Eleanor was so unstable, that the cover completely disintegrated after scanning. Half of this book was missing, and the whole thing was very poor condition. It also looks like rats may have chewed the edges of the pages. What can I say? She had a hard life. She was also very cheap, considering she was stolen from the Pratt Library! Maybe I should try to return it? Now, I do not know where or when the Pratt Library was there. The local elementary school has a Library, but I’m not sure these two libraries are one in the same. As you can see, the library was established by the “T.G. Society.” I don’t know who or what this society was, either! The book was donated to the library by Martin Hansford. I will have to find more information about him. Felix and Marshall Hansford were very prominent brothers in the area, so it is safe to say that Martin was probably related to them, but how he is related to them, I am not sure. Was he in the “T.G. Society”? Who knows, and Eleanor is not telling.
So, I bought an old house, in an old town. I could just study the history of the house, but then the story would have no context. I would not understand about the climate, the feeling of the town when the house was built. Knowledge about the era, about the Zeitgeist, leads to a better understanding of the people who lived there.
The town of Pratt was established in 1905. It had a few names before it accepted “Pratt” as the name. The area was settled as early as 1781, and early settlers trickled in until about 1850. Two prominent families in the area settled here, the Hansford family and the Morris family. Dickinson Morris built his own home, “Harmony Hill”, and laid out the town in 1851, naming it Clifton. Prior to the establishment of Clifton, a church was formed. The Old Kanawha Baptist Church was established in 1796 by James Johnstone. The church is still around today, though only on the same lot, not in the same building. In the winter of 1861-62, Clifton served as the headquarters of the 37th Ohio Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. The Marshall Hansford House was the headquarters of Union Colonel Siber.
After the Civil War, The town expanded, and adopted a new name “Dego”, used from 1873-1899. Obviously, when my
house was built, the town was “Dego”. The Town Hall was established in 1875. In the 1880s, coal companies became prominent in much of upper Kanawha Valley, and Dego was no exception. In 1889 the Charles Pratt Coal Company made Dego the home of their headquarters. This was kind of a big deal, as The Charles Pratt Coal Company owned an extensive amount of mines in Paint Creek, an area adjacent to Dego. the town was renamed “Pratt”, after the coal company, when it was incorporated in 1905. Many of the structures built by the coal company, including the clubhouse for miners and the company houses still stand in the town today.
In 1912-13, Pratt gained notoriety as the place where “Mother” Jones was imprisoned during the “Mine Wars”. The Mine Wars were a series of confrontations between striking miners and the coal companies. After the Mine Wars were over, it was estimated that they cost nearly a million dollars and caused the violent deaths of 50 people, not including the miners that dies of malnutrition and starvation while on strike. Pratt served as the headquarters for the coal company guards, or “thugs”, and eventually became the headquarters of the WV National Guard when 3 separate times martial law was instituted during the mine wars. Martial law was necessary in Pratt and the surrounding areas because of the “state of lawlessness and insurrection” in the town. Because it was the headquarters to these factions, Pratt also served as the site for the “bullpens” where many striking miners were detained by “military tribunals”. Mother Mary Jones was a union organizer that was imprisoned in Pratt in Mrs. Carney’s Boarding House. She managed to smuggle a message to Indiana Senator John W. Kern, He read her message on the floor of the senate. Mother Jones was put on trial in the I.O.O.F. Building, but was released by Governor Henry D. Hatfield was able to instigate a settlement between the coal operators and miners.
The mine wars were probably Pratt’s most notable event in history. I will have to do a lot more research to find out what occurred between the end of the mine wars and now. Maybe I should contact my local historian again?
This is A Year in Science, published in 1916. It appears to be a school book of Jeanetta Trimble, one of James’ daughters with his second wife. From the amount of doodling and drawing in the book, it seems that science was not her favorite subject in school. She used the book in 1925, as per the inscriptions and dated absence forms that I found inside. She called herself “Sheba”, and had little conversations and cartoons with a friend or classmate that she called “Sheik”.
Another history post! Remember the old brick I found in the house, mentioned in this post, marked Trimble, O? My uncle was intrigued and looked into it a bit. He found this site and this site mention a Trimble Brick Company in Trimble, Ohio. Turns out, that is where the brick was manufactured. In the 1880’s -1930’s brickmaking flourished within the Hocking Valley in Ohio, one of these plants was the Trimble Brick Company. I could not find an exact date that the Trimble Brick Company was established, but it was in full swing in 1904. It specialized in paving brick, sidewalk brick, and some building brick. Trimble, Ohio maintains that brick from the Trimble Brick Plant was used to pave the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1909-1910. Yet, the Trimble Brick Company was not the only brick company to make this claim. Another Ohio company, The Metropolitan Paving Company also claims that their brick was used for this purpose. The speedway claims that only brick from Indiana was used.
What makes all of this more interesting was that the first street paved with bricks from the Hocking Valley, bricks made specifically for paving streets, was in Charleston, WV. It was paved in 1873, with “good quality brick” and was reportedly still in working order in 1929.
So, even though I know where and when the brick was manufactured and made, I still have no idea why it was at the house. Did someone take it because of the Trimble connection? That is my guess. If I was a mason, I would think it was pretty cool to have a brick with my name on it. I wonder if there was more to the story, though. Was this brick one that was used to pave the roads of Charleston? Did James Trimble or one of his sons help pave , or repair the road in Charleston, and that is how they ended up with it? That is all supposition, and I will probably never know for sure, but I did end up with a great souvenir!
Want to know what I’ve learned about old houses in the last few weeks? You suddenly spend vast quantities of time studying things you never thought you would ever need to know. I’m not talking about building knowledge, per se. I think it is a given that I will need to read up on that! It is the other things that I didn’t expect. I spent weeks studying Victorian architecture and insulation options; months studying the history of the area and the history of the house, and now…it is bugs. Yes, creepy crawly things have now become my current obsession and focus in leisure-time reading. This is not something I look forward to, or even expected to do. Not that I am really squeamish, bugs don’t really bother me…unless they are ants. The problem is, the obsession. “What kind of bugs are these? Are they hurting my house? How do I get rid of them?, Are they a symptom of a bigger problem?” are the key questions I have been asking myself on encountering a new species.
First, there were the spiders. In this house, there are spiders everywhere! I mean, the mummified spiders in the root cellar were a dead give away that they would be an issue. Now, egg sacs turn up everywhere in the house, behind a door, behind a mirror…stuck to wolf fur. Fortunately, I have always liked spiders. I even had a sort of pet writing spider for a year that I would feed by finding other bugs (mostly ants) and dropping in her web for her. This kind of makes me sound like a sociopath, but I promise, I am not. I just love science and was really attached to Charlotte’s Web. Anyway, the spiders, mummified or in embryo form, don’t really bother me.
Then there were the termites. Turns out there is quite a bit of termite damage in the house. Nothing majorly structural, or too serious, thankfully…mostly damage on some moldings, or through a few floor boards. See, these are more worrisome than the spiders because they actually can damage the house. They also look like albino flying ants, so that’s just scary. They made weird mud tunnels in the basement to climb up to the wood. See? They are definitely high on the creepy meter and must be obliterated. The problem is, they may already have been destroyed. Perhaps the damage was done before the previous owner moved in, when the house was last renovated. There’s no way to tell if the damage is old or new. If it is bad, and needs to be taken care of soon, they should start swarming in April, so…we’ll see.
Then, last but not least, are the wasps. They aren’t the type that damage the house, so not so alarming. So what’s the problem with the wasps? They show up in the weirdest places! My first encounter with them was when I removed the wood blocking the chimney in the dining room to clean it out. No evidence of what was to come. The next day, when I went back to finish, wasps started coming out of the chimney. Not flying, just slowly crawling, confused and searching, out of the chimney. It was so creepy! I quickly stunned them with Tilex, and stomped them. Then, this week, when I was ripping the window moldings out, I found nests in the wall, beside the window casings. Several of them all in one cavity. We also found a huge nest in the wall beneath the plaster in the kitchen.
Maybe it is because the house is next to a swamp, in disrepair for 20 years, or on a Hellmouth. I keep running into all these insects that I am just not prepared to deal with! At least I have the upper hand on them. I can dial the phone and connect with the exterminator, so maybe that phone number is all the research I need.
A lot of progress has been made on the house in the last few weeks. The new roof is almost finished. We decided on black architectural shingles, and I’m really happy with that choice. They look a little like slate, and are a vast improvement of the flaking green ones that were there previously.
On the inside, we’re still working on removing plaster. We gutted the pantry, which was covered in mud. I think that is where the previous owner kept the wolf. That is the only excuse I can think of for that room to be filled with that much filth. Sadly, the beadboard under the wallboard had to go. It was mostly rotten. We did reveal some lovely old pine floors. There is a huge hole in one of the boards, but I’m still trying to think of a way to patch it and keep them.
We’ve also been working on gutting the bathroom. It was moldy, and kind of gross. Yet, the walls are so tough, neither the reciprocating saw, nor my Thor hammer of doom were strong enough to bring them down. Those walls made me feel like a geologist looking at the patterns in the rock to date some fossils or something. First, there was a layer of wallboard, then a thin layer of plaster on 1 inch drywall, then two layers of wallpaper, then tile, next, more plaster and older drywall. Why??? My father’s friend has been helping us out, and he finally managed to conquer the “Great Wall” of the Trimble House. Next is gutting the kitchen, and I am hoping it goes easier than the bathroom. The plaster in there is a horrendously patched mess.
Also, we were having a local cleanup to have stuff hauled to the dump this weekend, so we decided to take advantage that and clean out the root cellar. After termite tunnel destruction, five 5 gallon buckets of dirt removed, and going through old, moldy books we have a fairly clean root cellar!
I know it is hard to piece the floor plan together just from the pictures. Here is a rough copy of the current floor plan. Some things will change with the renovations. We will solve the problem of walking through a bedroom to get to the dining room and kitchen, also the back porch and the two side porches will be closed in and a new deck put in its place. I hope this helps you all get a better idea of the house!
While removing some of the wallpaper, I discovered some random scribbles and writing on the walls. The picture in the center of the triad below with the numbers is clearly the measurements used to install the wallpaper, so no big surprise there. When I pulled off some of the wallpaper in the living room, I found the usual marks, but near the floor, I ran into little messy scribbles and strange animals. They had to be made by a small child. They are in pencil, as the wallpaper marks. I can just imagine the small child around the 70’s that was “helping” put up the wallpaper by drawing these little sketches on the wall.
A few days ago, we had a pizza and plaster removal party, which ended up being way more fun than it should have been considering the amount of manual labor involved. As it turns out, destruction is fun, particularly when it is done with the help of good friends. It is also very messy, and I still haven’t finished all the clean up yet. Initially, I didn’t want to remove the plaster. After careful deliberation, not to mention the disturbing amount of mold on the wall and the fact that the previous owner poorly plastered over the wallpaper, the two exterior walls had to go. At least it will make it easier to insulate, and wire. Also, we found out why the mold was so bad in this particular area. This area was an addition to the original house, on the back porch. The walls are not plaster and lath like we originally though, but inches of plaster over old drywall. Plaster tends to have less for the mold to feed on than drywall, so that explains why it was so bad in this particular area.
As far as taking down the plaster in other areas, we are doing a room-by-room assessment. The kitchen and bath will probably have to go, just so we can rewire, etc. One of the dining room walls has to come down due to water damage from a rotten windowsill. We really need to check the wood in the wall to make sure it has not rotted in that area. We are taking out a door in the other exterior wall, so that may have to be taken down, too. All the interior walls will remain plaster, though. I see many more plaster removal pizza parties in the future!
After finding out the house was “the James Trimble House” in the Historic District of Pratt, the first thing I did was to search for more information on about James Trimble. Okay, that’s a lie. The first thing I did was exclaim “Wait! There’s a historic district in Pratt !?!” Then, after I drove by slowly and gawked at all my neighbors’ houses that also live in the historic district, googling could commence. This is what I discovered:
James W. Trimble was born in January 1851 in Fayette County, Virginia. He died at the age of 67 on August 22, 1918 in Pratt, WV. His parents were Osman Trimble (1812 – 1893) and Jeanetta White (1829-1893). He married his first wife, Bettie Luella Huddleston, on July 2, 1873. Now Bettie Lou’s parents were Job Huddleston (1814-1893) and Elizabeth McCoy (1826-after 1911). She was born on July 1, 1856 in Kanawha County, Virginia. Don’t let the Virginia part throw you, as we were still a part of Virginia in 1851, WV became a state in 1863 (and no, I never won the Golden Horseshoe).
James and Bettie had 4 children, Henrietta (?-?), Betty (about 1875 ), Samuel (about 1877), and Mary (about 1879 – ?). Here is where it gets a little murky. Betty, born in 1875, died in infancy. Henrietta, is sometimes referred to as “Etta”. Eventually, Mary is referred to as “Mayme” in the census and marriage records and there is another, younger Mary Trimble. So, I’ll probably refer to her as Mayme from here. Bettie never lived in my house, as she died on April 18, 1881. James remarried, and had more children, but I’ll save that for another day.
James W. Trimble was listed as a mason, and a contractor on his death certificate, as well as on both the 1870 and 1880 census records. So what does all this mean? I’m not really sure. Is it a way to connect? Feel closer to the house and the people who created it…probably. I think it adds more to the mystery, and to the story. The house has a brick foundation and brick fireplace. Did James lay the brick for house? Build the mantle and foundation with his own hands? Did Bettie design the house before passing away? Or was it James, or his second wife that decided where the rooms should be? These things will probably never be known. Yet, it is fun to try. I can imagine James picking out the spot for the house, laying out each brick, to provide a home for his family. Now, it will be my home. Thanks, James.
*Post edited 3/28/2011 to incorporate new information obtained from the town archives