First Mayors HouseBlock Number: 42
“FIRST MAYOR’S HOUSE”
by Ginger Todd
Another quilt block was installed at the home of Mike and Kathy Rabb on July 7th, this being Number 42 along the trail. The Rabbs, who reside at 281 South Garden Street, have both, been very active in the Marion downtown revitalization efforts in the last few years. The concept of the Quilt Trail interested them greatly because of their own historic family legacy.
The residence was once the home of James Morris, a local prominent lawyer, the first recorded Mayor of Marion, from 1892-95. Thus, the Rabbs named the block “First Mayor’s House”. Marion was incorporated in 1845, however the great fire of 1894 destroyed most public records, preventing an exact determination of the home’s age. It was most likely constructed before the turn of the century, and is located in Marion’s Historical District.
Mike Rabb’s maternal grandfather, I. Walter Saunders, a local barber, downtown business owner, and charter member of the Marion Fire Department, purchased the home from the elder James Morris in 1923, and raised his family of six children there. Of further historical interest, Mr. Saunders’ grandfather, Isaac Reel (Mike Rabb’s great-great grandfather), was one of the first Sheriffs of McDowell County and a charter member of First Baptist Church on Main Street. The First Baptist Church held its first meeting at Mr. Reel’s home in 1914. A portrait of Mr. Reel hangs in the parlor of the church in his memory and on the wall of the McDowell County Sheriff’s Office.
Mike purchased the home from his grandmother’s estate in 1973, and has completed a restoration project since that time. The Rabbs are excited to now be a part of the Quilt Trail family and to name the pattern they chose to honor a significant part of Marion’s history.
The 3x3 foot block first resembles a kaleidoscope of colors and shapes. However, it actually contains a total of sixteen small houses, which signify the history of the house and the Rabbs profession of real estate. If you look closely you will see two upright houses at the bottom and two in the middle, one to the left and right of the center pinwheel. The others are identical and located around the border in different positions. The Rabbs wanted something colorful, and the block, located on their front upstairs balcony, certainly compliments the various color tones of their home. Mike Lucas, who painted the block with the aid of Martha McCauley and Kathy Brendle, also installed it. Janet Williams, treasurer of the Quilt Trail committee, presented a framed Certificate of Authenticity to the Rabbs.