When you’re pretty much stuck inside by winter’s snow and cold, looking at the same walls day after day can become dreary. When most of the occasional activities that do get you out of the house are cancelled by the pandemic, it can get even worse.
One way I cope with the boredom is to appreciate the history of those walls that surround me. The main section of our house dates to around 1835, and as I look around I am literally immersed in the past.
Right now I’m in my office, which originally was a small main floor bedroom. My computer desk is a reproduction antique armoire, tucked in the room’s northwest corner. To my right is a large window, from a couple of feet above the floor to near the 10-foot high ceiling. It grants me a clear view to the north and east, up U.S. 127.
I can contemplate the same scene 145 years ago. The road was little more than a dirt path, a part of the old Fort Wayne to Detroit Road. After a snowfall like we had Monday night the trail would have been pretty well obliviated, and if there was any traffic at all it would have been a horse-drawn sleigh. Actually, even as late as the 1920’s this section of U.S. 127 was still only a gravel road.
There are two panes of glass at eye level in this window. One is obviously a modern replacement, and is as clear as can be. The other may well be original from 1835, as it is wavy and rippled with many imperfections. I wonder at the difficulties the builders encountered in getting it here through the Great Black Swamp.
To my left is another window, overlooking our back yard and the field behind it. In the distance is the line of woods along the Beaver Creek. It is a beautiful, calming view, especially at sunset on a clear day.
The house is situated on a sandy ridge, and Beaver Creek played a major role in how our home came to be. It was built for Judge John Perkins, who founded the little town of Pulaski, originally named Lafayette. I often think about John, who was an amazing man. He was an initial circuit judge of old Williams County, long before Defiance County was detached, and he first lived in old Fort Defiance before venturing into the wilderness.
About ten years after coming to old Williams County he established Pulaski along Beaver Creek, first building a log cabin near the north edge of the town and then about four years later having our brick house constructed. He built a mill dam across the creek behind the house, and the remains of that stone dam can still be seen today. The mill itself was downstream.
I love my office because it is basically unchanged from when the house was constructed. Until we rewired the house this room never even had electricity. The window frames, baseboard and door – even the door lock and hinges – are all original.
Adjacent to my office is the formal parlor. It, too, never had electricity and retains the original woodwork and hardware. It is the last room we have not yet fully restored, although repair of the water damaged ceiling is the only major work remaining. It serves as my library, and provides storage and a meeting room for my business. It even has a beautiful five-legged dining table that was left with the house. We believe the table may have been placed in our home’s dining room before that room was finished, as I had to disassemble it to move it to the parlor. Now it will serve as a meeting and work table for my publishing business
Some 1800s furniture had remained in the parlor until we purchased the house. The same family had owned the property since 1869, and they wished to keep that furniture so it did not go with the house.
I often imagine the family and social gatherings that took place in that parlor. It was the formal room, where visitors were entertained. It still retains the hole for a pipe from a wood burning stove, which would have made that room cozy on a cold winter’s day. Originally the house was heated by two fireplaces, one of them in the basement which served as the original kitchen. I imagine the parlor’s outlet for a wood stove was installed when the house was expanded in 1869.
So far I have shared my thoughts on only those two rooms, and I can write as much or more about the history imbued in each of the others. As you can see, I have plenty to keep my imagination stoked as I wait out these frigid winter months.
Don Allison is an author, historian and retired editor of The Bryan Times. He can be reached at www.fadedbanner.com