According to Robert Frost, “The world is full of
willing people, some willing to work, the rest willing to let them.”
Thankfully, the people of our past, the generations
that developed our county and the ancestors of our families were willing
to work. It is evident on the old farms in the community.
These homes that have stood for over a century were
not built by machines and fabricated kits. They had foundations dug out
by hand and walls hung by the tenacity of strained muscles.
Each floor board and window pane was placed by the
swing of the hammer--not an electric drill or nail gun. The sweat and
blood of native Calhouners built these homes, and they testify to the
work ethic of generations past.
Such a structure is the Thomas and Labana Jarvis
home. Through hard work and painstaking labor, Thomas and Labana built a
homestead reaching beyond 1,000 acres. The family built the Jarvis home
Thomas had seven children with his first wife and
14 with Labana Jane. Due to a large and growing family, a new white
framed house was built in Oka on the Jarvis farm. It stands on the edge
of a beautiful valley.
Though the house is 120 years old, the structure
remains in its original state. The stone, taken from the farm’s
hillside, forms two fireplaces, which remain functional. The oak and
poplar floors are still as strong and capable of withstanding weight as
they were a century ago.
Originally a six-room structure, the home was built
frugally and managed with common sense. The 25 tall windows are built to
let in sunlight, and the five doors allowed for easy entry and exit on
both sides of the house.
Though the home still speaks of a timeless beauty,
it is apparent that the Jarvis family was purposeful and practical.
The house is still a large building. The downstairs
has two sitting rooms, large entry-way, large kitchen, where a table
that sat 10 to 12 people used to sit, and the addition of a bathroom.
Up the original staircase are two bedrooms, a
foyer, and an exit to a second-story portico. The home has three
porches, one in the back and two in the front overlooking the creek and
the old “corduroy road.” The road at one time was level with the meadow.
“People had to cut small tree trunks to cross, so
that they wouldn’t sink in the mud,” said Irene Jarvis Gunn, who owns
the 175-acre farm. She is a daughter of Thomas and Labana’s youngest
son, Spencer (Dock).
Most of the rooms had dual purposes. With a large
family, beds were necessary in almost every room. The sitting rooms also
served as sleeping rooms.
Tom and Labana’s room had two full size beds that
sat near the fireplace, one for the couple and one for the smaller
Upstairs, each room had three beds. The other
sitting room, or parlor as it may have been called, served as a loom
room. A large loom took up half of the space.
Work in the Jarvis home was not a four-letter word.
The efforts and painstaking labors of Irene Gunn’s ancestors are seen
throughout the house--from the original woodwork around each window and
door to the poplar and oak walls lumbered from the family farm.
Irene, who returned to the farm in 1970, has
labored to protect and sustain the home structurally and aesthetically.
One change was the addition of an indoor bathroom.
She has also made other necessary changes, like adding insulation and
rebuilding the front porches.
“The upkeep on the house takes work everyday. Even
with a lot of soap, water, and scrubbing, I could not come close to
keeping house like my Grandmother did. She worked hard from the time she
was nine years old,” said Irene.
Irene has labored to restore and sustain the house
her grandfather built. Though the wheat field across the pasture is no
longer present, and the old cast iron stove doesn’t make three full
meals a day, the home and farm still are stately and beautiful.
The house truly reflects its builders. Like her
grandparents, the home is strong and un-yielding. It is a shelter and
protector of its loved ones.
The Jarvis home testifies of those willing to work.