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1755 House

June 10, 2018

 

 

“The 1755 House”, as our clients call it, is a beautiful stone and log structure perched on 15 lush acres.  Its story, we found, was very complex, and there are still some mysteries in its lineage.  Our traditional paths of research left us with a gap in the history of ownership between 1796 and 1818, modern day references to an 18th century land survey that could not be located, and a lesson in changing township and county lines.  Answers to some questions were, however, welcome news to the homeowners.

 

 

We were able to trace the property to the original sale of 5000 acres from William Penn to William Markham, his Lieutenant Governor, in 1692/3.  A significantly smaller portion of 275 acres were sold to a Philadelphia “gentleman”, James Steel, in 1733.  Steel’s five daughters conveyed the land after their father’s death to the Walver family.  The Walvers passed the property to their son, Christopher, who eventually sold it to the Mechlin family in 1753.  Based on the increase in the value of the property during the Mechlin’s ownership, we believe they were responsible for the construction of the original portion of the house, and 1755 seems like a good fit as the build year.

 

Transcribed: (paragraph breaks added for readability)

 

“By the Proprietaries Whereas Presley Raymond and Mary his wife, Rebecca Steel, William Shute and Elizabeth his wife, Richard Ren(?) Anne his wife and James Thompson (the only child … of Ruth Thompson the said Mary, Elizabeth, Rebecca, Anne and Ruth being the children legatees… named in the Last Will and Testament of James Steel late of the City of Philadelphia Gent deceased by their Deed dated the second day of June One Thousand Seven Hundred and Forty Seven Recorded at Bucks in Book B Vol 3 page 22 for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain sell and confirm unto Nicholas Walver Two Hundred and seventy six acres of land in Upper Milford Township in the County of Bucks now of Northampton surveyed by Warrant of the twenty sixth 5 day of March One thousand seven hundred and thirty three to the said James Steel in part of Two thousand four hundred acres thereby granted to be surveyed.

 

And Whereas the said Nicholas Walver and Elizabeth his Wife by their Deed dated the seventh day of November One thousand seven hundred and fifty two for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain and sell undo Christopher Walver of Upper Milford Yeoman One hundred and eighty two acres part of the said Two Hundred and Seventy six acres by Meter and Bounds in the same Deed specified. To hold to him his Heirs and Assigns for Ever.

 

And Whereas the said Christopher Walver by Deed dated the ninth Day of June 1753 for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain sell and convey the said One Hundred and eighty two Acre Tract which upon a Resurvey was found to contain only One hundred and seventy nine Aces and thirty five perches unto Jacob Mechlin of Colebrookdale Township in Berks County Saddler in fee.

 

And Whereas the said Jacob Mechlin by Deed dated the fourth Day of March One thousand seven hundred and fifty five for the consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain sell and confirm Ninety one Acres and one hundred and twenty perches part of the said One hundred seventy nine acres and thirty five perches (intact?) with the Appurtenances unto Samuel Mechlin of Upper Milford Yeoman in Fee.

 

And Whereas the said Samuel Mechlin by his Deed dated the eighteenth Day of May One thousand seven hundred and sixty five for the Consideration therein mentioned did grant bargain sell and convey the same ninety one acres and one hundred twenty perches of Land with the Appurtenances intact (?) unto George Kreeble of Hatfield Township in the County of Philadelphia Yeoman in Fee by the (?) and Bounds in the same last recited Deed expressed as by the same recited Deeds appears and as by the insinuation(?) of the said George Kreeble we have received. These are therefore at the special instance(?) and request of the said George Kreeble) to authorize and require you to survey or cause to be surveyed the said tract of ninety one acres and twenty perches by and according to the Lines and Bounds in the said last recited Deed specified and make (?) in thereof into Secretaries (?) Office in order for Confirmation to the said George Kreeble on his paying us our Demands thereon. And for your doing this shall be your Sufficient Warrant Give under my hand and seal of the Land Office by virtue of certain powers fro the Proprietors of Philadelphia this seventeenth Day of February one thousand seven hundred and sixty seven.

 

John Lukens Esq Surveyor General”

 

 

 1755 house in a commemorative book for Lower Milford

 

Summary of ownership in the 1700s:

 

The estate of James Steel containing 276 acres was conveyed to Nicholas Walver on June 2, 1747.

 

Nicholas and Elizabeth Walver transferred 182 acres to Christopher Walvert on November 7, 1752. 

 

Christopher Walver sold the 182 acres to Jacob Mechlin on June 5, 1753. A resurvey of the property reduced the acreage to 179 acres, 35 perches.

 

Jacob Mechlin conveyed 2 tracts to Samuel Mechlin on December 27, 1753 (87 acres, 75 perches) and March 4, 1755 (91 acres, 120 perches).

 

Samuel Mechlin transferred the tract containing 91 acres, 120 perches to George Kreeble on May 18, 1765.

 

George Krieble (note the differences in spelling from Kreeble to Kriebel) and his wife Ann conveyed the property to Abraham and Jacob Kriebel on February 18, 1796 and March 21, 1796.

 

No deed transactions from either Abraham or Jacob Kriebel to the next owner could be found in Northampton, Bucks, or Lehigh County records (changing county lines had the home in recorded in different courthouses).

 

The timeline from Christopher Walber forward ends with Abraham and Jacob Kreibel in 1796.

 

George Kriebel was a member of the original Schwenkfelder families.  George was a minister in this Schwenkfelder religious group.  He divided his property between two of his sons, Abraham and Jacob, and we believe Jacob took possession of the home and six tracts of land at the end of the 18th century. 

 

The document trail goes cold until 1818 when the will of a shoemaker named Jacob Snyder conveys the property to his son George.  Estate administration papers are always an interesting find, as they usually describe the contents of the home at the time of the owner’s passing in great detail.  Jacob Snyder’s will inventory provided a glimpse into the daily lives of those living in the house; his possessions were practical and functional, with few luxuries.  

 

 

The following are the goods that Jacob Snyder's widow took by the appraisement:

 

1 ten plated stove and pipe 4.00

1 cubber(?) .75

1 bed and bed stead 6.50

1 chest with all wats in 1.00

1 (?) wool covers .30

6 bed sheets 2.50

2 (?) feather covers and pillow cases 2.25

5 table cloths 1.75

1 pair mittens .50

1 pair tow (?) 1.60

flax 1.65

1 cotton wheel .25

1 basket .25

1 spinning wheel .30

1 tub, 1 spinning, 1 chair 1.70

1 lot (?) and upper leather 1.00"

 

Items of note in this will are the shoemaker’s tools, as Jacob was a shoemaker, and that his

widow, Catharina, kept the most valuable items. Also note the lack of livestock, except for 2

sheep. A search of ancestry.com and familysearch.org, along with biographical texts of the area were unsuccessful in finding genealogical or family data about Jacob and Catharina Snyder. All that is known is the they were German. A complicating factor in this search is the many variations in spelling of Snyder. It has been found as Snyder, Schneider, Snider, Syder, Schnider, Schnyder, and even Shmyder and Sdneyder.

 

Jacob’s son George is noted in census records as a farmer, and he lived on the property until his financial difficulties prompted him to assign Samuel Stauffer to liquidate his assets. George is enumerated in the 1840 Federal Census in a household with one male under the age of 5, one male between 15 and 19, one male 40-49 (presumably George himself), one female under 5, one female 10 to 14, and one female 40 to 49 (presumably wife, Sarah).

 

The sale of George and Sarah Snyder's property is captured in an advertisement dated August 31, 1859 . The ad is in old German and roughly translated as: 

 

...23 acres bound by lands from Francis R Roeder,

Jonas George, Charles Kerwer, Daniel Hillegass,

and others….the groundplan has 23 acres more or

less next to a road, the main house is built with

stone and wood next to more buildings like

springhouse and a pigsty adjacent pasture land and

woodland and place for building a development for

more houses also orchard with apple, cherry, peach and other fruit trees. In front of the springhouse is a fountain. The owner is looking for serious buyers who are looking for nice home

 

George Kerwer, who purchased the 22 acre Snyder property, was born in 1829 and married Lydia Flores. They had two children, Eli and Sarah. George owned several parcels of land in Lehigh County, including a separate tract containing 8 acres, 117 perches that he purchased from the estate of Jacob Stauffer in 1865. This 8 acre parcel does not convey with the 22 acres on which the house is built. George’s time on the property is documented in census and tax records. He paid $.80 tax on 2 “horned cattle killed" in 1864, note that his location is “Hosensack”.

 

 

The Kerwer's had their own family controversies. A notice in The Allentown Democrat in 1892 finds George’s daughter, Sarah in a compromising situation. YIKES!!!

 

 

The next sale occurs after the death of George Kerwer. George died leaving no will sometime before 1898 (see description of woodland tract in sale advertisement). The public sale was advertised in The Allentown Democrat on November 30, 1898. George’s wife, Lydia was able to re-secure ownership of her home: “sold to…Lydia Kerwer for the sum of one thousand dollars she being the highest bidder”. Lydia was in her mid-sixties when she bought her own home at public auction. Lydia Kerwer sold the house and two tracts of land to her son, Eli Kerwer on April 20, 1911 for $700 . This deed describes the bounds of the property and it’s size, 22 acres and 136 perches of land

 

George's widow sold the property to her son, Eli in 1911.  Eli was injured in a barn fire in 1926.  The current owners had suspected something had happened to the barn, as its current state of construction appears more recent than the stack stone foundation, and floorboards show progressing states of wear.  The link to the 1926 fire closed that question for them! The owners also found a date stone on the barn, BINGO!! This also confirms the thought that the upper portion was much newer than the its foundation. 

 

 

 

Date stone found on barn- 1869

 

Eli Kerwer and his wife, Minnie sold the property (house and 2 tracts of land) to Harry

Sheppard of Philadelphia on June 15, 1926 for $1500 . Harry appears in a 1927

Pennsylvania Triennial Farm Census of East Greenville living alone on 32 acres (this would be the 22 acre, 136 perch tract with the house, and the 8 acre woodland lot). The farm census lists Harry as having:

 

1/4 acre farm for Irish potatoes

1 apple tree

4 pear trees

49 hens & pullets

1 automobile

 

Mary C. Patton was the next owner, she was a single woman and lived in the home from 1935 to 1969, one of the longest spans of ownership in the property’s history. Little is known about Mary, but it appears her mother, also Mary, was living with her at the time of her death in 1949 the age of eighty-four.

 

Dennis Burns purchased the property from Mary Patton on July 23, 1969 for $29,000. Dennis and his wife Meredith conveyed 15 acres of the property, including the house, to Mary B. Wilkey on March 8, 1978 for $132,500. Mary added her husband, Rex W. Green, in 1985. Rex Green was a physician who became the Medical Directory of the Pocono Racetrack

 

It seems the owners in the later years were connected to unfortunate stories of financial loss and other hardships, which all took a toll on the maintenance of the house. 

 

The current homeowners purchased the property in 2017 and are undaunted in their quest to restore the property to its former glory, and to infuse it with a sense of family, home, and happiness.  They have discovered many unique items in the common “burn pits” around the home and even some TEETH in the log walls. We love getting updates along the way on all their fun findings!

 

The home, constructed first of logs, with a stone addition added later, has housed many families and the land has supported livestock and has produced grains, vegetables and produce over the last 300 hundred years. The changing township and county lines (3 different townships and 3 different counties) likely impacted the traceability of the properties’ owners, and definitive information related to the year of construction and additions was not readily located. Indeed, consultation with local and state historical societies confirmed that little is known about the settlers to the area.

 

Despite it’s largely unknown beginnings, the house is still strong and sheltering a new family, a testament to the determination of those who endeavored to keep the farm running!

 

We were so happy to tell the story of this home and to get to know the current owners in the process. We know the story of this home will continue for future generations and we can't wait to post some updates.

 

More images of this beautiful home, many provided by the current owners: 

 

 

We want to remind everyone that history is not boring, and fun loving home owners are our favorite! We loved meeting the "caretakers" of their barn, although they were a little quiet and unable to comment. Thank you Meredith and Todd!!

 

 

 

 

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