According to Webster’s Dictionary, “vendue” means “public auction”. Such was the method that was used to sell the Neebor Lee house and property in 1786. If you recall the story from an earlier post, the two-story stone farmhouse was built by Peter Horning just the year before, in 1785, as a father-son colonial for the purpose of enticing his oldest son, a Loyalist veteran of the Revolutionary War who fought as a ranger for the British, from migrating to Canada. The enticement did not work and soon Peter was packing up his remaining family and his belongings to follow his two sons (a second son had also fought as a ranger for the British) north. In fact, it appears that Peter and his family had already started their journey before the property was sold, leaving that task to his pro-rebel brother Michael Horning and neighbor/friend, Israel Jacobs. And what better place for these two gentlemen to advertise the sale of Peter’s land and home than in Ben Franklin’s Philadelphia newspaper.
The advertisement appeared twice in the Pennsylvania Gazette. It first appeared in the March 8, 1786 edition and then appeared again one week later in the March 15, 1786 edition of that newspaper. The advertisement was much like any that can be found today. It provided a broad description of the property that accentuated its positive features, particularly with regard to its ability to generate income. The advertisement stressed the property’s good water, well-manured fields, good-bearing orchard, its potential earning as a smith shop, and its convenient location near two merchant mills that could be easily accessed by a nearby public road. According to this advertisement, this particular property “is accounted, by good judges, to be equal to any place of its size in the neighbourhood.” If you were a farmer or tradesman looking for a new opportunity, what was not to like about this property? Here is the complete 1786 advertisement:
To be SOLD by public Vendue
On the 20th day of March next (if not sold before by private SALE,)
A PLANTATION and TRACT of LAND, containing 51 acres, situate in Providence township, Montgomery county, about 23 miles from Philadelphia, and 6 from town of Norris, whereon is a large commodious stone barn, well finished, good dwelling-house, Smith’s shop, a well of good water near the door, good bearing orchard, and a good proportion of meadow of the best quality; upland rich and fertile, it having been well manured with lime and dung. This place is situate on a public road, within a mile of two merchant-mills, and adjoining Perkioming creek, and is accounted, by good judges, to be equal to any place of its size in the neighbourhood; is very suitable for a tradesman, particularly a smith, that business having been for many years carried on there to advantage. Any person inclining to purchase, may be shown the premises and informed of the title and terms of sale, by applying to Israel Jacobs or Michael Horning, living near the same.
Feb. 10, 1786 PETER HORNING
N.B. The sale to begin at 12 o’clock on the premises
I thought that it would be interesting to compare this advertisement to the one that caught the attention of my wife and I in 2013. The old advertisement from 1786 was somewhat structurally similar to the 2013 advertisement in that they both focused on the virtues of the property, at times using expressive language and at other times veering close to exaggeration. However, a large difference was on their focus, with the 1786 advertisement focused on the land whereas the 2013 advertisement focused on the house, albeit with even greater overall expressiveness than the 1786 advertisement. The change of focus from the land to the house after the passing of 277 years made sense considering the land had shrunk from 51 acres to 1.9 acres, thereby removing its income-generating value, while the house grew from two-stories to three with a number of amenities added over the last 100 years. Here is the full 2013 advertisement that can still be found on the Zillow web site:
Historic Home – Great For Today!! A wonderful example of early American architecture for sale in Upper Providence Township. The historic Neebor Lee house is a unique one of a kind masterpiece. The location of this home is superb, just minutes from the Oaks exchange on Route 422, yet light years away from today’s hustle and bustle. The space and amenities this home has to offer could not be replicated in today’s market for a million dollars! Formal living and dining rooms with fireplaces, kitchen keeping room, sun porch, home office, 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms plus fabulous millwork and detail everywhere. There are out buildings on the property that need some attention, but the potential is almost limitless. All this on 1.9 level acres with mature trees and plantings.
It should be noted that a transfer of title was not completed until almost two years after the March 20, 1786 auction. That occurred on March 1, 1788 when the title was transferred from Peter Horning to William Thomas, a landowner from an adjacent county. I’m not sure whether this was because the auction failed or because the title transfer itself required a long period of time to process since Peter Horning had already emigrated to Ontario, Canada.