Olentangy Valley News

History today

Family thrived in Martin-Perry House


Many of you know that the Martin-Perry House is the home of the Powell Liberty Historical Society and is located on Powell Road at Grace Drive. It was built in 1889 by Albert Martin for his family. In 1928, Erwin and Mary Perry purchased the home for their family.

The Perrys had six children: Leroy, Ivah, Donald, Alice, Jean and Norman. Jean and Norman were born in the house in Powell, and Jean is the last of the family still living.

This column will take you back in time to the 1920s, when Erwin Perry was a superintendent during the construction of the O'Shaughnessy Dam on the Scioto River. He had an engineering degree from Ohio Northern University. His many trips from Ellsworth Avenue in Columbus and then along Olentangy River Road to Powell led him to purchase the farm at 103 E. Olentangy St.

It was actually Erwin's birthday when they moved in, something easily remembered by eldest daughter, Ivah, many years later. She said there was a lot of hard work and money invested in the 45 acres. When they arrived, there was a chicken yard and a "ramshackle" barn. Her father built another barn, a spring or ice house, an 80-foot chicken house, a garage and a shed. The shed and an outhouse remain.

The second floor of the home had three rooms added in 1912. The Perrys had the house wired for electricity -- for $100! With the Depression, there was no money to have a bathroom installed, and though Mary Perry did have running water, she never cared about having an indoor toilet.

Ivah's youngest brother, Norman, remembered them operating Perry's Dairy, milking 12 to 14 head of cattle. Mrs. Perry sold butter to local grocers, the Weavers and the Reeves. They had 8,000 laying hens at one time. The family raised pigs, and Norman had a pig for a pet. The pig would walk with him as he gathered eggs and then obediently sit and wait for the teen's job to be done. On occasion, when the pig got loose, he was found on the front porch, and one time he ran through the kitchen as the family was eating. In an interview with Norm in 1991, he said, "Oh, it was a farm. What the heck." When the time came, his father was kind enough to send it to the butcher instead of killing it himself.

Norman described their gardens as enormous, particularly mentioning 2 acres of strawberries, sweet corn and an orchard. Wayne Brown, the founder of Big Bear Farms, told Mr. Perry, "I'll buy all the eggs you can furnish and all the strawberries." Norm remembers his father saying, "Oh, we got something to do now."

Mary Perry gave piano lessons for 50 cents an hour. She played at the Powell M.E. Church and also for the Rebecca Lodge, located above the grocery store, where Easy Street Cafe operates today. Mrs. Perry was an active PTA member and served on the Powell school board for many years. She was president of both organizations. She outlived her husband and died at age 94.

Some of the Perry granddaughters visited about five years after Mary's death. They fondly remembered the many violets she had in her parlor -- 109, to be exact -- and the black-eyed Susans on the east side of the house. They recalled the trunks upstairs in the "wonder room," where they got to play with the contents. The memories were shared with some of the Perry great-granddaughters who joined them that summer day.

The Powell Area Garden Club maintains the gardens these days. They have been doing so for more than 20 years. Though the orchard is gone and the many shade trees removed, the house and the flowers stand to represent an earlier time in this growing community. It's been nearly 125 years -- and that is old for Powell.

The home would not be standing if it were not for several residents in 1986 who worked to save it and for the cooperation of Multicon Builders Inc. and the George Banning Co. When they saw that the newly formed historical society was beginning to raise enough money to restore the house, they offered the gift of the house and land on which it stands. The acreage of the earlier farm became part of Bartholomew Run.

Carole Wilhelm is a member of the Powell-Liberty Historical Society.