Frank Dively barn struck by lightning!
On July 20, 1935 storm clouds began forming across the sky above the productive farming belt in southern Brothersvalley Township. Farmers were in the midst of a good hay-making season, and were watching the darkening clouds as they worked feverishly towards gathering in the dried hay from the farm fields. Many of the farmers still depended upon horses, although tractors were also becoming prominent on various farms in that district.
Homer E. and Ralph W. Bauman, of "Owl Hollow Farm" in that locality were keeping close tabs on the darkening clouds. They were preparing for a predicted rain storm. They had brought their last two loads of hay to the farm buildings. With their team of work horses, the young men pushed both loads of hay onto the upper thrashing floor. They used their horses to transport the wagons loaded with hay from the fields. A tractor was used in the field. Homer unharnessed the horses and turned them loose to drink at the watering trough.
Ralph had passed the grainery and noticed through a nearby window that rain was beginning to fall. He witnessed a wicked bolt of lightening against the distant sky and heard a loud clap of thunder. He originally thought the noise was associated with the moving of railroad cars at Goodtown or Raineytown. Another glance out the window showed smoke filtering into the sky.
Ralph hurriedly climbed to the top of the farm silo. He lifted the lid covering and studied the northwest neighborhood. smoke was pouring from the neighborhood barn of Frank Dively. Ralph hurriedly descended the silo and told his older brother about fire sweeping through the dively barn.
Homer left his work lay. He asked Ralph to run to the farmhouse and grab both their hunting coats to keep them dry as they braved the heavy rain. Homer put the horses into their stable, grabbed two five-gallon buckets, and met Ralph at the car. With Homer behind the wheel of their Model A Ford, the brothers hurried along the quarter-mile farm lane. They made their way along the township road to the Dively barn with their vehicle wide open. They passed the nearby farm of Howard and Edna Werner, who didn't know until about an hour later that their neighbors' barn had been hit by lightning. Homer and Ralph recall they were among the first neighbors to arrive at the fire scene.
Ralph H. Hay and his brother-in-law, Karl L. Broeseker, had also arrived. From their farms in the eastern neighborhood, they had seen the bolt of lightning hit the Dively barn. They also hurried to render aid to their neighbors.
The men worked to save some items from the blaze. Frank Dively also had a hog pen built against the front of the barn. The men used buckets and everything they could put their hands on to throw water against the bar. A well near the brick farmhouse was pumped dry. The Berlin Fire Department arrived but despite the joint efforts of the community, the barn fell. The flames swept rapidly through the structure. Several times additional bolts of lightning left its impact upon the memories of those who watched the Dively barn burn to the ground.
Homer E.Bauman paused at 88 years to recall some of the vivid memories this past April. He witnessed a bolt of lightning stride an electric pole below the road at the Dively farm. A car parked on that side of the road had its windows on the eastern side knocked out. To the east various men's attention was drawn several times to additional bolts of lightning striking the fields of O. Ray Walter (the current Robert F. Coleman farm). when the bolts hit, they lifted a fog or vapor-like film over the field.
Numerous other accounts of the fire have been shared over the years. Others have escaped with the passing of the older citizens of that neighborhood. Edna Bauman (later Mrs. William H. Snyder, of Berlin) was a well-known neighborhood seamstress in those days. She frequently traveled through the community, often staying several days at various homes as she performed seamstress work for the farm women. She and Nora Grace (Musser) Dively were sewing in the house. A bolt of lightning struck against the house or pole outside. Edna told me firsthand accounts of the same lightning storm and the barn fire. She was an older sister of Ralph and Homer Bauman.
Ralph W. Bauman has also shared his version of the Dively barn fire. He remembers that Frank Dively's oldest daughter, Clara Blanche, the wife of Ernest Hay, had lain down that afternoon to sleep, probably a mile and a half away. She slept through the storm and the fire. Several hours later she learned about the event. Word didn't travel as quickly as today because there were few telephones in that neighborhood.
The neighbors were also good in helping with the clean up work following the fire. Frank Dively immediately formulated plans to rebuild. Henry Herman, a community builder and his assistant, John M. Suder, were engaged to begin the construction. Neighbors planned to assist them at a "barn raising" when the men were ready for their services.
Homer E. Bauman recalls that the barn that burned was built about 1902. Josiah C. Werner, a neighborhood contractor, was assisted by Ephraim G. Bauman, Homer's father, in the construction work. John G. Hay, my great, great grandfather, held ownership of the farm until his death in 1901. Simon F. Hay, one of his sons (my great grandfather) made arrangements to buy the farm. An older barn was in existence on the eastern side of the road, near the current windmill. Simon F. Hay's main farm was in the process of being passed on to his son and daughter-in-law, J. Nevin and Edith Hay. Before Simon decided to build a new house along the Plank Road, he chose to live in the large, brick home that eventually found it was to the ownership of Frank Dively. Timber for the barn was cut in the "Sand Spring Woods" on the Simon F. J. Nevin and Robert E. Hay farm in Brothersvalley Township. The barn was erected and became a well-known landmark in that district. The same farm has been owned since 1981 by Dr. Richard A. Bonomo, Oral and Maxillofacial surgeon at Somerset and Johnstown.
Rick's deep interest in his farm and its history stirred my interest, led to the interviews with knowledgeable older citizens, and inspired the writing of this story.
Rick Bonomo, of Berlin RD 3, is the current owner of the former Frank Dively farm in southern Brothersvalley Township. Through the years the farm has been a showcase in that particular neighborhood, having had several owners who were inspired to beautify the large, two-story brickhouse, the surrounding lawn and acreage, as well as the barn that is the subject of this particular story. The farm has been known as both the "Hillcrest Farm" and "Markland Edge Farm" and is located in a picturesque setting, one mile east of Pine Hill. It is position between the Hillcrest Grange Hall and the Mt. Zion (Hay's) United Church of Christ.
Rick Bonomo has resided at the farmhouse since he purchased the small farm in 1981. Like the prior owners, he has continued to remodel and make improvements to the buildings and the property. He also deeply interested in the historical background of the farm. His interest and eagerness for historical knowledge stirred me into interviewing several older residents of that locality for vital information associated with the Bonomo farm.
It is believed the current barn on the property is the third barn on that immediate farm. Rick's research shows his section was once known as "The Home Place" for Peter Wingert, Jr. and his heirs. The farm was originally the most northern acres of the 700-acre plot of land owned by the Wingert family. The Bonomo section was sold in 1874 by the Wingert heirs to Benjamin Gloss and his son, Chauncey F. Gloss. The brick farmhouse was already there in 1874. It is believed the bricks were made on the farm. The Gloss family added an interesting chapter to the farm history. They raised produce and peddled it to customers in Meyersdale.
The farm eventually passed into the ownership of John G. Hay, my great-great-grandfather, who had purchased a number of the neighborhood farms for various children and their families. His son, Simon F. Hay, emerged as the owner in the early years of 1900's. It was during Simon's ownership that the second barn was constructed.
Homer E. Bauman, one of the oldest native sons of that district, believes the second barn was built in 1902. The contractor was Josiah C. Werner, a neighborhood building contractor, with the assistance of Ephraim G. Bauman, Homer's father. Ephraim and his family had moved from Mance in 1900 to the current Homer and Ralph Bauman farm in the Hay's Mill neighborhood. Ephraim was employed at that time with Joe and Simon Werner, brothers, in their contracting business.
According to my father, Robert E. Hay, a grandson of Simon F. Hay, the lumber for the second barn was cut in the "Sand Springs Woods" on my father's farm. My brother-in-law and sister, Don E. and Mary Stotler have built their new home in that particular woods. Simon F. Hay held ownership of my fathers's farm at that time, in addition to the current Bonomo farm.
Homer Bauman also recalls that in his youth the original barn on the Bonomo farm was still standing. It stood south of the windmill that still stands on the farm. After the bar was torn down, a shed stood on the same spot.
On March 30, 1916, the farm was sold by simon F. Hay to P.J. and Bridget McGrath, who used the property for investment purposes. They were also owners of a Berlin Hotel and actually never lived on the farm. They eventually sold the farm to B. Frank and Nora Dively, owners when lightning struck the second barn and burned it to the ground on July 20, 1935.
After the barn fire, Frank and Nora contracted with Henry Herman and John M. Suder to build the third barn. "Hen" Herman was well-known Brothersvalley Township contractor. The bachelor made his home with the Lewis J. and Sherman B. Berkley families on "Crystal Springs Farm", south of Berlin. John M. Suder was a carpenter, farmer and later a road worker. He lived along the Plank Road in the home now occupied by Bernard C. Sperry.
This spring Rick Bonomo, the current farm owner, expressed deep interest in learning about the history of his farm. It motivated me to interview several native Brothersvalley Township sons, including Robert E. Hay, my father; Henry Fritz, Homer E. Bauman, Earl W. Sweitzer, all who were assistants at the barn raising activities in September 1935.
Henry Herman and John Suder had worked for nearly two months cutting, fitting and assembling various portions of the barn. It was laid out across the field. On a specific day in September, the neighborhood men and boys were summoned for the official "barn raising". Homer E. Bauman tells that he was boss for one section of the construction work. Men, horses and tractors helped pull the sections into place. The barn was nailed, fashioned together with beams, rafters, and quality workmanship of the contractors. The barn was erected in one day's time on the same foundation as the barn that burned.
The adjoining Hillcrest Grange was the scene for the meal that was served in conjunction with the "barn raising". Frank Dively was an active granger. He served as janitor and once managed the grange storeroom, where farm commodities were stored and sold at cheaper prices among grange members. Henry Herman and John Suder spent several more weeks completing the finishing work at the barn.
The Dively family eventually sold the farm to Gerald and Edna Romesberg and moved to Berlin. The Romesberg family made good use of the barn for their dairy operation. They later sold the farm to Robert Colvin, who attached the "Markland Edge" name to the farm. It's next owner Gary Sterner, owner of Snyder's of Berlin, who continued to beautify the spacious brick farmhouse. He sold the farm to Rick Bonomo on June 1, 1981.
The red barn continues to compliment the brick house noted for its lovely double front porches and its nearby brick walkways. The stories of yesteryear linger to add charm, excitement and history to the eager researchers.