Setter Run Farm

Mid-1800s

The original property where our house was built was probably first owned by George Valentine, although we have not been able to find out who owned the property when the original land grant was made.  However, the Valentines were a very well-to-do family in Bellefonte because they made their money in the iron smelting and foundry business. 

 

The earliest information I have been able to find out about the property is that George Valentine willed 202 acres and 75 perches to his son Reuben when he died in 1856. This property is primarily located in Walker Township, but also encompasses Spring Township to the west and Marion Township to the north.  Reuben did not appear to have done much with the property until 1863 when the Walker Township tax rolls noted a 'new house and barn.' 

 

 

The Civil War

The local taxes in 1863 were $18.20 on an assessed value of $2,200 and jumped to $41.06 in 1864. I can only assume the house was started in 1863 and completed sometime in 1864.

 

Reuben Valentine never lived in the house (he resided in nearby Spring Township) and that explains why the construction is so plain.  The house was constructed solely of limestone, mortar, white pine, and nails (and windows). The trim upstairs and down is solely pine painted with a yellow ochre milk paint with no moldings or any fancy finish carpentry.  Likely, the house was intended from the beginning to be a tenant property.

 

<< Photo: simple trim woodwork was always painted

 

The first tenant was listed on the tax rolls in 1863 as Joseph A. Miller whose occupation was laborer. He paid tax ($8) for one cow that was at least 4 years old. Joseph Miller was a deserter from the Civil War where he was a private in the Ninety-second Regiment, Pennsylvania 9th Cavalry, Company I.  He was the only member of the company from Centre County (the men were recruited primarily from Cumberland County).  Joseph enlisted for a 3-year commitment and was mustered into service October 26, 1861. His company was shipped off via train to Pittsburgh and then by boat to Kentucky where they fought in several battles. They also walked back east through the West Virginia mountains through Cumberland Gap. It was at this point in time that a change in command occurred and Joseph Miller was one of several men who deserted January 25, 1863.  After reading the company account in Samuel P. Bates' History of the Pennsylvania Volunteers, 1861-1865 I think I would seriously consider deserting myself.

 

In 1864 a new tenant is listed on the tax rolls. I have no idea what happened to Joseph A. Miller, but in the attic I did find a saber hanger from the Civil War that would have been attached to a sword belt.

Also, under the stairs I found a photo taken in the latter half of the 1800s of a young man.  Could it be Joseph Miller?  Maybe someday I will have the time to find out where he may have lived or died after he moved out of our home.

 

<< Photo: hand-tinted ambrotype (negative photograph on glass) found under attic stairs

 

The tenant who arrived in 1864, James Hull, lived here until 1901.  During his tenancy many things happened to the Valentines. Reuben Valentine died in November 1871 intestate and his wife Mary worked to settle his estate until at least 1895 (lesson learned: make sure you have a will!). Mary Valentine died June 4, 1908 and in her will she left all her possessions and property to her two daughters, Anna J. and Caroline M. Valentine.

 

I do not know much about James Hull, except what I gleaned from the tax rolls. He is listed as a laborer for several years, as well as in the estate papers for Reuben Valentine (his wife made payments to James Hull when settling the estate). In the tax roll for 1872 James Hull is listed as a farmer for the first time as well as for the remainder of the time he resided in our house.  In 1885 his son, John Hull, is also listed as living in our home and owning 1 horse and carriage and making $50 in annual wages as a laborer.  In 1887 John Hull was no longer living at home and was listed as a tenant of Caroline Garthoff in Zion.

 

James Hull paid taxes on horses and cattle, so he must have been farming. In 1896 I believe the Commonwealth or Centre County must have instituted a tax on dogs, because in that year he owned 1 male dog. By 1901 he owned 4 male and 1 female dogs.  It must be noted, however, that 90% or more of the dogs on the tax rolls were male (because the tax on female dogs was greater).

 

In 1896 it was noted that 173 acres were cleared and 58 acres were timber.  That totals more than 200 acres, but maybe the Valentines owned more land than just this farm in Walker Township.

 

The 20th Century

I can only assume that James Hull either died in 1901 or was too old to farm. In 1902, a new tenant occupied the farm, B. Frank Lutz, who was listed as a farmer on the tax rolls.  The Lutz family lived in the house from 1902 to 1920, and although there is little interesting information on the tax rolls, we found some evidence from their time here when renovating.

 

When running new wiring to the second floor I had to pull up the floor boards to the attic stairs. Apparently, 150 years of 'stuff' had fallen down underneath.  It took a whole afternoon to excavate through newspapers, clothes, etc. but we found letters and homework. We also found a beer bottle from the J. Kazmaier Brewery in Altoona, Pennsylvania and a cast iron toy pig.

 

<< Photo: cast iron pig and beer bottle found under attic stairs

 

 

In 1915 the Lutz family paid tax for 2 dogs - and under the stairs were two dog tax tags!

 

We know that in 1918 they had a phone because a daughter (Vesta Lutz) received a letter from Miss Anna Cook of Bellefonte indicating their phone line was out of order. John S. Lutz (son) must have dumped a lot of homework under the stairs because there were piles of homework assignments, including essays on Daniel Webster and grammar assignments.

 

<< Photo: letter to Vesta Lutz dated December 2, 1918

 

The Farm is Sold

In 1921 John R. and Sarah E. Wian farmed the property until the Valentine sisters sold the property in 1924 to William J. and Agnes H. Musser. Their son, Boyd Musser, began farming the property in 1925. Agnes Musser died October 1930 and her will stated that all her property and belongings were to be sold. Boyd Musser obtained permission from the court to purchase the property at auction if high bidder. He was high bidder and paid $4,250 for the property ($21/acre including house and barn).

 

Boyd Musser was married to Rosaleine E.Musser but he died January 13, 1938 in Altoona. Francis F. Musser was the heir to the estate and sold the property to William C. Frank in 1940. William Frank died January 28, 1943 and the heirs Lee G. Frank and Virginia C. Frank sold the property in 1947 to John P. and Jewel P. Hovan. Four years later the Hovans sold the property to Orin S. and Betty L. Weaver on February 1, 1951.

 

That leads us to the recent history of the house because the Weavers owned the farm from 1951 to 1989, who lived on the property longer than any previous inhabitants. Their sons and daughters still own pieces of the farm and we have photos from the 1950s through the 1980s. The photo of the house on the home page was as it existed when the Weavers purchased the property - no indoor plumbing and a log summer kitchen attached to the front of the house.

 

More information on the recent history of our home exists under the Since 1951 link...