"THE BLILEY FARM" 18651892
When Charles arrived in Harborcreek in November 1834, the family proceeded to their new home on a farm on Kuhl Road and began using their American name of Bliley in place of the German Bleile. The trip was difficult but believed to be worthwhile. Below, Charles describes the trip from Erie to the farm in his own words written an s, Gertrude May Bonnell.
"Father ingaged an Ox teem, and in the month of November 1834 started with his Family for our new home, the wether was cold, the mud and snow was deep, the roads were full of stumps and trees, that it took us nearly two days to com to our place of destination, when we finely arived there, and Mother took in the situation surounding her, with a sickly husben, five small Children, among strangers, could not speak a word of English, and I presume nearle out of money, she gave vent to her feelings and cried as so her heart would break, we got along as best we could, Father not being able to do any manual labor, the neigbors what few we had, were very kind to us, and helpt us to get wood, and don us many a kind act.
After seteling here in November, the following Febuary he had another shock of Polsy on the right side and two after Died, I think in his forty ninth year of age."
Considering his mother, Catherine, left a good farm and home in Germany, there is little reason to wonder why she cried when she arrived at her "new" home. She must have thought the world had gone mad and there was little that she could do but embrace the new reality. She buried her husband six weeks later and managed to successfully raise her five children, manage a small farm, and live to the age of 96!
Rössele Inn, Bad Krozingen, 2004
The Home They Left Behind
The Bleiles in Germany operated this inn from 1725 to 1990. They also operated a butcher shop and a dry goods store on the same street. It is believed that Andreas and Catherine Bleile, owned this inn and worked nearby farmland. Much older photos show the inn without a third floor, but essentially the same structure as in the photo.
The log home that Andreas and Catherine Bleile purchased in 1834 may have looked like this one located in the Genesee Country Village & Museum, in Mumford, NY in 1999.
Typical German Immigrant's Farm House
Mary Jane wrote in her memoirs about her wedding day, June 8th, 1847,
"We (Charles and I) stayed here [Ed: her father, Edson's, home] until the next afternoon when we went to Charles' home on the Kuhl Road where his mother gave an infare [housewarming] to about twenty young people. We went to house-keeping immediately in the log house, while men came at once to build the new home which was ready for us to move into by autumn."
This is the home in which 13 of their 15 children were born. Five died within two years of birth.
Their First Real House & Farm
West side of Kuhl Road, Harborcreek Township, PA
Built in 1847 and occupied until 1865
Photo Circa 1934
A Young Family
Mary Jane and Charles with 7 of their 11
surviving children born on the Kuhl Road farm.
Photo Circa 1862
On many occasions, ships were an important part to this farming family. It was a sailing ship, the Charlemagne, that brought the Bleile families to America in 1834. It was a steamship fire on the S.S. Erie, that nearly cost Charles' 10-year-old brother, Andrew Blila, his life as he served as a "call boy" working for the ship's pilot.
It was another ship, the S.B. Globe, that Charles took on his trip west to look for a new farm in Michigan and Illinois. On the way home, six weeks later, Charles wrote in a diary, "I shipped on board the Propeller Sun, as second mate" out of Chicago.
To trade passage for such work meant that Charles had spent a considerable amount of time on the Great Lakes and could easily convince the captain of his level of experience. Little is known of his maritime activities, but it is presumed he and Andrew both worked for the Reed Shipping Company, the largest Great Lakes fleet at this time, which was headquartered in Erie.
Built: 1828, Christian Bergh & Company, New York City, New York, U.S.A.
Dimensions: 442 tons; 124' x 28' x 14' feet
Services: Freight Packets & Emigrant Passengers
S.B. Globe, A Screw-Propeller Barge
Built: 1848, Trenton, Mich., by J. Robinson
Owner: Charles M. Reed Shipping
Dimensions: 251' x 34' x 15'
Services: Freight Packets &Passengers
From Mary Jane Mead Bliley's memoirs,
"One day in the summer of 1864, I went out in the wheat field on the farm on the Kuhl road to see Charles when he told me that after he had gotten through shocking his wheat and had gotten his fall's work done he would go west to buy a farm. I felt badly but said nothing. Accordingly in September he went west and was gone a month or six weeks looking at farms in Indiana, Illinois and Michigan. He selected a farm in Michigan. He also visited the Baemers in Iowa. When he came home he advertised his farm for sale and sold it in February, 1865 to J.A. Sawtell on a Monday. The next day, Tuesday, Charles heard the May farm on the Colt Station road (22) was for sale and so suddenly he changed his mind about going west and the following day bought the May farm for $7731.00."
A farm is many things. It is a family business, a family's home, a social center and a place where lives of many intertwine. It has an impact on its owner's family and many other people in the community in which it is located.
The farm of Charles A. and Mary Jane Mead Bliley on Colt Station Road was part of a German-centric community in Northwestern Pennsylvania, in the young township of Harborcreek, in Erie County, Pennsylvania. It was one of hundreds of farms in a township populated mostly by immigrants.
Painting of Farm By Inez Wagner, Circa 1892 Larger View of Painting, 108k Photo of Farm by Sam Wagner, Circa 1907
Why is this farm important? First, it is a family business whose products were of benefit directly to the community in which it resided and to many beyond the boundaries of Harborcreek Township. Second, this farm was an outstanding role model for many others in the community. Third, it is the place where the children of the Blileys became adults and from which many ventured out to successfully contribute to the world through their professions and as parents themselves.
The brick house was built by the Blileys in 1875 and has an aggregate size of 3156 square feet. The two-story brick portion is approximately 30 x 50 feet. The rear wooden portion, which probably existed at the time the property was purchased, is 20 x 40 feet.
In 2005, the house and three of the four original barns are still standing and in good repair. The house serves as a single-family home and is occupied by a young man who grew up down the street. (Engraving above from Page 67, 1876 Atlas of Erie County, Pennsylvania, Published by Everts, Ensign & Everts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.)
Brass stencil from the farm which was used to mark boxes of produce for sale and personal items.
Wesleyville village, 1-1/2 miles northwest; Downtown Erie, 8 miles to the northwest; Lake Erie, 4 miles north; Current and future relatives lived across the street and in the neighborhood.
Farm location highlighted in green.
Detail from Page 66, 1876 Atlas of Erie County, Penn. Published by Everts, Ensign & Everts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania For higher-quality maps of Harborcreek and Greene Townships, go to the Downloads Page.
A family farm is for most owners both a home and a business. In the 19th Century the family farm was becoming mechanized but still a lot of work was done by hand. Children quickly became helping hands that could reduce production costs. What could be produced by a 100-acre farm? There are a lot of variables. Some of them are the quality of the soil, the weather conditions, the skill of the owner to manage the people working for him, knowledge of livestock management, finances, salesmanship, and when to plant and when to reap.
In the absence of a father to learn from, Charles must have had many teachers over the years. Considering he spent so much time in his youth away from home, it is amazing that he did so well once he decided to "settle down" on the farm. The May farm was bought in 1865 for $7731.00.
Below is a report provided by Charles and Mary Jane to the U.S. Government. It is a fair indication of a typical year's production. The farm produced $2,057 in revenues the second-highest yearly income for the farm during the 27 years they owned and operated it.
100 acres improved land
8 acres woodland
$375 value of machinery and implements
$754 value of livestock
250 bu. of white wheat
65 lbs. wool
200 bu. Irish potatoes
700 lbs. butter
20 ton hay
5 bu. clover
$320 animals slaughtered or sold for slaughter
Farm on Station Road, 1865 to 1891 Inclusive)
"Total for the thirty-three years, being an average of $1,157.49 per year. The older records are not found.
It is to be remembered that Chas Bliley presumably produced on the farm all meat, vegetables, fruit, milk, butter, grain for flour and garden products needed for the table and also in the earlier years wool for some clothing. These he did not have to buy. The above mentioned income does not include interest on money loaned by him."
NOTES: The content of this list was probably prepared by Charles and Mary Jane Bliley's son, Frank Anderson Bliley, an attorney, as the original manuscript was on 8.5 x 14 inch paper, folded and labeled as if it were a legal document. The handwriting on the label appears to be Frank's. There is no date on the document but it clearly was prepared using a manual typewriter. Small changes have been made to the layout for this presentation.
Also, the drop in income in 1877 may be from payments on a mortgage for the building of the new brick house on the property. A house on a farm is considered a business asset and can be deducted from the income of the farm. The reduction in "income" may reflect payments on interest and principal.
The second-highest farm income of $2,000 in 1870, is approximately worth $32,000 in 2005.
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