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Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Walter Adams House Uncovered

One of the ongoing projects that I am working on is collecting photos of the old houses in and around New Gretna. Part of the fun is the hunt for photos of old houses that no longer exist, as many old houses burned down or became so dilapidated that they were torn down.

One of these houses that I heard about belonged to Walter and Edna Adams and was located at the end of Adams Avenue, off North Maple Avenue, which was named after them. Walter ran a dairy farm there for many years. Benny Allen, a son of Harry and Ray Etta Allen, grew up just a stone's throw from the Adam's farm and remembered the old farmhouse and large barn that is no longer there. Ben used to deliver milk for Walter when he was a small boy by pulling a wagon around the neighborhood and, from time to time, told me stories about the old place.

You can read about and see photos of the Harry and Ray Etta Allen family on the May 8, 2009 Blog entry by clicking on the link below:

Walter Adams' old barn fell down many years ago, and Walter Cutts pulled the old house down sometime in the early 1970's, burying it in a large hole that he dug on the property. I've been looking for a photo of the old farmhouse for years, as it was probably one of the oldest houses in the area, but was having no luck in finding one.

I had pretty much given up hope of finding a photo of the old Adam's house, when I made an unexpected discovery two days ago. I was going through some old photos from Elaine Allen, Ben's wife, and came across a photo from the 1940's of Elaine and the family dog. Loving animals, I paused and took a closer look at the photo. Elaine and the dog were standing in their front yard and, low and behold, there in the background was the elusive Walter Adams' house.

Elaine Allen in the front yard of her Adams Avenue home, circa 1940's, with the Walter Adams' house, an outbuilding, and barn in the background. (Photo courtesy of Elaine Allen.)

I nearly fell off my chair. Finally, a photo of the Walter Adams' house had surfaced. It's not the best photo as it is in the far background, but it gives us a pretty good look at the old house, an outbuilding, and the corner of the big barn. After scanning the photo into my computer, I enlarged the background to get a better view of the house and surrounding buildings.

The Walter and Edna Adams' house can be seen just over Elaine Allen's shoulder, at the end of the dirt lane. A small out building is to the right of the front porch with the big barn further to the right. (Photo courtesy of Elaine Allen.)

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of Walter or Edna Adams. Perhaps someone out in the Blog-O-Sphere can give me with a lead as to who might have photos of the Adams family to add to our history photos collection . . . and I don't mean the Adams Family with Uncle Fester!

I do have a short story from Ben Allen where he shares some of his memories of the old Walter Adams' farm which I would like to share with you.

The Walter and Edna Adams Farm

by Benjamin Austin Allen

The big barn on Walter Adams farm housed four cows, a bull, four or more horses plus salt hay, bedding hay, a stage coach, a sled, and several wagons used to haul hay, wood, etc. The cows provided milk for many people in the area. The stage coach was used to take people to and from Tuckerton. I don’t know what the fee or schedule was, but you had to go to Tuckerton to catch the train to New York, etc.

Salt hay and three square hay were gathered from the marshlands in the summertime. The salt hay was used for cattle feed, and the three square was used for bedding. Salt hay is a finer hay and was also used to cover concrete while it cured.

Walter had several men working for him gathering the hay, tending the livestock, and helping drive the vehicles. My father, Harry Allen, used to take Walter’s hay truck with a load of hay to the Medford area.

One of Walter’s innovations to keep the hand pump for the cows and horses from freezing in the winter was to pack horse manure around the old wooden pump. This kept the area warm so the water could be into a huge cedar wood trough which was almost the size of a coffin or bigger. Those cows could drink almost as fast as I could pump.

Walter had a “curtain car”, a model T which required towing by a horse to start in the winter. It did start on its own in the summer.

Walter was a very busy man. He ate supper at 9:00 PM, after the animals were bedded down and everything on the farm was taken care of. My dad used to cut Walter’s hair, as he was too busy to go to a barber. Sunday the day for the haircut.

There was no electric, so we used lanterns to go in the barn in the early morning. We had a special place to hang them in the barn. There was no refrigeration either. Everything was hung in a well beside the house. Edna used to make her own butter.

February, 2001

Finding this unexpected photo of the old Walter and Edna Adams' house makes me want to go back through my old New Gretna history photo collection and take a closer look at what might have been previously overlooked in the backgrounds. Who knows what other treasures might be found?

Pete S


  1. Pete Just a minor correction. It is Walter Cutts, not Kutz.

  2. Thanks for the "heads up" on Walter Cutts misspelled name. I made the correction.

    Pete S

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