Friday, January 30, 2009

Road Warriors--The Old Harner Homestead

“Ya know….this Internet thing is gonna catch on!” Direct quote from my brother, Ken. For years he has teased me with this phrase whenever I find something of interest on the net OR whenever we find a long lost piece of our past (that would be the old Red Rose Tea commercial with the monkeys). Credit where credit is due…he’s right!!

Two years ago I was noodling around on the net, doing my usual inane combinations in the google search engine and up came a site that actually made my heart stop. The Old Harner Homestead listed on the National Register of Historic Homes…..well, I’m a Harner. Could this be my Morgantown Harners?

And the answer....IS WAS!!!

Registration for the Harner Homstead to be listed on the National Registry is found here:

August 2007, found Ken and I on the road again, heading back to Morgantown, WV. This trip we decided to go down through Ohio, stopping in Lisbon for a late breakfast at the Lisbon Diner. Then we jumped onto the Old Lincoln Highway (US Route 30) into PA. I do have to add here that when you travel with Ken, you do NOT go from point A to point B without stopping at A1 and perhaps A2 on the way. This trip was no different. We had a delightful stopover in East Liverpool, Ohio and poked about this small town for about one hour before continuing on our way. As Ken says, “You have to walk a town’s streets to get a feel for the community.”

Morgantown plans were the usual stops….the WVU library for a day of scrolling through microfilm, cemetery searches and the new….The Old Harner Homestead and Harner Chapel. Do I have the best brother in the world….indulging me in this way!!!!

Our favorite overnight stay is the newly refurbished Morgantown Hotel. It is located right in town on High Street. Since it was purchased by the Clarion Hotel chain, there is a wonderful FREE breakfast served every morning. They have a continental waffle maker, which is my vacation treat. But I digress….

Ken had made a contact at the Harner Chapel and they were more than happy to show us around and give us some of the Harner history. It was a set appointment for the following day in the morning. Before we turned in for the night, we did make our way out to Sabraton to see the Harner House. Standing in front of it was a FOR SALE sign. This is not the first place we have traveled to see that was on the market. Very strange.

I connect to the Harners through my great grandmother, Jessie Pool VanGilder. Her mother was a Harner—Sarah Louise Harner. Sarah’s folks were Philip William Harner and Sarah Fear (or some think it is Fearer). The Old Harner Homestead was built by Philip Harner in or about 1850 outside Morgantown in an area now known as Sabraton. Imagine a house built in 1850 still standing and occupied.

The house was placed on the National Register on January 12, 1984. It has two distinct architectural features—it is an I-house with an ell feature. To learn more about these features and the house, I wrote a piece for Wikipedia at:

Our second day in Morgantown began with that free breakfast I spoke about. I was just sitting down to my waffle and sugar free syrup when a woman sitting at a table nearby began to chat me up. She was in from NYC, visiting her sister. I was telling her of our plans and the excitement of seeing both the Harner Chapel and the Harner House. When I mentioned that “our” old homestead was for sale, she looked me straight in the eye and said, “If you don’t find a way to get into that house while it is on the market, you are missing one great opportunity.” I knew she was right.

Ken was out of the dining room during this conversation, but when he returned, this kind lady told him the same thing. I must mention here that although I would LOVE to get into that house, I am much, much too timid to pull it off. Ken is not. He is my champion!

We returned to our adjoining rooms and Ken immediately called the realtor. He gave some song and dance about being ancestors of the original owners (which was the truth) and that we were looking to purchase a piece of investment property and that the house might fill the bill. We had an appointment to see the Old Harner Homestead for 1:00 that day. What a day….the Harner Chapel and the Old Harner Homestead….heaven made for a genealogist.

More on the Harner Chapel in a later blog.

We made our way to the Old Harner House. The realtor was waiting for us in the parking area behind. Keys in his hand, my trusty camera in mine and in we went. I don’t know if I spend so damn much time swimming around in genealogy that I have a somewhat cockeyed view of things, but the hair on my arms literally rose up as I walked over the threshold of that house.

Ken kept the realtor busy while I just wandered from room to room snapping away. I took well over 100 pictures of every cabinet, window frame, step, cornice, and fireplace and on and on. There are many unique features in the house, but I found the hand carved woodwork trim and cabinets to be the most fascinating. It is nothing fancy…just uncomplicated workmanship made with plain tools.

Detail in the upper enclosed porch showing the wood craftsmanship.
Too bad about the current owner's paint choice!
As I moved from room to room I could almost feel my great great great grandparents with me. My great great grandmother would have been raised in this house. Which room did she share with her sisters? What stories were shared by the family over the years in these rooms? Which fireplace was used to cook the meals? The stairs were worn with time and it was my family’s footsteps that had made the indentations. Talk about submerging yourself in family history….

Front large room on the left side of the front entrance. The wall was banked in original cabinets, which when I opened them, were only about 6 inches deep!

Close-up of the cabinets. I did not use a flash as it seemed to minimize the detail.

Large living area to the right of the front entrance.

We spent well over an hour inside. I could visualize buying the place and turning it into a B&B….a little something to do in retirement. The interior would take some work to bring it up to modern standards while still retaining the integrity of the original house. I do a pretty mean breakfast and thought about what special, regional foods I could serve. Of course I would add a metal sign outside with The Old Harner Homestead and National Register on it…and a black metal wrought iron fence around the yard. My mind was racing! But alas, it was only a pipe dream. We did not purchase and my husband, when he heard of my plan he said, "What are you thinking!" He is just too practical….not a dreamer.


  1. Well, golly shucks, sis… such wonderful compliments interwoven throughout this installment of your blog! Thank ye!!! To be sure, however, we certainly ARE compiling quite a list of wonderful life experiences on our travels together, eh?!? It’s really oh so very way cool that you’re now capturing them in words… creating a written record of our exploits!

    One thing I must fess up to, though, is how my penchant for meandering from here to there as we travel down the road, sometimes actually gets us… LOST!!! The one detail you mercifully left out of your travelogue was how after leaving East Liverpool along the Lincoln Highway, we went completely off the tracks in western PA ultimately finding ourselves (in of all places)… FREEDOM!!! lol

  2. I love unearthing family foibles!