AMHERST — It’s a fair guess that most of the traffic buzzing past the wooded entrance leading to the Jacob Shupe Homestead has little idea what lies at the end of the twisting gravel driveway.
But motorists traveling Cooper Foster Park Road now will know that a treasure of the past lies at the end of that path, thanks to a historical marker that recognizes the early 19th-century home as the oldest residence in Amherst.
The yellow, Greek revival-style frame house that makes up one portion of the family home of Matt Nahorn and his parents, Bill and Diane, is filled with pieces of the past ranging from original wood plank floors and poplar siding to large pieces of bark-covered white oak serving as joists in the basement.
Matt Nahorn, a 26-year-old Oberlin College environmental studies graduate, has been intrigued by the home and its history, along with that of Jacob Shupe, since it became his family’s home in 1998.
Since that time, they have renovated and restored the home to maintain the character of the early 1800s house, which is in good condition for a structure standing for more than 200 years.
The historic house is part of a modern addition with a log cabin motif.
Preserved and recognized
Historical documentation and study by Nahorn, vice president of the Amherst Historical Society, and other area historians have confirmed the Shupe home to be the oldest frame dwelling in Amherst.
“It is possibly the oldest in the county, but that hasn’t been confirmed,” Nahorn said.
The original portion of the house most likely was constructed between 1812 and 1814, or shortly after the start of operations of the Amherst sawmill begun by Shupe, according to Jeff Sigsworth, a member of the Amherst Historical Society and president of the North Ridgeville Historical Society.
As for it possibly being the county’s oldest frame dwelling, Sigsworth writes: “I’m pretty sure that neither Columbia, Avon nor nearby (North) Ridgeville or Eaton Township have any existing frame homes older than the 1820s.”
Tax and property records along with two detailed histories of Lorain County add credence to the probability of the home’s historic stature.
Taxed at a value of $250 in 1826, the home sits on 15 acres of the original property purchased by Shupe that encompassed several hundred acres but dwindled over time as it was sold off piece by piece, according to Nahorn.
The site is protected through a land conservation easement by the Western Reserve Land Conservancy-Firelands District and the New Indian Ridge Museum Wildlife Preserve.
Abutting Beaver Creek, the area also is recognized for its historic value by the Amherst Historical Society and Lorain County Historical Society, and is listed on the Ohio Historic Inventory of Historic Properties.
“He jump-started the settlement of Amherst,” Nahorn said of Jacob Shupe, who is credited with establishing the area’s first saw and grist mills that were powered by waters of the nearby Beaver Creek.
The Shupe sawmill was one of the county’s three earliest sawmills, the others having been started in 1811 in Columbia Station and 1815 in Avon, according to Sigsworth.
Shupe and his wife, Catherine, raised 11 children in the home. Vintage pieces include an 1838 clock Nahorn acquired for $15 at an auction of items from the historic Cahoon House in Avon.
Wellington clockmaker Tim Simonson re-assembled the clock for display in a bedroom of the original homestead.
“It was in pieces in a bag,” Nahorn said.
When he isn’t delving into history, Nahorn’s interests include acting as a guide and naturalist at West River Paddle Sports in Vermilion.
A ‘historic’ basement
In addition to his ongoing research into the homestead, Nahorn devotes time to cataloging, displaying and adding to the thousands of artifacts ranging from stone axes, arrowheads and pottery shards to documents, paintings and other objects that fill the basement of the historic home and comprise the New Indian Ridge Museum.
The collection began with Raymond Vietzen, who lived for a time among the Sioux and Navajo and operated the former Indian Ridge Museum out of his Elyria home for years before it closed upon his death in the 1990s.
That collection today includes Jacob Shupe’s original gray sandstone headstone marking his gravesite in Amherst’s Cleveland Street Cemetery. Shupe died at age 54 in 1832 when he was fatally injured by a log that fell on him at his sawmill.
Preserved with the help of steel rods, the broken headstone sits next to photos of the larger headstone erected when Catherine Shupe was buried next to her husband in 1870 following her death at age 91.
The museum is not open to the public, but it is available
for tours by interested individuals, groups or historical organizations by contacting http://newindianridgemuseum.org.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.