Simon Truby in the Books

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

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

Copycat Brothers?

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.

1861 Pomeroy Map closeup - Alleg Twp-HenryTruby-Mt Joy labeled

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.

Two-of-a-Kind Abodes

Truby Farm Mt. Joyc1990-fromLTouzeau

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.)

Then&Now

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.

Bevens-house-page1

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.

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.

Both homes also have matching built-in corner cupboards in the kitchen; Capt Henry has an additional one in the dining room.

WindowFrameArch

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!

 

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!

Apollo’s Thriving Farm & the U.S. Agricultural Census

If you happened to live in Apollo from 1859 to nearly the turn of the century, a thriving farm was practically a stone’s throw away in the same borough. It was almost like having a giant Guinta’s Fruit Market right in your back yard. Simon Truby’s 156-acre farmland (green in the map below) originally extended from below N. 6th Street in Apollo up to N. 16th Street in North Apollo borough. The farm was active from about 1844 to 1890. Although there were plenty of other local farms (Owens, McKinstry, Jackson, Hildebrand to name a few), Simon Truby’s was the only significant farm in Apollo borough in the 1800s.

TrubyLandPurchase-ApolloBorough

Simon Truby’s original farmland, purchased in 1843 (green). Present-day Apollo Borough (light red). Boundary lines are approximate. View a larger version of this map: http://bit.ly/1YYVygE

Photo of a ewe.

Sadly, this ewe never lived on Simon Truby’s farm. Photo by George Gastin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL] via Wikimedia Commons.

In various years, the Truby farm was home to:

  • 40 sheep that produced 100 pounds of wool;
  • 35 chickens that laid 305 dozen eggs;
  • an orchard with 200 apple trees & 40 peach trees;
  • crops that included corn, oats, potatoes, and hay.

In 1850, Simon Truby’s farm produced 10 tons(!) of hay, which he likely used to help feed & bed his 6 milk cows, 4 horses, and 15 pigs. That same year, his farm also produced: runny_hunny

  • 400 pounds of butter
  • 60 pounds of honey
  • 300 bushels of oats
  • 200 bushels of corn
  • 100 bushels of buckwheat
  • 20 bushels of potatoes
  • and various unnamed market produce.

Though he’d purchased the property only 7 years earlier (in 1843), Simon seemed to get the farm up & running rather quickly.

Historic Farms & the U.S. Agricultural Census

How do we know these 170-year-old details about Simon Truby’s farm? We owe thanks to the benevolent digitizing efforts of the Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project, under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. The project’s website offers PDFs of the Agricultural Census records of individual farms in Pennsylvania for the years 1850, 1880, and 1927. If you have an ancestor who was a farmer in Pennsylvania during those years, you too can seek out a detailed summary of their farm records online …. as long as you can decipher the census-taker’s flowery handwriting and figure out which township the farm was in. County and township boundaries seemed to change a lot back in the 1800s. See the end of this blog post for more about searching for your own ancestors’ farms.

“If you have an ancestor who was a farmer in Pennsylvania in 1850, 1880, or 1927, you too can  seek out a detailed summary of their farm records online.”

More about Simon Truby’s Farm in 1850

In 1850, Simon Truby’s farmland was partly in Warren (as Apollo was then known) and mostly in Kiski Twp. You can download the 2-page PDF that shows 1850 Agricultural Census data for Truby’s farm. The PDF also lists data for  40 other nearby farms, including farms owned by 3 McKinstrys (James, William, & Jackson), D. Risher, Philip & Michel Shutt, Samuel Jack, James Culp, Henry & John Clark, and John & Alexander Kerr.

Download the 2-page PDF of the 1850 Agricultural Census records for Simon Truby and nearby farms in Kiski Twp: 300_PDF_download
1861-KiskiTwp-Apollo

1861 Land Owners in the Apollo area. This close-up from Pomeroy’s 1861 map of Kiski Twp shows buildings (dots) and property owners, some of whom also had farms, including S. Truby, Alex Kerr, Ja. Jackson, J. Kerr, and Wm. McKinstry.

1880 Ag Census & Simon Truby’s Shrinking Farm

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Illustration of peaches c. 1892. By Internet Archive Book Images [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

The Ag Census Records from 1880 are more detailed than the 1850 data. By 1880, Simon Truby’s farm now included apple & peach orchards, along with barnyard animals & other crops. This was the year that 35 chickens laid 305 dozen eggs. But by this time, the overall size of his property had been reduced by half, with only 80 acres remaining. A future blog post will describe how Simon gradually divvied up and sold lots on the edges of his property, including the lots that now make up Pegtown. Some of lots were sold or given to his grown children, including his daughter Julia and her husband John Finley Whitlinger, who established a tannery on the property.

The maps below show how severely Simon Truby’s property shrank within Apollo borough over a 15-year time span, from 1861 to 1876. Simon’s land is the open space in the upper right portion of the map, and his brick farmhouse is the lonesome dot in the middle of the open space:

1861-1876-ApolloMaps

In the 1880 Ag Census—just 6 years before Simon’s death—his oldest son, Henry Hill Truby, was listed as the farm manager. The Census  shows that the overall value of the Truby farm was $5,000 (comparable to more than $120,000 today). Truby hired farm laborers for 10 weeks a year and paid them wages totaling $40 (more than $1,000 in today’s dollars). He also did some sharecropping, renting out part of his land in exchange for a share of produce.

Download the 1-page PDF showing 1880 data about Simon Truby’s farm. This page also includes info on the nearby farms owned or managed by Sylvester Hildebrand, W. Kerr, George Hunter, and others in Kiski Twp: 300_PDF_download

Find Your Own PA Ancestor’s Farm

Sad to say, the Ag census records aren’t easily searchable online—yet. Someday Ancestry.com or another organization may convert the handwritten Agricultural Census script into searchable documents. But for now, you’ll have to page through the documents yourself to find your ancestor. Happy to say, the  Pennsylvania Agricultural History Project has simplified the search by categorizing the data by county and township.

Here are links to the original data on individual farms in Pennsylvania during different time periods:

Remember, in the 1800s, county and township boundaries were still changing, so it may take a little research to figure out where a historic farm was located.

If these links help uncover any cool info about your ancestor’s farm, please “Comment” on this blog post to let us know what you’ve learned.

Visit the Truby Farmhouse Apollo PA website and take a look around. Coming soon: Learn about Simon Truby’s brother Capt. Henry Truby, who had an almost identical 4-Over-4 brick farmhouse in Gilpin Twp., PA.