The Mystery of The Old Ruin

It seems there is a mystery in need of solving; and I may have just cracked it!


House through the trees; how it looked via Google Earth before it collapsed.

A few years ago I started noticing this old ruin along the way to work every day.  Since I work in an old farming area, seeing old homes and log cabins is nothing particularly new to me. But the ruins themselves were a little odd; there had once been something there and now all that remained were the foundation stones. Something familiar about the ruins struck me as important, so I went hunting, but I didn’t have to look very far.

 It seems that local photographer and flickr user Peachhead had captured a color photo of the building before it toppled over in 2010.

C/O Peachhead on Flickr.

C/O Peachhead on Flickr.  The house collapsed on itself in 2010 and the owner removed the bricks, leaving only what appears to be a foundational shell.

Lo and behold, I had seen that old brick building before.  Years ago, when I would commute this way for other reasons other than work, I would see this amazing structure and wonder about its origins.  It seems as if I was not the only one curious about the building’s origins.

In the comments and along the web many have claimed that this old building belonged to the Werkheiser name, but most of those homes are still standing and occupied (the Werkheiser family is a prominent one in the region and many still own their old land).  So something told me that this likely wasn’t a Werkheiser home—not being satisfied with an ‘I don’t know’ answer, I went back to my maps.

Using Google Earth I was able to pinpoint roughly where the building stood in the broad context of the region and then I checked it against the 1874 map of Forks Township:

Upper map is from 1874, lower image is via Google Earth.

Upper map is from 1874, lower image is via Google Earth.

The sharp reader will notice that the house that once stood in that location was owned by a ‘C. Sandt’, another old name in this area.  So who is this C. Sandt?  Well… back to digging.  And again, it didn’t take long.  I knew, based entirely on the map, that there was a C. Sandt living in Forks Township in 1874, which meant that the chances were good that when the census was taken in 1870, his name would be on it (I say ‘his’ here because if it were only a woman with children living here at this estate, it would have said something like ‘Mrs. Sandt’—as was customary for the maker of this particular map—so it had to be a male).

Census records can be difficult to navigate without some background and context; luckily the map gave me the context I needed.  See, census records from that period don’t have a street address.  The census was taken door to door and every home was visited.  So really I was relying upon the map to give me names of neighbors so that I could pinpoint easier the name of the individual for whom I’m looking.

I came across a Charles Sandt, but at age 10 when the census was taken (14 when the map was made), he was far too young to be the ‘C. Sandt’ I was trying to locate.  And so I went further into the census.  Page after page I scoured it until finally, at page 26, I came across him: Christian Sandt.


1870 Census for Forks, page 26.

See the circled names and how they compare to the census.

See the circled names and how they compare to the census.

And below his name were some of his neighbors; the ‘F.L. Keller’ on the map was Franklin L. Keller on the census (highlighted in blue), the ‘A. Prise’ was Amandus Price (Amandus was a common male name in the late nineteenth century) on the census (highlighted in green).  At this point, I had determined based upon this information that Christian Sandt was indeed the former owner of the ruins on Kesslersville Road.

Closeup of his name.  Interesting that his estimated wealth was high, given his neighbors--

Close-up of his name and family. Interesting that his estimated wealth was high, given his neighbors–$15700 for an estate was pretty good for the time.

It was fun solving this little mystery and I hope my research has been helpful to those Sandt’s out there looking for information about their old family properties.


3 responses to “The Mystery of The Old Ruin

  1. Hi Tom. Thanks for the post!! Interesting research. I still think that originally this was on the Werkheiser property as they owned the plot SW of the Uhler Hotel even earlier than 1800. This house appears to have been built 1830 to 1860, probably by the Christian Sandt you found, who (or maybe a relation) bought the original Werkheiser property after Anna Werkheiser was murdered by her husband Carl in 1781 and the property was split up and sold at auction. The guilty husband was the first hanging for capital murder in Northampton County. {CARL HENRICH WERKHEISER was born 1733-1782
    in Germany-ship Phoenix, and died June 29, 1782 in Easton,
    He married ANNA MARGARETH HAUSMAN 1757. she was born 1736-1781- [murdered by Carl]
    Lived in Saucon Township, purchased land in 1779 in Forks Twsp.
    from Conrad Ihrie.
    Carl was executed
    in Easton, Pa. for the murder of his wife Anna.}
    Supposedly no cemetery would take Carl’s body after the hanging and his adult sons buried him at the NE corner of his property near the Uhler Hotel with no headstone or any marking.
    Here is another bit of research on the Werkheiser Family with some often contradictory info:,%20Carl%20and%20Anna%20GGGGGrandparents/Carl%20%26%20Anna%20Hausmann%20Werkheiser.PDF
    So some of it is still a mystery. There is a stone ruin behind where the brick house stood that was either a barn or another stone house. It is covered in poison ivy and I never checked it out. Have you seen the photos of the interior that a friend of mine took years ago on Flickr? His Flickr name is RoadLessTrvld or similar and he has links to his interior photos in the comments of some of my photos of the property. Thanks again for your interest and research!!!!!
    Peachhead aka Loretta Killian, Plainfield Twp.

    • The best place to look is the book The Forks of the Delaware Illustrated by Ethan Allen Weaver. It is online here. Also check out the Marx Room at the East Library.

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