Farmstead being restored

PRIZE-WINNING Merino sheep no longer graze on the Cockayne Farmstead, located in Glen Dale, but work is under way to preserve the house, dating from the 1850s, on that farmland.

Visitors could see some of the grandeur of the bygone days, such as the decorative, flowery vases on the grand piano, during the open house held during the weekend in the farmhouse across from John Marshall High School. Clothing from long ago and items belonging to the Cockayne family also were displayed.

A large pie safe had been brought to the first floor of the dwelling from the basement.

Tom Tarowsky. a St. Clairsville resident who is program and education director for the farmstead, provided information about the family and the work under way.

In the 1800s, the Cockayne farm earned awards at International Exhibitions in 1876 and 1880 in Philadelphia.

“The 19th century Cockaynes were social, political and agricultural leaders in the community,” reported Nila Chaddock, chairman of the Cockayne Historic Preservation Committee, on a website related to the farm. “The daughters were artists, musicians and social activists. Their farmhouse was a showplace, befitting the family’s agricultural and social standing.”

Chaddock also explained that rudimentary electrical, heating and plumbing fixtures were added in the first half of the 20th century, but the farmhouse basically remained intact as to its 19th century appearance. Little changes occurred during the last half of the 1900s.

The farmhouse last was occupied by Samuel A.J. Cockayne, who served in World War II. His mother died three months before his discharge from the Army, and father died a few years later.

Sam was in the Pacific Theater of Operations during World War II, and places such as Luzon and Okinawa weren’t just places on the map to the Glen Dale man. Tarowsky pointed out a chart showing where Sam served, starting in Alaska.

Known as a recluse, especially in later years, Sam lived in the two rooms of the farmhouse and shut off the rest of the house with its furnishings, artwork and other memorabilia from the Cockayne family.

Without other occupants around, he had a workbench covered with tools in the kitchen.

The lifelong Glen Dale resident, who served his nation in critical times, died in 2001, bequeathing the farmhouse and its contents to the city of Glen Dale which leases it to the Marshall County Historical Society. The Cockayne Historic Preservation Committee works on the farmstead project.

Originally, the farm covered 303 acres but at the time of Sam’s death, it had been reduced to the farmhouse and one-half acre of yard, according to Chaddock.

Among the advances being made in the preservation is acquiring some of the farmland which had been sold. This includes a nearby Adena Indian Mound.

A garden near the historic farmhouse appears to be flourishing, much like the improvements being made in the preservation efforts. Included among the improvements are the installation of a geothermal climate control system and major plaster repairs.

Chaddock pointed out some of the wallpaper designs on the parlor ceiling during the tour. The group has found that there are six layers of wallpaper on some of the walls.

Just as the preservation group is digging into the history of the farm, the Archaeological Consultants of the Midwest are doing excavation work on the property. As Chaddock noted, there were no garbage trucks in the heyday of the farm, and household trash ended up in a midden or a privy, and these and a well are included in the archaeologists’ work.

She also emphasized the importance of involving youth in the preservation efforts, and interpretive murals and scale models of the farmhouse have been created by Sherrard Middle School eighth graders in problem-based learning classes, under the direction of Rosetta Epifano. PBl students are presented with a problem, which they work to solve.

Tarowsky told how the students came to the farmstead and took measurements before making the two models of the house. The murals and models are on display, and he lifted the top off one model to show the layout of the rooms on the first floor.

With the efforts being made in preservation, it’s not too surprising that the farmstead has earned placement on the National Register of Historic Places, the Pioneer America Society Award and other honors.

Pokas can be reached at