Friday, September 14, 2007

Just keep digging

One of the duties I've "volunteered" for as part of my service to the non-profit board of dir. I sit on is to research and write the text for a series of bronze historical markers we are planning on erecting in our historic downtown district.

Now, I'm a minor history buff and part of what makes me tic is finding out all I can about persons, places, and things that interest me. The more obscure and odd, the better.

Suffice it to say, when we bought this house that was SUPPOSEDLY built in 1910 (I'm coming to that), I dove headfirst into finding everything I could about the old gal.Previous owners - who they were, what they did, how they got here and how they lived while occupying their old / my new space.

The house itself - who built it, when was it built, when was it added onto, what was originally where and how were specific rooms used.

The property - what tribe used it, which 89'er "staked their claim" to get it, what was it used for until the house was built, what treasures are buried underneath the dirt underneath and around it.
The sometimes intense, but mostly sporadic bouts of research mania I've managed in the last 2.5 years since moving here, have turned up most of the above listed information -- at least, most of the above that intrigued me.

The one tidbit of gossip about my house that had eluded my gray matters grasp was exactly how old this house was.

The abstract claims 1910. The previous sellers and Realtor claimed 1910 - a date they obviously gleaned off the abstract. Land records in the county courthouse only list land ownership and even then, no dates were recorded in the log book until the 1940's -- before that, just a listing of the names of the land owners.

No records of any kind of building permit. Nor is there a trace of a construction addition permit -- since we can tell that the rear portion of the house was added on at a date much later than the original construction date.

Any attempts to find previous owners have only turned up one, and as interesting as they were to talk to and visit with in the brief time they toured their old/our new house, their information on the original builders/owners was sketchy, and has since proved to be inaccurate.

The only photographic evidence we've been able to turn up, revealing that our house actually existed at the beginning of the 20th century, was a postcard my wife found and fought bravely for on eBay.

It's dated 1914, and I had to scan the postcard at ultra high resolution, to be able to zoom into the hundred or so pixels that contained the grayscale images of our house.

My quest for proof of our theory that we owned a pre-statehood, 19th century home was proving unfruitful. Now, I know there are firms that can provide an approximate date of a homes construction given suitable samples of lathe, plaster and other materials. But since I wasn't ready to get all CSI'd on my own house, we had all but resigned ourselves to accept the 1910 build date of our home.

Yet, while slogging away through the microfilm collection at my small town's non-Carnegie single-storied brick and mortar library, fate, the genealogy craze sweeping the internet, and the wonderful Children's Librarian at our local library stepped in. Actually she stepped me...carrying a large folder containing a photocopied manuscript.

A few weeks back, a family from "Far and Away" traced some relatives to my small town and ended up sending to the library, a photocopy of a special edition of the town's newspaper dating back to 1895. The original, still in this family's possession, has been in their family for over 100 years.

And there, on the bottom of page 12 of this 112-year old newspaper was a photograph of our house.

While it looks a little different than it's current incarnation -- the gingerbread is all but gone, the additions made sometime in the 1920's aren't yet made, and the porch is wood instead of concrete and brick, but it's most definitely our house.

Our little 19th century house on the pre-statehood Oklahoma prairie.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That is great you were able to find that photograph. My wife's family home dates from before statehood. I need to find out if it can be documented. You've inspired me. Of course it may pass.