Eldridge couple live in restored ancestral dogtrot
by Jennifer Cohron
Apr 01, 2012 | 4514 views | 0 0 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Kendrick family dogtrot has stood in Eldridge since the early 1900s. It was built by farmer and sawmill worker Perry Kendrick and his wife, Sarah. More than six generations have lived there in the past century.Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
The Kendrick family dogtrot has stood in Eldridge since the early 1900s. It was built by farmer and sawmill worker Perry Kendrick and his wife, Sarah. More than six generations have lived there in the past century.Photo by: Jennifer Cohron
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If walls could talk, the Kendrick family dogtrot in Eldridge would tell the stories of six generations.

Perry Kendrick and his wife, Sarah, built the home in the early 1900s. Upon their deaths, it was passed down to their 10th child, Lester, and his wife, Florence.

After Florence’s death in 1998, the house sat vacant for the first time in its existence. It was painfully dilapidated by the time the Kendricks’ great-granddaughter, Sharon Barnhouse, and her husband, Keith, decided to restore it at the turn of the millennium.

“There’s so much history here. That’s the reason we couldn’t let it just fall down,” Barnhouse said.

Barnhouse, who was an infant when Perry Kendrick died in 1951, found numerous pieces of her past while renovating the dogtrot.

Some of her favorites were the dozens of quilts pieced together by her grandmother Florence in decades gone by.

Among the other treasures was a promissory note from October 1901 for $12.50 signed by Perry Kendrick with an X. She expects that her great-grandfather, a farmer, used the loan to buy seed and supplies.

Barnhouse also found the original receipt for the casing of the well that is still located on the back porch as well as discarded tombstones for Perry and Sarah Kendrick in some woods near the house.

In the interior walls of the house, the Barnhouses discovered thousands of blades that Perry Kendrick used while shaving.

“He would put the used ones in notches in the wall because he didn’t want the kids to get in them. We hauled off truckloads of razorblades when we were renovating, “ Barnhouse said.

The Kendricks had 11 children ranging in age from birth to 23 at the time the dogtrot was built. (Today the number of their direct descendants is over 700.)

As the older children married, some continued living there while others moved to the family’s nearby “catch-all” house until they got on their feet.

A few of the Kendrick children who left home eventually returned in need of refuge.

When George William Kendrick lost his wife in 1923, some of his four young children were raised at the dogtrot by their grandparents, Perry and Sarah.

One of the Kendricks’ daughters lived in a side room at the house with her five children after her husband was killed at a young age.

The Kendricks’ granddaughter, Hazel Kendrick Tittle, brought her family of five (including Barnhouse) to the dogtrot after their house burned.

Shortly after the restoration was completed, the Barnhouses’ daughter and grandchildren lived there for a time – making them the fifth and sixth generations to stay at the ancestral home.

“It just continues and continues,” Barnhouse said.

The design of the house has changed very little in the past century.

It is still cut in half by the dogtrot, or breezeway, where the Kendricks’ children slept on summer nights and where Barnhouse recalls shelling untold numbers of peas and butter beans.

There is a lone ”room across the hall” that was used by several couples as a courting spot. One set of newlyweds slept there in the home’s early days as snow came in through cracks in the walls.

The Barnhouses also enjoyed spending nights there before the interstate came through and the chirping of crickets was replaced by the sound of passing cars and eighteen-wheelers.

Peace and quiet wasn’t the only sacrifice the Kendrick family had to make in the name of progress. Corridor X also took the big oak tree where they held their reunions for more than 70 years.

While the land will never look the same as it did when Perry and Sarah Kendrick built on it more than a century ago, the dogtrot that houses so many fond family memories still stands in the couple’s honor.

The door is always open to member of the large Kendrick clan and above the threshold is a sign that says, “All because two people fell in love.”

“A few people have said, ‘You should have just torn this thing down and started from scratch,’ but it just wouldn’t have been the same. Not to me,” Barnhouse said.