One of the great things about our farm is the sense of history you get just by being here. Not just because we choose to farm with horses and use antique equipment, but the very buildings are antiques too! One of my long-term goals is to research the history of the farm and write it down, but for now I know for sure that the barn was built in 1894. It's carved into the foundation stones, so that I'm quite sure of. The building used as the workshop is older than that, and the house was put here later than the barn, but not by too many years. It was built on an adjacent farm, pulled by horses and rolled on logs to its current location, so it is a bit harder to date. Looking at the hand-hewn beams of the barn, it's fascinating to me to picture how it was actually built. It's been in continuous use without any major structural repairs (other than a board here and there or a new roof) so it was built right the first time, as the saying goes. The pictures of horses and buggies and a blacksmith shop here are easy to picture. It's a bit more mind-boggling to picture that in the larger context of history, of the area and the nation as well.
At my day job, we are in the process of relocating the office. We will be moving to the historic Transit building in downtown Oil City. While touring the building looking for office space, we found out a lot about the history of the structure. It was built by John D. Rockefeller in the days of Standard Oil. It processed something like 90% of the world's orders for petroleum products at that time. Our little corner of the world was the birthplace of the oil industry, and at that time huge Victorian homes were being built, many of which still stand today in places like Oil City, Franklin, or Titusville. Boom towns like Pithole appeared overnight, full of the lawless and the newly rich. I knew all this, it is celebrated in annual town festivals, it is talked about frequently in the local newspaper, and there are many historic monuments within a short drive of home. But somehow, it can be hard to reconcile with our little farm. Still farming with horses and heating with wood, we seem pretty far removed form the oil boom. So what brought it all home to me the day I was in the Transit building? J. D. Rockefeller, a prominent national historical figure of his era, was building his 4-story brick superstructure to handle petroleum orders the very same year my barn was built, 1894. The two structures are separated by less than 30 miles. I had never really put those events side by side, as one seemed to be something from a history textbook and the other an extension of personal history, the history of my home. Wow. History in context.