There was a nice surprise waiting for us on our porch when we got home the other night—the original abstract for our house. I had started putting together a list of previous owners last summer and much to my surprise, Jonathan managed to track down phone numbers for several of them. (For some reason, the fact I had been searching through old books of handwritten deeds made me think these people were historical figures.)
Jonathan had a nice conversation with one of the former owners, Geneva Moody, and she mentioned she might still have the abstract somewhere. We had almost forgotten when it appeared on our front porch. We sat down that night with a couple glasses of wine and started reading.
The abstract contained many of the original documents relating to the property. It also overlapped somewhat with some of the information from the last 60 years I had managed to track down so I think we may have the complete records at last.
It is a record of the land, rather than the house, so we’re still not sure about when the back porch was enclosed but nonetheless, we’ve still got some great details. The documents start with the original “patent”—or purchase—of the land from the federal government (Missouri was still a territory at the time). The land passed through the hands of many of Columbia’s founding fathers—Jewell, Garth, Waugh, Gentry—all easily recognizable because local roads and schools are named after them. Eventually, the land was narrowed down into our small subdivision.
We found the original purchase contract for Horace and Ruth Wren and followed their heart wrenching saga as they fell behind on their taxes and eventually lost the house. As we suspected, it became rental property for the next several decades. In fact, save for the Wrens and maybe one other family, we may be the only owners who really saw this as a permanent home.
We’re still working to decipher all the details but we suspect some great stories are hidden in these documents.