Participants in this year's Franklin County Historic Homes and Gardens Tour sponsored by the Person Place Preservation Society (April 18-19, 2015) will have the opportunity to visit the home of Anne Pauline Smith, a pioneer home extension agent in North Carolina. The home and grounds reflect Ms. Smith's long-term professional interest in home beautification and landscape design.
Anne Pauline was born in Franklin County in 1890, the daughter of Cleora Hale and Edward Barrett Smith. Her mother taught school and her father worked as a house painter. Cleora Smith in 1906 purchased an empty lot on Cedar Street, probably with a view toward building a home on it. She died in 1909, however, and the following year Edward Smith and his two children, Anne Pauline and Clifford, were boarding in a house on Spring Street. It is likely that Edward Smith built his modest two-story home on Cedar Street soon thereafter.
Anne Pauline attended local schools and became a substitute teacher in the Louisburg Graded School while she was still a teenager. She attended East Carolina Teachers Training School during the summer of 1912 and subsequently taught school at Seven Paths. A new movement in agricultural improvement, however, changed Anne Pauline's life.
As a result of the Smith-Lever Act, passed by the United States Congress in 1914, the state of North Carolina developed a robust agricultural extension program. Local and state agents helped farmers improve productivity and farm women learn new homemaking skills. Even before the act had been ratified, Anne Pauline spent a summer organizing a local tomato canning club for girls. Soon, Mrs. Jane Simpson McKimmon, the director of home extension activities in North Carolina, hired Anne Pauline as Franklin County's first home demonstration agent. She flourished in the position. In 1922, Mrs. McKinnon tapped Smith to supervise extension work in the Tidewater District (later re-named the Northeastern District). Later based at North Carolina State College in Raleigh, she continued to work in this field until her retirement in 1949.
Partly because of her family's modest circumstances and her father's drinking problem, Anne Pauline put her career and security ahead of personal happiness. Engaged to Frank Oliver Alford, a dentist, for decades, she refused to marry him until 1947. Alford had grown up on a farm at Seven Paths. Although he established a dental practice in Charlotte in 1928, he retained farmland in Franklin County.
Both before and after her marriage to Frank Alford, Anne Pauline enhanced her family home, employing ideas she learned through her professional work. She made additions to the rear of the house, divided it into apartments, and replaced the wraparound front porch with a handsome two-story portico featuring both Doric and Ionic columns. In the late 1950s, she purchased more than twenty sections of antique iron fencing and had it installed along Cedar Street and on the south side of her lot. She developed a small formal garden with a seating area in front of the entrance to her apartment on the south side of the house. She and Dr. Alford divided their time between Charlotte and Franklin County. She died in 1970; Dr. Alford lived until 1983.
Published in The Franklin Times on April 9, 2015.
Maury York is director of the Tar River Center for History and Culture at Louisburg College. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He wishes to acknowledge information contained in the finding aid for the Smith-Alford Papers at the North Carolina State Archives and in Mama Learned Us to Work: Farm Women in the New South (UNC Press, 2002), by Lu Ann Jones.
Photo of the Smith-Alford House by Drucilla H. York.