Hello and Season’s Greetings!
Here is the image from our 2013 holiday card. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to receive a card just let us know.
It was a little daunting to create an image of how the White House and surrounding farmstead could have appeared in the 1760s since we wanted it to be as historically accurate as possible. Several resources were consulted but we welcome feedback on the depiction.
The sketch shows the farm in the late autumn when the garden is in full production and the apple trees are bearing but before the leaves on the Massanutten have begun changing colors.
The Kauffmans were from the Palatinate region of Germany and would likely have raised chickens, pigs, sheep, cows and perhaps goats. They would also have had a draft horse or two to help plow the fields which were planted with various grains such as wheat, barley, corn, buckwheat, oats and tobacco. Important features of the farm would have been the garden, saw mill and spring house but most important would have been the barn.
An outdoor bake oven would likely been located behind the house (not seen in the sketch). A story is about to unfold with the figure coming in the back entrance near the garden: A lone Native American visitor is approaching but is he coming in peace? The French and Indian War has just been resolved but the Rhodes massacre occurred not far from the White House in 1764. Immediately adjacent to the White House (to the west) is a structure that resembles Fort Egypt, constructed about 1758. It, along with the White House, is known as ‘fortified dwellings’ which were built by German settlers along the banks of the Shenandoah River.
Many thanks to Clyde Jenkins, local historian, white oak basket maker, heirloom apple tree grower and descendent of some of the earliest European inhabitants of the Page Valley. Thanks also to David Puckett, curator of collections at the Frontier Culture Museum and Dan Vaughn and Rod Graves, local Page County historians.
For those who have not visited the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, it is well worth the visit. One of the information signs has this image of Winchester in 1757. As you may note, most of the buildings are log or wood. The White House is constructed of limestone with a white wash and is believed to have been constructed in 1760. It is listed on the Virginia Landmarks Registry and, in September, the state review board forwarded the nomination on to the National Register of Historic Places.
In his book, A Short History of Page County, Harry M. Strickler writes: The Pennsylvania Pilgrim brought with him to the Shenandoah Valley mechanical art as well as agricultural art. He practiced small or medium-sized farming, diversity of crops, intensity of cultivation, care of livestock, love of gardening and very little tenant farming, all of which made for a prosperous agricultural community. His landscape is distinctive, his large barns, sometimes called “Swisser” barns, I suppose from the word Swiss or from the manner in which they are built with the projection of the upper story or hay loft over the basement or stable. These large barns dominate the landscape. We have heard people from other sections exclaim: Why his barn is larger than his house! Why not, his barn is his factory.
Could Henry Ford make his jeeps in a house the size of the one he lives in? The large barn is where butter, cheese, cream, milk, beef, pork, bread and lamb chops, wool and hides and tallow and chicken and eggs are manufactured. Samuel Kercheval, in his book A History of the Valley of Virginia writes:‘The Dutchman’s barn was usually the best building on his farm. He was sure to erect a fine large barn, before he built any other dwelling-houses than his rude log cabin. They were none or our primitive immigrants more uniform in the form of their buildings than the Germans. Their dwelling-houses were seldom raised more than a single story in height, with a large cellar beneath; the chimney in the middle, with a very wide fire-place in one end for the kitchen, in the other end a stove room. Their furniture was of the simplest and plainest kind; and there was always a long pine table fixed in one corner of the stove room, with permanent benches on one side.
On the upper floor, garners for holding grain were very common’. and‘The Germans erect stables for their domestic animals of every species; even their swine are housed in the winter season. Their barns and stables are well stored with provender, particularly fine hay; hence their quadrupeds of all kinds are kept throughout the year in the finest possible order. This practice of housing stock in the winter season is unquestionably great economy in husbandry.
Much less food is required to sustain them, and the animals come out in the spring in fine health and condition. It is a rare occurrence to hear of a Dutchman’s losing any part of his stock with poverty. The practice of housing stock in winter is not exclusively a German custom, but it is common to most of the northern people, and those descended from immigrants from the north. The author recollects once seeing the cow stalls adjoining a farmer’s dwelling’.
Another very good source of information is the Luray Caverns Museum which celebrates the history of the early settlement in the Shenandoah Valley, complete with actual structures which were brought on site and which demonstrate different architectural influences.The Page County Heritage Association has a collection of books for sale (including Strickler and Kercheval) which cover a broad spectrum of local history.
Thank you for your interest in our 2013 holiday card and the history of the White House and feel free to contact us with questions.