Octagon House Restored
Photo Taken by Lynne O'Brien
A Labor of Love in the Forest
Lynne O'Brien is the great-great granddaughter of Anthony "Anton" Gleockler, the carpenter and architect of the orignal old Octagon House near Estella, Sullivan County, PA. Recently, Lynne contacted the Sullivan County Genealogical Project with information about the history of her Glockler ancestors and about the famous, if unusual, structure for which her emigrant great-great-grandfather was responsible. With no further delay, here is the story of Octagon House.
Three Views of Octagon House
Before Restoration About 1990
Photos Taken by Laurie Gleockner
Many of the older residents and former residents of Elkland Township, reading the account in last week's issue of The Sullivan Review of the death of John G. Campbell, 77, of Dushore RD 2, were reminded of the time when he resided with his sister and her family in the old "round house" on the former Chaffee place near Estella. This was back in the early 1920's.
The following article appeared in the Sullivan Review, the weekly newspaper for Dushore and surrounding Sullivan County, PA, on January 16, 1959.
Old "Round House" Recalled by Death of John Campbell
By J. Demarest Berry
One account of Sullivan County history, printed in May 1955, has this to say about "the round house":
Perched on an elevation overlooking the hamlet of Estella and broad expanse of countryside is a house that commands attention. It is of solid construction and gives promise of survival long past the span of most wooden houses. Octagon in shape, it formerly was surrounded by a wide porch with a circular hall surmounted by two flights of winding stairs, giving entrance to twelve rooms and leading to around lookout on the top. This rather impractical air chamber provides ventilation that is cool and pleasant in summer but difficult to heat in winter. Built in the sixties by a rich Philadelphian named William Marsden for a country home, it passed down through the years to owners that occupied it only in summer and had little local interest. Tenants and caretakers have allowed it to deteriorate without gathering the moss and vines of myth or tradition. Purchased recently by Reighley (actually Raleigh) Beinlich it will be occupied by the Beinlich family. It will be known through another century as the "Round House." When Mrs. Julia Beinlich, wife of Raleigh Beinlich, was asked what information she might have on the old round house, her face lighted up, she went to a Bible, leafed through it and produced the above picture which, she stated had been taken by Lee Fetherbay, now residing on Headley Ave., Dushore, before any exterior changes had been made in the appearance of the building. The Beinlichs also have some of the old original deeds and legal papers, among which is the original deed from William Glidewell to John Marsden, dated August 31, 1858. This document is written in the finest penmanship one would ever be privileged to see. John Marsden passed on to his reward and bequeathed the property to his son, William C. Marsden, the will being proved at Philadelphia on June 12, 1874.
The property was later deeded to Thomas McCadden, conveyed to Barton Castor, and conveyed to Hannah McCadden. On June 6, 1885, the property passed from the hands of Hannah McCadden and Thomas McCadden, her husband, to Annie V. Chaffee of Forksville Borough, and covered 133 acres of land in Elkland Township. At the time of Anna V. Chaffee's death, her husband, Dr. Francis Chaffee, having preceded her, she left to survive her one son, William J. Chaffee, and two daughters, Frances Chaffee Evans and Myra M. Chaffee. On October 22, 1925, the son and his wife, Elizabeth Muir Chaffee, conveyed his one-third interest to his sisters, each owning a one-half undivided interest. On March 1950, they sold the property to Raleigh and Julia Beinlich. The son resides in Towanda at the present time, as well as the daughters. Lyman J. Snyder, 85, of Eldredsville, says this round house is not the first built in this section of the county. The fist round house was owned and lived in by a Whiteley, and is now occupied by the Murray Barnes family. Probably the reason it has not had more notoriety is because it is back in the country off the beaten path, so to speak. William Marsden married a Whiteley girl, and apparently was so taken with the octagon house of the Whiteley's that he wanted one like it, but he wanted one larger and better. It is not known definitely when the house was built, but it is believed to be between 80 and 85 years of age.
Mr. Snyder believes that Marsden went to Philadelphia, where he worked on the streetcars, horse-drawn at that time. His son was taking a course in pharmacy. Marsden inherited some finance and never had to work afterward. The youngest son now resides in Towanda, and is a retired pharmacist.
Mr. Snyder says Marsden lived there and then sold to McCadden, a plasterer. He lived in New York, and brought his family there and put them to farming. They had the farm the round house is on and also the farm George Edkins now owns. McCadden sold to Dr. Chaffee of Forksville, a medical doctor, when Mr. Snyder was around 11 years of age. Moses Meadow (Middaugh), a brother-in-law of Chaffee, was the first one to live there after Chaffee bought it, says Mr. Snyder.
He came from the vicinity of Towanda, across the river from Ulster. Mr. Snyder was about 21 years of age when Moses lived there. The last time he saw Moses was many, many years afterwards at Sonestown.
The round house has been occupied by many families down through the years. The George Fetherbay family, the Fred Fetherbays, and the Bartletts. Charles Varguson died there. He got kicked by a horse. The Milford Baily family and William Mayo family resided there. Mr. Snyder's daughter-in-law, Mrs. Kenneth Snyder, present during the interview with Lyman, remembers when Ralph Higley lived there. She stayed there over night with one of his daughters after attending some school function. "I always had to stay over somewhere at night when they had some doings at the school," she said, "As it was too far to go home." She says she entered the house on this occasion in the dark and walked right into a closet, it was black as ink, and she had to be helped out because she didn't know where she was.
Mr. Snyder remembers when the Bartletts lived there. They had a son by the name of Luther, who married a widow whose maiden name was Shoemaker. The Bartletts went out West somewhere. He believes it was to the State of Washington. One of the Bartlett girls married a Jack Campbell, one of the oldest lumbermen jobbers in the section. "It has been the most lived-in house in the community," says Mr. And Mrs. Ralph Burgess of the Estella vicinity. "A family moved there and they had a daughter in her teens who died there, and they claimed that afterwards it was haunted." Back in those days, threshing machines traveled from farm to farm, and then men stayed over night wherever they were overtaken by darkness. The Burgesses recall one of these men, who had stayed the previous night at the old round house, making the statement that he hadn't slept well the night before "The bed danced around." Apparently he had heard stories about the "haunted house." They believe the house to be about 90 years old. Mrs. Burgess says the Chaffees never lived there but did stay there in the summer with the tenants. She can remember the Bartlett family who lived there. They had a large family. She believes that when they left for the West, they went to the state of Montana. "It was quite a thing in those days to travel such a distance. They went out there to live. They fried lots of chicken and took butter tubs filled with bread and food with them on the train. One of the girls came back and visited here later."
Mr. Burgess remembers that Charles Varguson died there from injuries he received when he was kicked by a horse. John Campbell's sister lost a little girl while they were living there. She was but a baby. The Earl Fetherbays lost an infant and the funeral was held in the round house.
Mrs. Burgess says the Rodney Bacon family were the last ones to occupy the place. She describes the place as being rickety and unsafe now. "You can look for some distance from the cupola, but it would be dangerous to attempt to get up there." "There are lots of cupboards and shelves, and they are finished nice inside. The ceilings are high." "About 60 years ago a family by the name of Schomo lived there, and had two girls," says Mrs. Burgess. "He was a music teacher. He and his family led the singing at a tent meeting held across from the Raleigh Beinlich garage in Estella."
Lee Fetherbay of Headley Ave., Dushore, has this to say about the old round house: "At the time it was built, it cost about $3200 or $3300. After it was built, Marsden went out in the rod and looked at it, and said, 'A man is a darn fool to build a house like that'. The house is well built. It is so solid you can roll it down the hill and it would still be intact. They don't build them like that today." Mr. Fetherbay says there is woodcarving on the front entrance, and rope work along the eaves, and hand carved brackets under the edge of the roof. The roof on the cupola is of copper and the catwalk is covered with copper. He knows, because he took his knife and scraped off some of the corrosion to see what was underneath.
At Mrs. Evans' request, Mr. Fetherbay removed the main part of the porch and tore off the old summer kitchen and woodshed. He says it was built about 80 to 85 years ago. There was an old log house up in the field, a marvelous piece of workmanship. The logs were hewed and dovetailed. That is all gone now. There was running water in the round house at one time, from a spring near the old log house.
Lee says he lived there in about 1898 for 5 to 6 years. The Schomo family roomed with the Fetherbays one winter and he taught singing lessons. They had come here with the Fair. He says the George Norton family also lived there.
Mr. Fetherbay also says that each side of the octagon house is 16 feet across, and that the interior workmanship was excellent. However, sometime during the recent years, thoughtless and inconsiderate tenants hewed the underpinning timbers in the basement, using the chips for firewood. This has not helped the stability of the framework. When the latches on the solid walnut doors failed to work, they bored holes and strung rope through, and drove nails into the casings to slip the rope over to keep the doors closed. Lyman Snyder believes that Anthony Gleockler, grandfather of Chester Gleockler of Forksville, built the round house for Marsden. Gleockler was a cabinetmaker, and a good one. He built the old pulpit in the St. Peter's United Church of Christ, at Elkland, which has now been placed in the basement of the new church. He also built two chairs which are in the church.
In 1854, a book on "Octagon Mode of Building" was published by Fowler & Wells, Publisher, of New York. In support of his claim of superiority of the octagon building over other types, the author, O.S. Fowler, states, "Form embodies an important element of beauty. Yet some forms are constitutionally more beautiful than others. Of these the spherical is more beautiful that the angular, and the smooth and undulating than the rough and projecting. Why is it that a poor animal, or a lean person, is more homely than the same animal or person when fleshy?"
Yet another tradition claims that the Octagon House is haunted. In fact, as a young boy in the early 1950s, Bob Sweeney can remember his father, Robert G. Sweeney, telling him about the old "Chaffee" haunted house. When his father was a teenager, a common dare among his friends in Towanda was to spend a night in the Chaffee house. Apparently, no one could spend the whole night there. Bob, Jr. never made the connection until fifty years later that his Dad was referring to the Octagon House. In 1978, an article in The Sullivan Review discussed the reputation of the structure as a Haunted House.
Interior and Closeup of Window
Octagon House Before Restoration
Photos Taken by Laurie Gleockner
What more do we know or can we learn about the builder, original and subsequent owners, and history of Octagon House?
The name Glöckler like many old European names was many times misspelled over the years. From
town to town, where family members moved, also gave way for miscommunication and spelling
errors. It was probably difficult with the old heavy accents to understand some of the
pronunciations. In the 1860 and 1870 federal Census, Glöckler is spelled Cleckner and some of
the family members that moved to the Canton, PA area spelled the name Gleckler. In Sayre and
Elmira, it is spelled both Gleockner and Gleckner. People in Old Germany were named according
to what they did, a trade, etc. The true name is Glöckler with an umlaut over the O.
Anton Glöckler (anglicized to Anthony) left Germany in 1852 or 1853 for New York City. It is not known if Anton met his wife Margretta on this journey or if they knew each other in Germany. They were married in NYC on April 10, 1853. Margretta is said to have made the journey with her father Philip Baumunk who was a shoemaker, and her two brothers John and Peter. Anton and Margretta’s first 2 children were born in New York. Josephine was born October 4, 1856 and Rosalie was born March 9th 1858. They soon learned of other German families living in a little village called Lake Run, Sullivan County, Pennsylvania. Anton, Margretta and their two children moved there and soon after bought 50 acres, built a house, and started farming. After settling happily into their new lives, they found that their deed was worthless and they lost the house and their money. Through hard work and determination, Anton bought another 50 acres from George Schill. After that, he helped build a store and post office for the village. Anthony and Margretta had several children and grandchildren while living at their Lake Run home.
Charles C. Heinze was the postmaster for the post office that Anton built, and he married Anton and Margretta’s daughter Caroline. At Mr. Heinze’s death, that post office was discontinued. Anthony had a furniture business that was mentioned in his will. Pieces of his furniture are still amongst family members today. Some are made with a form of inlay veneering. It is said that Anton introduced veneering to this country. Not much of Anton’s life in Germany is known, so it is a mystery how and where he learned this craft. It mentions in his will that the building on his property used as a store room for “merchandise” and workshop was given to Edward and Adam. Anthony was adamant that none of the land or his “store goods” were to be sold to “outsiders”, but were to be kept in the family. He mentions this several times in his will. He wanted his family to live and work together there and be buried in the family cemetery so as to be together forever in eternity. This small cemetery, which is behind the homestead in Lake Run, is the final burying place of Anton and Margaretta. There are also several shallow indents at the grave site that may contain other members of the Glöckler family. Some think that they may be small children that died young. You can see a picture of the grave marker for Anton and Margretta and read more about this burial plot, on the current Bogart property, at the Churches and Cemeteries site on this page. Over time, the family moved to different locations and the property was sold off to others.
Here is the story of the Glockler ("Gleockler") family as told to us by Lynne O'Brien:
The preceding account by Lynne O'Brien mentions her conversations with David Beinlich, her cousin and the restorer of the house. We recently also obtained a copy of an interview conducted by two Sullivan County High School students with David and his wife Karen in the Spring of 2000 for a high school history project:
Another family mentioned conspicuously in the history of Octagon House is the Fetherbays. This is an old name in Bradford and Sullivan Counties, and has at various times been spelled "Fetherby", "Fetherbee", or "Featherbay". The family came perhaps from Philadelphia to the Stevensville area of Bradford County in the earliest 1800s. From there, they rapidly propagated into several towns and communities within fifty miles, including Estella and Forksville in Sullivan County. You can learn more about this old family at The Descendants of James or Mathew Fetherbee.
Here are portraits of Anton and Margreta (Baumunk) Glockler and also a picture of their homestead in Lake Run.
Architect of the Octagon House
Photo Contributed by Lynne O'Brien
Margretta (Baumunk) Glockler
Wife of Anton Glockler
Photo Contributed by Lynne O'Brien
The Glockler Family Homestead
Lake Run, Sullivan County, PA
In the 1890's
Front: Anton and Margretta (Baumunk) Glockler
Middle of the porch: Anna Gleockler Varney
Young men on right: Adam and Edward Gleockler
On left: Carrie Gleockler Heinze and her children: Tony and Lillian Heinze
Photo Taken by Lynne O'Brien
Finally, there is a picture of the large extended Glockler/Henize/Varney family taken at a family reunion between 1900 and 1910. It can be seen on the Old Reunions page on this site.
Veneer Chair at Octagon House
Anton Glockler Made This Chair for the Original Occupants
He is reputed to have introduced the use of veneer into American carpentry
Photo Taken by Lynne O'Brien
Copyright © 2001 Robert E. Sweeney and individual Contributors. All Rights Reserved. Prior written permission is required from Robert E. Sweeney and individual Contributors before this material can be printed or otherwise copied, displayed or distributed in any form. This is a FREE genealogy site sponsored through PAGenWeb and can be reached directly at ~Sullivan County Genealogy Project (http://www.rootsweb.com/~pasulliv)