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Title: History-filled house tumbles in disrepair
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History-filled house tumbles in disrepair

By Kevin Cullen

Staff Writer

OTTERBEIN--This week, with its windows shattered, its woodwork ripped out, its fine maple staircase a shambles, the old, nameless piece of Tippecanoe County’s past seemed to know the end was near.

With blackened, hollow eyes, it looked out over its last spring to brown fields where the forest meets the prairie.

Old local farmers stopped to take one last look at the two-story brick place with the 12-pane windows, the wide plank flooring and yellow poplar doors.

Local legend has it that the old Eastburn House was built in 1822, bringing elegance and a degree of opulence to a land where most settlers still lived like cattle in crude log cabins.

It’s gone now, and its once-handsome, handmade, home-baked brick walls --four courses thick--lie in jagged dusty brown piles.

Soon the land where it watched Indians, stage-coaches, the Civil War, births, deaths and 16 decades pass will return full circle to the business of growing things.

“It was quite a place in its day,” said 81- year- old Cletus Rush, who lives just down County Road 925-W. “But those days are just about over.”

Vacant for 15 years, the rooms in the once-grand place were filled with beer cans, broken furniture, dirt and litter; its thick, finely plastered walls covered with obscenities in red, black and green spray paint.

But beneath it all, with a little imagination, it wasn’t hard to see the house it once was. The beveled panels beneath the long windows; the deep, finely cut poplar moldings around the doors; the old, worn, narrow staircases; the poplar wainscoting leading to the room where farmhands once slept above the kitchen wing. The big, thick, stone threshold block worn and smooth by thousands of footsteps. the hand-forged shutterhooks embedded into mortar joints.

Quiller Frazier, 76, began housekeeping in the old house in 1927, shortly after he and his wife, Pearl, were married. He farmed 100 acres with horses and mules. “And out front, there was the biggest patch of horseradish I ever saw,” Frazier said.

As a boy, he hunted wild prairie chickens nearby.

For years before he moved in, the house had been used as a grain-storage building. Farmhands nailed boards over the windows and scooped corn and wheat into its vacant rooms.

“We washed it and painted it up. I remember one of the floors had dropped. We had to jack it up before we moved in,” Frazier said.

“They’d hauled too much grain in, I reckon,” he said.

Legend has it that a man was once murdered in the old house, and his body buried beneath on of the two downstairs fireplaces.

Back about 1912 or ‘13, he said, some high-school kids threw a big party and square-dance in the place. As a joke, they tied their chaperones up and wrote their names on the upstairs walls.

This week, those names, exposed under old wallpaper, were still visible, along with the penciled inscription, “Papered by Williams Bros. Mar. 5, 1938.” The penciled outline of a human hand, probably one of those long-ago students or paper-hangers, was nearby.

Frazier said he once dried seed-corn in the old farmhands’ bedroom above the kitchen -- until he and his bride began hearing footsteps in the night.

“I went up there to see what was goin’ on and there were rats, rats, rats,” he said.

He said country folk often would gather at the old house for dances. A blind Otterbein accordian player, Oscar Coleson, often would perform.

Rush, who farmed just across the road years ago, said he often helped butcher pigs outside on the eastside porch. Pig carcasses hung from the rafters and big black cast-iron rendering kettles bubbled over wood fires.

“They always put the old porches on the east side so you could butcher when it was below-zero and not face that west winter wind,” he said.

Outside, bordering that porch, were boards full of long spike nails where field weary farmhands hung their dirty sweat-soaked clothes.

Tubs would hang outside for baths in pre-plumbing days.

“The hands always slept up over the kitchen wing.” Rush said. “In the old days, the owner of the farm always slept in a separate part of the house.”

The memories surrounding the old place were long and many, but its the days were short and few.[way printed]

The men planned to watch wrecking crews level the shell.

“I expect I’ll pick up a few bricks to give to the kids,” Frazier said. “After all, it was our first place.”

[under photos] Staff Photos by Tom Campbell [photo 1.] WEDNESDAY THE EASTBURN HOUSE STOOD VACANT. ITS DEMISE NEAR According to legend, the house near Otterbein was built in 1822 [photo 2.]INTRICATELY DESIGNED WOOD GRACED THE HOUSE When it was built, it brought elegance to the area
[photo 3.] THURSDAY MORNING ITS WALLS BEGAN CRUMBLING UNDER A BULLDOZER’S POWER At times, vacant rooms in the house were used to store corn and wheat [photo 4.] A RUSTY OLD SICKLE RESTS IN THE YARD Other farm implements from earlier days are nearby [photo 5.] FINALLY THE WALLS AND ROOF GAVE WAY, CRASHING TO EARTH Earl Sigman, a Montmorenci contractor, watches as the end arrives

[handwritten at top of page]--Shelby Twp, Tipp.Co

Date: 4/12/1981
Origin: Journal Courier Lafayette, IN
Author: Kevin Cullen
Record ID: 00000070
Type: Periodical
Source Archive: Warren County Historical Society
Date Entered: 2/13/2002
Collection: Medina Township File
Entered By: Louise Jewell

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