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Monday, February 4, 2008

The passing of someone dear to us.

What a bittersweet day it is today as I read about the passing of someone formerly of our area, Mrs. Elizabeth Jessup Keck. Mrs. Keck passed away at the glorious age of 103, and this is how we came to briefly know her.....

When we purchased our home here in Springville, PA, in 2003, we knew it was special...you could just feel it had history in it's old bones. After some preliminary research, we found that the house belonged to Albert and Eliza Beardsley according to a map we found of Springville in 1872.

I decided to try to trace back the history of the home and went directly to the Susquehanna County Historical Society in Montrose, PA. Once I described the house and showed them the copy of the map I found us on, they knew exactly who I must contact. They pulled out the copy of the Centennial History of Susquehanna County Pennsylvania book written by R.M. Stocker. There on page 403 began the story of Albert Beardsley and his wife, Eliza. She told me that the great-great-grandaughter of the Mr. Beardsley resided in Emmaus, PA, and gave me her name and address. Mrs. Keck happened to be a dear friend to the historical society and donated many belonging from both the Jessup side of the family, and the Beardsley side, to the museum. They showed me the many articles from our very own home built in 1827 that she donated to the museum for all of us to enjoy, and what a treasure that was, to see so many things from the 1800's that belonged to my own home.

I wrote Mrs. Keck a letter, never expecting to hear from her, to be honest with you. About 6 weeks later, I received a phone call from Mrs. Keck's caretaker, and within just a moment, I was speaking with the great-great grandaughter of the original owner of the home! She told me that she remembered the house well....taking the train to Montrose, then a horse and carriage ride to Springville, to visit her father's family who resided in the home after Albert and Eliza's deaths. She remembered a grand staircase in the foyer that was open at the top, and was sad to learn that this was all torn down and turned into bedrooms to form a double home in order to rent out. She was happy though to learn that a family such as ours had moved in and was restoring it back to it's original charm and wanted to, once again, raise a family in the home.

She remembered the hammock on the front part of our wrap around porch, and we still have the hook by our front door where the hammock was hung. She also remembered seeing a picture in her collection of family photographs in her attic. She knew it was a picture of her father as a young man sitting on a bicycle in front of our wrap around porch. She promised to have a family member search for it, and again, I never expected to be able to see that picture she spoke of.

About two months later, we received a thick envelope with a wonderful surprise. Her great-grand niece's husband had copies of that picture duplicated so that we could have one for our own collection, and it was exactly as she described! Her father was on the bicycle in front of the porch and her mother and other family members are sitting on the porch in rocking chairs creating what I am sure is wonderful needlework pieces! This would date the picture at about the early 1880's.

Another surprise awaited us in that envelope. There was another picture of a pretty little girl, her parents and grandparents on the same porch. That picture was of Mrs. Keck at one year of age sitting on the lap of her grandfather, the son-in-law of the original owners, Albert and Eliza Beardsley! Along with the photos, the family also sent a long history of the Jessup family, which is the family that Albert and Eliza's daughter married into and they were from the Montrose area and have strong historical ties to the area.

This was such a joy to receive, and I thanked her and her family for the copies of the photographs. We had them framed and mounted, and they are proudly displayed in our kitchen where we look at them several times a day. We used them as a reference when we were replacing our windows in the home, and we changed them to be the exact design that was original to the home in 1827.

Even though that was the only contact that we had with Mrs. Keck, we thought and spoke of her often in our home. There are still people out there that care about our nation's history and the love for a home and those that once lived there and reside there today.

So let this be my little tribute to a woman that showed us that the special feeling we had about this home the day we walked into it for the first time was correct...it was special. Even though it was in a sad state when we bought it, we have tried to bring her back to the way she used to be and are proud to be a part of our local history.

Here is the link to her obituary in our local paper. You can read of her and her family's historical and political contributions to our area and our nation and also her generousity with many organizations. Just cut and paste the url into your address bar to view the write up....I think it's worth a look!


If you want to read more about our home and see a slideshow of pictures we have taken of the house, please visit my website at www.finecountrylivingprimitives.com and click on the "Our Primitive Home" button and the "About us" button on the left sides.

Thank you Mrs. Keck!

Mary Jo

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