There were some little miracles that happened during the writing of Witmer Stone: The Fascination of Nature. One of them concerns an old farm that was owned by Stone’s ancestors, and where he spent many happy hours visiting while growing up. I had known about Stock Grange for years, having read an old Henry Fowler essay about it in the Academy of Natural Sciences Archives. I figured that by now the property was either a housing development or a Wal-Mart, especially in build-happy Chester County (Pa.). I found something online that indicated it was still standing in 2000, but about to be demolished by a developer. Imagine my delighted surprise when, in 2009, after a few queries to local historical societies, I was put in touch with the current owners of the still-extant Stock Grange! (Kudos to Vincent Visoskas of West Bradford Township for the connection.)
Witmer’s great-grandfather, John Dutton Steele, bought Stock Grange in 1805. Facing the side of the house, the low stone part on the right is the original structure, built in the mid-1700s; the stuccoed part on the left was added by Steele in c. 1810. Stone must have walked past that enormous oak tree a few thousand times over the years.
It’s amazing how little the farmhouse and immediate vicinity have changed since Stone’s time. Here’s a photo then (c. 1890s; ANSP Archives):
….and one from 2009:
The photos look like they could have been taken 10 years, not 110 years, apart. How’s that for a small miracle?