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Old Homestead What follows is both a love story and a family history tale, with a bit of mystery thrown in. Jerry L. Eisenhart of the Spring Valley Eisenhart branch shares with us the story of the passion and hard work that have gone into the restoration of the 1859 barn on the Eisenhart family Old Homestead property in Spring Valley PA.

The house and surrounding property was purchased by Benjamin Eisenhart in the late 1840s and has been in the family since that time. For more than 150 years a multitude of Eisenhart family members spent their lives within its walls or climbed onto the porch to visit "cousins" and inhabit the past, if only for a short time. Jerry hopes to be able to restore the property and has begun the process with a badly needed renovation of the barn, which had become structurally unsound.

Booklet A Labor of Love With the help of Gail Eisenhart Belytschko and Patti Adams, Jerry has written a booklet that tells the story of the barn renovation. Entitled "A Labor of Love: Restoring a Circa 1859 Family Barn", this booklet will be made available to those making a donation to the Barn Renovation Fund. If you are interested in helping to restore this landmark structure while learning more about our family history and culture, please contact Patti. Donations of $29.50 will purchase a copy of the booklet. Also available for a donation of $20 is a T-shirt specially designed to benefit this project (See the images below).  These items will be available for pick up in the Bethlehem area or can be mailed for an additional postage and packaging fee of $3. There is a list of restoration projects for those individuals or groups able to make a more substantial donation. Those making higher contributions will be recognized in a special way. Of course a donation of any amount ($5 suggested donation) is most welcome and these individuals will be recognized in upcoming Newsletters. There will be more information coming out about the Barn Restoration Project in a future Newsletter, so stay tuned.

T-shirt front and logo T-shirt front Back of Tee


Here is an excerpt from Jerry's booklet about restoring this historic landmark:

Outside of barn "Barns have personalities just like people do and my relationship with this barn evolved just the same as it does with people. At first I was hesitant to be around it because it seemed so big and brooding. But over time it spoke to me, calmed me down, until I eventually realized it was a gentle giant that needed help. It told me if I would just pay attention, it would show me what was wrong. In fact as we developed a closer relationship, and it was no longer afraid of what I would do to it, it began to plead for help, for it was indeed in big trouble as you will soon see.

Obviously barns don’t communicate with people in the normal way we think of communication. Still they do communicate and here is how they do it. If you study its architecture it will tell you a lot about how strong the barn is , how it was intended to be used, the level of craftsmanship involved, the tools and technology the people had who built it. Going further, finding old agricultural tools which are always there, one can see how the farm operated and the role of the barn. Doodles and notes on the walls tell a lot about the daily life of the barn. And if you get lucky, and I did, there will be an actual interpreter for the barn, a live person, who lived with the barn for many years. In my case it is Uncle David H. Eisenhart, 89 years young, who could answer questions for the barn. This combination enabled me to learn more and more about the barn until it became my big close friend.

For example, I was in the barn late one evening when it was getting dark and all was quiet. I looked up and near the top of the barn was a beam sitting loose, straddling the grain threshing floor. I knew how it got there. My Uncle Job liked to walk on things at great heights so somehow he and my Uncle Asa put it there so he could do that.

  There is a horse stall on the ground floor that housed a team whose names were Fred and Jim, obviously family members, we can tell by their names. They were not allowed off the farm except to get shoed, because my grandfather, Daniel Z., was afraid they would injure a leg walking or running on the hard road. Well, it seems Jim was afraid of the shoeing process so he wouldn’t go to the blacksmith unless Fred went too. They would shoe Jim first and as soon as he was done, they would let him go, and he would run all the way home and put himself in the barn. Apparently he and most likely many other animals had a close relationship with the barn. It protected them and calmed them down. They felt safe there. So maybe now you can see how it was I came to care about this barn.

water damaged gable Then an alarming thing happened. I walked into the barn one day to discover that underneath a window and ventilator up near the peak of the roof sunlight was streaming in, directly through a beam in three places that were supposed to be completely solid. My big buddy was crying out for help showing me exactly what was wrong.

Can you imagine what it was like to see this? I was stunned. A number of thoughts went racing through my mind. I wondered first of all if it was even safe to be in there, would the barn hold together until it could be fixed, was it feasible to fix it, how would the contractor keep the barn from falling down while he was taking the old beam out and how much was it going to cost. A further inspection showed there was double trouble because the other gable was in the same shape as that one.

Fortunately we were able to resolve all of those issues satisfactorily so now my big buddy is healthy and strong. Still dowdy, but maybe we can fix that someday too. There is an old Pennsylvania Dutch tale that on Christmas Eve, late, if you go quietly out to the barn, then and only then, can you hear the animals talking to one another. If they do talk to one another, I’m sure they talk with the barn as well, because this barn talks to me on a regular basis. In closing I want to give credit to Gail Belytschko and Patti Adams. When I initially finished this it looked a bit like a boring college paper. They took it and brought it to life with the story about Benjamin and added the graphics with many key photographs. They share my passion for getting the story told in a way that is compelling enough that hopefully succeeding generations will be interested in reading it and concerned enough to consider continuing the preservation.

Jerry L. Eisenhart, Shavertown, Pennsylvania July, 2014"


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Missed a story, check out our archives, now available:


John Eisenhardt and his trip to Eichstett Bavaria pdf icon

The Isenharts and the Salamonia Church by John WarrenPDF icon

Queen Mary Perry Eisenhart pdfpdf icon

Grace Furrow Story pdfpdf icon

Daniel Eisenhart of Butte Co., CA pdfpdf icon

The Story of Bethlehem, PA pdfpdf icon

A Sinking Mystery, The Benjamin Noble StoryPDF icon


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