The Original Farm and Owners of Eby's Pequea Farm
Mary Ferree originally settled this land in 1712 from a grant given to her from William Penn. The grant included 2,300 acres. Our farm was part of that tract. After her death, her children divided the land. Her son, Daniel Ferree, owned this land until 1752; then it was sold to a Scotch Irishman, Matthew McClung. The McClung family built our old stone barn in the late 1750s. The barn is unique, a double-decker. The first floor is the stable; the second floor is the haymow; and the third floor is where the wheat was brought in for threshing. The gram was dropped through the holes in the floor to the granary below. It has an 8-ft. overhang forebay.
The McClungs lived in a small, stone house, which had a spring in the bottom. Matthew McClung sold the farm, which also included a gristmill and a tenant house, to his son, Hugh, in 1798. In 1814. My great, great, great grandfather, Jacob Frantz, moved here from northern Lancaster County and bought the farm of 201 acres for $40,240 in gold and silver from Hugh McClung. He built the main part of our 16-room farmhouse that year. The house has three corner cupboards, two of which have butterfly shelves and spoon holders. One is made from walnut wood and panels are birle walnut. The rooms on the south side or front of the house have carved woodwork.
The Frantz Family
Jacob Frantz had a son, Jacob Jr., who farmed the farm and kept a diary of day-to-day activities on the farm from 1835 to 1845, when he took 30 acres off this farm and built another homestead a quarter of a mile away. He kept his diary plus many other records until his death in 1870. Jacob Frantz Sr. died in 1842. We have his will, which states that his son Henry was to purchase the farm for $9,940. He farmed here from 1845 to 1849. In 1849, he bought a farm west of Baltimore, at which time Jacob Frantz Sr.'s daughter Anna, married to Sem Eby, moved to this farm on January 1, 1849. By this time, the property was down to 127 acres. Sem lived here from 1849 to 1881. In 1870, he took off 60 acres to the north and built a homestead for his son, Amos. We have record of his expense, which was $5,000. He also built a larger piece onto the original Frantz dwelling toward the east, which is now our kitchen.
The Eby Family
In 1880, John Eby, the youngest of Sem's 11 children, bought the farm for $11,000. The farm then contained 67 acres. During the 31 years he owned it, he bought two neighboring farms and added 13 acres, making it 80, which it still is today. In 1921, Ira Eby bought the farm for $18,000. He owned it until 1948, when Clair Eby bought it for $25,000. He owned it until 1976. I started farming in 1967 and built the new 52 stall dairy barn in 1972. Joyce and I opened our home to overnight guests in 1970, so families could experience life on the farm. After 32 years of farming, we moved across the field to a new home. We continue to enjoy guests here as well. Our son, Michael, took over the farm in 1999. Mike and Lynette Eby became the sixth generation to farm the land. The farm has been in the family for 184 years and in the Eby name 150 years. Mike and Lynette feel this is a privilege from the Lord to be able to continue the wonderful and fulfilling life on the farm. We've entertained people from across the United States and many foreign countries.
Friendship burns bright
Etched in the stone walls of the Leacock Township barn destroyed early Monday by an arsonist are the names of men who spent their lives working the surrounding land. The names have been there nearly as long as the centuries-old barn, owned by Melvin Eby. "Some people told us to bulldoze what the fire spared," Eby said. "My great-great-great-grandfather left his name on that wall in 1869. "That's something that can't be replaced." Our family has owned the farm at 459 Queen Road for 205 years. The three-story barn is 260 years old.
Since it was gutted by fire, hundreds of volunteers have stopped by to help the Ebys rebuild the barn, which housed 30 cows, about 2,000 bales of hay and farm equipment. "For the past two days, we've had 40 to 50 people here," Melvin Eby's son, Jon Michael Eby, said. "It's not organized, but it's perfect the way it just happens. They show up at dawn and leave at dusk." The first two days were spent clearing the charred planks, burned hay and damaged concrete floor. A crew washed smoke stains off the stone walls Wednesday. Tarpaulins were hung across the names inscribed in the rock to preserve the writings. Some of the wood beams will be replaced with steel, and new concrete will be poured. The barn raising is expected to begin next week.
A majority of the volunteers at the farm south of Intercourse are Amish. Some remember helping to rebuild barns across eastern Lancaster County after arsonists torched seven barns in 2001. Although the Ebys aren't Plain, a traditional Amish barn raising is being planned. Donald B. Kraybill, a professor at Elizabethtown College and an expert on Amish culture, said Amish people raising a barn for an English family is unusual. "Although the religious obligation is not as strong, the Amish are taught to help people in need," Kraybill said. "Everyone freely donates their time because their house or shop may be next." Kraybill wrote in his 1989 book "The Riddle of Amish Culture" that barn raising is a long-standing tradition among Amish people. "This simple but powerful tradition is embedded in the cultural capital — the values of mutual obligation, duty and trust that are simply taken for granted in Amish society." In the book, Kraybill relates an Amishman's description of the barn-raising process as smooth, seamless and almost effortless. "There isn't a crane poking its long boom skyward, hook dangling. There are no white-hatted foremen dashing about with squawking radios. "Now watch as, just as for the last 500 years, a forty-six-foot-long line of straw-hatted men, facing east, bend down. Forty-six feet of rear ends face westward, with all hands on the top timber of the assembled frame. "All are ready to push it skyward. The moment is dramatic, everyone is quiet as several late comers rush up the barn hill to help. With some minor grunts the ponderous frame moves up, hands outstretched."
Jon Michael Eby said he's looking forward to completing the reconstruction. He said he longs for the routine of milking cows and teaching his 5-year-old son, Jackson, about the farm. "I was alone (Wednesday) in the milking barn for the first time since the fire," he said. "I had a good cry, and it was good to get it all out." For him, images of the fire are strongest at night. He was asleep in a nearby brick farmhouse when the fire was detected shortly after midnight Monday. "The first night after the fire, my wife and I laid down in our bed to sleep," he said. "Within three minutes, I leaned over and told my wife I couldn't sleep because all I saw was the orange glow of the fire. "We took out our pillows, moved to our child's room and slept there." Jon Michael and Melvin Eby have relied on one another to cope while making decisions about how the new barn will look. "We have to make decisions in two hours, not two days," Jon Michael Eby said. "I couldn't do it without the help of my dad."
For additional pictures of the barn raising, visit the photo gallery.