This past weekend, I had a wonderful visit to my hometown (where I haven’t lived since I was about 3-1/2 years old!) of New Albany, Indiana. As a descendent of one of the original city founders, Joel, Abner, and Nathaniel Scribner, I had been invited there to join in the Bicentennial Celebration of the city.
The local chapter of the Daughters of the Revolution must be applauded for all their efforts. Along with the Southern Indiana Genealogical Society, the folks working on the Stories Behind the Stones project, the planners of the Harvest Homecoming parade, and the New Albany Bicentennial celebration planners, the DAR made us feel like celebrities – planning events for just the descendants which included private visits and tours of the Scribner House (the oldest frame house in the city of New Albany), lunches at a local winery, Scribner House teas, cars to take us to and from various locations around the city, a tour of the Fairview Cemetery where we had a chance to see the gravestones of the city founders and other ancestors of ours, as well as making us grand marshals of the Harvest Homecoming parade last Saturday and yes – we were very wet, indeed!
New Albany, Indiana, was founded back in 1813 by three brothers: Joel, Abner and Nathaniel Scribner. Joel is my 5-greats grandfather and starting with my grandfather, we have a straight male line all the way back. Heck – it’s a straight male line all the way back to the late 1600s which definitely helps on the genealogical front!
The Scribner House is the pride and joy of the Piankeshaw chapter of the DAR there in New Albany. The last Scribner to actually reside in the Scribner House was Miss Hattie Scribner, granddaughter of Joel Scribner, the original builder of the home. In 1917, she sold it to the local DAR chapter to ensure its continued existence whereupon it was agreed she could continue to live out her days in the house.
MIss Hattie, shown seated in the above picture, was a music teacher. She taught piano lessons to the children of New Albany on a Steinway square piano. Eventually sold, because quite honestly, she needed the money and was no longer teaching, another piano from the same era was donated to be on display in the house.
While there, I had the pleasure of playing it. I’d played it back in 1988 for the 175 year celebration of New Albany – when I was still playing every day and could sound like I actually knew what I was doing – but this weekend, I played a little bit of it anyway and, after not having played any piano since 2011, was somehow able to pull off some Mozart: Sonata in C and a bit of Ah! Vous Dirai-je Maman. Sure it’s need of a good tuning, but I’m also in need of some good practicing!
Back in 1937, New Albany – located right on the Ohio River across from Louisville, Kentucky, was struck by a horrible and very damaging flood. The Scribner House is located on the banks of the Ohio River and while the room is located just inside the front door, it’s not the lowest level of the house. Downstairs is the winter kitchen which leads down to the water front, though there’s now a levee to prevent water from getting to it. Well – to help prevent water from getting to it. In 1937, it wasn’t enough and the town was devastated by a deluge of water they couldn’t outrun.
The entire Scribner House kitchen ended up being submerged in water and this level of the house also had at least a few feet of water. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to move the piano to higher ground because the stairway was too narrow (nor were they able to move a chest of drawers from downstairs), so it got rather waterlogged as well. According to Anne Caudill’s “The Scribner House of New Albany: A Bicentennial Celebration”, local women of the DAR recalled cleaning the mud off the legs of this piano after that flood. Thanks to some fundraising, donated labor and meticulous cleaning, they were able to restore the piano, the chest of drawers and everything else that had been under water. Being 200 years old however, still means the house needs a lot of work.
It was definitely a labor of love that saved the house which was later added to the National Register of Historic Places . While music doesn’t continue on a daily basis there because it has become a museum, music does play an important role in its history.
To learn more about the Scribner House preservation efforts by the Piankeshaw Chapter of the DAR in New Albany, Indiana, visit their website at www.scribnerhouse.org.