There’s the old and well-worn phrase, “If these walls could talk.” It could be applied to an old farmhouse no one has lived in for likely more than 50 years on CR 1050N, east of Syracuse-Webster Road, south of Syracuse.
Beyond repair and in decay for more than half a century, the farmhouse — not visible from the road this time of the year due to the weeds and foliage — is still part of a family heritage dating back to the 1870s locally. A heritage originating in Germany.
Doyle Kolberg, who lives on a farm to the south on CR 1000N and owns the property of the farmhouse on 1050N with his brother, Eric, and sister, Becky Mangan, said no one has lived in the house since likely the late 1950s. But the approximately 80 acres connected to it has been farmed by the family since the 1870s and is still farmed today.
Primarily two families — Kolberg and Hibner — are part of the more than 130 year heritage. August Hibner came to the United States somewhere around 1870 and later requested his wife, Carolina Kolberg Hibner, join him. The couple came from the German town of Stolp, a part of Germany now belonging to Poland.
As a side note, Doyle Kolberg noted there is a town near Stolp known as Kolberg that was part of a Nazi propaganda film released in 1945 near the end of World War II. “It (film) talked about how they (town) had repulsed Napoleon’s army, which was absolutely not true,” he said. “They were about to lose the war and were trying to get the young men to join the army.”
August and Carolina had a son named Albert Hibner, half brother to Henry Kolberg, great-grandfather of Doyle Kolberg. Henry had a brother, Charles Kolberg. “Charlie is the one who lived in the farmhouse (on 1050N),” Doyle said, estimating the house was built in approximately 1900.
Charles came to the U.S. from Germany in 1876 and while en route a son, Rinard, was born. Rinard later lived in a house on CR 950N, west of Syracuse-Webster Road.
Doyle noted the 80 acres was split between Charles, Albert and Henry Kolberg. Arthur Kolberg, Doyle’s grandfather, inherited the land. Berton Kolberg, Doyle’s father, then became owner before it was passed along to Doyle and his brother and sister.
The last Kolberg to live in the farmhouse on 1050N was Mary Lois Byrd, sister to Berton Kolberg. “I’m guessing she still lived there in the late 1940s when Arthur (Kolberg) still owned it,” Doyle said, adding Byrd is still living in South Bend in her mid 90s.
Male Kolbergs born in Kosciusko County have been few since the 1870s. Doyle noted his father was the only boy of eight children and other generations have had only one male born, too, he added.
Abandoned farmhouses are not as common as, for example, barns. Doyle guessed the family may not have been able to pay to have the house razed when they moved out. He also noted the area is snake infested as it is close to a marshy area. “That area used to be known as a ‘snake haven,’” he said, not exactly making it an attractive place to live.
Also, some may not be aware there used to be a county road connecting 1050N with 1000N, he said. The road has been closed several years and is now a private driveway.
The old farmhouse apparently established a pattern. Some nearby houses were built in a very similar manner of a T shape upstairs, a few downstairs rooms to match the upstairs and then sort of a summer kitchen with a wrap around porch.
Though in disrepair, the farmhouse still has ties to a family heritage within it.