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Life at Perry Hall 1924 – 1949
J. Adam Plummer

William and Eva Plummer were married in June 1925 and moved into the Perry Hall Mansion. Margaret (Schneider) Plumer (Adam’s grandmother) and two aunts and uncle; Clara Plumer, Louise Plumer and Joseph Plumer also lived there at that time. This living arrangement must have lasted only a few years for two aunts and grandmother had a new house built on Plumer Avenue near St. Joseph’s Church a few years later. Possibly Anna Plumer Koelber and her husband were to become part of the farm operation; this did not materialize; they later established residence on a Ridge Road farm.

Adam was born in the Perry Hall Mansion; not in a hospital. This occurred in the northeast room on the second floor of the higher portion of the house [ middle floor window on the right ]. First memories of this room was that its color was a light green. In childhood years was told that paint was calcimine and it did brush off on person’s clothes. The door was always kept closed in later years. Adam’s sister, Sybilla, was also born at Perry Hall and their sister Mary was born at their grandmother Heil’s home near Fullerton. When Adam was in high school an English teacher advised that the pronouncement of the name Plumer was different from the way it was done by the family; therefore, the change in spelling [ from Plumer to Plummer ] . At the time of the birth of Adam the doctor who was in attendance inadvertently recorded with the Vital Statistics Department the spelling of the family name as Plummer rather than Plumer. This was not known for some years. Some of the decendants of Edward still use the original spelling.

This was a 204 acre farm which contained a large bank barn along with other associated buildings. Approximate 100 acres were in woodland on the steep slope to the Gunpowder Falls to the north; the balance was tillable farm lands and pasture. I recall seeing a cow and three horses on the farm in the very early thirties. Wheat and other related crops provded food for the livestock and other crops for family food and income. Small grain was threshed on the farm by Ed Simms of the local area who used and old International Harvester gasoline tractor that looked like a steam engine. One would hear it coming as it moved very slowly from the adjoining Dreyer Farm on Perry Hall Road. Potatoes, turnips and carrots were the primary crops grown in the 1930’s using local seasonal help to harvest those crops. Turnips and carrots were harvested in late fall, buried in earthen kilns and in very late winter were removed, washed and then sent to market. At some point in time it was said that the carrots were fed to race horses.

I recall a large spreading oak tree which was located about 150 feet northwest of the house. Its spread must have been close to 75 feet. As a child I was not permitted under this tree for it was hollow and it was feared the long outstretched limbs would come crashing down. This tree must have been removed in the late 1930’s for I recall men working in the area and a large fire burning in the still standing old trunk of the tree. In the mind of a child, this fire burned for a long time. Near the southeast corner of the house was a very large spreading beech tree. As a child I recall the roots surrounding the tree and suckers growing from them making it very difficult to get close to the trunk of the tree. Just south of the house (100 ft or so) grew two very tall spruce trees; the family always called them pine trees. The area surrounding the house, considered the lawn, was not kept cut in those early years. This was possibly the reason one would find an occasional copperhead snake in the basement of the house. The surrounding farm was well populated with various kinds of snakes which were encountered often. Also regular visits from fox, ground hog, and skunk were frequent.

I recall the walls of Perry Hall mansion were on the same points as that of the compass; i.e. the north wall faced north, etc. Perry Hall Mansion had fifteen rooms as large as 20 x 20 feet with 12 foot ceilings in the lower part of the house and 14 foot ceilings in the taller part of the house with a fireplace in each room. There is a large open staircase that begins on the main floor next to the main hall and proceeds to the third floor. The main hall measured 20" x 40" and had two entrances to the porch. The porch began on the south side of the house and continued on the east and then to the north sides. In addition, to these entrances there were two sets of French doors on the east wall of the house [ here, on the first floor ]. The main hall was not used in the years the Plummer family lived there. In the early years old wall paper was coming off the walls; one would see the strips of the paper hanging from the walls and ceilings. Of course there was no paint under that paper; some sight! A number of the rooms were like this in the earliest years of my childhood. There was no central heat in the house, just a wood stove for heat and a wood range for cooking in the kitchen. There was a wood stove located in the living room which was used on special occasions. The house was cool in the summer in spite of the hot weather, but cold in the winter. About January each year the pipes to the bathroom, located on the second floor, had to be drained of water to keep them from freezing and alcohol had to be added to the traps to avoid damage to drains and toilet.

Perry Hall Road was not paved until sometime in the very early 1940’s. It was just a rough dirt road with field stones as a base – muddy in the spring and winter; dry and dusty in the fall and summer, but always rough. Mail service was not available on Perry Hall Road in the 1930’s; one had to go to the Post Office which was located near the intersection of Bel Air Road and Joppa Road. I recall the first post office being in the home of "Babe" Dunty. In addition to being a postmaster at Fullerton, as the post office was then called, Dunty operated a barber shop; the cost of a haircut in the early 1940’s was twenty five cents. Actually mail service arrived on Perry Hall Road after the road was paved. The mail was delivered by carrier from the Glen Arm post office.

Speaking of the cellar; at ground level, one step down under the lower part of the house, there was what was referred to as the basement, from there one would descend a long staircase to the cellar which was located under the taller part of the house. Here there were three large rooms – no concrete floor, just dirt. This area was used in the 1930’s by the Plummers for potato storage.

A 1000 gallon tank was located in the cellar for water supply. Pumped water with a large Meyers deep well powered by a single cylinder gasoline engine of the kind you see at steam shows today; not the Briggs & Stratton type as presently used. The well was hand dug, 50 foot deep. After electricity was acquired a 1/2 hp electric motor was used to operate the Myers pump. Later a modern deep well jet pump acquired from the local farm cooperative and was installed at the site.

There was no electricity on the farm or in the house until November 1940. The family used Aladdin lamps; they provided a higher level of light when compared to the normal kerosene lamp of that day. I do not recall using any form of this type of light in the bedrooms, activities were performed in the daylight hours. Baths had to be scheduled so as to provide privacy for the bather and were taken in the kitchen, with a portable tub, after house during the cold months of the year.

During the 1930’s, along with the attempts at farming William and his brother, Joseph, acquired a Frick Steel Threshing machine which he used to develop a clientele of farmers for which he did custom threshing in both Baltimore and Harford Counties. It was mounted on steel wheels and later converted to rubber tires by William. Also during this period, in their travels in the surrounding area, they discovered and purchased an old Geiser sawmill. The sawmill had to be rebuilt for the wooden portion had rotted away. William fitted the castings and bearings to wooden frames developed by him. He also re-configured power units from older truck engines which he used to power the threshing machine and the sawmill. These engines were from Service trucks using Buda and Wisconsin engines. All of this was the forerunner to the sawmill and lumber business which developed after the threshing and farming operations of the 30’s and the early 40’s.

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