The Big Spring!
Nestled among the rolling hills of Maria, there stands a stately stone house. At first glance, most marvel at the thought of water which comes out from under the house. Let's that a closer look at this "house on water."
The water originates from a spring under the house, and occupies one-fourth of the basement. Outside the house is a beautiful stone-walled pond, where the water provides a home for fish and ducks. This place was known to the Indians of the area as "The Big Spring." The spring provided them with their water needs as well as refrigeration.
Now we look at the history of the house itself. The land was granted to John Longnecker, and in 1811 he built the stone part of the house. John raised his family; and in 1846 he and his son, John Longnecker II, built the wooden frame part of the house.
In the late 1870's, the house was sold to a Replogle for $6000, and in the 1880's was lost to Orphan's Court. It was later bought by a Detwiler for $400, and he rented it to various families. In 1917 it was bought by Tom McNeal for $600. Finally, in 1921, Thomas I. Claycomb purchased the house for $1000.
Thomas I. Claycomb and his wife, Abi (Hitechew) Claycomb, raised five girls and four boys here. The Claycombs also kept anyone from the lumber camp who had no place to stay, no money, and no family in the United States. The lumber camp in the area had horses to pull the lumber to the railroad cars which hauled it away. When the 1918 flu hit the lumber camp, many died. Abi and her mother, Martha (Custer) Hitechew, tended to the flu-stricken men. The last survivor of this lumber camp died in 1923, while living with the Claycombs. The men from the lumber camp were mostly Polish, Hungarian, Yugoslavian, and Austrian. These people knew that the doors were always open, and the accommodations were always free. Tom Claycomb often referred to the house as the "Do Drop Inn."
Many years ago, in the front yard of the house, there was a small store, and the Maria Post Office. The mail was brought to the post office by horseback, and in 1931 the road through Maria was paved. The store, the post office, and the lumber camp no longer stand, but the beautiful stone house does.
he Claycombs, as the Indians did, used the spring for their water supply and refrigeration. For years many rainbow trout and goldfish lived in the pond, free to go as they pleased into the neighboring creek; but most of them stayed because fish, as well as people, were well taken care of here. Many of the fish have been stolen over the years in large quantities, so now few remain.
Many people, on their leisurely drives through the countryside, stop to take in the sight of this beautiful home and the spring. Then June 2, 1984, Bedford Gazette "Travel Edition," suggests an enjoyable Sunday afternoon bike-ride past this beautiful place. Also, the Altoona Mirror's Saturday, March 10, 1984 edition includes Abi's house (in Bloomfield Township) as part of Bedford County history along with the Barclay House (1806) and St. Paul's Lutheran Church (1842), Snider's Folly, Solomon's Temple (1812), Old Union Church (1806), and Waterside Woolen Mill (1860). These historical buildings are all an important part of the history of Bedford County.
Mrs. Abi Claycomb still owns this ten-room house (Tom passed away on May 1, 1963) and has lived here for 63 years. No major remodeling has ever been done on the house. Abi was 85 years old this past April, and her children, now living in various parts of the United States, still respect her authority.
Eleven years ago, we built our house in Maria, just across the road from this beautiful home. Once, I accidentally rode my bike into the pond, and now know why they used the spring for refrigeration!
Note: This was originally written by a young neighbor of Abi's as an essay for school in 1985.
"Maria" is pronounced with a long "I."
Abi passed away in March 1989. The children still own and maintain the house.
The following pictures were taken August 2003
Created: 01-January-2006 Revised: 01-January-2012