It stood on a hillside just south of the little village of Barrett in Marshall County, a rather large white farm house with a red roof and a large front porch built of granite field stone.That house was my home until I went away to college.
My great grandfather came to Kansas before it was astate. He was a Quaker from Ohio, whose roots went back to the original settlers who came to America with William Penn. He was a miller and a millwright and had itchy feet. When the Kansas Territory was opened for settlement in 1854, A. G. Barrett came west looking for land. He represented the Ohio Land Company, formed by a group of people in the little town of Cadiz, Ohio.
As he gazed out over the broad Vermilion Valley, heconcluded that this was the place and he purchased several thousand acres. Returning to Ohio, he discovered the Ohio Land Company had disbanded. He was left with land and no money. He soon convinced his brothers and a brother-in-law to join him in settling the Kansas land.
In the Vermilion Valley, there was an abundant supplyof choice trees. Ab Barrett shipped a saw mill by riverboatand ox team to his settlement and proceeded to saw the prime trees into lumber. He built a kiln to dry the lumber and filled it with oak, walnut, hickory and cottonwood lumber. After a year of activity he finally had cut and dried enough lumber to build his house. He planned to build a frame house large enough to accommodate the family he had left in Ohio.
The night before construction was to start, the smoldering fires were raked from the kiln to allow it to cool. Anunexpected night-time storm blew the fire back into the kiln and the entire year's effort went up in smoke. With true pioneer spirit, Ab cut additional lumber and a year later, in 1858, the Barrett house was built.
It was a fine house. The framework was solid oakbeams, fastened with mortise and tenon joints, pinned with stout oak pegs. The braces were dovetailed together for strength. The framework was covered with clapboard siding and the entire interior was finished with black walnut. There were originally seven rooms, four of which were bedrooms. After the outside construction was completed, Ab employed two master craftsmen to complete the inside finish work.
When Ab's wife, Mary, and his family finally arrived,Mary added the finishing touches to convert it into a home for her family.
One of the things that Ab Barrett overlooked was theflooding that occurred in the Vermilion Valley. After thehouse had been flooded several times, he decided to move it to higher ground. Ab's son-in-law and his sons jacked the house up, inserted huge wooden dollies and attached enough horses and mules to move it nearly a mile to higher ground. Then it was remodeled and two more rooms were added.
I loved that old house. I was born in one of the upstairsbedrooms and later I claimed it as my own room. After Aband Mary passed away the house was occupied by theirdaughter Phebe and her husband George -- my grandparents.
Like most youngsters, I had a favorite hiding placewhere I would sneak away and read. One of the upstairs rooms was a bathroom. Grandma had two old steamer trunks stored there, one on top of the other. On the very top was her extra bedding quilts, blankets, etc. I discovered how to climb to the top and snuggle down to read my books.
After Grandpa passed away, Grandma lived there forseveral years. She finally went to live with her daughter, and the old house was occupied by relatives and finally outsiders. One of the descendants purchased the house and tore it down in 1984 -- nearly one hundred thirty years after it was built. It was a sad day for me to look at the hole in the ground where the house had been. I visited with the man who tore it down and he had observed the master craftsmanship Great Grandfather had displayed. Most of the lumber from the old house was saved and will be used to build another house.
Progress is sometimes painful. I have to wonder, however, if destroying such a masterpiece is progress.
A. G. Barrett in 1858, near Frankfort,
in Marshall County, Kansas.