EIGHTY FOUR, Pa. — It’s going to be a moving experience, to be sure.
Taking apart a home log by log is the task being undertaken by Jeff Pleta of East Washington, under contract with Washington County History and Landmarks.
The Sumney log home is being donated by its owners, Mr. and Mrs. Philip Long, to the county, which plans to rebuild it in Mingo Creek County Park, not far from the site where it’s stood for more than 200 years.
Preparations began in August with the removal of interior walls.
“He’s super, super, super meticulous,” history and landmarks coordinator and board member Sandy Mansmann said of Pleta. “Very preservation-minded. He’s careful.”
Lisa Cessna, executive director of Washington County Planning Commission, which oversees county parks, publicized a request to find a Scout who was interested in producing a notch-by-notch notation as a guide to reassembly.
Answering the call was Kelly McChesney of the Scenery Hill area, who will be tagging and recording the position of each component before the home is taken apart and stacked on a flatbed truck that will haul the logs to the park.
“The county donated starter money,” Mansmann said. “I have to raise another $3,500 for the dismantling. To resurrect it, I’ll be applying for grants.”
The entire project could’ve been sidetracked when a giant oak tree on the property came crashing down. Luckily, it narrowly missed the house.
Mansmann has her own ideas about the tree, believed to be more than 200 years old, which was brought down by a hellacious storm in July. The trunk measured 48 inches across, making it one of the biggest trees in the county when it was uprooted during torrential rain and fell, blocking the road.
“It was probably there about the same time that the house went up,” Mansmann said. “Maybe the oak knew the log home was going to be moving, and it gave up its spirit.”
Although the Longs are the current owners of the home and the land, the structure itself is known as the Sumney log home.
“I hope they do move it,” said David Sumney of Somerset Township, a descendant of the log home’s builder, who recently discussed his knowledge of his ancestors who built the home.
How the Sumneys came to America has at least three versions, according to 88-year-old Sumney’s family histories. Complicating the versions is the family name also being recorded as Summy, Summony, Sumoni, Somaine, Semaine or Sumony. And there are so many Isaacs and Davids among the ancestors that one of the histories uses Roman numerals to keep the generations straight.
In one, a 1903 history of Lancaster County places the family in Sommiswald, Switzerland, before arriving in Philadelphia in 1732. Four of five brothers survived the ocean journey.
In a second, a German Palatinate Mennonite minister, Hans Peter Summey, a native of Switzerland, sailed from Rotterdam, Holland, by way of Plymouth, England. He and his family landed in Philadelphia in 1733.
A third theory has Isaac Sumney as a Huguenot, a French Protestant who may have been the son of Jean Somaine. Somaine became a galley slave due to a 1713 order by King Louis XIV to leave the country because of his religion. The galley slaves were freed if they chose to “retire to foreign lands.” The king ordered “commissioners and controllers having charge of the galley-crews to have their chains detached, through which act they are formally discharged.”
Isaac Sumney was a deacon in the Old Goshenhoppen Reformed Church, which stood on land purchased from the sons of William Penn. His son, Isaac II, was given a license to operate a tavern in Marlborough Township.
“Although he was not the first settler of Sumney town, the town was named after him,” a family history reads.
“I tell them we’re Heinz,” Sumney said, referring to the world-famous food manufacturer’s 57 varieties. “There’s a bunch over around Uniontown. They spell theirs the old way, Sumny.”
The modern David Sumney of Somerset Township visited the Sumneytown Inn in the late 1970s or early 1980s, not long after the nation’s bicentennial, and mailed himself a letter bearing the postmark of Sumneytown, which he described as roughly 30 miles north of Philadelphia. A school known as Sumneytown Academy once operated in Reading, Berks County.
The port of Philadelphia was a magnet for German immigrants, although the German word for the nationality, “Deutsch,” often became Americanized into “Dutch.” Ethnic Germans emigrating from ports in Holland probably led to further confusion.
Jacob Sumney II was born in 1740 and served in the Revolutionary War as a private under Capt. William Crawford, 5th Battalion, Company 1. After the war, he was the first of his family to move west, settling first in Westmoreland County and, in 1798, moving to Nottingham Township, Washington County. He and his wife, Maria Magdalena Turney, had nine children.
In 1817, he purchased land along Mingo Creek, where he built the log cabin now being taken apart, a barn and outbuildings. Census records list Isaac’s occupation as a potter as well as a farmer. He and his family belonged to the German Lutheran Church near Munntown. Isaac Sumney died in 1854, 24 years after his wife.
Their son, David, was born in 1808. He lived at the homestead and became a teamster on the National Pike. He also became a potter. He and his wife, the former Nancy Hand, had 11 children. David Sumney died in 1892, and his wife died in 1900. They were members of Pigeon Creek Presbyterian Church near Eighty Four, and both were buried in Pigeon Creek Cemetery.
A son, David H. Sumney, was a farmer and carpenter. He and his brother, John, fought in the same regiment during the Civil War. David H. and Eliza Lusk Sumney lived in the family log home, and they are pictured in a family photograph taken at a 1926 family reunion, which places the family in the 20th century and less than three years before the birth of the David Sumney who shared the history.
When it was owned by the Long family, the log home and its gardens served as the rustic backdrop for tea parties and visits by Scout troops and students learning of local history.
“The woman who used to own it, she wanted me to be the caretaker of it 20 years ago. I was working and I didn’t want to get involved in it. I’ve been down there many a time,” Sumney said. Although he always enjoyed visiting the property, he said he “saw it as a ton of work.”
“Oh, I may’ve been there three years ago. Time slips by. Everybody asks me if I have any of the pottery. No, I don’t have any of the pottery.”
David Sumney, however, wants to be present when the county reassembles or dedicates his namesake log home at Mingo Park.
Information from: Observer-Reporter, http://www.observer-reporter.com