Ghost stories from where I grew up, Part I
Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a bright, warm day in Highland County, Ohio.
Standing outside a two-story farmhouse a few miles west of Hillsboro, a group of more than a dozen people pose for a family portrait. The men are wearing suits; the ladies have on their dresses. A mother standing on a walk-out balcony above the front porch positions her young toddler on the railing.
The rest of the family lines up in front of the brick home behind the white picket fence. Two mighty oak trees stand tall in the front lawn, with many more located off in the distance. Some of the windows are open to allow a breeze to enter the abode. The family stands still.
A moment in time is captured.
It’s a bright, warm day today as I stand outside the two-story farmhouse. Some of the windows are open to allow a cool breeze to enter the home. The oaks stand tall in the front yard; you can hear the sound of the leaves as a calm breeze blows on this gorgeous summer day. It is peaceful.
The white picket fence is long gone – as is the family. In fact, every single person who posed for the family portrait on that bright, warm day has passed away. I’d assume most of them have been dead longer than they were alive. It’s a rather harsh reality that at some point in the history of time, it happens to everyone. It’s inevitable.
The psalmist wrote that the days of our years are threescore years and 10; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. When one walks through a graveyard, it’s a sobering reminder that, eventually, we all fly away. None of us are exempt. And some fly away sooner than others.
I’ve seen many of their tombstones in area cemeteries. Some of them lived rather long lives. Some didn’t. A few left this world tragically.
The stones where their bodies rest have weathered as the years have rolled by. The memories of their very existence, to a large degree, have weathered much like the tombstones that mark their final resting places – they have faded with time.
However, after more than a century, the picture from that bright, warm day remains. So does the old, brick farmhouse. The house I grew up in was the house that they built. It was the house many of them grew up in, as well.
In 1848, Joshua Brown built the house in which I grew up. He was a farmer, and he and his wife, Jeannette, raised a family in the home he built.
Joshua Brown was born in 1807. He would have been around my age when he built the house. She would have been around 35 years old at the time.
On April 13, 1867, Joshua Brown died at the age of 59.
Roughly 100 years later, my parents, Wesley Kenneth and Judith Roush, bought the home and the farm from my grandparents, Wesley and Sarah Roush.
By the late 1960s, the home had not been lived in for some time and had fallen into a state of disrepair.
My folks, who lived in a house trailer on the property for several years, kicked around a pair of choices: Tear down the old farmhouse and build new (they even had a spot picked out for a new home) or fix up the old Brown homestead.
Around a month before their first child, Stephen Kenneth Roush, was born, my parents began to renovate the old home.
My Granddad bought the farmhouse and 200 acres in 1942 for $42 an acre. That was the year both my parents were born. Actually, my Granddad’s dad, Ted Roush, placed the winning bid on behalf of my Granddad. You see, Granddad was teaching school that day.
Granddad’s dad was the son of Wesley T. Roush and Sarah Brown Roush.
Sarah Brown Roush was the daughter of Joshua and Jeannette Brown. She grew up in the same house I grew up in.
She also posed for a family portrait behind a white picket fence on a bright, warm day in Highland County.
When the Brown patriarch passed away in the spring of 1867, his sons stepped up to man the farm. Joel H. Brown was born in 1840 and died in 1880.
He, along with Joshua Brown, is buried in the Hillsboro Cemetery.
John C. Brown was born Dec. 29, 1851, grew up in the house that I grew up in, and farmed the same farm I farmed.
He also posed for the family portrait behind the white picket fence on a bright, warm day in Highland County.
Dark storm clouds, however, loomed in the distance.
We’ll talk more about John Brown and delve into more ghost stories from the place where I grew up next week.
Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press.