Friday, July 3, 2009

Account book of 1825 in walls of ancient house

This story was published by The Ypsilanti Daily Press on Monday, July 2, 1934.

A book which came to light quite recently reveals that back in 1825 the practice was already popular of taking an old account book and using it for a scrapbook. The lurid adventures of “The fatal marksman” were more arresting than the price of butter and the wage scale. This book was found in the walls of the Pettibone house recently acquired by Frank B. Wilson. The earliest decipherable date in the book is 1825, and it had lain between walls long enough for the color to change to a gray-brown-purple, for the leaves to curl and the edges to crumble. This moldy volume, six by eight, discloses that wages, entered a number of times, were $1.00 a day, a pair of shoes cost $2.50, a bushel of potatoes 58 cents.

The simple white farm house in which the book was found stands well back from the Whalen Road in Superior Township. Its gabled end is toward the road, and its turned-back eaves suggest venerable age. When on May 22, 1830, the house passed to Zalmon and Milton Pettibone, it had already been possessed by Daniel Richards, Jr, who took the land from the government. The house is believed to be at least 115 years old. Milton bought Zalmon out in 1831. At the death of Milton and Lyman, two bachelors, and their sister, Hannah, there were 260 acres in the farm, which went to 18 heirs. The farm has declined to 80 acres now. Lyman B. Pettibone and his wife, now living at 420 Campbell Ave., lived on the farm from 1882 to 1926.

Interest and even mystery are attached to the room at the rear of the house upstairs. Its floor boards are of whitewood 16 inches wide and so choice and desirable is this wood considered that a dealer offered to lay a hardwood floor in exchange for the whitewood lumber. Instead of a door knob the door has a delicate, graceful handle of brass. Right here is the mystery, a plastered-up closet. Curiously, one family lived in the house 44 years without ever surmising that this blind closet existed; but one has only to examine the house from the outside to realize that a certain space at the northwest corner of the second floor is unaccounted for. A six foot wide closet suddenly ends, and the wall is plastered up. What is within this walled-up area? Was a box, a trunk left negligently there when the passage was closed which could now possess some historic interest, or was it swept clean of every interesting souvenir?

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