Searching for Andreas Hagenbuch’s House: Part 1
Does Andreas Hagenbuch’s house still exist? In short, probably not. Unfortunately, it is rare today to find frontier log homes from the 1700s standing. Unlike stone, which is a much more durable building material, wood exposed to the elements easily rots and deteriorates. Nevertheless, while the house may be gone, the place where it stood might still be located.
Andreas Hagenbuch (b. 1711, d. 1785) and his family settled in Albany Township, Berks County, Pennsylvania in 1738, after acquiring a land warrant for 200 acres. A few years later in 1741, they abandoned this and moved a half mile to the west to a 150 acre tract. It is here that Andreas established the homestead that would be used by his descendants until the mid-1800s.
When constructing a homestead, settlers first needed to build housing that would meet their immediate need for shelter. For German settlers in Pennsylvania, this was usually a one-story log dwelling with a central chimney. As the family grew, it might be added onto and expanded, or it could be used for other purposes after a new house was built at a nearby location.
Today, the location of Andrea Hagenbuch’s 150 acre homestead tract is known with certainty. However, it has been subdivided and is split across several modern day properties. At the request of each property’s owner, specific addresses and road names will not be revealed in order to protect their privacy.
What is not known is where Andreas first built on the homestead tract. Below are three possible theories which attempt to explain the location of the first house on the property.
Theory 1: The stone farmhouse is where Andreas’s home once stood.
As previously discussed, Michael Hagenbuch (b. 1805, d. 1855) was the last owner of the Hagenbuch homestead. In 1851, he built a beautiful, two-story stone farmhouse on the property which can be easily dated thanks to its cornerstone.
Presently, the 1851 house sits on 82 acres of land (Site A on the above diagram). This also contains a barn, summer kitchen, and additional outbuildings. Most importantly, a private cemetery is located on the property and contains several identifiable Hagenbuch graves, one of which is marked with a death date of 1781. It is for these reasons that the 82 acre site has been traditionally been referred to as the Hagenbuch homestead, even though it is missing about half of the original tract’s acreage.
Given the date of the farmhouse, this home was certainly not built by Michael’s great grandfather, Andreas. However, one longstanding idea is that the stone house may have been built around the original log one. This was, after all, occasionally done as families expanded upon earlier structures.
Nevertheless, after exploring the basement and foundation of the 1851 farmhouse, no evidence can be found to support the theory that this actually happened. Rather, it would seem that the 1851 house was an entirely new building.
While this doesn’t entirely rule out the possibility that Andreas’s house was leveled before the 1851 home was begun, this seems unlikely. Older homes have value and can be used for purposes other than living in. For example, William Hagenbuch’s (b. 1807, d. 1879) log house in Montour County, Pennsylvania was used to hold chickens after a newer, larger home was built a short distance away.
However, this line of thought leads to another theory.
Theory 2: One of the outbuildings on the farm is Andreas’s house.
The 82 acre farm containing Michael’s stone house includes a number of outbuildings, one of which may have been Andreas Hagenbuch’s house. A stone summer kitchen located near the farmhouse, is of interest but, again, it has a cornerstone clearly dating it to 1852. Given its size and construction, which uses stone similar the farmhouse, the barn can be ruled out too and was likely built around the mid-1800s.
Ignoring other obviously modern structures, one small building covered with white siding stands out. Today, this is used as a shed. But, its construction clearly shows it was built some time ago and for a different purpose. Upon closer inspection, logs walls are visible behind the siding.
The shed’s size, log construction, and lack of a chimney all indicate that it was probably built in the early 1800s. In other words, it predates the 1851 stone house beside it.
What was the shed originally used for? One idea is that it served as living quarters for people who helped on the Hagenbuch farm. While it lacks a chimney, there is a pipe exiting the roof, indicating that it once had a stove inside. Another possibility is that the shed served as the schoolhouse where Timothy Hagenbuch (b. 1804, d. 1852) once taught.
Regardless, it appears that none of the outbuildings still standing on the 82 acre homestead property were there during Andreas Hagenbuch’s time. Believing that there must be some remnant of the homestead’s first owner, one has no choice left but to consider a third and final theory.
Theory 3: Andreas’s house is located someplace else.
As previously touched upon, Andreas Hagenbuch’s original homestead 150 tract is currently subdivided into several properties. Much of the study of the homestead has focused upon the 82 acre parcel containing the 1851 home and family cemetery. Yet, might Andrea’s house have been located some other place within this parcel or on another parcel entirely?
Fresh, running water was an important commodity for settlers and their livelihoods. Besides owning livestock, it is also known that Andreas distilled alcohol. Both of these require water. The original land warrant for the homestead tract shows no definable features except for a small creek. Andreas Hagenbuch almost certainly built his home very near this.
That creek still runs today. Following it takes one past the barn built in the mid-1800s by Michael Hagenbuch and onto an adjoining piece of property which is about five acres in size (Site B on the above diagram). Upon this sits an older house, small banked barn, and several outbuildings. All of these are a mere stone’s throw away from the 1851 stone farmhouse and were built on land that was once part of the 150 acre homestead tract.
Might this actually be the location of Andreas Hagenbuch’s house? The next article in this series will dig deeper into the history of this five acre property and what was discovered after a visit to it.