LONDON, Ohio (WCMH) — A house built before the Civil War on 437 acres of land in London, Ohio will be divided and sold on November 9th at auction.
Before the house went onto the auction block, NBC4 spoke with Robert Downing Sommers, great-great grandson of the original owner, who shares his memories of growing up in the house.
Sommers explained some of the objects in the house, such as a hair wreath, which provides a window into history. Family members will claim these personal objects; they won’t be included in the house sale.
Sommers’ great-great grandfather was a doctor, and so the house has two parts, and two entrances. One side was the doctor’s office, and the other side was the family home. Upstairs are rooms for the servants.
A preview of the farmhouse up for auction will be held on November 2 from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., and on Saturday, November 6 from 10:00 a.m. to noon.
Victorian Hair Wreath
Victorian ladies (1837-1901) made hair wreaths as a way to memorialize their family members. Sommers speaks about this hair wreath and its importance in his family’s history.
Three generations in one home
Robert Sommers explains how growing up on a farm in London, Ohio with three generations in the same house — and farm chores — helped his children.
In the main video, Sommers sits in the room where his mother was born, and tells the history of the house: “Somewhere around 1860 the land was purchased, and then the house was built somewhere in the late stages of the civil war around 1865, is what we were always told, and then it’s been in the family in one form or another since then.”
“Times got a little hard, the Civil War was a little hard on everybody, and so the farm was kind of split up a little bit. And then Downing Beach, who was my grandfather, was the person that re-assembled the parcels; [he] named the farm after a small stream that comes into Deer Creek over on the far side, Cogniac Farm, not to be confused with cognac.”
For most of its existence, the farm was under the watchful eye of Downing’s widow, Hazel Beach, who also helped to raise Robert and his sister Jane. Hazel Beach was Grand Secretary of The Order of the Eastern Star, a branch of the Masonic Lodges.
Beach kept large, beautiful gardens and Sommers remembers the rooms full of card tables as people travelled to the farm from all over the state to socialize and play games together.
Sommers’ father — also called Robert D. Sommers — raised prize Guernsey cows, keeping those bloodlines alive for future generations.