Monday, August 10, 2015

Another piece of the Dry Flat neighborhood gone

These big masonry piers until just the other day supported steps up to the front porch of what many of us still called the Kelso house --- after Sam and Mary Kelso, who raised five kids on their Lucas-Wayne county line farm before retiring, selling out and moving to Albia in 1974. That was 40 years ago, for heaven's sake.

This was, when it was built in 1919 and thereafter, the grandest house in the neighborhood --- a jumbo version of a Craftsman style popular across America from roughly 1905-25. The first floor was three ranges of rooms deep plus porches with second floor tucked under a soaring roof where bedrooms were served by windows in gable ends and a big front dormer.

Although rented out for much of the time since the Kelsos left, the big old house remained a landmark on its county line hilltop a quarter mile west of the Confidence Road and had been reasonably well maintained most of the time. Then overnight last Monday-Tuesday, it caught fire (cause unknown) and was entirely consumed. No one seemed to know if it was occupied at the time.

I wish I had a photo, but since I don't you can see a piece of the west side of the house in this snapshot taken on the last day of classes at Dry Flat school before summer vacation 1949. I lifted this from Dianne's Dry Flat History blog.

We talked a little about the house with siblings Gerald and Patricia Kelso, who attended Saturday's Dry Flat-Rabbit Hill reunion. They remembered huge living and dining rooms, but a kitchen that seemed tiny by today's standards --- many built-ins, columns and other Craftsman-style trim. According to Gerald, some of the lumber used in its construction had been harvested in the Chariton River valley just to the north and milled in Russell.

This also was the most technologically advanced house in the neighborhood in its time, too --- indoor plumbing and a Delco battery plant to provide electricity.

If I'm remembering stories told by the late Richard Linville correctly, the big house was built by Thomas F. and Florence (Linville) Jones, who had three children enrolled at Dry Flat School --- William L., John R. and Nellie. William, who was 9 when he died in 1925, is believed to have been the only Dry Flat student to pass while enrolled. He and his parents are buried in the Confidence Cemetery.

Not too many years after little William died, financial disaster struck the family --- and they lost both the fine house and their farm. Of course debt incurred in building the big house was assigned a considerable share of the blame in the neighborhood.

And now its all gone and I suppose before long the masonry remains will be bulldozed and another neighborhood memory will have passed.

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