Location, Location, Location

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

Architectural Old Gems in North Apollo PA

North Apollo Homes in the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey

When it comes to local towns, the borough of North Apollo at age 86 is really a sprightly young whippersnapper compared to the wizened, wise, slightly eccentric but always beloved 200-year-old grandpappy of Apollo PA. Despite its youth, North Apollo has some stately old homes built decades before the borough was incorporated. And some “newcomers” built during the Roaring 20s are also architectural lookers.

In fact, a dozen North Apollo houses were identified in an old county report as having some sort of historical/architectural significance. Many of the homeowners may have no clue that their houses were featured in this 35-year-old government survey, or that their residence is (or was) considered a sterling example of a certain type of local architecture.

Ever Heard of Luxemburg Heights?

After the 1890s, a community known as Luxemburg Heights was mapped out on the northern remains of Simon Truby’s farm. Today that community is located in the southwest corner of North Apollo borough. As you may already know if you’ve been reading the Truby Farmhouse Blog, North Apollo’s Pegtown was also laid out on Simon Truby’s farmland.

The Sanborn Fire Insurance map below from 1915 shows the layout and homes in the Luxemburg Heights community 100 years ago. All of the streets and residential lots on this map, as far to the right as N 16th Street, used to be Simon Truby’s farmland. The oval fairgrounds near the bottom of the map and the lands below had belonged to Simon’s farmer friend George Washington Hildebrand.

1915-NorthApollo_LoRez-Sheet_8 copy

1915 map of Luxemburg Heights, which today is at the southwestern end of North Apollo borough. This residential community, above the oval Apollo Fairgrounds, was mapped out on Simon Truby’s farmland several years after his death in 1886. Can you find your home – or a friend’s home – on this map?    Sanborn Fire Insurance Map.

Historic Sites Survey

If you read my earlier Truby Farmhouse articles, you may already know about Armstrong County’s 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey, in which the county hired architectural historians to visit and photograph dozens of locations county-wide. They wrote up a 1- or 2-page report for each property. Most people didn’t realize their house(s) had been included in this survey. In most cases, the experts simply viewed the houses from the outside, without knocking on doors, and wrote up their very interesting but brief reports.

Below are most of the 12 North Apollo homes described in the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey, starting with the oldest houses still standing. About half of these dwellings were built on Simon Truby’s old farm. All but 1 or 2 of the 12 listed homes still exist. There were 3 dwellings I couldn’t find–on Spring St, Moore Ave, & Hickory Nut Road–but I’ll bet at least the Moore Ave house is still around. Can you help? The 3 un-found houses are highlighted in Yellow  below.  

North Apollo’s Old Timers: I Houses & a 4-Over-4

As described in an earlier post, I-Houses & 4-Over-4 houses were common in Western Pennsylvania in the late 1700s and early 1800s. I-Houses have 2 rooms on each floor with a central hallway. 4-Over-4 houses are 2 rooms wide and 2 rooms deep, with a central hallway that runs from the front to the back of the house. Three I-houses and one 4-Over-4 in North Apollo–all likely built in the late 1800s–were included in the County’s 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey Report.

I-HOUSES
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Kirkman I-House on Grove Street, built c. 1886. Photo by Vicki Contie, May 2016.

The gorgeous Kirkman I-House on Grove Street–see the large photo at the very top of this article–was built in 1886, according to tax assessment records. It’s one of North Apollo’s oldest remaining farmhouses. Special thank you to Vivian Shaeffer, whose grandparents Nellie (Boarts) and Thomas H. Kirkman had long lived in this house, having purchased it in 1956 from the Noel family. Over Memorial Day weekend, Vivian connected me with her mom, Carole Kennedy, who co-owns the house today. And Carole was kind enough to give us a tour of their lovely family home and surrounding land.

The 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey notes that this vernacular I-house has 2 stories, 5 bays (a bay is a window or door), and a frame construction. A front-facing gable interrupts the roofline. A rear wing—added later gives the building a distinctive T-shape. In the 1896 map a few paragraphs below, a blue arrow points to a drawing of this treasure of a house.

Carole says that this house was originally built by a Hildebrand. I’m still researching the details as to which Hildebrand, as the original landowner—George Washington Hildebrand—had died before this house was built in 1886. I suspect the house may have been built by one of George’s sons. More to come.

The Reefer House of North Apollo is another grand old I-House—this one built in 1892, according to tax assessments. Located near PA Route 66 at Clark Ave and N 15th Street, this 2-story 3-bay dwelling has a gabled roof and 2 exterior brick chimneys.

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Reefer I-House at the intersection of Clark & N 15th Street, built in 1892, was 1 of 5 similar houses on this block. All 5 of these houses were built on Simon Truby’s farmland. Photo by Vick Contie, May 2016.

The county’s 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey report notes that:

“The [Reefer house] is one of a row of 5 houses of identical design, built as single-family dwellings during the late 19th Century. All of these buildings appear on a 1896 panoramic map of the Apollo area.

PA Route 66, a major Armstrong County highway that now fronts these houses, appears on the map as a narrow insignificant road. At that time this road provided access to nearby Apollo Borough for the sparsely settled hilltop area, which developed into North Apollo Borough in the 20th Century. … When surveyed, this house was vacant and undergoing renovation.”

Here’s a close-up of a portion of the 1896 panoramic map described above, featuring today’s North Apollo. The 5 similar houses are circled and labeled in red, with the Reefer house at the far left. The Kirkman I-House is labeled with a blue arrow.  Click on the map to open up a larger version, or click here.

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Close-up portion of the 1896 Panoramic map of Apollo by Fowler & Moyer, focusing on what today is known as North Apollo. Pegtown at far left; Reefer I-House & 4 similar houses circled in red; Kirkman I-House at blue arrow.

And here’s a close-up of the 1915 Sanborn map showing the same 5 houses circled in red. The Reefer house is at the far right; the 2nd house from the right no longer exists; and I’m not sure if the other 3 at left remain standing. Click for a larger version.

UPDATE from June 2016: Reader Dawn Henry Bentley commented that the house that was NEXT to the Reefer house had belonged to her great-grandparents, T William & Mary Louanna McPhilliamy; that house is no longer standing.

1915-NorthApollo_5Houses-Sanborn

Close-up of the 1915 Sanborn map of Luxemburg Heights, today part of North Apollo. The 5 houses circled were similarly built in the early 1890s. The Reefer I-House, at far right, still stands at the corner of Clark and N. 15th Street.

I couldn’t find the Cravener house, supposedly located at 507 Spring Street, which is the 3rd North Apollo I-house listed in the Historic Sites report. The report includes a small map showing that the house is near the intersection of Spring & Oakwood Streets (see below).  But I couldn’t find a 2-story I-house at that location. If you have any knowledge of this old I house or tidbits to share, please add a Comment to the end of this article. It’d be fun to learn more about the history of this apparently now-gone home.

Cravener-Map&Pic

A portion of the Historic Sites report showing the location and a Xeroxed photo of the Cravener I-house on Spring St, built c. 1900. I believe this house no longer exists. The report notes: “Although tax records identify 1900 as its construction date, map evidence indicates a possibility that it was built prior to 1896.”

4-OVER-4 HOUSE

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Hines-Sanders 4-Over-4 house on Hickory Nut Road.

The blue Hines-Sanders house at 1722 Hickory Nut Road, built between 1880 & 1899, is the only 4-over-4 type house in North Apollo that’s listed in the 1980-81 Historic Sites report. Today that house is owned by the Barto family. Read more about this house and 4-Over-4 construction in an earlier blog post.

UPRIGHT & WING

The Historic Sites Survey cited one Upright & Wing home in North Apollo, located at 1602 Acheson Ave, at the corner of Acheson & N. 16th Street. Known as the Fouse house, built in 1908, this home is a 2-story Upright & Wing, which is a variation on the I-house design, but with a 1- or 2-story wing added on. Here’s Wikipedia’s entry on Upright-and-Wing folk-type architecture.

Fouse-1602AchesonAve-NA-Upright&Wing

The historic sites survey report further notes:

“Several Upright & Wing folk-type houses are located on Acheson Ave, North Apollo borough. This type of house design… is found throughout Armstrong County. The population growth that led to the incorporation of North Apollo Borough in 1930 was just beginning when this house was built in 1908. The trolly of the Leechburg and Apollo Electric Railway, which began operations in 1906, ran directly past this house along Acheson Ave. This encouraged residential development in the Borough by providing easy access to the adjacent towns and their employment.”

By the way, this Acheson Ave house is currently on the market!

AMERICAN FOURSQUARE, OR CUBIC

Cubic-type houses, also known as American Foursquare, were locally popular in the 1920s, according to Armstrong County’s 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey. “This decade marked the beginning of the automobile era in America, and cubic houses were the first style to have attached garages. Many houses of this style were built in Armstrong County at this time,” the report states.

In fact, 9 Cubic-type houses were constructed in North Apollo during the 1920s. Two of these were recognized in the county’s Historic Sites Survey report.

Foursquare houses are a roughly cubic, 2-story structures, usually with a pyramidal roof that has 1 or more dormers. Each floor generally has 4 square-shaped rooms with a central hallway. This house type originated in the U.S. in the 1890s and remained popular throughout the 1930s. They’re especially good for giving maximal living space on small residential lots.

The brick Held house at 1324 Leonard Ave, at the corner of Leonard & N 14th St, is an “excellent example of the Cubic style,” the report notes. It was built in 1927, according to tax assessment records.

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Built in 1927, the Held house is a noteworthy example of Cubic or Foursquare-type architecture. Located at the corner of Leonard & N 14th St. This house sits on land that was once part of Simon Truby’s farm.  Photo by Vicki Contie, May 2016.

The 1980-81 Historic Sites report states:

This dwelling, built as a single-family residence, helped house the influx of the population to this area, which was the most populous section of Kiskiminetas Township in the 1920s. Citizen organization led to incorporation of North Apollo Borough in 1930, three years after this house was built. There are several cubic homes in the immediate vicinity, but this was selected for its unaltered appearance and above average conditions. The original owners occupy the house.

Another lovely Cubic house, known in 1980 as the Davis house, is located at 1202 Cochrane Ave. It was built in 1928. Today the house is owned by the Rodgers family.

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Cubic style, or foursquare, architecture at 1202 Cochrane Ave, built in 1928. This house sits on land that was once part of Simon Truby’s farm. Photo by Vicki Contie, May 2016.

BUNGALOW

The county’s Historic Sites Survey recognized the following 3 bungalow-style houses in North Apollo. Bungalows are typically 1-and-a-half stories. Read more about bungalow architecture at Apollo’s Historic House Styles: Bungalow & Upright-and-Wing.

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The Kuhns house at 1307 Wemple Ave is a stucco & wood Bungalow-style house built in 1922. Photo by Vicki Contie, May 2016.

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Andrews house, a bungalow style built in 1926, at 831 N 16th Street.

Download the PDF of the Andrews house site survey report.

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Shaffer house, built in 1926 and located at 1703 Wilson Ave near N 17th Street.  In 1980, the house was owned by a younger generation of the original family.

BUNGALOID !!!

How is a bungaloid house different from a bungalow? I have no clue. But the Shriver house listed at 802 Moore Ave is classified as a Bungaloid, according to the county’s 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey report. However, I couldn’t find this house. A portion of the report is below and may provide some clues, including a description of house features. Can you shed any light on the location of this house? Click the image to open a larger version.

Shriver

The Shriver house report goes on to include this interesting background on the history of North Apollo:

The Apollo Steel Company brought prosperity and population growth to the Apollo area when it began operations in 1913. In 1921, the company had several stucco-covered, single-family, bungalow-style houses built on Moore Ave in North Apollo.

[The Shriver house] was selected for its unaltered appearance and grey color, although various pastel shades were used for others on the street. This area of the borough was once called Allison Lane, before it was combined with Pegtown and Luxemborg Heights sections to form North Apollo Borough in 1930. Two waves of residential construction are apparent in the Allison Lane area, the first in the 1920s when this company house was built, and the second later, in the 1950s.

HAPPY NEWS!  A long-time resident of the Shriver house at 802 Moore Ave has sent the photo of Shriver house. The photo is a several years old. A lovely house!

In addition, an email from Lawana & Phil Murphy of North Apollo helped clear up some confusion over the street addresses, which have apparently changed since the Armstrong County Historic Site Survey was completed in the 1980s. Today, 802 Moore Ave is 1724 Moore.

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802 Moore Ave (today the address is 1724 Moore), near the corner of 18th Street, North Apollo. Photo courtesy of John Shriver, whose parents purchased the house for $3,600 in 1944, when John was age 4. His parents John & Eleanor Shriver continued to live here for nearly 5 decades. The house was sold after Eleanor’s death in 1991.

VERNACULAR QUEEN ANN – Also missing

The Historic Sites Survey says that the Cockran house on Hickory Nut Road, built c. 1900, is a vernacular style structure that’s unique to North Apollo’s built environment. “The residence is an example of an attempt by the common man to integrate popular stylistic features into a less expensive dwelling,” the county’s architectural experts wrote.

Sad to say, I can’t seem to find this house! The portion of the report pasted in below may provide some clues. If you can figure out where this house is located, please let us all know by commenting at the end of the article.

UPDATE in June 2016: Readers Debbie Kloc and Milli Cook note that the Earlie Cockran house was torn down years ago. See their Comments at the end of the article for more details.

Cockran

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Help to preserve Apollo’s history by making a donation to the Apollo Area Historical Society at https://apollopahistory.wordpress.com/donate/ . And stop by their museum on N. 2nd Street to see their displays, neat old photos, & hot Apollo merch for sale, including the 1896 panoramic map of Apollo.

Come check out Apollo’s History Walk along Roaring Run Trail on Sun July 3, from 4-6pm (I think). I’ll have a table with info about Apollo’s architectural styles and also the Truby farm, family, and farmhouse. Plus, you can visit other tables as you stroll along through Apollo’s 200 years of history. Be there or be square!

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.

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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
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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.