Daily Archives: September 11, 2022

The oldest house

Farmhouse with Red Maple

I have mentioned several times over the history of this blog how rural and sparsely populated this area is.  In fact, until just last year, we were the only county in the state that didn’t even have a stoplight…and we were proud of it.

But times change. 

This was brought home to me last week as I pulled out of our driveway and drove down our short road.  I noticed a new house being built.  Well, I knew it was being built; it’s a former neighbor who is moving back to the area.  We’re happy as they were good neighbors. 

This set me to thinking about all the new houses that have cropped up since we moved here over 35 years ago.  At that time there were only six houses on the whole two and a half mile road.  Now there are twelve.  Yeah, I know, not many but still doubled. 

This led me to reflect upon which house was the oldest house.  And…it’s OURS! 

When we bought this house at auction (that is a lot of money to spend at the drop of a hammer), it was in the position where it could have been rented out and run into the ground in about ten years, or someone could put some money into it and fix it up.  We chose to do the latter.  We had been looking for a place such as this for over a year.  We could either find a house in the country with no property, or property with no house.  Despite what the Hallmark channel would have you believe, it’s difficult to find a nice old home in the country.  Still a desirable goal but increasingly scarce.

The road out front was gravel (since paved).  We do have city water but it had only been in for about three months which is probably why there wasn’t too much competition for the home (few people knew about the city water which would have made the property more valuable.)  It’s also only a few miles from the state’s largest natural recreation area, a desirable place.  But it’s the setting that everyone always comments on as they drive up.  The house sits in the middle of the property.  We found a cornerstone that dates it to 1883 but I think it’s probably about forty years older.  Probably an original land grant, several of which we saw when we were in the market. 

The front of the house is log with layers of clapboard, insulation, and siding on the outside, and lath and plaster, new drywall inside.  The walls are about a foot thick which makes for a very quiet home.  I’ll regale you with all our adventures in remodeling a house this old some other time.

I’ve often reflected on why someone would build a house in the middle of the property rather than on the road with easier access.  The road used to kick up lots of dust but this was before automobiles.  Probably because the house site is flat with several close water sources – creeks, dug wells, springs, etc.  I have also noticed over the years that we found many pottery shards and Indian artifacts, chips, etc.  This may have been a dwelling site long before the country was settled.  The attraction of water sources, abundant wildlife, a large river a few miles away would have been the same for native Americans as they were for settlers.

This also led me to reflect on the house numbering system.  (I had a lot of time to think on the drive that morning.)  There are some places in Japan where the house numbering system is based on the age of the dwelling.  The first house on the block is number 1, the second house on the block is number 2, etc.  That is totally confusing for a person who was raised in the Midwest where roads are laid out in grids, usually of a mile.  How does anyone find a house in the Japanese system?  Do people go around and around the block until they spot the desired number? 

I am not an historian but I do enjoy learning how a community or area got settled.  It reminds me of Pete Hammill’s book Downtown: My Manhattan, Harriette Simpson Arnow’s Flowering of the Cumberland, and other similar stories.  Who came first?  What was it like then?  Why was this area selected? I’m sure that your local library, county museum, or historical society can direct you to information on the settling of your own locale.

Anyway, these are some random thoughts I had on a little trip to town the other day.