Wednesday, June 12, 2013

This Old House

 **EDIT** This was originally posted in 2009, and currently we are moving a new house in beside this old house.   We will demolish this house in the spring of 2014.

 In the year 1836, Marcus Whitman and his wife, along with their party, traveled west. They were the trailblazers of a westward route that would become the famed Oregon Trail. Mass migration did not start until the year 1843. By then, the route used differed from the trail the Whitmans took, being shortened by taking a more direct route across Nebraska to Fort Kearny, instead of following the Missouri river north and the looping Platte river west. Seventeen years later, in 1860, a newer route was established that left the Missouri river at Nebraska City. It cut off about 40 miles from the trip to Fort Kearny, and was a nicer trail, as it primarily followed ridgetops, making the best use of the natural terrain. Across these trails cumulatively went nearly half a million people, seeking new homes, new lives, a new beginning. They met with many hardships and are now famous to us, as the pioneers of the west.

Situated about five miles due east of Beaver Crossing, NE, our house sits within about 100 yards of the Nebraska City Cut-Off of the Oregon Trail. If our house would have been in existence at that time, it would have seen wagons and wagon loads of people and goods heading westward. They would go past our house, continue west until they disappeared over the ridge of the Walnut Creek Valley. After crossing Walnut creek they would continue on westward to the town of Beaver Crossing, named for Beaver Creek, at which crossing the original town site stood. (The town is also purported to have derived its name from the abundance of beaver in the area) That crossing is located about six or seven miles west of our house.

Our house has been in existence in some form or degree, almost since the dust of the passing wagons subsided. No one that we know of can tell us when it was built, but all guess that it was toward the end of the nineteenth century. Originally a two room frame house about 22' by 34' it was added on to several times, to provide modern amenities such as indoor plumbing. It entered into my family (as far as I know) when purchased by my Great-Grandpa, John Burkey. The first family story I'm familiar with about our house, is one my Grandpa told me.

The house was in disrepair, an old falling down house in which no one lived. My Great Grandpa doubted anyone ever again would live in it. The year was probably either late 1930's or early 1940's, when they had some grain that was spoiling because it was too wet. My Grandpa was told by his Dad to shovel that grain (I think it was wheat) into the now-living room of our home, and spread it around on the floor so it would dry. It was later shoveled out the same window into which it had come.

Sometime after that, the house was repaired to the point that a portion of it could be lived in. As I understand it, it was at that point that the kitchen was added, and maybe the bathroom too. A basement (cellar, really) was dug under the newer part, the which is now in pretty bad shape and houses too many rodents. Now I will relate as best I can, the chronology of homes in this house from that time on. I can't provide all the dates, but will try to give some idea of the time each spent here.

My Grandparents, newlywed, began housekeeping in this house in 1945, and spent their first year here, before switching houses with my Grandpa's parents, who lived one mile down the road. It was in this house that they lost their first baby, Sherril Jean Burkey, at birth.

My great Grandparents, John and Sarah Burkey, lived out their final days in this house.

My great uncle Willius Burkey and his wife Elaine, lived here for about a year, caring for my great Grandmother until the time of her death.

My own parents, newlywed, started in this house in 1973, and lived here until 1983, the time that I was one.

After my parents, my uncle Richard and his wife Jane lived here with their family for several years.

Following that time, Keith and Julie Schweitzer (my cousin), newlywed, started their home in 1993 in this house, living here at least a couple of years.

After Keiths', the Nelson family lived in this house for a time (maybe a year), as well as another family, the Craigs, who spent one summer I believe.

David and Beth Burkey, my brother and sister-in-law, newlywed, began living here in 1999 and lived here until about two years ago.

Following that, Justin and Abbie Troyer, newlywed, lived in this honeymoon house for the course of one year.

Jenny and I, newlywed, began living here in February of 2009, and we couldn't be more happy. As I look over the list I've just compiled of eleven different families who've lived here in the last 65 years (I know I've probably missed some), seven of which were newlyweds beginning their homes, I wonder just what's to become of this old house. How many more people will have the opportunity to call it home? This house was an old house when my Great Grandparents lived in it. It was thought so old and run down then as to be not worth saving, but look how many families have called it home. Perhaps it's a matter of how long people will work to improve and fix a landmark they don't want to see removed.

This old house of ours has a lot of "old house" issues. The windows leak and are hard to clean, the basement and foundation cause raised eyebrows, the insulation isn't great at all, and the floors slope and wave like a gentle ocean swells..... But as poor as this house is in so many ways, it has an incredibly rich history of happy families, godly homes, and warm friendships.

As Jenny and I begin our home and family here, we're blessed with the wealth of good memories so many hold from this house, the common thread that we share. A link that connects so many or our relatives and friends together, a link we would not have without the rich history of This Old House.

**EDIT** This was originally posted in 2009, and currently we are moving a new house in beside this old house.   We will demolish this house in the spring of 2014.