Lepley Stone House & farm, Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA

Lepley Genealogy: The Lepley stone house, Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA.

Although I don't do Lepley genealogy per se (except as it pertains to Johanna (Lepley) Korns), the Lepley family stone house has always fascinated me due to its construction and history, so I have created this web page as a service to those who are interested in Lepley Genealogy. This house was near to, and contemporaneous with, the Michael Korns. Sr. house of Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA near Wellersburg. This photo was taken by my aunt in the spring of 1999 as the house was being torn down to salvage the rock building material. Several pre-demolition photos are included below, and links to other excellent pre-demolition photos are indexed below. The approximate location of the site of the stone house is Latitude 39.75765317620321, Longitude -78.81904810667038.

What the photo tells us
As a side view of a partially demolished house, the above photo doesn't do justice to the former visual impact of the entire home as viewed from the road. One wonderful thing the photo does, however, is provide insight regarding the architectural history of the house. The house is built of stone, but was stuccoed over with a gray material that was probably just plain cement; note the gray color on the left end of the wall at second story height. The right two thirds of the wall is not stuccoed because a large wood-framed wing projected from the main house until circa 1999; note the outline of the peaked roof that extends all the way up to the roof of the main house. One can see that the large wing was an addition to the house, because two large rectangular second story windows were covered over by the wing. Another interesting thing to note is the remnants of a short stone wall beneath the right hand covered-over window. This wall, which would have projected at right angles from the main house, was evidently a smaller stone wing that was torn down and replaced by the larger wing. I suspect from this short wall remnant that the main house was built up to, and perhaps partially over, the end of a small stone cabin.

The interior of the house
I had the good fortune to examine the interior of this house circa 1974 with my first cousin, who lives near by, and I remember it vividly. The stone walls were about two feet thick. Going in the doorway shown here, large iron brackets projected from the interior wall so that the door could be barred from the inside with a stout plank. Click here for pictures of the hand-forged door hinges, and click here for an example of a more recent commercial door latch from the house. The doors, the deep window sills and the fireplace mantels were paneled with fine beveled-edge paneling. How such fine craftsmanship was obtained or afforded is a mystery to me. The house contained a huge central stone chimney that had fireplaces opening into each downstairs and upstairs room of the main house. The stairs, which made at least one, and perhaps several right angle turns on the way up, were located between the fireplace and the outside wall. Upstairs, in the last room you come to, brackets were again installed for barring that door from the inside. From the two sets of brackets, one is led to believe that the inhabitants were very conscious of the need to provide for in-depth self-defense measures. The interior wall surfaces were created by plastering over the the stone walls. Since the interior of the stone walls were uneven, the plaster was quite thick in spots, and reinforced with animal hair (we thought it was horse hair). Sticks projecting from the stone wall were used to guide the plasterer to achieve a level interior plaster surface. The green roof shown in this picture was installed by a former owner Mr. Burkett in the 1960s. I am guessing that he installed the roof right over the central chimney, because no projecting chimney shows in this photograph. Rodney Lee Gibbons' Lepley website says that Adam Lepley II built the stone house on the original Lepley homestead with the help of 12 Indians. My first cousin, who owns the Alonza Lepley farm next door, told me in the 1960s or early 1970s that by local tradition the stone house was built circa 1810.

Lepley gunsmiths
This farm is associated with the Lepley gunsmiths, and a small building to the right of this photograph is held by local tradition to have been the gunsmith shop. Circa 1969 the gun shop was being used as a corn crib; I know this because I helped my cousin Warren to convert it to corn crib duty at that time. Page 44 of volume two of the book "Looking Back On Southampton Township, Pennsylvania - The Way It Used To Be!" has a photograph of the gunsmith shop. In 2007 my cousin confirmed that the door and windows in the photo are in the same positions as they were on the corn crib we worked on, confirming the local tradition that it was once the gun shop. Links to other photos of the gunshop are included at the bottom of this page.

The adjacent farm was home to Lepley family members as recently as the early 1970s, and the old Lepley Family Cemetery is located there. When Alonza Lepley, the owner of the adjacent farm, died, a relative of mine bought a bucket full of interesting muzzle loading gun hardware, such as lock pieces, trigger guards, gunsmithing tools, etc. at the estate sale.

1975 photo of the Lepley Stone house

1975 photo of Lepley stone house, Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA

The above 1975 photo of the Lepley stone house is reproduced from volume one, page 87 of the 2005 book "A Look At Southampton Township Pennsylvania The Way It Used To Be!", with permission of the author. You can tell from the difference in siding that the house used to have a full length front porch. That is an important forensic detail.

The aforementioned 2005 book indicates that Adam Lepley III divided the farm among three children: Simon who eventually gave his portion (across the road from the stone house) to his son Elmer, Samuel who eventually gave his portion to his son Alonza, and Effie who owned the portion with the stone house, married William Kennell, and had eleven children. This photo of the stone house reminds me that there was a cool spring that was quite near, or possibly part of the house. In the general time-frame of this photo, there was always a tin cup hung outdoors at the spring, ready to provide a refreshing drink. The building on the right was the Lepley Pennsylvania long rifle gun shop, which was being used as a corn crib in the late 1960's.

Lepley stone house, Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA

The above photo was reproduced from volume two of the 2007 book "A Look At Southampton Township Pennsylvania The Way It Used To Be!", with permission of the author. The boy in the photo is Ray Kennell. I have been describing this picture wrong. The house on the right is the big Lepley stone house, when it had a full length front porch. The house on the left a smaller stone structure that is shown in more detail below.

Lepley stone house, Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA

The above photo was reproduced from volume two of the 2007 book "A Look At Southampton Township Pennsylvania The Way It Used To Be!", with permission of the author. The Lepley stone house can be seen in the distance. According to the book, this is the "William Kennell farm in the 1920s. Formerly known as the Adam Lepley farm. Will & his family are gong for a sleigh ride." Note the large central chimney that is visible in this photograph. Notice that there is a smaller structure on the near side of the big stone house, this is a smaller stone structure that was gone before my time.

Lepley stone structure, Southampton Township, Somerset County, PA

The above photo is reproduced from volume one, page 87 of the 2005 book "A Look At Southampton Township Pennsylvania The Way It Used To Be!", with permission of the author. This is the stone structure that appears in two other photos above. Looking at the big stone house from the road, this structure stood nearby on the left. The 2005 book reports the local tradition that it is the original Lepley house. My first cousin (who grew up on the farm next door) never saw this building before it collapsed, but helped Burkett fill in the foundation hole after the walls collapsed inward. My first cousin thinks he remembers the Lepley's calling it a house, and based on what he saw of the foundation, he thought it was a little too elaborate for a summer kitchen.

This is probably an early house of the early settler and gunsmith Adam Lepley II. Like any settler, he would have first had a small and primitive log cabin to live in as he cleared his fields, and then built something a little more substantial. I've seen this sort of thing on other regional farms, where the dream house was built right beside an older smaller house. Here and in most mountain places the reason would be to take advantage of the same spring -- which at the Lepley place was between this structure and the big house, adjoining the big house. As can be seen from the first picture above, the big house was built beside and partially over yet another stone structure that was torn down a long time ago and replaced with a frame addition.

Notes from other visitors to the farm
Tom Seggie and his sister Barbara Prodan wrote to me in April, 2008 about staying on the Burkett farm as children. Both reported that the spring came out of a stone wall and into an old tub just outside the stone house, and both reported that Mr. Burkett's first name was Howard. Now that they mention it, I too remember the old bathtub. Barbara wrote "I can still taste that wonderful spring water from the tub just outside the old house. And remember well, getting in trouble with Monk (Mr. Burkett) for trying to climb the stone wall that the water came out of. Something about poisonous snakes being up there." I have a vague memory of being warned about the snakes as well, by my cousin or Mr. Burkett.

On April 25, Tom wrote "The Mr. Burkett that you mention was Howard Burkett, who purchased the farm in the late 1950s (I think) and owned it until his death in 1974. The 1975 photo was indeed taken from the road. If you look at the base of the house on the left-hand side, you can see a small stone wall that is mostly obscured by a large bush. The spring water came from a pipe that stuck out of the wall. An old bathtub was positioned under the pipe to collect the water. The bush, which I do not recall being there the last time I saw the house, is blocking your view of the bathtub. My family visited the farm for about a week every summer during the 1960s. Living quarters at that time were the two ground-floor rooms in the small addition to the old house. Later, Howard Burkett had a new house built up the hill from the old one. In addition to the corn crib that you mention, there was an outhouse just across the road from the corn crib. Farther up the opposite side of the road from the house was a large barn and a well."

On April 28, Tom wrote "Howard Burkett was born in Vale Summit, Maryland, which is just across the border from Somerset County (in the George's Creek area of Allegany County). He, like a lot of other residents of the area, left during the years after WWII to find work elsewhere. He wound up in Akron, Ohio, working for Goodyear. He bought the farm, intending to move there after he was able to save enough money. So he lived in Akron and made frequent trips to the farm. I don't know what arrangements he had with the Lepley and Korns families, but I was under the impression that they helped take care of the place when he was away. Howard married my grandmother after my grandfather died (she was also originally from Allegany County)."

Index to other Lepley farm photos
Here are some excellent photographs of the old Lepley homestead that Tom Seggie procured for Korns.org from his mother:

  • 1960 photo of Lepley stone farmhouse

  • Photo of house and former gunshop

  • Photo of addition and porch on old Lepley stone house

  • Photo of barn on old Lepley homestead

  • Photo of house, barn and outbuildings

  • Photo of old gunsmithing shop and outhouse

  • The brick house that Howard Burkett built

    Click here to see how the Lepley farm appears from the former Dan Korns, Jr. farm.

    L. Dietle
    Aug. 20, 2008
    Revised April 14, 2021

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