Welsh Run's Rock Hill Farm District

May 06, 2002|BY PAT SCHOOLEY

This is the 142nd in a series of articles about the architectural and historic treasures of the area, and the first not within Washington County.

Bain Road runs south past early farms just west of Welsh Run, Pa. On the right, a small sign announces the Conococheague Institute. A lane runs back to a collection of buildings and stops before a plain mid-20th century structure that is now the library and office for this organization.

On the right stands a venerable house clad in roughcast. At various distances beyond lie a smokehouse, a springhouse, pastures, a stone fireplace that once served as a summer kitchen, and a stone-end barn.

On the west side of Welsh Run, which winds through the farm, stands an impressive brick house. To the left of the driveway, beyond fenced pasture, stand a small log house and another old log building that is just being assembled again. A German-style foursquare garden lies between.

Preserving a way of life

Here in rural southern Franklin County, just above the Mason-Dixon Line, is a regional center established to study and preserve the cultural heritage of the Conococheague area, to foster awareness and understanding of our forefathers' way of life, and to preserve the natural resources and ecology of the region.

This institute was established in 1994, but it already has a large library of books and papers on local history as well as extensive genealogical records on local families.

The first settlers came into this region before political boundaries were established. They followed streams and ridges, carving wagon roads as they went. Often families or groups of friends migrated together, bringing with them a shared heritage.

In the 1730s a dozen or so Welsh families came to the area that would become southern Franklin County and settled along Welsh Run and Claylick Creek. John David Davis chose an 889-acre tract that he had surveyed in 1736. In 1744, he subdivided his property among his four sons. Daniel and Samuel Davis received a tract of 178 acres, 111 perches, and here they built a 26-foot square house of massive, squared oak and chestnut logs.

This house has puncheon floors. To make this flooring system, the large floor joists were cut out on each upper side. Short chestnut slabs were then laid between the joists, spanning the two-and-a-half foot spaces between them. Floors in the loft above are laid in a species of pine no longer found in this vicinity.

The property changes hands

In 1793, Samuel Davis sold this tract, with an additional 46 acres on its east, to Robert Chambers, who had apparently already occupied the land for two years. Chambers was a member of the Scots-Irish/English Presbyterian settlement that established itself in the area between 1770 and 1800. According to Franklin County tax returns, Chambers improved the value of the property by 128 pounds between 1791 and 1794.

Chambers raised the house to a full two stories and finished the inside walls with beaded boards, even covering the ceilings on the first level. He added double molded six-panel doors, woodwork with ovolo trim, and six-over-six double sash windows.

He had the puncheon floor covered with a thin layer of clay and lime. He then overlaid it with pit-sawn oak floorboards. Chambers switched the main faade from south to north and added a four-light transom above the main door. He then covered the exterior with roughcast stucco applied over hand-split laths.

The house, now modified to a double parlor side hall floor plan, was a more formal home, better fitted to this successful farmer who was also a trustee of the Presbyterian Church.

Chambers sold the property to David Martin, who then conveyed it to Eliab Negley in 1806. Martin and Negley were members of the German Baptist Brethren community that came into the Welsh Run area from 1770 to 1820. Other family members purchased several surrounding farms, extending the group's ownership to Claylick, three miles to the west.

Family compound

Eliab Negley built a log house for himself south and west of the Davis-Chambers house some time between 1810 and 1823. This four-bay, one-and-one-half story house had two doors and the traditional three-room German plan, but without a central chimney.

One of the doors enters the living room, which has a small bedchamber at the rear. The other opens into the narrow kitchen with its large cooking fireplace. This fireplace was stone, built on the north gable wall. Steep stairs lead from the kitchen to the two-room sleeping loft above and to a small cellar below.

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