Historic New Carlisle, Inc.
Preserving the Past for Our Future...
James Reynolds married Nancy S. Howe of Berrien County, Michigan in 1853. Her family of 11 siblings came from New York where she was born in 1827. James and Nancy had four children- (Mary) Zurelda, John, Clara, and Estelle. Before taking up farming on his own, James Reynolds farmed with his brother John. James also owned and operated stores in Buchanan and Dayton, Michigan. With profits from his mercantile business, he bought 320 acres on the Terre Coupee Prairie and built the handsome two-story Italianate style home on this site, within 1 mile of his brother John’s home.
The unusual home on Walnut Road in New Carlisle’s Hamilton area is beautifully preserved. The home is of irregular plan, built with a flat roof and stone foundation in a wooded knoll with large oak and maple trees. The small barn next to the house has a gable roof and cupola. There is a larger barn to the east of the house.
Although Reynolds homesteaded on the land in 1861, one record shows that the home may have been built in 1875. In time, James was the owner of about 2,100 acres in St. Joseph and LaPorte counties, all of which were well-improved and valuable farms. As stated above, he and his brother John owned property in other states as well.
During the Civil War, James was physically unable to pass the requisite examination to become a soldier, but, loyal to the cause, he furnished a substitute who was liberally compensated and assisted toward the support of the wives and widows left at home. He was elected president of the First National Bank in Buchanan, Michigan in 1890. He and his brother John formed a strong attachment for each other, traveled extensively together for both business and pleasure. Both were popular and prominent citizens of St. Joseph County.
After James’s wife Nancy died, their daughter Zurelda, with her husband Dr. A.N. VanRyper and family, moved into the home with her father. When he died in 1906, Zurelda inherited the home. Both parents (James and Nancy Reynolds) are buried at Hamilton cemetery. Zurelda’s family may have lived in the home until close to 1927 when records show the Farmers State Bank sold the home to John Emery.
According to New Carlisle resident, Mary Clendenen, the home was known for some time as the John Emery estate. When Emery was killed in an auto accident in 1943, Arnold Miller, Sr. purchased and rented the house, making it into two apartments. Mary and her husband Lowell (Wegie) Clendenen bought the big farmhouse in January 1950 and lived there with al four of their children for close to 17 years.
When the Clendenen clan moved in, they had to temporarily live on one side of the house until the rental contract expired for the other tenants. The tenants had an interesting occupation- one of them made caskets in the basement and the other made linings upstairs.
The house included the farm that was 200 acres at the time. Wegie worked in a factory to keep it all running. Cows were milked for time and they also had steers, sheep, and hogs. The crops were wheat, corn, and soybeans. Eventually, the Clendenens rented all but five acres of the land.
Although this was a great home to the children, Mary remembers the difficulty of heating the old house. The basement, all brick, was the support for the house. When asked, Mary laughingly would always say it was a 17-room house because there 11 rooms in the basement- one for canning, a furnace room, junk room, tank for water, etc. and one was used for cub scout meetings. One county record mentions that the basement was divided into prison cells during the Reynolds time, so prisoners could be used to work on the farm.
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