The Matching Houses, Wives, & Lives of Simon & Capt Henry Truby
Don’t be surprised if the theme song from the Patty Duke Show gets stuck in your head as you contemplate the parallel lives of Apollo’s farmer Simon Truby and his older brother Henry of Gilpin Twp, PA. These brothers were 2 of a kind.
Though they had 5 other siblings (as outlined in an earlier blog post), Simon (1806-1886) and his brother Capt Henry Truby (1800-1882) seemed to be especially in sync. They farmed alike, married wives alike, they even built their homes alike. Sometimes Simon seemed to follow in his older brother’s footsteps. Other times, Simon blazed a trail with Henry tagging behind.
In 1843, these 2 brothers each made a significant purchase of farmland. Henry bought a large chunk (about 108 acres) of the George Hawk farm in Gilpin Twp, a little to the north and east of Leechburg. Henry’s new farm was dubbed Mount Joy; I wish I knew the origin of that name! A few months later, Simon Truby—already living in Warren, as Apollo was then known—purchased 156 acres of land that straddled Warren and Kiski Twp, PA. (Read more at Start with a Dot, Then Follow the Deeds.) Simon’s and Henry’s farms were about 11 miles apart when traveling along the old River Road.
The 2 Truby brothers then proceeded to marry a pair of sisters whose father, Jacob Honorable Hill, owned a sizable farm in nearby Parks Twp. Simon took the matrimonial plunge first, marrying Elizabeth Hill around 1846. Henry then followed suit a few years later, marrying Elizabeth’s sister Alvinia in February 1850. The Hill sisters were about 20 years younger than their new Truby husbands.
“The Hill sisters were about 20 years younger than their new Truby husbands.”
The brothers also occasionally dabbled in similar trades. In addition to farming, Capt Henry Truby manned a packet boat that carried passengers from Leechburg up and down the Pennsylvania Canal. And Simon at least briefly pursued work as a packet boat captain as well.
The Mt Joy farmhouse in Gilpin Twp, PA. Built c. 1844 by Capt. Henry Truby, older brother of Apollo’s Simon Truby. Photo courtesy of Linda Truby Touzeau
And then then there’s the matter of the matching houses. The 2 Truby brothers built near-identical 4-Over-4 brick homes on their respective properties. The 2 houses are exactly the same size, with 2,560 square feet of living area, according to the real estate website Zillow.
Thanks go to Simon Truby’s great-great-grandaughter, Linda Truby Touzeau of Arizona, for alerting me to the existence of Capt Henry Truby’s lovely home in Gilpin Twp, near the intersection of Lover’s Leap and Truby Hill roads. Linda and her father, Simon Thompson Truby Jr., took this photo of the house back in the mid-1990s while on a genealogy tour across Pennsylvania. Linda noted that Capt Henry’s “Mount Joy” house bore a remarkable resemblance to the 1890 photo of Simon Truby’s home. (Read Photograph Forensics to learn how we know that the old photo depicts Simon Truby’s home in Apollo, PA.)
Simon Truby’s farmhouse in Apollo PA, in 1890 and today.
Capt Henry Truby and the Mt Joy farm in Gilpin Twp
Capt Henry Truby kept a diary of his day-to-day life throughout the 1840s and beyond. A transcript of this diary can be found in the Truby binder at the Apollo Memorial Library. The diary begins shortly after he’d purchased the Mt Joy property in 1843 & continued intermittently until his death in 1883. I’ll write a future blog post about Capt Henry Truby and the Mt Joy farm, for it has a storied history. But for now, let’s simply focus on his stately house.
The current owners, Mary Clark Bevan & her son Ronald Bevan, were kind enough to give me a tour of their home last summer. Mary’s grandfather James D. Clark purchased the 105-acre farm in 1907 and launched a thriving fruit-farming operation. Mary’s family has lovingly owned & maintained this land ever since. Click the image below to download a 2006 article about their Gilpin Twp home from the Valley News Dispatch.
Valley News Dispatch article courtesy of Leechburg Area Museum and Historical Society.
Comparing Simon & Capt Henry’s Homes
The Bevan/Mt Joy/Capt Henry home retains many original features that the Simon Truby house in Apollo no longer has, especially the lovely 5-bay Georgian facade on both sides of the house. Both central exterior doorways in the Bevan/Mt Joy/Capt Henry home have the original colored-glass sidelights. In the Simon Truby house in Apollo, the original front doorway remains intact, but the glass is gone and replaced with white-painted wood.
Original color-glass sidelights in Capt Henry’s front door.
Capt Henry Truby’s front door, exterior view.
In Simon Truby’s former front door, glass sidelights have been replaced by white-painted wood.
The Bevan’s Mt Joy house also retains all of its original fireplaces, 1 in each of the 8 rooms of the house. In Simon Truby’s house in Apollo, only 3 of the original 8 fireplaces remain, all on the first floor. In both houses, though, the owners wouldn’t dream of trying to use those old fireplaces!
The staircases in both homes have similar wood paneling along the sides. But Capt. Henry Truby’s staircase has a landing at the 12th step and then doubles back with a few more steps to the upstairs hallway. Simon’s staircase is a single flight of 17 steps.
Capt Henry Truby’s stairway panels.
Simon Truby’s stairway panels.
Capt Henry Truby’s 12-flight staircase, with a 2nd flight doubling back after the landing.
Simon Truby’s single flight of 17 stairs.
Both homes also have matching built-in corner cupboards in the kitchen; Capt Henry has an additional one in the dining room.
Capt Henry Truby’s built-in corner cupboard.
Simon Truby’s kitchen corner cupboard, topped with a simple arched lintel.
All of Simon Truby’s interior windows and doors are topped with a simple slightly arched lintel, befitting a simple farmhouse.
The interior walls in both homes are made of solid brick, which makes it difficult to run duct work for air conditioning or heat.
In the upstairs bedrooms of both homes, the 2 rooms on the left side have a connecting doorway in between, presumably to give parents/caregivers ready access to an adjoining nursery room.
Although Simon and his brother Henry both purchased their properties around the same time in 1843, it’s not clear whose brick home was built first or when. Having toured both houses, Simon Truby’s home strikes me as a little more primitive. Simon’s house has plain, slightly arched lintels over every interior door and window, whereas Capt Henry’s house more detailed interior elements.
The original back of Simon’s house is also more primitive. It lacks the 5-bay symmetry that appears on both sides of Capt Henry’s house. I suspect that Simon built his home first, and his brother Henry’s house benefited from “lessons learned” after Simon’s experiences. If anyone can provide further evidence on this matter, please let me know!
Rear facade of Capt Henry Truby’s farmhouse has a symmetrical 5-bay pattern similar to the front.
Rear facade of Simon Truby’s house in Apollo lacks the 5-bay symmetry of the other side.
Coming up: More of the vernacular-type houses listed in 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey of Apollo.
Drop by the Truby Farmhouse website, take a look around, and drop me a note!