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If These Walls

       Could Speak . . .

The Jarvis Home

by Robin Gordon and Maricia Mlynek


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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 in 1888.







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 children.

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.

This Week's Editorial:

By Helen Morris:

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