SPENCER TOWNSHIP — When Bev and Tim Wyckoff decided to demolish an old farmhouse on their property, they never expected to discover so much history contained within the building’s walls.
On July 18, Bev Wyckoff watched as members of Strong Oaks Woodshop & Family, out of Front Royal, Va., disassembled the farmhouse piece by piece, preserving the wood for future use.
As owner Mike Schmiedicke and members of his family from West Michigan worked to take down the structure, they discovered that the insulation used within the walls was made from old newspapers dating back to the conclusion of World War I.
“It was thrilling,” Bev Wyckoff said. “We didn’t expect to find that at all. As soon as they discovered it, the Schmiedicke children gathered around and began reading the stories.”
The farmhouse was originally built in 1908 and the oldest newspaper discovered was an issue of the Grand Rapids Press from Oct. 24, 1914.
Also discovered was an issue of The Daily News from June 28 of 1951.
Wyckoff said the newspapers were likely added as insulation during remodeling projects throughout the building’s lifespan.
The Wyckoffs purchased the property in 1996, but its history dates back much further than that.
According to Bev, the 30 acres of land on either side of Morgan Mills Road was originally purchased by Charles Gross, who bought the land on Nov. 22, 1892 for a total of $325.
“He owned land from M-66 to Lincoln Lake Road,” she said. “He eventually subdivided it off and built his own farm right here.”
Bev said she was mesmerized by the newspapers that were found, as the articles largely pertained to the ending days of WWI.
“There are so many stories about the end of the war, about torpedo boats and military casualties, it’s history that came back to life for us,” she said
Bev’s son, Spencer, 16 said he was also surprised by the find.
“It was cool to see that they saved all of those newspapers rather than throw them away,” he said. “They used everything they could in building that house.
“It was like a step back in time. You get so caught up in the world, and then you work on something like this, where you find these old papers, and you see how much work went into building this house.”
Wyckoff said she was glad to donate the wood — Michigan white pine — to the Schmiedickes and the Strong Oaks company.
She said they will likely receive cremation urns made by the Schmiedickes from the wood.
As for the newspapers, Wyckoff said she is hoping to frame the most salvageable piece, the front page of the Grand Rapids Press from 1914.