Main Street in Hillsboro, is the home of the Highland County Historical Society. It has a long history dating back to its first occupancy in 1845.

Its history began in 1840 when Henry and Ann Maria Boyd Turner of Warren County sold the east half of In-lot 10 in Hillsborough to Peter Leake Ayres. During the years 1842-1845, Ayres erected the two-story brick house.

The bricks for the house were burned on the back of the lot. The walls of the original part of the building are supported by stone pillars embedded in the ground of the basement. The foundation is of quarried limestone.

The original building contained nine rooms and a large entrance hall. It was a Virginia I beam house typical of many of the houses found in Highland County during that time period.

Ayres lived only four years after completion of his new home. He died in December 1849. His sons Robert H. and James S. were the executors of his estate. He was also survived by his wife Clarissa and several other children.

We’ll talk more about the Scott House and Highland House, but let’s pause for now and we’ll continue next time.

Steve Roush is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees, a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

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