Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Visiting the Warner Homestead

 (picture of the house today) 

west side of house 

In my previous post entitled The History of the Warner Homestead I researched the history of the land and possibly the house that stands on Sound Avenue in Baiting Hollow, New York.  Now that we have the history, it's time to go inside the house where my grandfather was born.

In going back and rereading Carrie’s Letters (written by my paternal great grandmother) I know that after Carrie and John married on 2 October 1885 she is telling her father on 14 October 1885 “Got the mattress. Was at Riverhead today and got the stove. Shall go to house keeping first of the week if possible.” They seemed to have not moved in to the house until somewhere after the end of October. There was no talk of building a house prior to this, so, I am guessing the house was one that was built before that.

In 2017 following one of our Warner Cousin Christmas (see photo) get togethers my cousin Kallie was able to get us an invitation to visit the Warner Homestead. So Marie, Kallie, Hollie, Suzanne and I went to the Warner Homestead. My paternal second cousin once removed, Dewitt Young Warner, at the age of 94 very graciously welcomed us to the home he referred to as The Warner Homestead.

Dewitt Young Warner (1923-2020) 

As Dewitt walked us through the house and talked about the house my mind went back to Carrie’s letters and comments she had made about the house over the years.

  • On 18 December 1887 Carrie tells her sister Ella Terry Billard, “ I expected as soon as we got home from Peconic John was crazy to move so that afternoon he blocked the stove while I put down the carpet and we have lived in the house since then. Have an old stove up in the kitchen also to wash by, etc. Last week we closed up the passage way between the two buildings. ‘Tis a great improvement in this rough windy weather.”

As I look at the first photo above of the house today, I wonder if I can see where there were two buildings that were connected to become a bigger house? I also tried to imagine my grandfather and his brothers in the house running, playing, eating and sleeping. In the unfinished attic I felt closest to them since this area may not have been changed much since they lived there. It was December and it was cold and back then with only a stove to heat the house I wonder how cold it got upstairs in the Winter?

Rafters-are those cuts by an axe on some of the beams?
(click on images to enlarge)

outside walls

In one of Carrie’s letters dated 2 May 1897 she tells her sister Ella, “We have had a painter here since last Tuesday morning.” “He is painting and trimming the house and out buildings, milk house, closet, and smoke house. John is talking of having him trim the barn, etc.”

  • 28 February 1892 Carrie tells her sister, “I cleaned here a little while Monday morning. I cleaned the Dining room out Monday. You may recollect how badly gone the carpet was. Took if all up and by turning & twisting & changing made out to cover the floor. Washed the floor & paint & windows.”
  • Before 14 December 1893 John’s bachelor uncle Goldsmith Warner in declining health had moved in with them. Carrie tells Ella, “We have a coal stove up in Goldsmith’s room this winter, and it is a success. He sits in there a good deal, and besides it keeps our rooms quite comfortable. The thermometer in the north room has been nearly sixty all day today, warm enough for all purposes except a sitting room, and the I don’t want of ti.”
  • 1 December 1896 in Carrie’s letter to Ella, “ Have been very busy. Am all cleaned but the dining room and sweeping the halls. The heater is not going yet. Wish it was, it is such cold weather.”
  • On 21 March 1897 Carrie informs Ella, “Have been very busy this week. Have the front room washed all over and painting done. The carpet is ready, paper bought and paper hanger engaged. We have new windows and I have some cleaning to do on those yet.”
  • Carrie tells Ella on 7 June 1898, “I am too tired to do anything tonight. Have cleaned the room upstairs today. All thought the upstairs but the hall. Tomorrow I have to help clean the church. Would like to finish the parlor and halls this week if possible.”
  • On 29 May 1899 Carrie tells Ella “Am all through house cleaning but the sitting room and part of the kitchen. Have the paper all off in the sitting room and that is a big job done. Have painted and papered Terry’s room and the boy’s bedroom and they look real neat and nice.”
  • On 29 April 1900 Carrie tells Ella, Commenced house cleaning last week. Have the garret, clothes room and room cleaned. John put his wind mill together again yesterday. It was the general opinion that the well would be so filled with sand that the pump would not work. It did work all right and the water was as good as ever. John has bought one hundred and thirty feet of hose, so I look forward to having water at a distance this summer without ‘totin’.”
  • Carrie tells Ella on 3 November 1904, a mere three weeks before my Grandfather’s birth, “Have taken down the heater chimney entirely, so think we will not be troubled with any more leak from that. Put up a chimney for the heater out doors on the back side of the big house just west pf the dining room window. The kitchen chimney was built over and carried higher, and that stove works better now.”

While I have transcribed all of about 150 of Carrie’s letters. It was interesting to just go back and pull out information about the house. Focusing just on the house and surroundings over time I found to be very interesting. From the letters I know more about the types of rooms in their house, how the rooms were painted or papered and how my Great-Grandfather John used a windmill to get water from the ground to get it to the house.

I owe so much to Dewitt for opening up his home to show us through it and see where our grandfathers had been born and lived. He was so generous about sharing what he knew about the house. Dewitt, unfortunately, passed away several weeks ago at the age of 96. So many more stories will now be lost. I am so grateful to have been in the house. I have connected with one of his three daughters and hope she will share her experiences and stories about growing up in the Warner Homestead. Special thanks to cousin Kallie for making this visit possible.

Kallie and Dewitt

Dewitt took great pride in showing me the sign he had placed on the door to recognize the lengthy history of this house in the Warner family.

photo taken from the north side of the property looking back toward the house across the farm fields

I had the amazing opportunity when I was about 12 to ride a horse in the fields behind the house on several occasions. I knew the farm had been in the family and it felt amazing to be riding where my grandfather would have once been. Today that time roaming the fields on horseback seems an even more significant experience. Now I know that generations, back to the late 1700s, were living and farming in that area.  

What an incredible experience this was to walk in my ancestors steps!

If you have any corrections or additions or stories to share I look forward to hearing them.
Enjoy the journey,


  1. What a wonderful experience. I’m sorry to hear Dewitt passed away. I'm so very happy that you got to meet with him and interact.