Treasures in an Old Box

By
Larry Pearce
1/2/04

Sometime in 1995 or 1996, my father, Ralph Pearce, who has since passed away, gave me a dark brown cardboard gift box, about 9 X 13 inches and 1 ½ inches deep. The sides are decorated with vases and the top contains a colorful scene, distinctly Mexican, complete with haciendas, cactuses, three men and a donkey. One man is asleep under a sombrero, another is playing his guitar, while the third looks like he is on his way to the market with his burro. Dad said he was housecleaning and though I’d like to have it. Inside were many interesting items from the past, some of which changed my life. There were hair clippings from my childhood; I was a platinum blonde, or “toe head,” as they used to say. There were old school pictures and one of my mother and father on their wedding day in 1938. Along with my baby shoes were a miniature fork and spoon that belonged to me as a toddler. I found a four-page typed story about my great-great grandparents marrying in England and coming to America in 1820. I named it “The Original Family Narrative,” and though some of it is surely not accurate, it changed my life forever by focusing a trip I had planned to Great Britain and inspiring me to do genealogical research and writing. It became the first story in this E-Gen series and the centerpiece of my family website. I didn’t pay much attention to the other documents in the box, most of which had fallen into my dad’s hands upon the death of his mother, Bessie Reed Hill Pearce, in 1974, and the settlement of her estate. I’m sure that some of the items aren’t worth much and aren’t too interesting to many people at first glance, but in looking a little closer, they reveal a wealth of information into the lives of our ancestors. I’m referring to documents like the 1933 Financial Statement of the Farmer’s Mutual Fire Insurance Company and the policies purchased in 1941 and 1951 by my Grandfather Wesley H. Pearce (1876-1955) for his farm near Mars [see “Settlement at Pine Creek, Part III”].

But this old box contains much older items, like a string of property deeds that takes us from the sale of Wesley’s farm at Pearce Mill to Allegheny County in 1927 in what is now North Park, north of Pittsburgh [see “Settlement at Pine Creek, Part II”] to the early history of the later farm near Mars [see “The Move to Mars”]. The small amount of money exchanged in the accompanying agreements, given the value of the land today, is hard to comprehend. One agreement dated 1865, in someone’s original hand, outlines the transfer of property from Richard Pearce [b. 1924, my Great-grandfather Charles’ older brother. Richard’s father, also Richard, had died in 1861. The term “Jr.” was reserved for the oldest male grandchild, Richard (b. 1840) son of Ambrose (1814-1874)] to William McKinney [one of the patriarchs of early Pine Township. What was found inside the document will surprise you. But, there are other surprise in store also, some of which we will scan and include, preserving them forever. Come along now as we work our way back in time, starting at the original Pearce farm and Mill at the close of the American Civil War.

The Bicentennial book entitled Township of Pine 1796-1996 contains and entire column of references to the McKinney family, seven to William. One entry says, “He kept a tavern on the old Harmony Road [now Rt. 19, Perry Highway] during the War of 1812” (23). He was also a butcher and tanner in Allegheny Town [Pittsburgh’s North Side today] before inheriting and purchasing 160 to farm in Pine Township. Our source says, “He bought 120 acres in Pine (which later became a portion of North Park) for $6,000 from Richard Pearce” (30). He was also one of the first township commissioners and local postmaster. Today, McKinney Road runs south from Wexford Road then east along the Pine-McCandless Township line until it joins Pearce Mill Road between Marshall Island and the park administration building [originally the Pearce homestead]. The old McKinney barn still stands along the hillside behind Marshall Island Lake. The County used to keep its draft horses there before they automated. The McKinney family produced a woman named Margaret “Maggie,” the wife of McLeod Milligan Pearce, President of Geneva College [see “From Church Pulpit to College Presidency”]. So the relationship between the two families was more than casual. Of the five references to the Pearces, only one is to Richard, one of the heirs to the Pearce Mill and farm, and that refers to the sale of property to William McKinney. The simple 16-line ink document is titled in the upper left-hand corner:
Deed
Richard Pearce
To
William McKinney
1865

In flowery handwriting it starts, “Beginning at corner on road leading from Emmett’s meadow to Pearces Mill thence south . . . “ The Emmett family, to whom the deed refers, also has numerous references in the Bicentennial book and were, like the McKinneys and Pearces, early settlers. Other farms referred to in the deed are: James and Robert Bearagn [sp?], John Emerick [sp?], John Kerr, Kidd and Gibson. The deed ends, “South 89-degrees and 7-minutes East 110 perches to said mill road; thence following middle of said road in southeasterly direction about 50 perches to place of starting.” It also contains a small pencil map with boundaries measured in perches and a reference to Pearce Mill Road in the upper left hand corner.

To my surprise, I discovered inside the deed five department store coupons worth a total of 61 cents: four are yellow in color from Sears, Roebuck, and Co. say, “Pay to the order of Bearer” and “When it is so desired, this check may be returned to apply on any order sent us or may be cashed at any one of our many retails stores or order offices.” The other, greenish, says, “Refund, Pay to the bearer” and “Issued only in amount of less than ten dollars, Montgomery Ward & Co,” I don’t believe the coupons are connected to the land transaction, but rather were small, seemingly worthless souvenirs from another day. They just happened to find their way into the other document in the box.

Another treasure found in the old box is a book entitled Jessie Dyson: A Tale for the Young, by John A. Walker. Both the copyright and inscription dates are 1896. The thin, hard bound 4 ½ by 6 inch book has one beautiful color drawing opposite the title page. The inscription says, “Bessie Hill, Cross Road S. S. 1896, Portia McClintock” and “Do good for evil.” Bessie Hill (1887-1974), my grandmother, Wesley’s wife, would have been just nine years old and perhaps in the fourth grade. Printed at the Thomas Whitaker Bible House in New York, the tale includes the following chapter titles:
• A Brand Plucked from the Burning,
• Jessie’s First Day at the Sunday School,
• Miss Hartley Goes on a Voyage of Discovery,
• Trials and Triumphs, and
• A Thorough Reformation And its Consequences

My grandmother was an avid reader all of her life, and this gem looks well used. The Hill farm was just up over the rise from the Pearce mill and farm, but the Hills were Presbyterians and the Pearces were Methodists [see ” Faith of Our Fathers, Part II”]. In the end Bessie and Wesley were buried in the old churchyard at Crossroads Presbyterian, just a few miles up the road from both family homesteads. This book seems to represent that virtuous life my grandmother led, which symbolizes her quest for knowledge.

Next, I have included here a scan of the invoices used by the Pearce Milling Company, also known as the Pine Creek Roller Mills. I’m a bit surprised to see that the mill had telephone service back then. In the lower left corner we see the name W. C. Pearce. This was the ninth child of my Great-grandfather Charles (1834-1914), who had inherited the mill and farm from our patriarch Richard (1782/5-1861). W.C., as he was called, stood for Wilbert C. [probably also Charles-b.1880].

My Grandfather Wesley bought and/or inherited the surrounding farm. After the mill and farm property was taken over by the County to establish North Park in 1927, Uncle Wilbert stayed on to work for the County as a security guard. He patrolled the grounds on horseback until his retirement, when he and his wife Edith [Datt] traveled back and forth to Florida and other parts of the country. My father told me that his father Wesley had borrowed some money from his brother to buy the new farm near Mars, and Wilbert would visit at least once a year in their camper to pickup a payment but always brought oranges and other good things.

Another slightly different copy of the invoice from Pearce Milling Company, is reprinted in the Pine Township Bicentennial book. Ironically, it is in the form of a receipt to William McKinney, Jr. dated January 6, 1908, for feed and other materials totaling $107.82 (114).

Now the documents get extremely interesting to me. We’re about to survey two deeds dated 1911 and 1912. These are both titled “Articles of Agreement,” but the first is type-written on 8 ½ by 14 inch legal paper riveted in a waxy green cover with my Great-grandfather’s name beautifully inscribed “Chas Pearce” on the outside. The 1912 document is hand written in pencil on lined 8 ½ by 11 inch paper that is held together with a straight pin. The first agreement begins:
Made this first day of March, 1911, between Charles Pearce [my great grandfather], party of the first part, and Wesley H. Pearce [my grandfather], party of the second part, both of McCandless Township, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.
WITNESSETH, that for and in consideration of the sum of $200.00 to be paid as hereinafter mentioned as yearly rentals, that Charles Pearce, party of the first part, doth agree to let unto Wesley H. Pearce, Party of the second part, for farming purposes, the farm which he now occupies containing about 110 acres of land; reserving, however, the brick house except the two rooms adjoining the attached frame building, the use of which he grants unto the party of the second part.

Wesley then agrees to pay all the school and road taxes on the farm AND furnish his parents the following: milk, butter, fruit, and 300 pounds of meat per year. Both parties would share in raising garden vegetables. Wesley is allowed to use Charles’ farm horses but has to provide all the hay and feed they need. Charles agrees to also allow his son full use of any equipment on the farm. The page is signed by both parties, although my grandfather’s first name is hard to read. The witness is A.A. Pearce, who is probably Wesley’s oldest brother, Albert (b.1860). While a general payment schedule is suggested on the first page, on the back is a ledger, hand written in ink that bleeds through to the front. Wesley’s first payment, one-half the total, was due in October, but he paid ahead in smaller increments. After Charles’ and his wife’s coincidental deaths in 1914, Wesley’s payments are recorded by his brother-in-law, D. D. McKelvy, who married his oldest sister, Permelia.

The 1912 agreement contains the signatures of Charles’ youngest sons, Edwin, Wilbert, and Wesley, all of who are probably still involved in the Mill and/or farm. This document begins [some punctuation and capitalization mine]:
The agreement made and entered into this [space] of May 1912 be Charles Pearce, party of the first part, and his sons Edwin N. Pearce, Wesley H. Pearce, and Wilbert C. Pearce, parties of the second part, all of McCandless Township, Allegheny Co., Pa.
WITNESSETH, that the said Charles Pearce, part of the first part, does grant unto parties of the second part, their successors and assigns, a certain share in oil and gas lease on his farm in McCandless Twp., Allegheny Co, Pa. subject to conditions and considerations hereinafter mentioned and described.

Charles credits the Harmony Natural Gas Company that had developed the dozens of wells around Pine and McCandless [see “Settlement at Pine Creek, Part II”] and returned the ones on the Pearce property for a sum of $1,100. He gives each of his three sons a 25 percent share in the development while keeping a quarter-share for himself, charging them each $275. He also sets aside one acre on which the well is located and a right of access. He further spells out the equal share in all pipes, fittings, and appliances associated with the well. I have scanned those values here as attached to the agreement. Charles asks his son Wilbert, who is running the milling operation to which some of the gas goes to drive the stone, to dedicate a half share of his investment to keep the well and lines in repair. The agreement is good for five years or until the well runs dry.

I don’t know when of if the well ran dry. I do know that Charles and his wife died in the spring of 1914 within days of each other and that the mill continued to run on natural gas until it was closed by the County to build North Park in 1927.

At the risk of becoming too personal and invading my great-grandparents’ privacy, I am showing the bill for Charles’ burial expenses. His wife Permelia’s appear to be identical and both were paid in full just three weeks after they died, just four days apart of pneumonia. While itemized bills are the law and custom today, I am surprised to see such a thing from nearly a century ago. What is different are the amounts for such things as embalming, burial suits, casket, etc. One could probably multiple those charge by ten to arrive at today’s expenses. Apparently both were buried in gloves, and members of the family were taken to the cemetery in those 10 carriages.

Also in the box was an itemized list of Charles’ estate expenses, as submitted by his sons, Edwin and Wesley, to the county probate court. His assets include the rent on the farm and mill, property inventory to go to his heirs, and all of 35 cents from sale of household effects. We presume most of this property was given to family by prior arrangement. His total assets were $1, 782 from which, after expenses, the heirs were entitled to $1,095. However, page two lists only eight of his off spring inheriting only $159. My grandfather Wesley is not included but Wilbert is. Could it be that Wesley was given the farm while the mill stayed with the heirs? We’ll learn about that in just a minute. Since Charles died before Permelia, his half of the estate would have gone directly to her. We don’t have her probate record, although a trip to the County courthouse would provide that. It will be interesting in the future to see how the estate was settled. As a side, the mill was given credit for only $24.58 in uncollected bills. That’s a good business record.

According to the beautifully handwritten agreement of 1919, Wesley was not given the farm, or at least the entire farm, at the death of his father. This document suggests that most of the farm and likewise probably the mill remained with all of Charles’ and Permelia’s children, who would have each received a share of rental or profits. This document reads [some punctuation and capitals mine]:
Agreement made and entered into the 8th day of February, 1919, between Albert A. Pearce of Butler, Permelia A. McKelvy, Adda M. Neely, Edwin N. Pearce, Minnie A. Grubbs, Nettie E. Anderson, Wilbur [sp?] C. Pearce, Clarence S. Pearce, [all] of Allegheny Co., Pa., parties of the first part, and Wesley H. Pearce of McCandless Twp., Allegheny Co., Pa., party of the second part.
WITNESSETH, that the said parties of the first part for and in consideration of the sum of $100.00 paid when this agreement is properly signed and an additional $3,600 when the deed is properly executed and delivered, doth grant, bargain, and sell unto said Wesley H. Pearce, party of the second part, 50 acres of land from plat No. 4 of plan of Charles Pearce farm situated in McCandless and Pine Twps. Of Allegheny Co., Penna. bounded and described as follows. . .
And so it continues. The deed mentions the William McKinney , George Miller, and Thompson farms, but then it says, “thence in southwesterly direction along plot No. 3 as conveyed to Wesley H. Pearce by will of Charles Pearce [deceased] to the place of beginning.” This plot, containing 50 acres and 107 p[erches], surveyed by a George H. Graham April 24, 1907, was to include the spring and cistern “now in use.” The document is signed and witnessed by 20 persons, most of whom are the relatives and heirs. Enclosed in the deed is a receipt to Wesley dated June 18, 1919, for $3,635 as payment in full for 49.13 acres of land belonging the heirs of Charles Pearce. It is signed by Wesley’s brother-in-law, David D. McKelvy.

According to the actual survey plot maps attached, prepared by W.A. Swain, Eng. Of Zelienople, the property exchanged was 49.13 acres and triangular in shape running along the old Pearce Mill Road, which ran along the eastern bank of Pine Creek where the Mill lot was. A second, larger map shows the entire new property of Wesley as 99.13 acres. It too was triangular with the eastern most boundary running exactly north and south along the steepest part of the slope. My father, Ralph, used to describe how he and his brothers would sit on long poles sticking out from the bottom of the hay wagon there to keep it from tipping over as it was loaded. The modern Pearce Mill Road runs north-south about half way down the slope but above the brick homestead, now the park administration building.

The final deed in the old box is typed on legal parchment and riveted to a blue cover. It pertains to the transfer of the farm to a John O. Wicks beginning in 1926. We presume that he was an agent for Allegheny County, and that this sale was force by their right of Eminent Domain in establishing North Park the following year. The document begins [some punctuation mine]:
THIS AGREEMENT
MADE the 14th day of October in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and twenty-six between WESLEY H. PEARCE and BESSIE R. PEARCE, his wife, of McCandless Township, Allegheny County, Penna., parties of the first part, and John O. Wicks, party of the second part.
WITNESSETH, that the said parties of the first part, for the consideration hereinafter mentioned, do for themselves , their heirs, executors and administrators, covenant, promise, grant, and agree, to and with said party of the second part, his heirs and assigns, by these presents that they, the said parties of the first part, shall and will, on of before June 1, 1927, at the proper costs and charges of the sid aprties of the first part, their heirs and assigns, by Deed of General Warranty, well and sufficiently, grant, convey and secure, free from all encumbrances and dower or right of dower . . .

From there, the deed says that the farm is in McCandless Township and consists of approximately 100 acres. The surrounding farms are listed as belonging to the families: George Miller, William Datt, Pearce heirs, F. Schoepprier, W.C. Pearce, Beveridge heirs, and Raymond McKinney. The document specifically excepts the small parcel containing the gas well, its physical apparatus, and the right of passage as mentioned earlier in this story. The dollar amount stated is $13,000 to be paid as follows:
• $100 upon signing and delivery of this agreement,
• $900 upon approval of title and completion of survey, no later than 60 days from now,
• $12,000, the remainder, to be paid in cash upon delivery of deed.

Wesley and Bessie also agree to pay 5 percent of the purchase price to Freehold Real Estate Company as commission and to have all property taxes paid through 1927. They are allowed to live on the premises rent free until January 1, 1928. The paper is signed by the parties above and witnessed by an H.J. Schmitt and what looks to be M.G. Kerr. It’s interesting that Wesley and Bessie were married in 1910, yet the original ownership was strictly in Wesley’s name, but this document includes her as legal co-owner. Without knowing the law and practices, I presume this falls under joint tenancy with right of survivorship (JTWRS), which I believe is automatic with marriage in Pennsylvania. Another question that needs further research is the role of John Wicks here. Was he a land broker buying properties for the County? This seems like a lot of unnecessary paperwork when the County takes over the land the following year.

My father remembered that Wesley, Bessie, and the four boys settled in on the new farm near Mars during the spring and summer of 1927 and that $13,000 was about what the new farm cost. But let’s look at the deeds that came together to make up the new farm. The old box contained two documents dated 1815 and 1927 signed by Reuben W. Park, a local farmer who was in his 90s and still working on projects outdoors when I was growing up near Mars in the 1950s and 60s.

The outside of these more standard, legal-sized documents says “Deed,” while the top of the inside says, “This Indenture.” The outside is signed by both a notary and the Butler County Record of Deeds. The first begins on the inside:
MADE the twentieth day of April in the year of our Lord one thousand nine hundred and twenty-five BETWEEN HANNAH E. KENNEDY, also known as LYDA KENNEDY, widow, ETHEL B. ROSEBAUGH and FRANK H. ROSEBAUGH, her husband, HAROLD P. KENNEDY and MELVA T. KENNEDY, his wife, and STELLA M. KENNEDY, single woman, all of Adams Township, DeWITT D, KENNEDY and DOROTHY F. KENNEDY, his wife, of the Borough of Mars, CLARA L. GILLILAND and WILLIAM GILLILAND, his wife [sic], of the borough of Valencia, and all of Butler County, Pennsylvania, parties of the first part, and REUBEN W. PARK of Adams Township, county and state aforesaid, party of the second part,
WITNESSETH, That the said parties of the first part, in consideration of the sum of $1.00 to them paid by the said party of the second part, do grant, bargain, sell, and convey unto the said party of the second part, his heirs and assigns, the right, title, interest and claim of, in and to all . . .

This is a mystery. How much land is Reuben Park getting for a dollar? The answer: 162 acres. But how and why? How does it eventually get in the hands of my grandparents? First of all, the farm is described as containing a “frame dwelling house, frame barn and outbuildings” and found among the farms of Hornifer, Hartung, McCandless, Shearer, Hays, Davis, Cooper, and Galbreath. The farm had in 1917 been transferred from W.S. Cashdollar to T.W.D. Kennedy, who died leaving his wife Hannah (a.k.a. Lyda) and nine children. Five of these children, being old enough, are listed as heirs. The 11 persons of the first part have all signed, but this standard form has no place for Reuben to sign. There were two witnesses.

The second deed, dated April 1, 1926, is between Margaret Elizebeth Hornefer, of Adams Township [probably the adjoining property mentioned in the above deed] and R. W. Park, of Middlesex Township, both Butler County, and the consideration is again $1.00. However, this parcel is only about three acres and by the description looks to be adjoining the other property along the Three Degree Road, the main route to and from the farm in question. This piece was recorded in 1870 as belonging to Frederick Horneffer, probably Margaret’s father, by John and Margaret Hounenstein. Further research is needed to determine the relationship between Reuben Park and these other people who are selling him valuable land for just $1.00 per parcel. Was he part of the families, an heir? When I was growing up in this area, other large and successful Park dairy farms stretched for miles from my mother’s parents’ farm to this farm in question Their first names were Crawford, Bob, Dean, and others.

Two other interesting papers were tucked inside the second deed: a cancelled check dated February 16, 1928 to Reuben Park from my Grandfather Wesley for $13,500 [It was drawn on the Second National Bank of Allegheny on my father’s 11th birthday]: and a certificate of electrical inspection for the farm house dated February 25, 1933. It says that Clarence Walter had installed 23 lights and 4 receptacles and is signed by Carlyle H. Hill. Remember that Wesley married Bessie Hill, but I don’t know the name, Carlyle. This seems about the time that the Rural Electrical Cooperative would have installed power lines in southern Butler County.

The final collection of five documents involves the everyday threat of fire to home and business owners. We’ll first look at a typewritten report of a fire very near the old Pearce Mill and farmhouse just after my grandparents had moved north to their new farm. This story is confirmed in a newspaper article. Also we have a financial statement and several family policies from the Farmer’s Mutual Fire Insurance Company dated from 1933 to 1951. They reveal some interesting things about life in rural western Pennsylvania during those decades.

The first is a three-page, single-spaced carbon copy on Valencia Community Volunteer Fire Department stationary dated February 29, 1928 by Chief W.L. Hooks. It is addressed to Thomas L. Pharr, Chief Fire Marshall, Allegheny County, but involves my Great-grandfather Hill, who worked for the insurance company, and my Great Uncle Wilbert, who was a security guard for North Park. It begins:
Dear Sir,
I herewith make a detailed report of the Fire on what was known as the Andre Kelly place on Babcock Boulevard in Pine Twp., Allegheny Co., on February 28, 1928. I have just been informed that the title to this place is in the name of Orr at this time and not in the name of William Kelly, son and heir of Andrew Kelly.

He continues that a Mrs. Christie turned in the first alarm at 4:43 P.M. and that the first truck and men arrived at 4:52. He says:
The roof of the barn had fallen in and the side walls were gone when the Dept. arrived, which showed the alarm was at least thirty minutes late in being turned in. I observed on my arrival the drunken condition in which William Orr and William Kelly were. Buckets were brought into play in keeping the booster tank of the apparatus filled with water to protect the adjoining buildings.

Chief Hooks explains that the wind had blown embers from the house across the road, catching the field on fire. He ordered extra men to wet feed sacks to beat out the flames. At the same time he began to investigate the origin of the fire and found out from several citizens who were first to arrive that that had to drag Orr from the barn because, though the flames were small, he was doing nothing to stop them. The “State Patroll” was called and Orr was found to be “carrying a revolver, a deadly weapon in his pocket.” While this was going on, smoke was noticed coming from the basement of the farmhouse. Several firemen beat the door down and removed a box of burning straw and fruit jars. Hooks says, “On emptying the contents from the box we found hot coals had been placed in the box. These coals were then covered with straw and the fruit put on top, showing that deliberate attempt had been made to fire the house.” When Orr was told about the fire in the house, Hooks says, “The effect was magical. Mr. Orr came hurrying up the walk to the box and said, ‘What the hell was that taken out for (Orr being quite intoxicated)?’”

My Great-grandfather Joseph M. Hill was a director of the Farmer’s Mutual Fire Insurance Company, with whom the house was covered. He happened to be on the scene and was informed of the attempt to burn the buildings. Hooks suggested that he look for himself and reports, “This Mr. Hill did, and on Orr seeing Mr. Hill approaching, he became quite abusive. In fact, he became a damned maniac when Hill went to look at the box.”

Apparently, Orr and Kelly had stopped at the house earlier in the day to see the daughters of the man living in the house, and when they were turned away, they left, but came back drunk, at which time they threatened to burn the buildings. Shortly after that Orr was seen watching the fire in the barn. My Great Uncle Wilbert Pearce, a security guard for North Park took the testimony of the tenant regarding Orr and Kelly. After explaining that a meeting has been arranged with the witnesses and the insurance company, Hooks closes by saying, “Trusting we may crush and forever in the future curb any attempts at arson in the district, I remain yours to command [signature].”

The deteriorating newspaper clipping, probably from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, is headlined “Two Locked up in Arson Plot.” Charges were brought by Allegheny County, and the story gives further details, “Kelly and Orr visited the farm Tuesday and ordered Joseph Crimmete, tenant, to drive all the cattle from the barn. When he returned he found the barn ablaze. One horse, which Crimmete owned, was burned to death. Kelly, who inherited the farm, carries $4,300 insurance on the place and Orr had $10,000 insurance to cover the mortages.”

As far as my family’s further involvement in this indemnity business, the financial statement for Farmer’s Mutual for the year ending December 31, 1933 lists a small claim of $32.65 by Great Uncle Wilbert C. Pearce and salaries of $354 to Great-grandfather Joseph Hill for “renewing and writing new policies and investigating claims” and $495 to his wife, my Great-grandmother Alice V [Moon] Hill for “clerical work.”

Having been a life and health insurance underwriter, I appreciate the information contained in the application usually attached to the back of these policies. So, it was with great interest that I studied two standard fire insurance policies taken out by Wesley on the new farm near Mars. The company was The Farmer’s Mutual Fire Insurance Company of McCandless Township. The first one, for $10,000 with a premium of $10.00, ran from June 1, 1941 to June 1, 1946. He undoubtedly had at least three earlier such five-year policies, but we have no record of them. The coverage is on the following:
• Two story frame house, 6 rooms, bath, hall [with] 2 pantries, 2 porches, strip shingle roof $3,000
• H.H. [household] goods, furniture, & wearing apparel – 900
• Frame barn 42’ X 64’, shed attached 24’ x 40’ tar paper roof – 4000
• 30 ton hay in barn, 10 ton in hay shed @ $10 – 400
• Grain in barn – 400
• Hay shed 24’ X 40’ – 100
• Tool shed – 50
• 2 horses @ $125, 2 cows @ $50, 4 heifers @ $25 – 450
• Mow machine @ $50, Grain drill @ $50, Farmall tractor @ $200 – 300
• Concrete silo @ $300, Small tools @ $100 – 400

The policy is signed by company president John B. Cole and secretary Raymond McKinney. We assume that the reason the coverage is significantly less than the purchase price of the farm, $13,500, is the value of the land. The second policy in the old box ran from June 1, 1951 to June 1, 1956, the year after my Grandfather Wesley died. As all things usually go, the increased premium of $13.90 provided coverage of $13, 900. By this time the house is valued at $5,000 and the contents at $1,200. The policy indicates that the house by then had a “strip shingle” roof. Item number three simply lists the barn and attached shed at $5,000. Itemized on the back page is a cement block garage, 20’ X 40’ at $700, the silo at $300, small tools at $250, and two frame chicken coops, 20’ X 40’ and 16’ X 30’, for $350. Crossed out are hay, grain, horses, mower, and grain drill with the revised total at $12,800. We believe that by 1951 Wesley was out of farming and the barn was free of contents. However, I remember playing among the hay bales in the loft with my cousins as a child of 7 in 1955. Probably this belonged to a tenant and he carried his own insurance on the hay.

After Grandfather Wesley died, everything was sold and Grandma Bessie moved to an apartment in Butler, just halfway between her sons Ralph, my father in Cooperstown, and Dale, in Grove City [see “My Memories of Grandma.”].So many memories came flooding back as I looked through these priceless documents of my grandparents. How they fit together now that I have a better understanding of life back then and a richer appreciation of my ancestors. These aging paper keepsakes and contracts, along with a few pictures, are the only bridge between yesterday and today. I will treasure them as long as I live, and I’m happy to be able to share them.

2 Responses to Treasures in an Old Box

  1. is your website supported on safari browser.because i tried using it through safari but the sidebar goes out of the page.

    • admin says:

      Thanks for asking. Our site is supported by all browsers, including Safari. Obviously, the size of your screen will affect how far out you can view the sidebar, but simply move the cursor to the right by using the arrow keys. The same is true from top to bottom when the menu disappears below. By all means, find what you want in the Tables of Content, and be aware that some of the external links appear only in the TOC.
      Larry

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