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.

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Apollo’s “folk-type” architecture

I-House and 4-Over-4

As mentioned in my last blog post, the Armstrong County Historic Sites Survey of 1980-81 noted that several of Apollo’s historic homes have a “folk type” or vernacular” architecture. This refers to mostly modest homes built with local materials in traditional, familiar styles, without the assistance of professional architects.  In a future blog post I’ll write about a few other folk-type houses in Apollo, such as bungalow and upright & wing. But for now we’ll focus on the I-House and 4-Over-4 house types. Both have a center hallway with symmetrical rooms on each side.

I-house

Illustration of an I-House, which has 2 rooms on each floor separated by a center hallway. Courtesy of the Missouri Folklore Society.

HISTORIC I-HOUSES OF APOLLO

The folk-type I-House, common in the 18th century in the U.S., is a 2-story house featuring a center hallway/staircase with a single room on either side.  This type of house—sometimes called a Georgian I-House—is just one room deep with 4 rooms total. Here’s a nice overview of rural I-Houses in America.

The brick house at 323 First Street in Apollo is possibly the oldest surviving I-House in the borough. Because it’s only 1 room deep, you can see straight through the house at the upper left window in the photo below.

McCullough House

The 5-bay (5-window) brick I-House at 323 First Street, Apollo PA, built circa 1850. Since it’s only 1-room deep, you can see straight through the upper left window to the other side of the house. Photo by Vicki Contie, August 2015.

The Historic sites Survey report notes that the home’s one chimney projects from the gabled roof, and the centrally placed entranceway has multi-paned transom and side windows. Later additions include the front and back porches and a weatherboard-sided rear wing, which gives the building an ell-shape.

Dr. Thomas J. Henry’s History of Apollo, published in 1916, says that this brick house on First Street was built by Dr. William McCullough. In fact, a deed search shows that Dr. William P. McCullough never owned that property. Rather, the lot was owned by McCullough’s brother, Dr. Thomas C McCulloch, from 1850 to 1860. I’ll write a future blog post about the history of that property, including the mysterious fact that brothers William and Thomas McCullough/McCulloch had differently spelled last names! This lot had several owners before McCulloch, including Robert Carnahan, who owned the property from 1817 to 1829. If indeed Dr. William McCullough built that brick house on his brother’s property, the structure was likely erected sometime during the 1850s.

Download the 2-page PDF of the Historic Sites Survey report for the McCullough/Altmire I-House at 323 First Street: 300_PDF_download

If you cross over First Street from the McCullough house and walk a little down the hill toward the bridge, you’ll come to another I-House cited in the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey: the Speer house at 318 First Street. This wood-frame house was likely built between 1880 and 1889.

SpeerHouse-318FirstStreet-CROP

Another historic I-house, the Speer house is at 318 First Street, Apollo, PA. Photo by Vicki Contie, March 2016.

The 1981 Historic Sites report notes: “the wood frame construction is covered with the original weatherboard siding. Sawtooth-edged vertical board siding trims the roofline and the dormer gable.” The report further notes that the 2nd floor has a “projecting gabled wall dormer in the center of the facade” that has French doors; another set of French doors provide access to the large side porch. The French doors, along with the side porch and Colonial Revival style portico, are all unique additions to the house, added in the early 1900s. The report concludes: “Restoration to the original appearance is not advisable since the unique look produced by the added features would be lost.”

Download the 1-page PDF of the Historic Sites Survey report for the Speer house at 318 First Street in Apollo PA 300_PDF_download
Reefer-420N4thStreetIMG_20160312_162027438

The Reefer house at 420 N. Fourth Street is an I-House that looks similar to (but simpler than) the Speer house above. The 2-doored Reefer house, built circa 1885, has been maintained since construction as a 2-family dwelling. Photo by Vicki Contie, March 2016.

Other historic I-Houses in the Apollo area include the “Reefer house,” a 5-bay wooden I-house at 420 N. Fourth Street (shown here) and 3 homes in North Apollo that I wasn’t able to identify, because I believe the street numbering in North Apollo may have changed since the early 1980s(?). Those historic North Apollo I-houses were listed in 1981 at:

  • 507 Spring Street, the Cravener house, built circa 1900.
  • Grove Street, the Kirkman house, build circa 1886.
  • Route 66 & 15th Street, the Reefer house, built circa 1892.

If you can shed light on any of these North Apollo houses, please let me know!

HISTORIC 4-OVER-4 HOUSES OF APOLLO

The 4-Over-4 folk-type house was built throughout Western Pennsylvania in the 19th century, according to the the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey. Like the I-house, the 4-Over-4 house has a central hallway. But as its name implies, a 4-Over-4 house is 2 rooms wide and 2 rooms deep, with the 2nd floor rooms and hallway directly over the first-floor rooms & hallway.

Simon Truby’s 4-Over-4 farmhouse at 708 Terrace Ave in Apollo is one of the oldest surviving houses in Apollo borough. This 8-room brick house was likely built after 1843, the year Simon Truby purchased nearly 160 acres of land from Dr. James R. Speer and his wife Hettie of Pittsburgh (for details, see Start with a Dot, Then Follow the Deeds).

Since the Truby house was built long before Terrace Avenue existed, the 5-bay front of the house faced westward toward the Kiskiminitas River. The current 3-bay front of the house that faces Terrace Avenue used to be the back of the house.

Then&Now

The 5-bay “front” of the Truby farmhouse, circa 1890 (left) and today. When Terrace Avenue was extended to this part of town around the turn of the century, the front of the house became the back. A brick pantry and garage were added to the former “front” of the house sometime before 1950 (right). Left photo courtesy of Barb Aitchison. Right photo by Vicki Contie, 2014.

1995-TrubyHouse-ArmCo tax office pic

The 3-bay “front” of the Truby farmhouse, facing Terrace Avenue, used to be the back of the house. The people conducting the 1980-81 Historic Sites Sites Survey were not aware of the original 5-bay facade on the other side. Photo from the Armstrong County Tax Office, 1995.

The 1980-81 Historic Sites report notes that the Truby house is one of Apollo borough’s few remaining buildings from the 1840-1859 period, and the “4-over-4 design is easily recognizable. The report mistakenly refers to the house as a “smaller 3-bay version of the type which more commonly has 5-bays.” The historians apparently were not aware that the original front of the house does indeed have 5 bays.

Although the former front of the house is now covered by a brick pantry and garage, and nearly all of the 1/1 original sash windows were replaced in the 1990s, the original front door and two lower 1/1 sash windows remain intact within the added-on pantry.

Download the 2-page PDF of the Historic Sites Survey report for the Truby/Contie house at 708 Terrace Ave – I couldn’t help but add my own red-pen edits to this document to correct the report’s errors. 300_PDF_download

TolandHouse-500N4thSt- IMG_20160313_153641287_HDR

The Toland house at 500 N. Fourth Street was “the best example of [a 4-Over-4 type house] in the Apollo borough,” according to the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey report. Photo by Vicki Contie, March 2016.

The Toland house at 500 N. Fourth Street in Apollo PA was “the best example of [a 4-Over-4 type  house] in the Apollo borough,” and “the original 4-Over-4 design of this vernacular house is easily recognizable,” according to the 1980-81 Historic Sites Survey report. The report further notes that the property owner’s name appears on the 1876 Atlas Map is “S. McBryar,” and that the home was likely built between 1860 and 1876. It appears that the original weatherboard wall finish has been replaced by aluminum siding since the 1980-81 survey was conducted.

Download the 1-page PDF of the Sites Survey report for the Toland house at 500 N. Fourth Street. 300_PDF_download
The Hines Sanders house on Hickory Nut Road in North Apollo PA, built circa 1880-1899, is a vernacular 4-Over-4 style structure with an expanded form due to the addition of 4 wings, resulting in an irregular shaped plan.

The Hines Sanders house on Hickory Nut Road in North Apollo, built circa 1880-1899, is a vernacular 4-Over-4 style structure with an expanded form due to the addition of 4 wings, resulting in an irregular shaped plan. Photo by Vicki Contie, March 2016.

An additional 4-Over-4 type house — this one in North Apollo — is the blue Hines/Sanders house on Hickory Nut Road; a larger version of this photo appears at the very top of this blog post. Built between1880 and 1899, this was originally a 3-bay house with a gabled roof, one brick central chimney, and an off-center front-facing gable that interrupts the roofline. Several additions have changed the overall structure of the home. The Burkett family is believed to be the original owner of this single-family dwelling, the report notes.

Download the 2-page PDF of the Sites Survey report for the Hines/Sanders house on Hickory Nut Road in North Apollo. 300_PDF_download

And so concludes this overview of the historic I-houses and 4-Over-4 type houses in Apollo, as cited by the county’s Historic Sites Survey more than 30 years ago. As always, comments, suggestions, and questions much appreciated!

Coming up, a report on Simon Truby’s farm and the peaches, potatoes, milk, butter, wool, and other stuff he grew/made right here in Apollo borough and in North Apollo as well.

Apollo & the Historic Sites Survey of 1980-81

In 1980, Armstrong County PA deployed a fleet of experts in architecture and history to scour the region looking for historic structures, including buildings and bridges. It’s hard to find info about this Armstrong County Historical Sites Survey on the Web. But the Kittanning Public Library has a set of 3-ring binders with photocopies of 2-page reports on all the sites they reviewed. 300_PDF_download

Nearly 30 historic buildings in Apollo PA were included in their analysis (more about that below). The report’s summing up about the town (download the PDF) notes that “Apollo Borough’s colorful historical development has produced a majority of turn-of-the Century vernacular residences, a variety of popular 19th Century architectural styles, and early 20th Century Bungalow, Cubic, and Colonial Revival styles.”

In other words, the town is jam-packed with a wide variety of cool historic houses.

The report further notes that the town’s earliest buildings had been destroyed by the 1876 fire and the St Patrick’s Day flood in 1936, with the sole survivor being Drake’s Log Cabin, built circa 1816 away from the floodplain. And “A 4 Over 4 folk-type residence on Terrace Avenue is one of the other few remaining buildings from the 1840-1859 period.” That 4 Over 4 folk-type house is the Simon Truby farmhouse at 708 Terrace Ave. (Read more about Apollo’s historic 4-Over-4 houses at Apollo’s “folk-type” architecture)

ALONG TERRACE AVENUE

Terrace Ave is recognized for having “Apollo’s most impressive, and most well-preserved buildings dating from the turn of the Century. These residences represent an age of prosperity during the community’s railroad and steel mill eras.”

The report cites 4 homes in particular on Terrace Ave:

JacksonHouse-Dec2012

“The Col. Jackson house, built in 1883, as a combination of Italianate and Colonial Revival Stylistic features.”  Photo by Vicki Contie.

NellieBlyHouse-CourtesyAAHS

The house at 505 Terrace Ave is “the most elaborate example of the Colonial Revival style found in Apollo and built between 1900 and 1919,” according to the Historic Sites Survey.

SnyderHouseEarly1900s

The Amy Snyder house, “an excellent example of the Queen Anne style house built between 1880 and 1899.”300_PDF_download

Site survey report  PDF for the Amy Snyder house. Download the PDF:

MomsHouse-MemDay2014-byAuntCathy-Crop

And Simon Truby’s farmhouse on Terrace Ave in Apollo, PA.    A 4 Over 4 vernacular-type house built during the 1840-1859 period, already mentioned as one of the few remaining buildings from this era. Photo by Cathy Hubbard.

MAPPING THE HISTORIC SITES

This map (also below) shows some of the other buildings featured in the 1980-81 Historic Sites report, including:

  • Whitlinger house at 406 N Fourth Street Apollo PA. Built c 1870, this brick building is eclectic, combining architectural features from the Colonial Revival Style and the 2nd Empire Style. It’s one of the few buildings in Apollo with a Mansard style roof.

    McCulloughHouse-Crop2015

    Dr. McCullough house at 323 First Street in Apollo. A 5-bay I house. Photo by Vicki Contie.

  • Dr. McCullough house at 323 First Street Apollo PA. Built in 1850, this 2-story residence is one of the earliest examples of a 5-bay I House in the Apollo Borough. (Read more about Apollo’s historic I-houses in Apollo’s “folk-type” architecture)
  • Apollo United Presbyterian Church, 401 First Street Apollo PA.
  • Apollo Area Community Center/Municipal Bldg at 405 Pennsylvania Ave Apollo PA.
  • WCTU building at 317 N. Second Street Apollo PA. Current home of the Apollo Area Historical Society.

HistoricSitesMap2016

Click on the map to open a larger interactive version. I’ll add more buildings to the map as time allows.

What is a 4 Over 4 folk-type house? And what’s an I-house? I wondered that myself! Tune in to the next blog post — Apollo’s “folk-type” architecture — to find out.

Please comment or share any additional thoughts/info you might have, whether about historic houses in Apollo & environs, or about the 1980-81 Armstrong Historic Sites survey, or whatever’s on your mind. Thanks for reading!

Visit the website’s homepage at trubyfarmhouseapollopa.wordpress.com/

The image at the very top of this blog post is from a postcard of Terrace Ave, Apollo PA circa 1910.