When was my house built??

moo_November 22, 2007

I am interested in finding out when an (apparently) 1840's home was actually built.

Deeds aren't mentioning a home, only the land acerage meets and bounds.

Is there any sources that I can tap into? I live in a small town in TX and we have limited resources as to historical information.

Any tips are appreciated.

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You might be able to come up with something in the wills of the people who owned the land.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 1:50AM
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That can be a hard one, even if you do have access to a lot of data. I live in a house built circa 1820s to 1830s. I know the land was entered and purchased in 1811 from the original deed. The architectural details put it in the Federal period/style. I found an 1835 atlas and it shows a house (but what kind or style?) I'm suspecting it was this very one I live in, because by 1830 the land had been purchased by a man of means from Virgina who had set up the first mercantile in the township.....and the land had been habituated already for twenty years and he had the money to build a three course brick home with real window glass and a cellar. An 1800s history book of the county also mentioned the first real road in this township (in the early 1800s) starting at an established trail three miles away and ending at our house (store owner's name mentioned) and there were others in the township past the store owner, so I suspect it was for access to the mercantile and also the road house he operated.

The question is.........did a log cabin predate it and if it did for how long? The closest I have come yet to dating the brick home is a picture an ancestor of an even later owner showed to us. It was of a man in a Civil War uniform standing in front of our house. The stone sill of our front door was the very one we have now, and in the mid eighteen sixties, was already worn in the middle from footsteps, and there were foundation plantings of trees visible to either side of the door, and they were mature.

You may not be able to ever get a written document to substantiate the date, but if there is any genealogical library in your county, look for the early history books or atlases. Many have lovely drawings of the early farms and homes or oral histories of the structures.

If you can't find any of those, get some data on the building techniques used in the old homes. Most of our floor joists are not hewn, but trunks of trees, cut and hauled in behind a team or horses or oxen. But, the beams are hewn and it's obvious they weren't done by a circular saw. The cuts are straight. Circular saws in mills were not used before a certain date. Look to the exterior materials. Ours is soft brick and we unearthed the pits where they were made and the culls and unused brick, buried.

Your state historical society often has experts as well on the details of old home construction and can zero in on certain details you may be able to use keep extending the age of the home, so you can tell it was built before a certain date.

Good luck. When doing other genealogical research, I keep my eyes peeled for the names of previous owners, articles in very old newspapers and books and have pieced together a rather satisfying amount of material and pictures of our old home. Don't neglect to talk to the older people in your community who may have memories or oral history, either.

I have an agricultural enterprise on our property, and have had many elderly customers who have sat down on a warm day and recalled a lot of details about our place. The kids from the little one room school house down the road used to carry a bucket to our springhead each morning to pull up water for their classroom. Another recalls the wooden shingles on the roof before it was slated. Another recalled the original store used by the storekeeper who owned the house from 1830s to 60s was moved up the road in the 1930s and stood there until recent times.

Good Luck on your venture. It can be very exciting. Sorry to make this post so long, but I tried to give you as much detail as I could on a sometimes difficult task.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 3:14AM
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Thank you for a great post!
I have been writing a post in my head which would talk about much of the same things, but not in so personal a way.

Dates I could give you for my neighborhood might be useless in yours. An example is the change from cooking over a fireplace to using a cookstove. Around here because we are close to a shipping port (bringing in iron ore) and an early industrial city ( making excellent cast iron stoves early on), cast iron stoves are in common use by 1840. Large (4'x 4') fireplace openings designed for cooking with a bake oven around on the side, are the last evolution of kitchen fireplaces, seen in houses built in 1838. The change can be clearly seen in houses whose history is well know.
In Texas? I don't know how the stoves would have gotten there, where they would have been made...
So I - long distance - can't date your house from its technology.

Looking at how the economics and the technology of an area would impact construction and living is the best way to date a house.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 3:16PM
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Thanks for the help.

I was told today to go to the tax apprasial office and get a history of the taxes paid and if there were structures.

Sounds good but did they even have property taxes in the 1840's?

Also, the house is Georgian Colonial with a center hall and gabled porch. The walls are solid trees! Hewn posts lined up one beside the other. (covered with plaster)

Thanks- Moo

    Bookmark   November 23, 2007 at 9:19PM
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On your deed IF YOU Read it it should say Like for example B-10. Go to the county court house that your home is in.Tell them what your looking for.Theyll show you where to look.When you get to the page of B-10 on bottom of deed there should be another say K-25 thats book K page 25.Keep going till you cant go anymore.
I went through all my deeds and looked in local phone books for names,I wrote thinking they would know something .I Did get a few answers.I found some of the families.Got alot of info.I met the family that lived here over 50 years.She since passed away.She gave e photos some other things.
I joined 2 historical societies,learned alot,met neighbors some too have since passed on.
Now a friend of mine went with me to do hers and she came to a deed she couldnt read,it was all blurred so she couldnt go any further.
Read everything.A col George Himes from Battle of Gettysburg owned this house in 1822.I have a deed with his signature on it.His brother was only Dr.in the next town from me.so I bought books from historical society there was alot of info in there.They put out books here saying what peoples jobs were,how many homes were here a peticular year,how many children,women,men there were,It really gets fun looking into all this finding all the information about your home.I love it.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 6:58AM
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You bet they had taxes. I found the tax records for 1825. That won't necessarily tell you anything about the house, however........just that the yeoman owns land, how many acres and perhaps how many cattle and horses he had as personal property.

On the census records (1850 and after) you will find a dollar evaluation on farms. It could be an indicator a permanent structure was built if it evaluated significantly in the ten years.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2007 at 9:38AM
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Your best bet is to contact the local historical society or nearest one. They can help you find the best historical data for your area. If your house was built prior to 1845, it would have been built during the Republic of Texas, and there might not be many tax records. Texas became a state in 1845. Some towns in East Texas have extensive historical data available, especially if they were along the El Camino Real.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2007 at 12:25AM
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Just an aside - I was talking with an old Vermonter whose family migrated from Vermont to Ohio and Texas in the early 1800's, and then back around 1900. Made me think about your house frame:
In northern NY and western Vermont, houses at that time were often 'plank framed' - slabs of wood set on end side by side to frame the walls. I know 2 elegant 1830's brick houses with post and beam frames, brick exterior walls, fashionable door and window casings, and that plank framing inside. So it was an well regarded structural system.
Your house might have been built by someone from upstate NY who brought his knowledge of framing with him.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 10:24AM
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Did a google on historic log construction and found that your house may fit what is called post in ground or post on foundation construction, which were creole construction methods. Also known as vertical log construction. There is a town in Missouri that has several of these homes featured. You might check out the site and see if your home is similar ste-genevieve.com

It would not be unusual for areas of deep East Texas to have influences from the creoles in Louisiana, especially in towns along the Sabine River. The large center hall was for ventilation. Usually had doors on each end. In summer, the doors were opened to catch the breezes coming through the house.

    Bookmark   November 26, 2007 at 11:05PM
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One of the things that will help you with your search is to find the names of the folks who lived in your home from off the deed. Knowing where they came from and a little bit of what their occupations were can explain alot about things in a house.
The first family to live in our house had roots going back to NYC high society, infact I'm at a point now in my research where I think the FIL may have had the house built for the couple as a wedding gift so his daughter could continue to live the kind of lifestyle she had in NYC.
There are signs everywhere that tho this was the home of a farmer there was more going on than just a family making a living off the land, there was an explosion of culture and ideas taking place in this house.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 10:49AM
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Thanks for the help.

I got a lead on who actually built the house and he's no one listed on the deed records. I'm going to do research on him and see what I can come up with.

Seems it was perhaps actually built in 1822.

And I love the idea of researching the way it was actually built. That's a fantastic idea! Yes, we're close to the LA border. It's not Creole in apperance as it hasn't much porch at all.

Thank you all for replying. So helpful. Please continue.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 5:57PM
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New Orleans back in the 1800's was a major port. The affects of it being so important to trade is evident even in my home here in southwestern NY state....the front pillars on the house are identical to those found in NO. Clay bricks covered with a thin coat of plaster material with a large round ball cap. We believe that the FIL and maybe even his new SIL made numberous buying trip to NO area and there purchased the cap stones to our pillars and the wood for the house which is cypress, not something you'd typically find around here.
I even think the layout of the house was based on knowledge picked up in the warmer climate of the south. Almost all of our upstair rooms interconnect. ALL doors line up and are placed so that they create corridors for air currents to move thru and help cool the house in the summer months.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 6:23PM
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If your home was built in 1822, you have a gem. Your home was probably built by one of the colonists Stephen F. Austin brought to Texas during it's colonization prior to gaining independence. Is it in town or out in the country? If in the country, the original owner may be the one listed as the abstract name. Colonists were given land grants in their names by the Mexican government.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2007 at 8:09PM
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Old houses in NE (from the 1660's to the 20th century actually) also have windows and doors lined up for breezes in the summer. It is one of the easiest (passive energy use) things to do that our ancestors knew from experience. We lost that knowledge due to central heat and a/c.

A house in the south would have higher ceilings before they did up north, and deeper porches and overhangs since winter sunshine coming through the windows wasn't as important.
But then, I've seen wonderful vernacular Texan houses around Dallas and Austin with deep porches for summer shading and a bay window almost the size of a room right beside for winter sun.

In the north, the main living spaces tended to be on the south side of a house, a central hall was mostly for circulation. - whereas I understood that the main central halls in the Louisiana plantation homes were where the living took place, similarly to the use of the dog trot, it was cooler there and with both ends open had a breeze. Any one want to enlighten me?

    Bookmark   November 28, 2007 at 1:02PM
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