Friday, March 10, 2006

Old house musings - Mystery/History is fun

Saturday, we're going to a barn-raising.
Steve has been wanting a garage since we moved to this house. We actually paid way too much for an architect to design us one to go with the house when we first moved in, but ended up not being very satisfied with the design, and didn't want to throw any more money at that same architect to get it right.

We had told our friends that when we built our garage/carriage house, we would have a big barn-raising party. One friend said, "I'll be there to dance at your barn-raising." Alas, he won't. We lost him to mental illness that resulted in his death. I still say that Ken is the reason that we haven't yet built our barn...he can't be there to dance. We still miss him.

Steve went to one of the smaller local home shows last month and stumbled across a company that sells/builds timber frame barn kits. He really liked the looks of the options, and we have met with the builder and are waiting on his quote. They are hosting a barn raising tomorrow, so we're going to go watch how it is done. They will have food, but we'll probably take a picnic lunch anyway. Should be a perfect day for it. I'll take my knitting and some of my reading and figure out when I get there which works better for me. Looks like we may be having a barn raising ourselves sometime afterall. I know Ken will be there in spirit.

On other house related news, this past week Steve and I took a walk around the neighborhood and discovered another missing piece in our house's history. We have the full abstract on the property, and despite the various uses the house went through over the last 116 years, we are only the third/fourth owners. The house was built in 1890 (according to the tax records) by Harvey Stover (bio here: The brick mansion on the electric line is our house) . His widow, Dora, lost the house to the bank over repeated refinances in the early 30's. In about 1935, the house was purchased from the bank by the Carlson family. The daughter of the family married a man named Novotney (so she is kind of number 2 and 3, hence 3rd/4th), and that is who we bought the house from. Yet, our connection has always been closer to the Stovers. We have tried to be faithful to the character of the house they built, despite all its multiple uses over the ensuing years. When Dora lost the house, the court records said that she did not attend the hearing. We wondered if she had died during the process, or just gave up, or perhaps was unable to because of illness. We always suspected that the family members were buried nearby, and felt that a public cemetery a couple of blocks from the house was the logical resting place, but had never taken the opportunity to investigate it further. I had checked cemetery records at the public library, but the directory for the cemetery in question did not list the Stovers, and that was part of our rationale for not pursuing it further.

Yet, old cemeteries have always interested me. Steve and I took advantage of the nice weather earlier this week and included Bethel Cemetery on our walk. Lo and behold, we found the graves of Jacob and Elizabeth Stover, and of Harvey and Dora. Even though they were not listed in the directory, their graves are in that cemetery. We found that Harvey died in 1926, and Dora in 1941 - several years after she lost the house. We still wonder why she was absent from the hearings, but at least we now know she didn't die during the process. Some things we will never know, but these are some of the interesting mysteries to explore when you own an old house.

So, is it weird that I feel such a connection to people I've never met? I am even considering taking some irises or daylilies from the house over to plant on their graves. I doubt that anyone else remains to even visit them. I still wonder where Harvey, Jr. - who died at 18 months - is buried. Perhaps we overlooked a small tombstone. A reason for another visit?

Okay, back to work now.