The Stulting House
In 1847, Pearl Buck's maternal ancestors escaped a time of religious intolerance by moving from Utrecht, Holland. The party consisted of Cornelius Stulting, his wife Arnolda, and their five married sons and their respective families. Upon arrival in New York, the Stultings headed South and ultimately purchased a 16 acre farm in an area lovingly known as the "Little Levels," surrounding the town of Hillsboro in Pocahontas County, West Virginia.
Over the course of their travel, the Stultings yearned for their departed homeland and upon arrival in Hillsboro, Pearl S. Buck's great grandfather, Cornelius Stulting, aimed to build a house, like the one they had in Holland, for his wife, Arnolda.
The Stulting men set out felling trees, hewing the beams, and making brick by hand; all supplies for building were taken from the land. The woodwork of the front portion of the house is hand-rubbed walnut. The staircases, banisters, and everything about them, are hand-tooled. The floors are of hardwood boards, about 8 inches wide. In the front parlor are two cabinets, or 'Ipresses," with large glass doors and ornamented with overlapped stripping. The outer and inner construction of the house is brick, the exterior being covered with Jenny Lind siding. All in all, the home is representative not only of the people who sought freedom in America, but of the self-reliance and self-sufficiency that characterized early American life. As originally built, the home did not have the six-room addition at the rear nor did it have the side porch added on the southwest side.
The family worked very hard to complete the house with their own labor, but at times they were forced to hire out; no slave labor was used to construct the home without being paid for their work. When the first floor of the house was completed the family moved in; then they accumulated more money, lumber, and brick and continued to build. The Stultings worked more than two years and the house was nearly completed when Cornelius became very ill and died before seeing the house completed. The house was finally finished by Hermanus, Pearl Buck's grandfather, and his son, Cornelius John.
Pearl Buck's mother, Caroline, often called "Carrie," was reared in this house. She married Absalom Sydenstricker, one of the nine children of Andrew and Frances Coffman Sydenstricker of Ronceverte, West Virginia. Shortly after their marriage, they left for China to become missionaries, but visited this home frequently on their furloughs. During one of these visits, Pearl Comfort Sydenstricker was born in her grandfather's home on June 26, 1892.
Although the Stulting family had not had any experience as farmers before coming to America, it managed to make a living on this small farm. As such, a barn was eventually constructed on the homestead and, today, with its antique farm implements and equipment, with a hayloft, stalls, and raised storage area, the barn lacks only the farm animals to make it typical of the 1892 era.
The nails used to hold the weatherboarding in place may be dated at approximately 1830 to 1890. This siding contained vertical saw marks which were uniform indicating the use of an up and down action power saw which may have been water powered. This would date the siding at about 1830 to about 1860—prior to circular saw use for the area. The structural framing details also fit this period of dating, about 1830 to 1860. Structural research indicates that the barn was built with the sheds all at one time.
The Stulting family enjoyed and taught music, practiced its fine craftsmanship, became school teachers, raised children, and shared joys and sorrows together in the house until 1922. Mr. George P. Edgar then bought the house and made it a winter home for his family until the early 1960s. Around that time, the home was purchased by Mr. Jim Comstock to preserve it for its historical value. After raising about $4,000 from the West Virginia Hillbilly newspaper readers, he asked the West Virginia Federation of Women's Clubs to take over the purchase. The purchase and restoration were made possible by the donations of clubwomen across the state.
The Sydenstricker House
On September 26, 1764, Philip Sydenstricker, great-great-grandfather of Pearl S. Buck, came to America from Bavaria (Germany) -- first to Pennsylvania, then on to a farm near Ronceverte, Greenbrier County, West Virginia, in what is known as the Fort Springs area. Ultimately, the Sydenstricker family became very prominent in Greenbrier County.
Built in 1834 by Andrew Sydenstricker and Frances Coffman, Pearl's paternal grandparents, this house was the birthplace of Pearl's father, Dr. Absalom Sydenstricker, a Presbyterian missionary to China. The original two-story section of the house was built of logs, and later covered with siding to match the additional part of the house, which was added as the family grew. The siding was removed in the reconstruction of the house.
Reconstruction was begun with a $15,000 grant from the West Virginia Bicentennial Committee. The grant enabled the Birthplace Foundation to dismantle the house, transport the building materials to Hillsboro, and to put in the foundation. An additional $12,000 was invested in it from contributions for this purpose. A grant from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation of $25,000 has enabled it to be completed in 1982.