Christoph and Elizabeth Rohrbacker Homestead
The Greene-Dreher Historical Society is are pleased to honor Brittany and Kelly with its
2021 Historic Preservation Award. At the Society’s recent Harvest Luncheon held at Wallenpaupack Creek Farm on September 13, Kelly Cumiskey and Brittany Gross were presented with the annual Preservation Award for their achievement in preserving the historic Rohrbacker homestead, established in South Sterling nearly 200 years ago. After remaining in the Rohrbacker family for five generations, the property was sold in 2016 to Brittany Gross who, with her future husband, Kelly Cumiskey, undertook the restoration and rehabilitation of the house and barn, culminating in the beautiful buildings that we see today.
Historical Significance of the Rohrbacker Homestead
In 1824, Christoph and Elizabeth Rohrbacker and their six children immigrated from Baden, Germany, to settle in the Wallenpaupack Valley. Their eldest son, Jacob, and his wife Christina, along with C. David and Christina Wolfe, purchased a 2100-acre tract in 1829 along the Wallenpaupack Creek which they divided into lots and sold to other German immigrants, creating the village of Newfoundland. About 100 acres south of the settlement were reserved for Christoph and Elizabeth Rohrbacker, and they established their homestead and gristmill there, on the banks of Mill Creek near its confluence with the Wallenpaupack.
They harvested the virgin timber on their land and gathered stones from the fields they cleared for their crops and farm animals to build a one and one-half story stone house and a bank barn on the hillside next to the house. A small water-powered gristmill was situated below the house near the creek, and a wide stone and earthen dam was constructed above the homestead to create the mill pond. Before the stone bridge was built across the creek in 1871, travelers along the Newfoundland Road drove their wagons across the top of the dam. The gristmill served area farmers who brought their rye, buckwheat, corn and oats to be ground into flour and animal feed. Although we don’t know when it began operating, the creek was referred to as Mill Creek as early as 1837. When Christoph died in 1857, his son Franz inherited the gristmill, which continued to operate until 1921. It was destroyed during the 1955 flood.
Big House, Little House
In 1854 Franz and Ellen (Clements) Rohrbacker built a two-story stone addition to the original one and one-half story house built by his parents, as evidenced by the date on the cornerstone. The large addiiton more than doubled the size of the original farmhouse. It was designed in a classic German style, two rooms over two with a center hall and gable end chimneys. This is the home where Franz and Elizabeth raised their eight children. The facade of the house has been preserved by the Gross family and had remained largely unchanged to this day.
German Bank Barn
A bank barn with a partially enclosed forebay was built on a knoll next to the house in the 1830s. An adjacent carriage shed was added later. Using the original foundation, Kelly and Brittany incorporated the hand-hewn joists and beams of the original barn in its reconstruction. They milled the lumber for the new flooring and exterior walls from local hemlock. Working with Amish barn builders who specialize in restoration and rehabilitation of old barns, Kelly and Brittany have preserved the historical, architectural and cultural integrity of the original Rohrbacker bank barn.