Pennsylvania Limestone Farmhouse Renovations to an 1863 farmhouse built of limestone

July 28, 2013

Sutherland, Virginia 1902

Filed under: Stone house restoration,Upstairs — Duane Diefenbach @ 9:25 pm

One of the items we found in the most recent renovations was a letter dated December 28, 1902 written to the third residents of our farm.  The letter was postmarked January 1, 1903 from Sutherland – and we assume Virginia based on information to follow. The actual letter is dated December 28, 1902.

The letter was written to Frank and Helen Lutz, who resided at our house from 1902-1920.  They did not own the property but rented it from the widow of Reuben Valentine (who built the home) and from her daughters who inherited the property when the widow died in 1908. So the letter was written to the residents of our home the first year they started farming!

According to the tax rolls for 1902, the Lutz’s paid $220 in tax for 4 horses or mules and $75 in tax for 3 cattle.

We found the letter folded up and affixed in plaster that was used to close up the original door to the largest bedroom in the house. Given that the plastering occurred about 1951 or 1952 why would you fold up a 50-year-old letter and stick it in the plaster? The letter was chewed upon by mice and bugs over the past 111 years but the postmarks were legible. The 2¢ stamp of George Washington was pretty expensive given it costs less than 50¢ to mail a first class letter today.

Here is a photo of the letter and the stamp.



As you can see, some of the paper has been lost over time, but there is enough to decipher much of the contents of the letter. Molly and I sat down and transcribed the following (items in brackets are our best guess and —?— means it was illegible or lost forever):

Sutherland                                December 28, 1902

Mrs. Helen Lutz

Dear Lutz’s, I will try —?—- a few lines.  [We are] well and hope to find you all the same.

—?— this is a nice climate to live here in winter time for it isn’t cold. [There] is generally a frost in the morning but it generally —?—- off when the sun rises.

There was nearly 3 inches of snow here. It only stayed a little over a day and then it was all gone.

I suppose there is lots of snow still —?— how are you enjoying farming and are you glad —?— another year. Sometime I think of getting out (our?) —?—- a farm for a —?—- a change.

The people down here don’t do much farming here. They raise mostly cattle and a few [vegetables?] and sweet potatoes.

I think —?— shall —?— and —?— PA about the middle of April for I’m going to Buffalo, NY about that time.

This is all at friends hoping to —?— soon. —?— give me all the news you —?—-.

Sincerely Yours,

—?— E—-


It would be really interesting to be able to read the last name, and possibly investigate where they lived in Sutherland, VA.  We assume it was Virginia because Sutherland, VA is near Richmond and the weather (frost at night and snow that lasts only a day or so) sounds appropriate for that time of year.

The amazing thing is the letter was received in Mill Hall, PA on what appears to be January 3, 1903 – only 2 days after being postmarked in Sutherland, VA!!

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