The Stauffer Homestead
The first time I saw the Stauffer Homestead House, the summer of 2004, it was such a wonderful experience! My friend Susan Karas was with me that day, and in my enthusiasm, I gushed, "This was the home of my great-great-great-great grandfather, Abraham Stauffer!" Well, the jury is still out on whether the Rev. Abraham Stauffer actually lived there. For sure, though, it became famous as belonging to Abraham K. Stauffer and his older brother, Joseph R. The picture above is a small version of the large drawing found in an old history book, History of Fayette County, Pennsylvania, by Franklin Ellis, published in 1882. The expanse depicted here had many owners.
Before the Stauffer brothers owned (in 1865) the property, it belonged to their father, John M. Stauffer. And before John, the 200 acres and the house belonged to his father, Abraham Overholt Stauffer, who sold it to his son, John M., in 1843 [more likely 1842], but also stipulated in his will of 1848 that his wife, Elizabeth, would use and occupy "that part of the house we now live in." So, it appears an extended family lived in the house at that time -- Abraham O. and his wife and who knows how many kids and/or grown children?
And before Abraham O. owned the combined acreage, his father the Rev. Abraham Stauffer owned it (or at least parts of it), and it appears he sold it to Abraham O. in 1819. At the time of this sale, both Abrahams were listed on the deed as residing in East Huntingdon Township. Well, the Stauffer Homestead House resides in Tyrone Township. Gil McGurl (who sold the property to the current owners) found that Abraham O. Stauffer appears on the 1819-1820 tax records for Tyrone Township, while (according to Thomas Ridenour's research) Abraham Stauffer was being taxed in East Huntingdon Township. All this data indicated that my Stauffer g-g-g-g grandfather lived elsewhere.
Getting back to John M. Stauffer's ownership, it may have been John M. who wrote on the parlor wall, "1842 farm purchased ," a unique accounting note that was rediscovered and framed by the current owners, David and Carol Tulio (see photographic evidence below).
And so to sum up, J. R. and A. K. were sons of John M. Stauffer and Katrina Sherrick, grandsons of Abraham Overholt Stauffer and Elizabeth Myers, and great-grandsons of the Rev. Abraham Stauffer and Anna Nissley.
When I began working on my feature Stauffer Generations, I wrote to Thomas Ridenour about whether or not Rev. Abraham lived in the Stauffer Homestead House, and he wrote back, saying, "Here is why I don't believe he lived there. Between the time when his wife Anna died in 1817, and when he wrote his will in 1819, he evidently remarried, for he speaks therein of his 'beloved wife.' I believe that he moved in with his new wife across Jacobs Creek in East Huntingdon Twp., Westmoreland County, for he is found on the tax lists for East Huntingdon Twp. from 1819 until 1825."
"Since it was during this period -- about 1822 (as Gil McGurl deduced from his research) that the Stauffer homestead was built, this would indicate that Rev. Abraham did not live in the house, unless he went to live there during his last illness in 1826. That is a distinct possibility, since an old tradition has it that he arose from his deathbed to perform the wedding of Abraham O.'s daughter Nancy to Martin Loucks that same year."
So, maybe my G-G-G-G Grandfather, the Rev. Abraham Stauffer, did live in this house, after all!
With that possibility firmly planted in my imagination, I now want to find out where the Rev.'s kids grew up! How far did the young Overholts have to drive their buggy in order to court the young Stauffers -- and vice versa?
"One story you might find useful and amusing," wrote Thomas Ridenour, "related to me by my Great Uncle Clark Ridenour (1888-1977). He said that when his Uncle Abe Stauffer was born, his initials were 'A.S.S.,' but he later changed the 'S' to a 'K' to avoid embarassment. It was common in that day to sign one's initials to letters, etc. This is confirmed by the John M. and Katrina Sherrick Stauffer Bible in the possession of Judy Stauffer Basso, which gives Abraham's middle initial as 'S' in his birth entry. Interestingly, his brother Joseph R. Stauffer's middle initial was also 'S' at birth. Evidently the 's' was for 'Sherrick,' their mother's maiden name." I imagine the "K" was in honor of his mother's first name, Katrina. So who was Joseph honoring with the "R" added to his name?
I remember there was one other thought that came to my mind on the day I first saw the Stauffer Homestead House. To me, it looked a whole lot like the Abraham Overholt Homestead House in West Overton. It is recorded that Abraham Overholt built his brick house in 1838, probably to the delight of his wife, Maria Stauffer. I wondered if Abraham used the Stauffer Homestead House as an example, and then built one that was j-u-s-t a little bit better. Whether or not this was the case, surely Maria felt right at home.
So how did everything go? How busy was it, the day the wife and six kids moved in? Abraham's oldest daughter, Anna, had married John Tinstman in 1830, and Jacob had married Mary Fox in 1836. The only question is whether or not Henry (yet unmarried at 28 years old) still lived with his parents. But what a grand day it must have been for the family! A bunch of relatives and neighbors may have been there to help with the move, probably bringing along covered dishes with enough food for a big evening meal. A few farm hands and distillery workers may have volunteered to haul the heavy stuff. And then the hour came when everything was ready, and everyone was waiting for Maria to show up. But she -- like any other mother leaving a house that had sheltered her family for years -- had refused to leave the old place before sweeping the hearth one last time. When she finally made her appearance, the kids cheered, because by now, they were hungry and looking forward to the feast.
Abraham Overholt brought Maria to the busy rear of the house, because she had declared that no daughter of a Mennonite minister would abide the pomposity of entering through the fancy front door. So, without ceremony, Abraham bade her to climb the steps up to her brand new home. She took the first few steps firmly, then paused halfway up, noticing that the structure looked v-e-r-y familiar. Following close behind, Abraham bumped her shoulder, shoving her forward, grumbling, "What are you waiting for? All this belongs to you!"
A Few Stauffer Generations
Stauffer (c. 1752-1826)
St16 Abraham O.
St153 John M.
[Data from the
"Stauffer" chapter of Winifred Paul's
The Stauffer House in Pictures
~~ Photos from May 17, 2004 ~~
Arranging a Visit
You can see by the heading of this web page that I compiled the photos for publication on December 30, 2005. I arranged for the photos to be accessible to David and Carol Tullio, current owners of the Stauffer Homestead House, in order to get their feedback, and asked them what sort of information they wished to have included, for those who wanted to visit and take pictures. To date, and after several attempts at securing their wishes on this subject, they have given me no special directives. Therefore, I am publishing the following contact information; their e-mail address may be outdated by now. They indicated to me on several occasions that they would not mind visitors, but I suggest you contact them before you make the trip, in order to arrange an acceptable date and time.
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