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