“The breaking of so great a thing should make a greater crack.”
— William Shakespeare
Samuel Young was 40 years old in 1883 when he tackled the arduous task of building an enormous, Victorian-style home.
Having moved a saw mill in to the big woods he owned, he felled oak trees, then planed logs in to lumber. Samuel and his lumbering crew would have moved all of it across the farm of the couple who Samuel considered his in-laws, George and Elizabeth Wolf, who had raised their niece Elizabeth Kelley as their only child.
She referred to them as “Aunty and Uncle” and knew she was to inherit their farm one day, which sat in the middle of the adjoining land that Samuel and Elizabeth had purchased over the years.
Walnut trees were used to create trim. Huge and ornate double doors at the front of the home welcomed guests in to a large foyer, which showcased the lovely open stairway, the banister made of incredibly detailed pieces that had been hand-carved to perfection.
Elizabeth planted trees, creating an orchard of apple, pear and peach trees, as well as lovely trees on the lawn. She tended a large garden, which was fenced off and admired by visitors, with the Youngs being known for their ‘genuine personal worth’ and ‘welcoming hospitality’, as described in Bauchman’s History of Ashland County.
They were prosperous and forward-thinking, contributing hundreds of dollars in bringing the railroad to the area. Imagine the excitement for this couple and their three children, moving from a small cabin to the enormous home.
I heard so many great stories about this ancestor from my father, but much credit for this history is due to my father’s sister, Miriam Young Slabaugh, who collected facts and memories to create a book that is a treasure.
“Everyone in the community raved about the beautiful home that could be seen for miles around,” she wrote.
Then came the barn. Her grandfather, Samuel and Elizabeth’s oldest son, Herbert, was 22 when the 40-by-100 foot barn was built 10 years later, and told of Truman Gault and his carpenters being paid $1.25 a day. A one-armed carpenter, relative Adam Young, was credited with laying the 40-foot oak beams and posts and roof joist on the ground, fastening them together with oak pegs, then the crew would raise them in to place. Such an enormous barn, complete with slate roof, was awe-inspiring.
The home and buildings were all painted a pale yellow, complete with white gingerbread trim.
On February 6, 1890, Uncle Wolf died. Aunty died on that very same date three years later.
Sometime, during the three years after Uncle Wolf died, Elizabeth’s brother George Kelly, 44, secretly worked to convince Aunty that his sister and Samuel already had enough land and they wouldn’t be able to handle another farm. It wasn’t until after her funeral that the dastardly deed was revealed: Aunty had signed the deed of the farm over to George.
“No one could believe that Elizabeth’s own brother would beat her out of her inheritance,” my aunt writes.
A divided family
Battle lines were drawn. The breaking of a life-long covenant was an enormous misdeed. Reportedly, even the spelling of the last name Kelley was changed by those against the sly dealing.
“If this be the case, the only one that went along with George’s action was his older brother Henry,” my aunt reported.
Their mother went to her grave in May of that year, knowing that her son was responsible for fracturing this once-close family.
Even though the farm was given to George Kelly free and clear, Slabaugh writes, “he was not able to manage his money, borrowed heavily and eventually lost the farm in foreclosure. I don’t believe the Young family shed any tears over this loss.”
(Next week: Creating a legacy.)
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