Heritage Kidron house to celebrate 200th year

Heritage Kidron house to celebrate 200th year

Image Credit: Analeia Hershberger

This summer several local houses are turning 200 years old. One of them will be celebrated with a special occasion on Saturday, Aug. 13.

The land the Kidron house sits on at 13653 Jericho Road in Kidron was in a 160-acre plot sold by the government to Henry Swan with paperwork signed Jan. 6, 1820, by President James Monroe.

Several years back, the current owners of the home, Lloyd and Jane Miller, reached out to The College of Wooster to find out what year it was built. Growth rings from a sample of the original house wood showed 1822, which is how they base the age of the home. They also had deeds from the previous owners.

“I had all those deeds, and I gave them to (local historian) Ray Leisy. He spent about a year on it and came back and made this wonderful book for us,” Lloyd Miller said.

“The historical notebook Ray made is a masterpiece, and he presented it to us along with Gladys Amstutz (Jane’s mother) and uncle Clifford (Gladys’ brother) at Sonnenberg Village,” Jane Miller said.

Although the house is 200 years old, Jane Miller’s family has only lived in it for 89 years. Her great-grandfather Jacob M. Gerber bought it in 1932 for his daughter Hilda and her husband David J. Lehman.

The book of deeds the Millers own has a paper that says, “By 1932 the house was in bad shape. The sagging, long front porch was replaced with the one standing today. New wood siding was put on the whole house. Stairways were in poor condition and torn out and changed. These and many other repairs were done by the Gerbers before David J. Lehman moved into the house.”

The Lehmans moved into the house in 1933 on a land contract and bought it in 1942, and their daughter Gladys and her husband Myron J. Amstutz bought it in 1962. In 1976 their daughter Jane and her husband Lloyd bought it. The house has been family-owned by four generations for 90 years, with Jane Miller living there for 57 of her 71 years.

“It has always been sold to and passed down through the daughters,” she said.

Before being owned by Jane Miller’s ancestors, the house went through various owners.

According to “Historical Sketches of Kidron Ohio,” written in 1936 by Levi Amstutz, it was “formerly called the Hartman Farm, where since many families lived. It must be over a hundred years that Mr. Hartman came in possession of the farm and so was the pioneer. The house that still stands was built by him over a century ago. The house was very substantially constructed and originally consisted of six rooms and an old-fashioned fireplace built in, which has since been removed, and the house otherwise altered and repaired several times. After the Hartmans the farm belonged to George Jameson, of whom we have no history. They sold the farm to Nicholas Amstutz, who owned it for many years and rented the house to families who worked for him.”

The house has mud walls, hewn beams, low 7-foot ceilings, painted woodwork and some distinctive door latches.

Two different businesses started at this location. Elias Peter “E.P.” Gerber started his lumber and planing business in 1901, run by a water wheel powered by the Kidron Creek. He purchased train car loads of lumber, which came from the northern states to Apple Creek and then were hauled by team and wagon to Kidron to be sold.

“In 1902 E.P. moved his business to his present location in Kidron,” Betty Lou Geiser wrote in “Historical Sketches of Kidron Businesses” from 1994. It is now called Gerber Lumber and Hardware.

The second business was started in the shop by David J. Lehman around 1944. He sharpened blades for cutting hay, lawn mowers and chopper knives, and he also filed saws. He continued this work even once they moved off the farm.

“Dad always enjoyed having customers stop by,” Lehman’s son Clifford said.

Clifford grew up in the home, and after WWII, in either 1946 or 1947, his parents decided to dig out the rest of the basement so they could do the washing in the house. “It was a work saver for my parents,” he said.

On Sept. 4, 1822, the year the house was built, the electric age began. Electricity had already been invented for some time, but on this date, Thomas Edison lit up a block of New York City.

However, it wasn’t until the early 1940s that this home got electric, put in by Paul Neuenchwander of Kidron Electric. Once it had electric, running water was installed.

At one time for about 10 years, the house was empty. Goldie Breneman told Lloyd that when she was in about first grade, she had to walk by their house to get to Kidron School.

“Goldie told me she always hated to walk past this place,” Lloyd said. “One time there was a hoot owl sitting and looking out the window on the east side attic window. She would run past the house because (she thought) it was haunted.”

Haunted no more, the Millers enjoy living in their heritage home.

“I like it because I think of my family tradition, and it’s a wonderful way to recycle,” Jane Miller said.

“To me, an old house has character, and you think about all the people who lived in the house before,” Lloyd Miller said.

Even though the house has been owned by four generations, five generations lived in it when the Lise and Mark Moser family lived with them for 15 months from 2009-10. Lise Moser is their daughter. They also hosted some Central Christian High School boarding students, and Jane Miller provided preschool child care in the home for 14 families. With the gift of hospitality of all the owners, many people have been welcomed in this house.

The house’s 200th anniversary will be celebrated Aug. 13 from 2-4 p.m. There will be a tent with displays, and light refreshments and guided house tours will be available. In case of inclement weather, instead of having information onsite, a display will be at Sonnenberg Village, 13497 Hackett Road, Apple Creek.