Roachdale farmhouse gets historic notice

Thursday, January 18, 2007
The Samuel and Polly Brown farmhouse, located in Franklin Township southwest of Roachdale, built in 1845.

Family photographs yellow and cracked with age. A cherished set of heirloom dishes wrapped carefully in tissue paper. An old Bible passed down through the generations -- just a few of the items that come to mind when most people think about their family's history.

But when Putnam County resident Lora Scott wants to reminisce about the past, she gets in her car and drives a half-mile down the road to the place where her family settled almost two centuries ago.

Every corner of the land where Lora and her husband Larry live southwest of Roachdale speaks to its past.

In a fenced-off section of the property covered by raspberry vines and overgrown grass are several flat stones, barely visible above the frozen dirt.

It took some time to figure it out, but the Scotts now believe the stones are all that remains of a barn that once stood on the property. Large trees fill the area now, indicating to the Scotts that the once essential element of any rural home site ceased to exist decades ago.

Other clues to the property's past are dotted throughout the more than 400 acres of open fields and wooded areas that make up the original Sam and Polly Brown property near CR 100 East and 1100 North in Franklin Township.

Lora is the great-great-great-granddaughter of the Browns and is committed to preserving their history.

The crowning glory of the property is the Brown's brick farmhouse that is believed by the Scotts to have been built in 1845 and may well be among the oldest farmhouses still standing in the county today.

"We don't have an exact date," Lora said.

The one-story Greek-Revival home sits against a backdrop of large shade trees and tall evergreens and boasts an expansive front lawn bordered on one side by rolling farmland.

The Scotts love to explore the land and tell its story, but it almost came to an end last year when other members of Lora's family decided to put the property up for auction.

Lora said she, along with her brother and sister, did not want to see that happen so they pooled their resources and bought the property last May.

"We were afraid the house would be razed," Lora said.

Growing up in another house on the property, Lora said her family always referred to the old farmhouse as simply "The Brick."

Lora's great-aunt and uncle on the other side of the family, Paul and Iris Myers, were the last ones to live in the historic house with Lora's aunt dying a few years ago. Although the house underwent a renovation and the addition of some extra rooms in 1980, it's not difficult to distinguish the old part of the home from the new.

A summer kitchen, which Lora believes was original to the home, burned down in the 1940s, however the foundation remains.

The foundation itself is a relic of early 19th century construction with its stacked limestone base and walls that are four bricks thick. Lora said she believes the bricks were made from local clay soils and mixed with water from Ramp Creek that flows on the property.

Inside the house are the original four rooms with tall narrow windows looking out to the surrounding property. The woodwork surrounding the doors and windows is believed to be original along with two fireplaces, one of which is still operational.

Outside the house is a well and pump that are also still functional.

Other clues to the properties past are more subtle, but the Scotts are determined to find them.

"It's like writing a mystery, but it's your family's history," Lora said.

All this history has helped land the Sam Brown home on the National Register of Historic Places, a division of the National Parks Service. The Scotts welcomed the honor in July of 2006 and hope to see a historic marker placed in front of the home in the future. The process of having the home placed on the list took nearly two years.

Lora said homes are recognized as historic landmarks in two ways -- the first has to do with the architectural style of the home and its significance in history. The second aspect that makes a home worthy of landmark status is its connection to a historic figure, such as a former president who may have stayed in the home from time to time.

In the case of the Sam Brown home, its because of its Greek-Revival style of construction that is unique to the area.

In Lawrence County, Ind., where Lora's family lived before eventually settling in Putnam County, are several houses identical to the one she and her family are working to preserve.

Lora said she believes her great-great-great-grandparents liked the homes they saw while living in Lawrence County and were inspired to build their own when they moved to Putnam County.

Adding to the prominence, a picture and article about the home appeared in the December issue of Indiana Preservationist, the magazine of the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Now people across Indiana can read about Samuel and Polly Brown and their history in Putnam County.

Meanwhile the Scotts are in the process of cleaning up the home and property and have hopes of restoring it to reflect its original beauty.

Buying the home before it went on the auction block was something Lora says she and her siblings knew they had to do if they were to share it with future generations.

Today, the Scott's children make eight generations of the same family to live on the property. Other branches of the family have lived on adjacent land throughout the years.

"I wanted its history known and for it to be preserved," she said.

Having the house has also increased Lora's interest exploring her family tree.

"The genealogy bug bit me as we were looking at the history of this house," Lora said.

The Scotts have traveled across Indiana and nearby states where they have visited cemeteries, libraries and courthouses looking for clues.

"They were clearly some of the early settlers in Putnam County," Lora said of her family.

She and her husband plan to continue researching, sharing and working to preserve the family's legacy for generations to come.

"Maintaining family records has been an important part of our family's culture," Lora said. "You're richer if you know your family's origin. Not everyone cares about that."

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