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Oldest Frame House in Granville Center
Canton Independent Sentinel: 3/29; 4/5; 4/12; 4/19/2007

[Added by the transcriber, DFS]

This is the first in a series of articles of historical information concerning the oldest house in Granville Center, which was built in 1819 by Jeremiah Taylor and was the first frame house in Granville.  The article includes information about the early settlers and the first families to come to that area.  The articles were written in 1987 by Joy Jennings.
The house has been vacant for many years and for a time was open to the public over Memorial Day weekend.  Displays of historic interest from the community were displayed in the house.  The last several years the house has not been open due to need of repair and death of several of the local historians who supervise the yearly openings.
The community has become interested in restoring and preserving this house and is attempting to get money to help in restoration so the house can again be open to the public.
In Granville Center, Pennsylvania, on a little hillside is a cemetery occupying the settlers of the township and their families from the early 1800’s right on up to the present time.  And in front of this cemetery is situated a little house now referred to by all the local residents as “The Old Taylor House.”  Nearby are an old gnarled apple tree, some lilac bushes and old-fashioned rose bushes that have stood the test of time.  The little house possesses a wealth of history and we will attempt to tell some of it now.
If one can imagine all that the pioneers endured during the founding of our settlements in this great nation, then you may understand what an accomplishment it must have been for the Jeremiah Taylor, Sr. family, leaving their native Berkshire, Mass. area and family, only to face coming to a strange, wild, uncultivated land with months and years of relentless work and hardships.
Jeremiah Taylor, Sr. born October 8, 1772, and his family came in the winter, arriving only with a tract of land purchased from Stephen Bacon, a relative of his mother, under the Connecticut title.  In 1798-99 Jeremiah Taylor, Sr. helped survey this land and the following winter, on an ox-sled with their possessions, he and his wife, Martha Bailey and two sons, Jeremiah, Jr., aged 5, and Levi, aged 2 ½ years moved into a log cabin he’d made in a clearing beside the North branch of Towanda Creek.  It was at least 5 miles from the nearest settlement along Sugar Creek.  This area, under Pennsylvania law, was once part of Luzerne County until 1813, when Bradford County was formed with Towanda as County Seat.
The third son of Jeremiah and Martha Taylor Sr. was the first white child born in the township, October 9, 1803, named Sylvester.  This was also the same year the child’s grandparents, Oliver and Hannah Bailey arrived from Massachusetts.
Their last child was a daughter named Abigail, born May 6, 1806.  We don’t know too much about her except that she married Isaac Putnam and had a family.
Jeremiah Taylor, Sr. and his immediate descendants were largely responsible for the Granville area and many of today’s residents trace their ancestry back to him.  Many well-known names such as Bailey, White, Baxter, Putnam, Holcomb, Innes, Manley, DeWitt are related to this family.
The next portion of the story deals with the life of Jeremiah Taylor, Jr.  He was born March 15, 1795/6 at Tyringham, Berkshire Co., Mass.  He went to school in Granville Center, being in the first class in the first school in 1807.  Later he taught there.  On July 4, 1816, he married Mary White, daughter of David and Mary (Ferris) White, pioneers of Troy Township.  During the next year the family donated a piece of their homesteaded land for the first cemetery in Granville Center.  This was the “Old” part and the first person buried on this ground was Katura Parkhurst, not far from the above date.  During the next few years, Jeremiah Sr. deeded Jeremiah Jr. and Mary, the land by the cemetery, etc., 63 acres, about half the original farm.
In 1819 Jeremiah, Jr. built the first framed house in the area, on a part of his father’s farm and cleared the remaining part for farming.  Jeremiah Taylor Sr. continued to try and clear and improve the land around him until he died, September 17, 1827, at the age of 55.
A few years later Jeremiah, Jr. built the first gristmill, the first sawmill, and finally, a rake and chair factory, which all helped to build the economy of the area.
Now for a description of the “Old House.”  The construction is typically “New England,” built in Greek revival architecture of the 19th century and faces south.  And it has been built in two parts with a third addition.
The main part or original structure was 26’ 7” x 18’.  It is one and a half stories high and has a front room containing 7 doors and a room on the east end which has wide horizontal pine boards on the walls.  Some of the boards are twenty inches and over in width.  Split lath was put on the ceiling to hold the “horsehair” mixed in plaster, which helped reinforce it.  The pantry is directly off the back of the main room to the east and contains the doorway to the cellar.  The windows were all six-pane, double sash, some with original glass.
Off the main room to the extreme west is a door which opens to the stairway.  Upstairs there is a large bedroom with two smaller rooms on the east side.  Some of the ceiling boards upstairs have traces of a circle saw.  The ceilings slope down to the eaves and boast three low single pane “bellyflop” or “eyebrow” windows.  There are two single sashes of four panes each on each gable end.
The salt-box addition attached to the back may have been built soon after the main house was or perhaps moved from another spot to that position.  This section is 3’8” (13’8”?) x 12’8” and contains a kitchen with a dining room to the west directly off the kitchen.  The kitchen has seven doors, perhaps a special meaning of good fortune years ago to its inhabitants.  The kitchen has wideboard walls and ceiling with a steep, very narrow stairway leading to a loft with very low headroom.  Off the kitchen to the east is another small room and beyond that a door leading to a very small porch.  The kitchen has a back door leading outside to the north.  The plank outer wall is mortised into the sill and plate.  Wooden pins hold them and the rafters in place.
The third addition of the house is an ell at the west side of the structure, built years later by Encell Taylor, father of Laura Taylor Clark.  We consider it long ago because most of the folks around here always remember it being that way.  It contains a chimney in the west end, with hand cut split lath to support the plaster.  There is a door in the front part of this room and not far from the door outside stands a pump.
Naturally the house lacks modern plumbing but they did have a fine “privy” located about 25 feet from the side kitchen porch.  It must have been upset one time too due to the Halloween “pranks” of local youth, for one of its last owners, Laura Clarks husband Rex, became upset enough to secure it so thoroughly that no one has moved it since.  Just in case though, it was said that on Halloween night Rex would be kneeling by the tiny windows upstairs, with his trust shotgun.  At any rate the old outhouse still stands strong.
Outside there are a few shrubs and trees amidst the well-kept and some flowers in a nearby garden.  The house knew only the most elementary electrical wiring.  All the members of the Taylor family lived very simply, even up to the 1970’s.  Laura Clark, herself, had to improvise a sink by using a dishpan on a table and drawing water from a pump outside.  A sink finally was installed, but not too long ago.  The house has changed little throughout the years and it is for this very reason that people enjoy looking at those wide boards and unique construction.  Can you imagine a carpenter today trying to hand mortise anything?
Jeremiah Jr. and his wife, Mary White Taylor, had the following children: 1. Benjamin Franklin, born February 6, 1818, married first, Celinda (born July 15, 1817, died July 24, 1842) no children, married second Marie Andrus (born March 4, 1827, died April 29, 1905) one child, Charles E., born October 5, 1860.  He married Anna Leonard.  He died July 28, 1934.  Benjamin F. died July 24, 1842.[ this is the same date of death as his first wife, so it must be in error, as his son was born in 1860 – DFS]  2. Luman D., born November 28, 1820.  Married Matilda B. Holcomb (born September 7, 1822, died March 17, 1917).  Luman died March 2, 1892.  No known children from this marriage.  3. Lemira, married Dennis Perry.  4. Melvina, married Herman Bush.  When Jeremiah Jr. died in September 1849, Mary his wife, lived in the Old House for many years.  In 1866 she gave more land to the cemetery.  She died February 15, 1889.
Jeremiah Taylor, Jr.’s sons, Benjamin F. and Luman D. operated the villages first store in a three story building now owned by Miss Ruth Leonard and is used as a garage.  Lumen [Luman?]D. invented and manufactured a hayloader in his early years.  Luman taught school in the winter months and helped his father in the general merchandise business.  Sometime later the store was moved to a larger building site where Morrison’s garage is today.
Jeremiah Jr.’s brother Levi was also a contributor to the Taylor heritage of Granville.  He built the first frame barn in the township in 1815, working as a storekeeper in East Burlington for a pound of nails a day to obtain the needed material used in building his barn.  Levi married first, Louise Holcomb, daughter of Sterling and Betsey Holcomb.  Their children were: Alvira (Mrs. Denton Perry); Betsey (Mrs. Hiram Reyolds [Reynolds?]; Steling [Sterling?], born October 23, 1824; Volney, born February 14, 1829.  Levi married second, Mary Landon, daughter of Benjamin and Abigail Cole Landon.  They had no surviving children. And third, Levi married Sarah Campbell, daughter of James and Kessiah Patrick Campbell.  They had the following children: Milan, born June 21, 1844; Hollis, born January 20, 1848; Fred K., born January 13, 1859.  In 1831 Levi was elected on the first 3 highway commissioner.[sic]  He built an inn at the top of the hill across from the intersection of High Street and Rte. 514.  The Inn was later purchased by the grange and in 1892, it was moved to its present site, at the lower side of the cemetery, across the road from the home of Bill and Ruth Kinney.  Levi resided in Granville all his life, until his death on April 25, 1890, at the age of 93.
The youngest son of Jeremiah Sr. was Sylvester, the first white child born in 1803 in the township, and lived to the ripe old age of 88, his death being January 19, 1891.  Sylvester enjoyed writing down things that were happening at his period in time and even had visions of making a complete Bradford County History.  The manuscript he wrote of his “Recollections” remained in the possession of his son, Orlando, for many years.  There was a fine publication put in the November 1974 issue of “The Settler,” a quarterly magazine put out by the Bradford County Historical Society.
Sylvester married Susannah DeWitt, daughter of Paul and Elizabeth Slye DeWitt.  They had one son, Orlando, born April 13, 1832.  Orlando married Esther Fowler and they had two children: Encell, born May 4, 1863, and Melda, who later became Mrs. Charles Gray.
Now, Encell Taylor, as anyone in Granville could tell you, lived in the Old House all his married life.  He married Euphemia Shedden and they led a very busy and active life.  They had one daughter, Laura, born July 22, 1902.  Encell wrote poems, mostly about doings in his hometown, and walked everywhere – to his Grange meeting, church, I.O.O.F. and to Troy and Towanda.  For at least 40 years, he was Justice for the Township.  He was also a farmer.
His wife was known to everyone a “Phamie” and she possessed a beautiful soprano voice, which everyone enjoyed hearing at church functions as well as the well-known quartette she was a member of, including Anna Taylor, Tilla Bunyan and Jennie Grenell.  Encell and Phamie also enjoyed participating in the many talent shows in the area and especially those at the Granville Center Opera House.  Encell died February 8, 1940, and sometime after, their daughter Laura, who was married to Rex Clark, moved into the Old House to help care for Phamie.  She enjoyed life so much and it must have enjoyed her for she lived to be 102 years old.  She died January 8, 1962.
Daughter Laura and Rex lived in the Old House doing very little to change it, which really adds to its originality.  They had two daughters, Marge (Mrs. Colonel Wood), Canton, and Shirley (Mrs. Thomas Young), Alba.  The Clarks continued to live there – folks remember Rex driving his team of oxen down the road.  What a sight they were.  Rex died in 1968 and Laura stayed on in the Old House until 1974, when she was unable to stay alone any longer.  In April of 1980, Laura sold the house and lot to the Granville Center Cemetery Association.  Mrs. Clark died May 2, 1980.  So ended the Taylor line of descendents living continuously in the Old House for over 150 years.
It was during the year 1980, that some interested persons, especially Ellen Baxter Jennings, Sylvania, began a restoration project for the “Old House.”  A meeting was held at the Granville Center Church Annex in Granville Center on September 8, 1980 to make plans and decide the fate of the Old House.
At the meeting, it was decided to try and save the Old House, so future generations could see what the first dwelling in the township looked like and how they lived early in the 19th century.
Immediate repairs needed to be made for the building to survive.  At that time, the ceiling in the kitchen had dropped almost to the floor.  Apparently when the contents of the house were sold at an auction, a wall cupboard was sold and removed, and with it went the support it lent to the ceiling.  So Will Jennings and his son Keith were hired to jack up the ceiling, shore up part of the cellar, relaid the stone wall, replaced broken windows, repaired the roof, and so forth.
As the years have gone by, Ellen Jennings, her sister, Jean Bacter [Baxter?]Crane, and Ruth Kinney from Granville have been instrumental in organizing “Open Houses” for the Old House, starting first on Memorial Day weekend 1982, and now on Labor Day weekend as well.  Tours are given through the Old House and different displays by local residents can be seen and looked at.  Ruth Kinney has many mementos on display each time, including pictures of local residents when they used to attend the old school.  She would appreciate any pictures anyone has to give her of the group who attended in the 1940’s and ‘50’s.  There have been bake sales and one year we even sold ice cream.  Everyone enjoys seeing friends and neighbors and fond memories flow as people reminisce at the “Open Houses.”  There have been many fine contributions made, some by memorials of family of friends who have passed away.  It was a nice gesture to memorials be made to the “Restoration of the Old House” and very much appreciated.
The house has been painted red like it used to be with white trim due to the efforts of Keith Jennings and Bob Crane and others.  And the inside is gradually getting painted also with the help of people like Jean Crane, Pauline Clark and her family, and other volunteers.  Jean made some beautiful curtains.  We’ve had lovely donations of furniture etc. from various people in the community.
There is a fine looking sign by the driveway made by Will and Keith Jennings which tells everyone the house is the oldest in Granville, built in 1819.  Everyone is invited to the Old House this coming Memorial Day weekend.  Many interesting displays have been shown by Ruth Kinney, Wilmer Wilcox, Martha Jean Wood, Florence and Budd Mitchell, Keith Jennings, Ruth Leonard, Floyd and Marie Taylor, Ellen Jennings, Shirley Young and many others.  Our last display feature was “Old dolls of the area.”
We now have a nice new back porch on the house, which was badly needed.  We hope that through the years, the house can be made like it was originally, as much as possible.  There is no doubt that it will take a lot of patience and time.  Anyone with any questions or donations of old postcards or pictures they would like to donate to the Old House should contact:  Ellen Jennings RR #3 Troy, PA 16947; phone 570-297-2753 or Jean Crane RR #2 Troy, PA 16947, phone: 570-297-5762.
I would like to thank all the people who helped give me articles to work with for this story of the Old House.  Special thanks go to Ruth Kinney and her booklet, “Memories Along the Northbranch, A history of Granville,” and to Jean Crane for information on its interior features, to Croft and Heverly Histories of Bradford County.  And to my husband, Will, for his support.  Thanks to anyone I may have overlooked.  It was much appreciated.
[Does anyone know the current status of the house? – DFS]

Photo by Joyce M. Tice 1999

As a side note, I can personally attest to Rex Clark and his shotgun.  When in Troy High School, probably 1948, we were out "Halloweening."  Bill Whitlock was driving his Dad's (Joe) new Ford.  We stopped in front of the house and got out of the car. I can't remember what we were up to, but obviously it was "no good."  Immediately the shot gun began firing.  While none of us were hit, the trunk lid of the car was peppered.  I never knew what ensued when Bill got home, but I am sure it was not sweet.  (Bill was from Sylvania, as was I.  He became a veterinarian, but unfortunately he was killed in an automobile accident leaving a wife and several children.)

Regards, Don [Stanton][
 

Bradford County PA
Chemung County NY
Tioga County PA

Published On Tri-Counties Site On 24 MAY 2007
By Joyce M. Tice
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