If These Walls Could Talk – Inside a 100 Year Old Amish Home

This coming Saturday is the annual Erb reunion. My mother’s maiden name is Marie Erb. Her father was was Michael P. Erb (my grandpa). His father was Peter Erb (my great grandpa). It’s amazing how many people have lots and lots of relatives in the Amish and Mennonite cultures. Reunions are common all summer long. This one is going to be a little different. After lunch on Saturday anyone who wants to is going to be able to visit the home built by my great grandpa Peter Erb back in the early 1900’s, near Saltillo, Ohio. My mom told me approximately where the house is located, so yesterday when I was out that way, I thought I would see if I could find it.

I picked one of the houses along CR 68 where I thought it was. I drove in the lane and saw an Amish man sitting on the porch. I parked my vehicle and walked up to where he was sitting and told him I was looking for the Peter Erb home. He smiled a bit and confirmed that I had found the right place. Turns out that he, Dan Raber, had just purchased the home and property earlier this year from his father, Henry Raber. Dan and I chatted for a while and then, at my request to write a story, he took me inside the house, and throughout the property, and gave me the lowdown on the history of the place. Dan introduced me to his wife, Barbara. I was delighted at their friendliness and the warm welcome they gave me. They made me feel right at home. No, the walls couldn’t talk, but I was glad Dan could.

Dan said that the house was built by my grandpa, Peter Erb, in 1915 and the original property included around 200 acres, just south of Saltillo, Ohio. Peter was married to Fannie (Miller) and they had 12 children (6 boys and 6 girls), which means I’ve got lots of great aunts and uncles and cousins. The first room we visited was the downstairs (entry level) sitting room area. Dan showed me the place where, just a short while ago, they had removed some wooden wall panels on the east side of the house. Underneath the wooden paneling are very large hewn sandstone rocks that make up the wall and the foundation of the house. Also in the sitting area there is a beautiful, original hutch, made out of white oak that is built into the wall. Not part of the house, but interesting nevertheless, Dan showed me a very unique furniture piece that he purchased; a small stand with a formica-like table top that has an inlaid checkerboard. He said the piece came from The Good House, a restaurant/tavern, located in Ragersville, Ohio. Apparently it was used by the tavern’s guests to play checkers while they ate and drank.

We proceeded upstairs and Dan told me that much of the house was built using quarter-sawn white oak. This includes the walls, the trim work, the floors, and even the ceilings, some of which is painted or covered up with floor coverings. However, the original woodwork that is still visible is beautiful. I imagine when the wood was all exposed, it was quite stunning. Dan said when Peter built the house, he owned a sawmill and got all the white oak from trees on his property. I can only imagine the small fortune it would cost today to erect a house with that much virgin hardwood oak.

Dan continued our tour outside. He showed me what is believed to be an original small brick building which was used as the milk house. Adjacent to it was a no longer functioning water well and hand pump that had been hand dug back in the day. Water for the household does not come from a well but from two artesian springs on the property.

Peter Erb owned the property and built his house back in 1915. Ownership then passed to his son-in-law, Wally Sommers, who was married to Peter’s daughter Ada. After that Monroe Miller became the owner circa 1960. In 1978, 150 acres of the original farm was sold to Henry Raber. This year, Dan Raber, the current owner, purchased 100 acres from his father, Henry.

The barn which is located near the house is not original; it caught fire and burned down. Dan said that the barn fire was so large and hot that a brigade of men reached from the artesian well clear up to the house to pass buckets of water which were thrown onto the wood siding of the house to prevent it from catching fire also. Although a new barn was erected, the original sandstone walls and foundation remained intact. Cleary etched into the stone are markings left by my progenitors. “P.E. ERB 1924” is clearly visible on one of the outside exposed stone walls. On the inside wall you can see “SAM P ERB”. There are other markings as well but not as legible.

I can’t help but think that back in the early 1900’s when he built his house, Great Grandpa Peter had no idea that one day in 2013, about one hundred years later, one of his descendants would tour the house he built, take color pictures, write a story, and publish them digitally on a thing called the internet for thousands of people all over the world to see and read.

UPDATE: The reunion on Saturday was well attended. There was an abundance of food and many fond (and funny) stories were shared. In the afternoon, after the meal, quite a few people made there way over to see the house built by Peter Erb back in 1915. Peter Erb had 12 children. Many of his children had large families as well. In the group pic there are Erbs, Millers, Hostetlers, Sommers, Schlabachs, and Witmers.

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