Greetings dear Apollo-Area history lovers! I’ve taken a more-than-yearlong hiatus from the Simon Truby Farmhouse blog while tending to family and personal matters. Although I haven’t been writing, I’ve continued to investigate local history, and there are dozens of Apollo- and Truby-related stories I still intend to write and share on this website. Please stay tuned to this channel.
The blog’s silence has been due to the illness and passing of my beloved mom, Becky Frayer, who had been the owner and caretaker of the Simon Truby farmhouse at 708 Terrace Ave in Apollo for more than 43 years.
Ma Truby, Ma Mullen, & My 3-G Grandma Harrington Were the Ladies Who Lunch (allegedly)
Apollo farmer Simon Truby was married to his second wife Elizabeth Hill Truby (1826-1901) for more than 35 years, until his death in 1886. After Simon’s death, Elizabeth – known to her friends as Betsy or “Ma Truby”– found herself in her big rambling brick farmhouse, living with her eldest son Henry and his family, including 8 of Betsy’s grandchildren (see photo at end of article). Meanwhile, all around her, the Truby farm was being subdivided into hundreds of lots. New homes and streets were being built, and new families moving in.
With Simon gone, Betsy surely needed a friend to socialize with and confide in; son Henry Truby and his wife Sarah Belle Whitlinger were busy raising their children and managing what remained of the dwindling farm. Fortunately, Ma Truby seems to have found such a friend—a woman around the same age who had moved into a sprawling new house on N 7th Street, diagonally behind the Truby farmhouse. That woman—Ma Truby’s new friend—was my great-great-great grandma Mary E (Ryan) Harrington (1838-1922).
Favorite Festive Homes on Truby’s Former Farm
The photo above shows a Christmas cactus in full bloom & the view from the 2nd story hallway of the home built c 1844 by Apollo’s farmer Simon Truby–located at 708 Terrace Ave.
Last weekend, Dec 15-17, 2017, the Apollo area was treated to a beautiful light snowfall. So my daughter & I took the opportunity to snap photos of a few of our favorite Christmas-decorated homes situated on Simon Truby’s former farmland — which extended between N. 6th Street in Apollo and 15th Street in North Apollo, and included Pegtown and some of Oak Hill. Continue reading
The Apples Didn’t Fall Far from the Tree
All 9 of Simon Truby’s children grew up in the brick farmhouse he built around 1844. That house, which still stands today at 708 Terrace Ave in Apollo PA, must’ve lived large in the Truby kids’ memories even after they’d moved out and on with their lives—probably like that intense mix of emotions most of us can feel about our own childhood homes. You might imagine the Truby children roaming the farm and grabbing apples & pears from Simon’s orchards, or maybe catching crayfish in Sugar Hollow Run along today’s N 11th Street. Farm chores too were surely part of their daily lives. It might have felt magical to grow up on this modest Western Pennsylvania farm, or it might have felt gawd awful. Or maybe something in between. We can’t know for sure, but we can guess!
For whatever reasons—maybe fondness or failures—Simon Truby’s children stayed close to home once they reached adulthood. Many of his grandkids did, too. Most bought property from Simon or his estate after his death, etching out their own homes on former farmland.
Of course, there’s a tale to tell about each of Simon’s children. For now, though, we’ll focus on where these folks lived in adulthood. At the end of the article, you’ll find a link to an interactive map showing where some of Simon Truby’s children and grandkids lived. And if you have any stories or photos of the houses or their owners, please share by commenting at the end of this article. Continue reading
Sorrow and Suicide
Mary Jane Truby was the first-born child of wealthy farmer and landowner Simon Truby of Apollo PA. So you might have expected that she’d be destined for a life of privilege & ease. But Mary Jane Truby’s life instead seemed marked by heartbreak and tragedy. Though she’d married into another prominent local family—the Henrys—the secure life that Mary Jane and her husband tried to build for their children had crumbled away before their eldest child had turned 16. Continue reading
Apollo’s Historic Business Buildings
Those of you who’ve been following the Truby Farmhouse Blog know we’ve occasionally taken a sidetracked look at the local historic structures described in the 1980-81 Armstrong County Historic Sites Survey. To date we’ve looked primarily at the residential buildings highlighted in the survey. But it turns out, several commercial buildings were also deemed noteworthy by the architectural historians who came to town, including 2 businesses built on lots that were once part of Simon Truby’s farmland in Apollo, Pennsylvania.
Farmer Truby aids a widow & gives Nellie Bly a home
Historic marker at the 500 block of Terrace Ave in Apollo, PA, where Nellie Bly lived briefly (for less than 2 years) as a child.
Most of us who’ve lived and loved in the western Pennsylvania town of Apollo have heard that the daring, world-famous journalist Nellie Bly (1864-1922) grew up in a mansion on the 500 block of Terrace Avenue—a fact attested to by the historic marker on that block. But you may not know that Nellie Bly lived for only a couple of years in that mansion. Her mom and siblings were forced to vacate mere months after the death of Nellie’s father, Judge Michael Cochran, in 1870. Continue reading
It’s kind of like the Academy Awards of Apollo PA. Earning a mention in one of the town’s official history books, published every 25 years, is quite an honor. It helps to ensure that hometown facts, figures, faces, and places important to Apollo’s past will be remembered for years to come. So it’s awesome that Apollo’s new bicentennial book—Apollo: Pride in Our Past; Faith in Our Future—includes a page devoted to Simon Truby, his farm, and house. Thank you Bicentennial Committee for the shout-out! Continue reading
Simon Truby Cashes In on the Good Earth
How can you make a quick buck? Definitely not through farming! Farming requires dedication, resilience, and patience. If you were Simon Truby’s farmhand in 1880, you’d have to work plenty hard to help him raise a cool $225! You’d help him pick the 300 bushels of apples and peaches his farm produced that year, which could bring in about 35 cents a bushel, or $105 total. And you’d help sow and reap his 350 bushels of oats to earn just over $120 in sales. That $225 profit would quickly dwindle away, though, when you consider the associated costs of farm upkeep, such as mending fences, plowing, irrigation, paying laborers, etc. A tough life!
On the other hand, Simon Truby found that he could rake in about $200 for selling just over one-tenth of an acre of land in Apollo, or a plot of about 4,800 square feet. And Simon had plenty of land—156 acres to be exact. Continue reading
Hunting for Hints in Regional Histories
A Man of Many Hats
Apollo’s Simon Truby (1806-1886) listed his occupation as Farmer in census records and historic maps. But dig into the local history books, and brief mentions of Simon Truby help piece together a broader picture of the man.
Man’s chip hat. Circa 1832. Made in U.S. of straw, silk, & grosgrain ribbon. Image courtesy www.lacma.org
Turns out, Simon Truby was a man of many hats. He was not only a prolific farmer but also a sawmill operator, a coal miner, a founding member of Apollo’s Lutheran church, a real estate developer, and a gentleman who sported a chip hat. Most of these details were found only in the history books, and not in any of the other records I’ve examined to date. And the details provide ideas for further investigation via other types of records. Continue reading