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Sunday, September 11, 2011

The Old Stone House: Part 4

For decades train excursionists would disembark on Ninth Street and walk past the Old Stone House (green arrow) on their way to a day of fun at Rock Springs Park.

Eighth-grader John Chaney wrote a story about his favorite house in Chester, West Virginia, the Old Stone House in the city’s “upper end.” His story became a two-year research project in high school and a book in 1966.

Chaney wrote that he often wondered about the family that built the Old Stone House. One story he discovered claimed that George Washington owned the land as it was given to him by the state of Virginia for services rendered during the French and Indian War. The grant was for 1,000 acres and included "a one-half mile frontage on the Ohio River, extending from the mouth of Mark's Run and extending back from the river, through the center of what is now Rock Springs Park to a point south of Lawrenceville."

The land and the house, once the property of the Mark’s Family came under the ownership of C.A. Smith in 1900. Both were part of a deal struck with Rock Springs Park owner J.E. McDonald. Smith built his own home slightly to the west and just above the Old Stone House on Pyramus Avenue, a vantage point that gave him an unobstructed view of his pottery and his newly acquired amusement park. Smith’s home was built with all the latest modern conveniences on a terraced hillside with beautiful landscaping, but the Old Stone House below was a mere shell of its former self, having been raided and lived in by wandering vagrants.

Chaney wrote, "Mr. McDonald let the Old Stone House stand open for a period of time. During this time it became a stopping place for hoboes. People came to the house and took away anything that wasn't nailed down - windows, glass, window frames, fixtures of all kinds, doors, and any woodwork. The house was truly a big mess."

It did not take long before Mrs. C.A. Smith decided to fix up the house for her son "Dunc" Smith. The inner walls were completely removed and the house was reinforced with steel rods and a stucco addition which added a larger kitchen downstairs and an additional bathroom upstairs. These changes and others saved the Old Stone House from total destruction and have kept the dwelling habitable for over 100 years.

The Old Stone House as it looks today. Present owners are “Rusty” and Janice Smith (Courtesy of Vicki Robinson Jordan).

Sunday, September 4, 2011

RSP Mural Artist Offers Painting Class

(Mural of Rock Springs Park by Craig Wetzel.)

If you still live in the Chester/East Liverpool area, Craig Wetzel, who has been highlighted here for his murals of Rock Springs Park, is offering a basic painting course at Pick's Photo & Studio in E. Liverpool, beginning in October. Details can be found here.

Class Description:

There have been some changes to the Fundamentals of Painting Class, the most important being that, through Ashland University’s Professional Development Services, graduate credit will be given upon completion of the course, which will be worth 1 credit hour. Furthermore, in order to meet the accreditation requirements, the class will be extended by one additional session and the times will now be from 6 – 8:30 pm. There is no change in cost for the additional 4.5 hours. Material requirements will be mailed to course participants next week and a detailed outline of each class session will be posted on the instruction page soon.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Old Stone House: Part 3

In his book, a young John Chaney in 1965 traces the history of the Old Stone House in Chester, West Virginia. The home still stands today on Carolina Avenue near the spot once occupied by Rock Springs Park. Both the park and the house have histories which include Native American and early pioneer visitors including, it is widely believed, George Washington on one of two trips in the area. But Chaney also mentions another legend that may have passed through on his way to Ohio – a legend whose name is carved into a wooden border in the kitchen of the nearly 200-year old home.


"I saw the Old Stone House and faces I love,
I saw Chester's valleys and hills,
The apple trees that swayed and seemed to say,
Johnny Appleseed came thru this way!
I listened with joy to the echo of the old village bell.
The log was burning brightly,
'Twas a night that should banish all sin,
The bells were ringing the Old Year out and the New Year in."

This marker located in Franklin, PA, 84 miles north of Pittsburgh, describes French Creek as the area where Mr. Appleseed lived between 1797 and 1804!

Many know Johnny Appleseed as a folk hero, but unlike Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill, Johnny was a real man. “(Chester) area lore has it,” wrote Chaney, “that one John Chapman stopped and spent a night at the Old Stone House when he was distributing his apple seeds in the area. John is better known by the name given to him by folklore as 'Johnny Appleseed."

According to Richard Price, John Chapman's only biographer, Chapman was born in Leominster, Massachusetts on September 26th, 1774. He left home at fifteen to travel west, starting in Warren, Pennsylvania, where he began to plant apple trees. A devotee of the philospher, Emanuel Swedenborg, claimed John saw planting apples as part of a spiritual journey in a time when many in the United States were interested in philosophies that emphasized the importance of 'nature'. Apples were also smart to plant financially. They could be eaten fresh, used in pies, dried and made into cider, hard and not hard. In many ways Johnny Appleseed was indeed an early ecologist, realizing that planting trees was not only good for pioneers but for the environment.

About 1800, John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) and his brother collected a large quantity of apple seeds near Pittsburgh and floated down the Ohio River in canoes to what is now Wellsburg, W. Va., where they planted several apple nurseries. So it is not only possible, but very likely that Chapman like Samuel Marks only a few years later came to Chester by flatboat.

Coming Soon: Rock Springs Park owner, C.A. Smith, acquires the Stone House as part of a huge land deal, but it is his wife who rescues it from destruction.