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Hidden treasure: Family preserves historic home

Managing editor

It is an interesting and tangled tale of a man named A.N. Allison who ended up near Florence, and in 1873 built a two-story home.

Each stone was hand-carved, laid ever so carefully with tools of the day.

The tale continues, fast-forward nearly 100 years, when the man’s great-great-grandson, Les Allison, and his young family reclaim the abandoned property. Living much like his ancestors, Les and Linda Allison began the renovation process in 1974, with three children, the oldest only 5, in tow.

“I swore we would not move in without water or electricity,” Linda said, but they did.

Relatives came to visit the family and were amazed they were living without doors and minus a few windows, much like early settlers.

By November, the house was enclosed, just in time for winter.

It was apparent the family needed more space than the small, stone structure could provide.

Being a family who appreciated history, it was determined to continue to restore the stone structure with an addition of a modern log home.

The log home was completed in 1978, and updated a few years ago.

Located on Xavier Road, southwest of Florence, the homestead looks like a Courier & Ives painting with a winding road from U.S.-77 to the house. There is a spring in close proximity of the house. After several inches of rainfall this past weekend, the spring was more of a babbling brook.

So, who was A.N. Allison?

“We come from a family of ‘savers’,” Linda said.

On her dining room table was notebooks of letters, photo albums full of history, and books that recounted the Allison family’s journey. And Linda has most of the history in her head.

According to the information, A.N. Allison was orphaned at 13 years of age and moved to Iowa to live with an uncle. He was passed back and forth between an uncle and a cousin until he was 21, when he and his brother went to Colorado to mine for gold.

“A.N. found enough gold for two sets of wedding rings,” Linda said.

He went to Wyoming to cut hay for the U.S. Army and from there, he came to Kansas.

Along his travels, A.N. met George Coble and asked about a place to farm. And that’s how he came across the Allison farm.

The elder Allison found a wife, Mary Murray, who was only 16 at the time. According to a book written by Mary’s mother, Lois L. Murray, “Incidents of Frontier Life,” and published in 1880, the young wife died in childbirth.

A.N. then married a second time, a woman who had several children. That wife also died in childbirth, leaving him to raise seven children. His stepdaughter, Louisa, raised the younger children. Among them, T.W. Allison, Les Allison’s great-grandfather.

When A.N. Allison first moved on the property, there was only a dugout for living quarters. A log cabin was constructed and then later the limestone home.

The elder Allison planted hedge trees “from back East” and stone fences. Some of the hedge trees remain as do trees from the original orchard.

The stone house was completed within a year, 1874, and a stone barn was constructed in 1881.

A water wheel was used to draw water from the ample supply of stream water, transporting it to the house. Later a hydraulic ram replaced the wheel. Water also was used to irrigate crops and the orchard.

“During the summers, the boys (A.N. Allison’s children) would sleep in the barn and the girls slept upstairs in the house,” Linda said.

There also is a basement under the stone house, which was used for storing fruit and other produce.

When the Allisons moved there in 1974, no one had lived there for 40 years.

Storm windows, electrical wiring, and plumbing were added. It took 10 months for the family to have a telephone.

Les’s parents, Walter “Olen” and Fay, lived across U.S.-77 in a wood-framed house that was built by Louisa and her husband. Currently, the Allison family does not own that property.

Another house, east of Les’ parents, was built in the side of hill, and was referred to as a “cliff house.” That property was abandoned and replaced with a house with its materials being purchased from Sears Roebuck Company, which remains in the Allison family. The “cliff house” property has been sold.

A.N. Allison lived on his homestead until his death in 1911, and Les’ grandfather, T.W. Allison, inherited the property, passing it on to Olin. The house was utilized by the Allison family until the 1930s.

A tour

The original stone house has an entrance from the west. Stepping into the front room, there was a master bedroom to the side. The front room was considered a parlor.

The next room, east of the parlor, was a sitting room with a fireplace. A lean-to was built on the south side of the sitting room which was used as a kitchen.

A steep staircase is located between the master bedroom and the sitting room. There are two bedrooms upstairs.

“One room was for the boys and one was for the girls,” Linda said.

These days, it is a guest room with a half-bath.

The former parlor is used as a mud room and the former sitting room holds many family heirlooms including a trundle bed built by A.N. Allison and dozens of photographs.

Water concerns

Being located next to a picturesque stream has its drawbacks including flooding. Doyle Creek is on one side of the property with the spring on the other. The house is on the highest part of the land.

The Allisons went on a vacation in 1975, Linda said, and the area had 11 inches of rain.

“It filled up the basement,” she said, but water has never been on the main floor of the log home.

These days they know when the creeks rise, they need to prepare for a possible flood.

“Sometimes we don’t know we’re in trouble until we’re in trouble,” the retired elementary school teacher said.

Linda taught in USD 408 for 30 years, 23 at Marion Elementary School. Les retired from the U.S. Post Office. They both substitute teach.

Other history

While looking through the family photo albums of A.N., Linda showed a series of photos that included the family of Abraham Lincoln including the Lincoln family log cabin.

“I’m not sure if they were friends of the family or why he would have those photographs,” Linda said.

For whatever reasons, Les and Linda ended up with interesting artifacts including a shawl that was worn to Troy (Kansas) when President Lincoln visited Kansas and gave a speech.

Among the treasures is a book about Davey Crockett, printed in 1883.

Another book, “Life of Washington,” was printed in 1888, with the first section about George Washington and the last part about General Francis Marion, for whom the city of Marion is named.

For the Allison family, their house is more than a home — it’s a treasure trove of history. It’s touching and experiencing history every day.

If these walls could talk, what a tale.

Last modified April 16, 2009

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