Chapter 7: The Move to Locust
Somehow, John managed to accumulate
some money. When J. Rowe Ohler's Estate was settled a
few years later, several
farms he owned had to be sold. John purchased the Locust Grove farm of
68 acres at public sale for $1,800.00, borrowing what
was necessary from his mother. This farm was in very
poor condition because it had been farmed by tenants for quite a
few years. Some of John's relatives said that it was
the poorest farm around and he could never make a living
there. However, it was all that he could afford and he
wanted to return to farming on his own, rather than
work as a day laborer for someone else. So, in the
of 1935, the move to Locust Grove was planned.
John needed equipment to resume
full time farming. A farmer named Charlie Keepers was
going out of business and had advertised a sale.
John negotiated the purchase of all of his farming
equipment, which included two horses, a wagon with both a
standard bed and hay carriages, a grain drill, corn
planter, cultivator, mower, hay rake (dump type), spring
tooth harrow, and possibly other equipment as well. The move took
place in early April.
Before the move took place, John
had a load of hay hauled from the Bishop place to the
new farm. I was four and a half years old at the
time, and was riding on the back of the wagon. The
route followed the state highway to the Fuss farm, then
up the old lane to the bridge across Middle Creek.
The road was slanted just before this bridge, and
somehow the entire load, including the bed itself,
tipped over, spilling everything. I thought I was
going to roll down the embankment into the creek.
The move was accomplished with
the help of Elmer and Ethel Fuss, Lawson Herring, and
Helen's mother and sister. Three wagons were used to
haul all of the family's furniture as well as their
personal goods. I rode with Aunt Emma that day. The
entourage reached the new homestead before dinner. The cook stove was the first thing set up and the
The new home was a 13 room house
that had been built by Peter Graybill in 1820. He
was said to have owned over 1,000 acres of land and
was therefore one of the wealthiest men in the county.
It was also said that he had participated in the
celebration of Lafayette's return to America in 1824,
when he made his visit to Frederick.
The house had a large center
hall and open stairway. There were eight rooms on two floors
in the main part of the house. Walls were brick
throughout, supported by stone arches in the basement. The other five rooms on the back L had been used by the
household servants. A
large kitchen took up two rooms on the first floor and
contained a walk-in fireplace twelve feet wide and
quite deep with a bake oven attached. The upstairs
portion of this
section had been separated into three rooms, which were used as
sleeping quarters for the household slaves or servants.
Despite its large size and
sturdy construction, the house was in a bad state of
repair. John's first task was to install a
new roof. Even on his last trip past the house before he
went to live in the nursing home, he recalled how he had
used the special equipment that he had borrowed from
Wolfe to reach across and clamp the roof together. The
bathroom was installed that same spring at the end of
the first floor hall. Until that time, the family had
use the outhouse at the end of the garden.
Fan lights above the front and side doors
were a special feature of the house. They were
similar to those used at the White House in Washington. I learned much of the information about the history of
the old house from Nathan Kershner who had been
born in the house in the 1860s and lived there during
his youth. He told me that, after the plasterers completed the work on the
White House in Washington, they came to Emmitsburg and
plastered the house for Peter Graybill. I later
found a book in the Historical Society in Baltimore
which confirmed this account. A long veranda on
the original house had fallen down years before.
Within a few years, John replaced it with a finer and
more appropriate porch covering about one-quarter of the
distance on the west side.
The water supply on this
property was unique. A series of springs in the Ohler
woodland fed down into a reservoir. This was a circular
tank made of stone about six feet deep which stored the
water, and was covered by a roof. Then this water flowed
by gravity to the barn and to the house, but it always seemed
to me that the water somehow or other flowed uphill in order
to make it to the barn. It was explained that a suction or ram
was used, but this operation remained a mystery to me. The supply of water was always
good and, even in dry years, generally was ample to
supply all the needs of the farm.
A well had also been dug about
50 feet deep right behind the house. This water
was not used because it was thought for many years that
the well had been contaminated. Then John had the
fire company pump it out. Debris was removed from
the well, and the water was tested and found to be fine.
An electric pump was then installed to furnish water to
The first year at Locust Grove
was quite difficult for the family. As the country with
still in a Depression, prices remained low. The farm output
was not very great and John did the plowing with just two horses.
The family had two cows when
they moved. The herd was expanded by raising their
offspring. The barn had stalls for seven cows. A few
breeding sheep were purchased that year and this
flock also expanded. A few young chicks were acquired and a
laying flock developed.
Prior to marriage, Helen had
had vowed that she would not milk any cows. This had
when the family moved to the Bishop farm. When the herd was expanded to seven and later more
cows, Helen had to
participate regularly in the milking of the cows and did
her full share. All the milking at this time was done by
hand. When John was injured, Helen milked the
entire herd with the aid of her young son
During this period of time,
despite the increase in activity, Helen became heavier. She weighed only 100 pounds when
she married at the age of 26.
By the time she was 40, her weight had increased to at
least 150 pounds. This weight, however, did not deter her from
vigorous activity. When hauling hay to the barn,
she regularly took it into the mows and spread it
herself. This was very hot and hard work, and she
had to struggle with it. Helen also took sole responsibility for the
raising of the young chickens. The first year, John's brother Elmer came
to cut the wheat, until John was
able to buy a used binder.
The farm was located on the
Emmitsburg-Harney Road, close to Middle Creek. The
bridge had a plank floor, and was repaired every
year or so by county workers. However, it would
always make quite a rattle when vehicles crossed.
In 1936, the property just north
of the farm became available for sale. It was
owned by Charles Mort and was
called the "Factory Farm" because
the carpet factory had been located just upstream on
Middle Creek. The factory had been powered by water
carpet and other woolen products. There had once been about
ten or more homes located in the area around it. The
factory itself had been situated on the west side of Middle
Creek. As a boy, I visited the ruins and
foundations of the mill and the homes.
John Fuss purchased the east side
of this property and Tyson Welty
purchased the west portion. Both farmers added
the new land to their property. John paid $450.00 for 98
acres of land. About 20 acres of this was tillable land
and the rest was woodland.
A particular feature of this
forest was the cedar trees. Virgin timber had been cut
about 70 years before, and a great number of the cedar
trees had grown back and were now in their prime. John sold
the rights to these cedars to Mr. Seilik of the
Baltimore area, who had two years to cut off all the
cedar on this property. His workmen came and took the
out by the truckload. I remember John helping out
by using his two horses to pull the trees from
inaccessible areas. For this right, Mr. Seilik paid
$300.00. So the purchase of this land was a good deal,
because the sale of the cedar trees almost paid for the
total cost of the purchase price. Mr. Seilik
did not complete the work because he was stricken
suddenly and died. His business did not remove all the cedar
trees, but picked and chose from certain areas.
A second son, Edward Meade Fuss,
was born on October 9, 1937, in the home. Dr. Cadle again
attended. Carrie Fuss came the very next day to help. In addition, Emma Ohler, Helen's sister, came
every day to assist for a while. By this time, she was on very
good terms with John and Helen.
In 1938, John purchased
his first tractor. It was a Farmall F-12, and it
greatly improved efficiency. The tractor had no
attachments, but John also purchased a two share plow to
pull behind it. Before this purchase, one of the hardest
jobs for the two horses was pulling the single share
plow, and it required a great deal of time to plow a
field. In addition, the
tractor was now used to pull the binder which cut the
grain. By 1941, the need for expanded facilities was
The Emmitsburg Railroad had gone
out of business, and a salvager named Leo Wetzel had
purchased the stock for junk purposes. A combination
passenger-baggage car was available for purchase. John
for $100.00, which was the cost of
moving it. John sawed the car into two pieces and hauled
it to the farm, where it was used to house the young chicks
for the first few years. The sides and ceiling
were double thickness and well insulated. A few years earlier, a chicken
house had been hauled to the farm from the Wenscholf property, owned
by Emma B. Ohler, to be used as a brooder
years after they moved to the farm, the kerosene
stove that was used to keep the chicks warm
exploded, causing a fire in the center of the brooder
house, which burned a hole in the floor. Helen
sent John Jr. to fetch John who was harrowing in the back
of the field. He did not understand the urgency of the
summons and Helen was quite perturbed because she had to
put out the fire alone by carrying water. However, most
of the flock of 300 young chickens suffocated from
the smoke. In 1946, an unused chicken house from the Bishop
farm, which was still owned by John and
Helen, was moved to the Locust Grove farm.
For the first few years at
Locust Grove, kerosene lamps and candles served as
the only lighting. In 1938, John purchased a used
Delco light plant, as it was called, from the Fleming
family. This was a gasoline engine which
generated electricity which was then stored in batteries. The
gasoline engine ran an hour or two every two or
three days for the light supplied in the house.
Cooley Coombs of Emmitsburg was
the electrician who installed the wires in the house. He
complained that it was one of the most difficult houses he
ever had to work in, because all of the walls were solid
brick. I well remember the first night when the switch
was thrown to turn on the electric light. It seemed so
bright when compared to the kerosene lamp that had been
In 1941, the Potomac Edison
Company built a power line out the Taneytown Road.
The company contacted John about building a line from
the road up
to his house. He would have to pay a $6.00 per month
base rate plus a large additional amount to run the line the
more than one-half mile from the Taneytown Road. So John
refused to sign.
Then the Rural Electrification
Association, which was providing electricity in the southern
section of Adams County, PA, was ready to put a line
along Harney Road. Potomac Edison very quickly came
back and built a line which went right by John's
house. The charge on this line was only $3.12 per
month for the basic amount of about 100 kilowatts per
month. It was amazing what competition did. It should be
noted that very few consumers used the basic amount of
electricity each month, even on farms.
According to Robert McNair, the old barn on the farm was
in 1797. This was the same year that the barn on his
farm had been built, as well as the barn at the Gulden
place nearby. These three barns were all within two
miles of each other, and were all of stone
construction, right up to the very peak of the roof.
was about 40 feet by 80 feet and quite high, with an overjet in front covering part of the barnyard.
When the Fuss family moved to the
farm, the lower portion was arranged from east to west with
a (1) sheep stable, (2) cow stable with seven stalls,
(3) two large stalls for steers, bull, etc. and (4)
horse stable with three stalls.
The entrance to the upper part
of the barn was unusual in that access was down a hill. This
arrangement of building into the side of a hill made it very warm in
the winter time and cool in the summer.
In addition, the second floor
had the normal hay mows on each side and two large barn
floors onto which the wagons were driven. The barn was
quite high, but the roof in the back sloped almost down
to ground level on each side of the barn floors.
The west side accommodated the
granary and the east side originally contained an
ice house. As it was built into the side of the hill,
supposedly made an excellent place to store ice. Mr. Kershner indicated that
was able to keep ice all through the summer. This
ice was obtained from the nearby dam on Middle Creek.
The ice house section had been
modified by J. Rowe Ohler in the 1920s while he owned
the property. The ice house was removed and a
wooden silo built up through it. While this was an
improvement to provide better feed for the livestock,
especially the dairy cows, it seriously weakened the
structure of the barn. The stone wall across the back no
longer anchored the high stone wall on the east side. As
a result, this wall was already leaning when
John acquired the property.
Soon thereafter, he placed
braces from the wall to the interior framework to
help to stabilize and hold the wall in. This
successful for a number of years. In the
early 1950s, more work was done on this problem when the barn
was filled with hay. Tyson Welty and his sons were
helping with this work when the jack slipped out.
A beam fell down
and sruck John on the forehead. He was knocked unconscious
for a short period, and was taken to the doctor for
stitches, which healed in a few days. Earlier renovations
took place in the lower part of the barn.
The dairy herd had been expanded
to the capacity of seven cows housed in old wooden stalls. The milk
was sold to Hershey Creamery Company and hauled to Biglerville, PA. The rear portion of the horse stable
was converted to four separate pens for brood sows.
In 1942, the size of
the barnyard was reduced. The former sheep pen
was cemented and nine metal stanchions were
installed in order to erect a new milkhouse. This qualified the farm to ship
fluid milk, and it was then sent to the receiving plant
During this period, the
principal crops were a rotation of corn, wheat, and hay.
A small acreage was also planted in barley, oats, and
occasionally soybeans. Some of the corn was cut into
silage for the silo and the rest put on shocks to husk
by hand. All of the grain was fed to the livestock and
chickens. There were usually three or four brood sows
whose litters were
fattened, a flock of 20 to 40 sheep, ten to eleven dairy
cows, and several hundred laying hens. Geese, ducks,
and guineas were also raised occassionally, but were not of
The road through the farm was
rough dirt and stone. In 1947, it was macadamized
from the Taneytown Road to just beyond the Fuss farm
building, and was completed to Harney a few years
Read Chapter 8: Life for the Family in the 1940's
other chapters in the life and times of John and Helen Fuss
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