a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A dog's life on a 19th Century farm

A dog powered butter churn on the historic Manchester Farm near Avella, Pa. (Scott Beveridge photo)

Historic Farm is threatened by longwall mining

By Scott Beveridge

AVELLA – Dogs used to be good for something other than companionship or fetching the morning newspaper.

Those owned by 19th Century farmer Isaac Manchester earned their table scraps by churning butter while running on a spinning wheel contraption beside the summer kitchen.

“You just put some food in front of it, and …,” said Manchester’s great-great-great-great-great granddaughter Marcie Pagliarulo, who now owns the farm in Independence Township, Pa.

The churn, along with a treasure trove of antique household and farming artifacts, have survived here thanks to the preservation efforts of generations of Manchesters.

The property likely holds the only existing, intact records of two centuries of farm life in the United States, preservationists said today, when the Manchester farm has become threatened by industrial development.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Trust for Historic Preservation today placed the farm on its annual list of America’s most endangered historic places because a coal operator has plans to open a longwall mine in the area. The method of deep mining proposed by Alliance Resource Partners of Tulsa, Okla., usually results in immediate subsidence damage to houses and private water supplies.

The trust is hoping pressure from its powerful influence will convince the company and Pennsylvania’s mining regulators to find alternatives to damaging the 400-acre farm.

“It’s a very important property for America as well as my family,” Pagliarulo said.

She has spent the past five years since she and her husband, Joe, bought the place cataloging thousands of artifacts stored in their stately Georgian manor house and in the farm’s outbuildings, which include a large barn, whisky distillery, tool shed and carriage house.

“I feel like I’ve gotten to know all of my ancestors,” she said.

Manchester was an English immigrant when he first settled in Newport, RI. He stopped en route to scout land in the Midwest at the Independence Township property when it was a frontier fort owned by Samuel Teeter. Upon his return in 1797 he decided to purchase the property on which he first built the distillery and then the brick house, beginning in 1805.

The Washington County farmhouse is unusual to southwestern Pennsylvania because it was constructed in a style common to Newport, complete with a East Coast widow’s walk on the roof. The barn, too, has details such as a large thrashing room common to New England.

“It’s like a time capsule,” Joe Pagliarulo said.

From today’s Observer-Reporter newspaper in Washington, Pa.:

The National Trust for Historic Preservation pleaded with a coal operator Wednesday to mine in the room-and-pillar method to protect a more than 200-year-old Washington County farm from subsidence damage.
Walter Gallas, a regional director of the trust, also urged supporters to send letters to state lawmakers and Gov. Tom Corbett asking them to take measures to ensure the Isaac Manchester Farm is not damaged by longwall mining.

UPDATE: The coal company announced June 17, 2011, it will not mine in the longwall method under the 400-acre farm, a new release indicated. Alliance Resource spokesman  Lee Landon said the company would mine in the conventional, or room-and-pillar approach, to remove the coal reserves it owns there.

(The newspaper has two other stories on the farm on its website)

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