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The Michael Camp House

Milestones Vol 28. No. 4

by James G. Camp III

The Michael Camp house as it appears today.

Michael Camp Jr., the eldest child of Michael and Barbara (Schlesman) Camp, was born in Germany in 1828. He came to this country in 1832, and later located in Rochester along with his parents, a sister, Mary who was born while crossing the ocean and his Uncle John H. Camp Sr.. The family at this period was involved in the operation of several hotels on Water Street. Michael's other siblings were a sister, Elizabeth, who died in Germany; Mary(Miller) mentioned above; and born in this country were Catherine (Frich), Christian and Martin (twins), Margaret (Dawson), Henry James, Barbara (Robinson) and John.

In his youth Michael learned the trade of molding brick, and in 1847, with his Uncle John built the Rochester Hotel on Water Street. The bricks were burned in the backyard using the clay taken from the cellar. He operated the hotel with his Uncle until the 1850s when Michael bought John out. John H. Camp Sr. continued in the hotel business locating in the Point Hotel, and renaming it the National Hotel, possibly the oldest hotel in Rochester, built in 1837 by John and Charles Boles.

Michael also had a position as a clerk at the Point Hotel (National) prior to its being taken over by his Uncle John. It was then operated by John Buchler for a short period of time before he died(a very short time, in fact only two days) - Michael later married Mrs. John Buchler, whose maiden name was Magdaline Weise. She was born in Switzerland and was married twice before. Her children by her previous marriages were Margaret, Mary and John Zerker; and Emma, Caroline, William and Frederick Buchler. Michael and Magdalena had only one child, Henry M. Camp in 1853. Magdalena Camp died January 4, 18 78. Michael then married Catherine (Mauser) Smith, widow of John Smith. She is pictured in front of the house with Michael. (Circa late 1890s) Michael exchanged the Rochester Hotel in 1862 with Lewis Schneider for the Pavilion Hotel, later named the Saint James; and Michael continued it's operation until 1886. Schneider operated a meat market in the old hotel afterward. C. Lewis and Mary S. Schneider were Matilda (Tillie) Camp's parents.

On June 11, 1870, Michael bought a two acre farm on the southeast side of Adams Street situated partly in Rochester Township from William Johnson for $1500.00, whereon he erected his brick home. He had purchased four acres adjacent to this property in 1859. It was this author's original opinion that the brick were burned on site as in the construction of the Rochester Hotel. Michael had been a brick maker in his youth but was now 43 years of age. With brick being commercially available from Agner's Brick Yard in Rochester, his financial status and the mix of the quality of those present at the location, the brick used in the construction of the walls were probably purchased while some may have been made on site and used as seconds or for walkways. The walls are sixteen inches thick with its gables containing massive chimneys.

The eight original sash type windows still operate while transoms and opening side lights are, at this time, still in the hallway. Six fireplaces heated the house with a summer kitchen located in the basement which was built with a center passageway wide enough to accommodate livestock during extreme cold with double doors at both ends. A u-shaped stairway to the first floor was narrow enough to discourage livestock from passing and now prevents anything larger than a bushel basket being moved up or down the stairs.

Originally heated with coal, the house has a first floor center hallway with ten foot ceilings and a twelve by five foot opening over the beautiful straight staircase with all its original woodwork.

The second floor hallway is just as impressive. Lumber including fine hardwoods would have been available from William Miller and Sons in Rochester, possibly owned by his sister Mary's husband's family.

Natural gas lighting and heaters replaced coal fireplaces at the turn of the century, most likely supplied by Rochester Heat and Light, one of Henry M. Camp's enterprises. This was followed by electricity. In 1928, an annex was built on the southern exposure using the existing doorways to provide two bathrooms. Gravity air/coal heat replaced the fireplaces and a kitchen replaced the eastern sun porch. In the 1940s the kitchen was remodeled, oil replaced coal for heat and the front porch was replaced. The second floor windows were removed, relocated, and replaced while a dormer /kitchen was added. All of the bricks were painted white. Still the property resembled a farm with a barn for polo ponies and a chicken coop, while the Henry Camp Plan divided the fields. Michael built the red duplex house going west on Adams Street. Afterward Henry M. built the other six, all for tenement use at the time but later gifted to family. In the 1960s and 70s, the integrity of the house suffered even more. The shutters were removed. The grape arbor surrendered its nourishing soil to relocate the barn, which now shelters, of all things, automobiles! Its last remaining pastures were sold only to have buildings encroach its southern face. Now the seventh and eighth generation are in the process of a functional restoration of the house. The ninth is surveying his claim to the great hallway and passages beyond.

Three of Michael's four brothers and a first cousin fought in the Civil War. In the preparation of this narrative some research was done in this respect and to this author's knowledge, has not yet been recorded in any family history. The youngest, John, enlisted in Company 1, 140th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in August, 1862, and died at Washington DC from wounds he received at Cold Harbor, Va., June 1, 1864. Christian, second oldest brother, enlisted in the 130 Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry in August, 1862. His records have been requested from the Pennsylvania Archives along with the records of their first cousin, John H. Camp Jr., Company F 14th Regiment Pennsylvania Militia. While other family members were defending the Union's cause, according to family tradition middle brother Henry James Camp was in Missouri, a swing state at the time, and was either conscripted or enlisted for the Confederacy. According to tradition he rode with Col. William C. (Bloody Bill) Anderson and a self proclaimed Colonel, Captain William Charles Quantrill. This can be substantiated, according to tradition, by a subsequent trip to Glasgow, Pennsylvania, by Frank James, Jesse's older brother, to visit and spend a few days with Henry. This attracted much attention among the young children in the neighborhood causing them to peek in the windows of the house. It is not known when Henry was in the Missouri - Kansas area or specifically what he did, as it can be said of parts of this campaign, (Lawrence, Kansas in particular), there was little distinction between war and murder.

This author followed the possibility of animosities among family members at the time and found that Henry was disowned by the family and located in Glasgow, according to his grandson Charles H. Camp Jr. However, on June 13, 1888, to resolve a suit brought by the Hall brothers against Henry James Camp and W. H. Bennett Contracting, Michael Camp Jr. bought the Glasgow house on Main Street at sheriff's sale for $455 and re-deeded his brothers home back to the family.

Shirley Camp Belke recalls hearing her Great Grandfather Henry M. Camp soliciting help for the Glasgow Camps in the 1930's from her father J. Gordon Camp. "They're your cousins; we have to help them," were the words used in the back yard of the old house.

Fraternally, Henry James Camp was the Master of Glasgow Lodge #485 Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania in 1895, which at that time was still located in the Borough above a hotel. The lodge later relocated to Midland and finally to Shippingport, Pa.. Freemasonry teaches and stands for the worship of God; truth and justice; personal responsibility for human welfare; charity and good will to all mankind, more especially to Brothers of the Craft. Henry M. Camp was the Master of Rochester Lodge #229 in 1888 and 1889. When he chided his grandson in the back yard to help his family, Gordon was not yet a Mason. Had he been, there would have been no rebuke. J. Gordon Camp was made a Mason in 1936 and went on to serve as Master of Rochester Lodge in 1945. As it was in the beginning, is now and forever shall be a fraternity of brothers.

James G. Camp III, P.M., Rochester Lodge #229, 04-16-03