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Remembering the Smith Homestead

John Geiselman
From his book "Reflections"

The farm I came to in January 1923, and where we stayed until I was sixteen years old, we called the Smith Homestead. Located along the Barlow-Two Taverns Road it was occupied by J. Carnahan Smith and his wife until they moved to the store in 1915. That same year George and Elsie came to the farm as newly weds.

The farm lies at the edge of the Manor of Maske, part of a land grant from King Charles H of England to William Penn. Surveyed in 1766 and named for an estate in England, the Manor was about six miles wide and twelve miles long, with the Southern boundary at the present Mason-Dixon line. It was the second largest reserved estate of the Penn's in Pennsylvania. After the death of William Penn, many squatters came in and settled. This particular farm plat, spoken of now as the Smith Homestead, was granted by William Penn in the year 1775, during the days of the Revolution. The original house set on the south side of the road. It was an old log house. Behind the log house was a run and near it was a never-failing spring.

On the other side of the road were woods where the brick house now stands. There are two springs on this site. The brick house was built here in the year 1840 from brick made on the farm. A clay p it was south of the Cashman Homestead. It, no doubt, took quite a while to make all the bricks that are in the big farm house. The house is built like an with railing around a second floor balcony. The lower floor had a porch with a brick end projecting out. It was a two and one-half story house. J. Carnahan Smith built a porch in front of the house. It has since been taken down. He also added a back porch and a small summer house. Nearly all big farms had a summer house. During hot summer months they would move a small amount of furniture out of the big house to the small summer house. There were two cupboards built into the wall to store things and a three-burner coal oil stove with a baking oven. It also had a big fireplace. In the late twenties Daddy Smith planted some trees around this summer house.

They would close the shutters on the big house to keep it as cool as possible inside during the real hot weather. This was the early form of air conditioning. Out from the house was the flower bed and vegetable garden. It was a very good garden. Many times I helped to spade and rake it. We would take down the fence of the big bed and plow it with two horses and hand plow.

The big brick house consisted of a small pantry that joined the summer house porch to the kitchen. We had water piped from a spring back of the house up from the meadow which only went dry in the hot weather. There was always plenty of water in the winter for washing. We carried our drinking water from the barn well. In the kitchen was a large range with a water jacket attached for hot water. The little pantry is where we kept things cool in the winter. We only used our ice box in the summer.

The kitchen also had a long table with a lamp on it at all times. Back of the range was a closed fireplace. Next to a large window at the back of the kitchen was a stairway that led upstairs. This was closed off with a door. Another door from the kitchen went into the dining room which was furnished with a settee, china closet, table and chairs. A base-burner stove called a double heater which burned coal kept the living room warm in the coldest weather. There were small cupboards on either side of a closed fireplace in the living room where mother kept many kinds of knickknacks, trophies, special gifts, and glassware. Many a time, when I was a small boy, after helping "Boss" plant corn, I would help Mother clean out this cupboard. Mother would wash the things off and I would dry them and put them back. There was a platform in this room on which Daddy Smith's grandfather clock always stood. In those days we didn't have a lot of furniture, as we have today, but we were comfortably fixed.

The next room in the house was small with one window. It had a door going outside to a small building which was inside of the yard area. We kept some of our supplies in that room. We also kept an incubator in there to hatch peeps. The room was dark if we kept the blinds down. Adjoining this room was the parlor, a special room, only used when company came. They had a small wood burning stove which at one time belonged to Rev. Stockslager. It kept the parlor warm and was only kindled when we had company in the winter for a special occasion. The wallpaper was of a typical old-fashioned pattern. Father had an old piano ...one that was at the World's Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893. It was a Kimball. The mate to it was owned by Walter Maring. His wife was a sister of my foster father's. What a coincidence, one to a sister, and the other to a brother in the same family!

When I was a young boy, I heard mother play the piano and sing many times. The last I heard her sing was August 6, 1977, before she had her last stroke. Also in the parlor were some pictures. One was large with an old mill on it a beautiful picture that now hangs over the fireplace in the parlor of the Sanders home here at "Heavenly Acres". Mother told me her father purchased that picture many years ago in Littlestown from a man by the name of Elmer, a furniture dealer. If you bought so much furniture it was free. This picture is a collectors item as it has mother of pearl in the stonework of the old rustic mill. There was another picture of a ship burning on the water and a stand or two plus a table and chairs in this room. It was in this parlor that mother and father were united in matrimony. There is a side door into the long hall with a winding staircase to the attic. The latch on this door was of solid brass.

The upstairs bedroom doors also had solid brass latches. Up the winding stairway there was a hall, then a large bedroom a beautiful room, they called a spare room or guest room. Mother told me one of the Smith's bled to death in that room. In those days, when one started to bleed, there was no way to control it.

One room upstairs was a small one that had some built in cup-boards. Next to it was Mother's and Father's bedroom which had a door to the balcony. There was a register in the floor for the heat to come up from the double heater in the living room. Next was my bedroom, near the back stairway that went down to the kitchen.

One time the old wall paper was removed from the chimney, and it revealed a painting of a beautiful bald eagle with wings outspread. For some reason a lot of houses, that age and older, had this painting on the walls.

There was a little room, with one window, just above the pantry. This was where Donald Heagy slept, when he was there. It was in this room that Donald fixed up his own electric lights. He used three round, dry-cell batteries and a switch of his own making.

Through a door in the back of the parlor you could go to the old log smoke house, outdoor privy, wood shed, and two chick-en houses. Back of the big chicken house was the potato patch.

Out from the house, beyond the gardens, was a well of very cold water. It was covered with a tin shield and had a chain-cupped gear to bring the water up. Many a time, Father would put a watermelon in a bag, and lower it down in the well, to keep it nice and cold.

There was a Y-shaped walk, one from the big house, the other from the summer house porch, that joined and went straight to the barn. A short distance out from the house was a grape arbor which in the late summer would bear an abundance of grapes. At the end of the walk was the wind tower which pumped water to the house and to the watering trough in the barn yard. Back of that was the buggy shed. Inside the shed, there was a drive shaft hooked to a small gasoline engine, which was then hooked to a washing machine or grind stone. It could also be connected to a meat grinder when needed. Sometimes "Boss" kept his car in this shed. I remember seeing a lid on a man hole that went to a storage area underground. I was always told not to pick that cover up for they didn't want me to fall in. When I grew older, they told me the reason they put that hole under the buggy shed, was to store ice, in the early days.

Speaking of the buggy shed.... I remember one day, when I was a small boy, a neighbor of ours came over to see my father. He was on horseback and stopped right under the overflow pipe that ran along the shed roof where Father and I were standing. Father said, "It looks like it could rain." Within seconds it was raining and water started coming out of the overflow pipe and the man said, "Ye gads a cloud burst!" He didn't realize why he was getting a double dose of water. Father looked up at him and said, "Why don't you just ride your horse out from under that pipe?" We all looked at each other and had a good laugh!

The large bank-barn had three barn floors. The barn had a wagon shed attached. A large corn crib was inside of the wagon shed. The foundation of the barn was red stone which was quarried on the Charlie Schwartz homestead. The barn was laid out nice. On the ground floor were the stables. First was the horse stables with room for seven or eight horses. The next was the horse entry. In the entry were two long feed boxes with slanted lids to keep oats, corn, and Barker's Powder. On the other side of the entry was a stall for the young stock and beyond that the cow stable. It would hold about twelve cows. In the cow entry there were two bins to keep chop feed for the milk cows and young stock. The last stable held a bull for breeding purposes or for slaughtering. The fence that went around the barn was made of locust posts hewn out to fit the rails.

The upper part of the barn had two barn floors of hewn planks. There was an over-den above the one side where we always kept the oat sheaves before threshing. The barn, built in 1868, was made of heavy timber. Daddy Smith told me the timber came out of the woods in back of the barn. Over the wagon shed was a big hay mow. In the corner of that mow was a large wooden tank or reservoir, with an overflow pipe, which projected outside of the barn. This was used for water at the house and barn.

West of the barn stands another wagon shed with two big corn cribs attached. Connected to the corncrib was a hog pen. There was a ledge above the wagon shed where we kept our big bob-sled. The bob-sled was about 14 feet long with a seat in front for two people and room for 10 to 12 in the back. It had two heavy sets of runners under it. The front runners were hitched to the tongue so they could turn as the horses turned. This bob-sled was pulled by two horses. When the snow was deep we would bob-sled to our neighbors. Father would fill the back where we sat with straw. I remember many a cold night when the moon was full and the air bitter cold we would go out for a ride. I didn't mind the cold at all. The year of 1925 there was good sled-ding for six weeks. One of the favorite places we visited was Earlington Schriver's hill up on the Spangler's School Road.

In those days it didn't take much to entertain us. Often we would pay a visit to a neighboring farm. When we arrived by horse and buggy or sleigh, we would unhitch the horses, and put them in the barn until we were ready to return home. The men folks played pitch and dominos. We boys and girls played Old Maids. Another fun game we played, with a special deck, was called Euchre. The women folk would talk about their quilts and make big bowls of popcorn. Sometimes we pulled taffy. Most times we made homemade ice cream. We had such good times and the evenings would always go fast.

I remember the many Christmases during the twenties. We had only one kind of pine tree on the "big farm" - that was cedar. It wasn't my favorite but I never complained about it and many enjoyed seeing my foster parents decorate it. In later years I helped them put the glass bulbs on the tree. It became a yearly tradition. Just before Christmas in 1924 I went into Gettysburg with my foster parents. They took me to Gardner's Five and Ten Cent Store on York Street where I saw a tractor, wagon, dump rake and disk. The tractor had a spring wind for 25 cents. I was happy when the clerk wrapped them up. This was one of my happiest Christmases. I knew someone loved me. Christmas of 1925 I got a train engine, coal car, and two coaches with some track for $1.00. I also had a stocking hanging on the mantelpiece filled with candy.

When I got tired of playing with my things on Christmas day, my parents would take me to Clarence Smith's farm. I wanted to see what Junior, Jimmy, and Madelyn got for Christmas. Together we all had a good time playing with our new toys. I have many happy reflections!!

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