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The Beaver House: Fried chicken with a side of history and haunts

John Alexander McDougald, former Mayor of Statesboro, built the big white house that sits at 121 South Main Street in 1911, and it hasn't left his lineage since. Now the Beaver House Restaurant, his granddaughter-in-law and great grandson, Sue and Clay Beaver, serve a boarding house style meal there seven days a week.
The John Alexander McDougald house at 121 South Main Street in Statesboro, GA

While it's currently one of our main business thoroughfares, South Main Street along the Blue Mile was a well-to-do residential street in the early 1900s. One hint of those days gone by is the beautiful white house, just across from the library, that holds the locally famous Beaver House Restaurant.

The house was built in 1911 by John Alexander McDougald (b. 1864 and d. 1926), who like others along South Main, found success in agriculture. On the National Register of Historic Places, the house is described as Neoclassical with Corinthian columns out front and balustrade porches on the first and second levels. The exterior is composed of cypress weatherboards, while the interior features heart pine. Construction was supervised by Benjamin H. Olliff, though the architect is unknown. 

The John A. McDougald House in 1912. Photo Courtesy of Beaver Family

McDougald had married Pamella "Mella" Clapp (or Permella Klarpp -- spellings vary) in North Carolina in the mid-1880s before coming to Bulloch County.

John and Mella had seven children together: Walter Edwin in 1886; Dougald Worth in 1888; Sara Permella in 1892, who was the first of the children born in Statesboro; John Sidney in 1894; Donald Outland in 1896; Annie Laurie in 1900 (more on her later); and Ruth Elizabeth in 1904.

Here's an excerpt on John Alexander from the family history books:

In 1890, McDougald moved his family from North Carolina to Statesboro and became a woodsman. Within a year he became a partner and later senior member in the turpentine still McDougald-Outland. It was with his cooperation that on the still’s timberland in 1901, Dr. Charles Holmes Herty, noted chemist, perfected the Herty Turpentine Cup that revolutionized the naval stores industry. McDougald also ran a farm North of Statesboro.

Mr. McDougald served on the City Council in 1908, 1909, and 1910. He was elected Mayor of Statesboro in 1911 and ran unopposed in 1912 for a second term. During his service in city government, Mr. McDougald played a large role in establishing the Board of Education, jail, fire department, paved streets, and the water, electric, and sewage systems. He was also a founder of the Presbyterian Church, the Sea Island Bank, and Georgia Southern College, being one the largest contributors in securing a 300 acre site for the college in 1907.

John Alexander McDougald died at home in 1926.

The staircase leading up to the second floor bedrooms -- note the detail in the construction

It was his daughter Ruth who went on to marry Roy William Beaver (b. 1903 and d. 1961) and start the namesake lineage we associate with the house today. When Mella died in 1941, the house became Ruth's. Roy and Ruth's son, John William Beaver, married Sue McCrae, and together they had three sons, Hank, West, and Clay.

John's sisters Jane and Ann were living in the house prior to 1979. John bought his sisters' shares of the home that year, after which he and Sue took on the work of preserving the family estate. They were known for Sunday dinners at the house, and in 1989, they opened their home to the public, serving boarding house meals as The Beaver House Restaurant. That brings us up to the present.

A dining room near the kitchen, at the back right of the house

Currently, Clay Beaver and his mother -- affectionately known to all, he says, as "Miss Sue" -- are carrying on the family legacy, serving lunch at the restaurant seven days a week. They have a full Southern menu each day, which they still serve boarding house style. They use longtime family recipes, many of which came from a woman named Jessie who worked for Miss Sue's family in Woodbury, Georgia.

It's clearly a labor of love for these two, as they're both in the restaurant every single day. He handles the cooking, and she handles the books. They are perhaps best known for their fried chicken, which they source from Claxton Poultry.

The daily menu board in the main hallway that leads from the front door to the kitchen at the back of the house

"Mom and Dad started ordering from them 34 years ago, and we haven't stopped," Clay said. (It's not his personal favorite dish, though -- understandably so, as he's the one who cuts every chicken fried in the restaurant.)

In addition to the chicken, you'll often find other home-cooked favorites like country fried steak, pork roast with barbeque sauce, rice and gravy, mashed potatoes, black-eyed peas (Clay's favorite -- over rice), pole beans, squash, macaroni and cheese, fresh sliced tomatoes, biscuits, and more. Of course, they don't forget about dessert; try my personal favorite since about 1995: the chocolate fudge pie.

The lunch offering on the day of my visit -- you can ask for seconds!

For now, Clay says they are sticking with lunch service (11am-2:30pm, Monday to Sunday) and the occasional special event, while keeping their focus on their customers and striving to give them a quality experience every time. He has a daughter, two nephews, and three nieces, and it remains to be seen who may carry on the family tradition going forward.

A full plate

According to Clay, though, the recipes are not the only pieces of family history still kicking around the house. The ghosts of seven family members are there, too.

While the house was under construction in 1909, Annie, the next to youngest child of the McDougalds, was playing in a tree on the property near where Pizza Hut is today. She fell out of the tree and broke her neck, later developing and dying from pneumonia. She was only 8. She's there, and Clay has seen her twice.

Her mother Mella, wearing a white dress, comes in through the back door in the mornings, and her husband John Alexander seems to inhabit the hallway outside the master bedroom upstairs.

Roy and Ruth are there, too. In fact, Clay says two workers quit after seeing his Grandaddy Roy's ghost. (Roy Beaver was a commanding presence even in life -- a large man standing 6'6".) Two of Ruth's brothers, men who died in their prime, also make appearances in their waistcoats. 

Family photos and John William Beaver's bronzed baby shoes

"People think they're here to protect the house," Clay said. "Maybe they were stirred up because the restaurant opened."

Clay describes all of the spirits as "just a presence," though, and says they don't cause any harm or bring any evil -- just a little mischief. But the experiences he, his family, and employees have had were real as can be.

"If I could make these stories up, I wouldn't be selling chicken," he joked.

Clay said his dad was not particularly keen on entertaining the idea of the spirits in the house, and interestingly, since his death in 2002, their activity seems to have calmed down.


Whether you're keen on the spirits or not, I can promise you that a visit to the Beaver House will be a memorable culinary, architectural, and historical experience. It's remarkable that a house like this one, built at the turn of the 20th century on a now valuable piece of property, has never once left its family's hands or hearts.

Though Statesboro has grown up around it, the McDougald-Beaver house remains a beautiful reminder of not only our past but also the value in preserving it.

Read the full history of the home and family here.