Hidden History: Homesteaders lay foundation for Osage County’s future

A cornerstone carved by William S. White reminds of the connection of the home’s past owners to its current inhabitants.

By Wendi Bevitt

Every home has a story. It is a standing memorial of the people that have lived and loved within its walls – each family tailoring it to meet their tastes and needs.

One Osage County family is seeing to preserve the original details that were lovingly added to their century-year-old home.

Michael and Sara Floyd bought their rural Osage County, Kan., home and 4.5 acres in 2014, and the home and barn were in much need of some love and attention. It is the Floyds’ goal to restore both structures back to their former glory.

Leona White and her husband, George Gingerich; photo thanks to Linda Goff.

Both the house and barn on the Floyd property were built by William S. White. William and his wife, Emma, were Stark County, Illinois, natives and moved to Kansas in the summer of 1878. The following December, they settled on the land now owned by the Floyds, and built the current structures in 1893.

The Whites were a farming family, and eventually their farm grew to contain hundreds of acres of land. Mr. White was described as an “honest, upright, sober and industrious citizen, ever ready to help in those things which tend for the benefit of his fellow-man”. William and Emma had four children that survived to adulthood: Frank, Addie, William, and Leona.

The present owners have named the property Bryarton Farm. Both Michael and Sara are trained artists and use their talents in every aspect of the house restoration. New to house renovation, the first projects they finished were on the second floor of the home, where the work was simply cosmetic. They found renovation guidance through their local library and YouTube instructional videos. After finding their confidence with the success of the first projects, they turned to the more complex matters of repairing and replacing the structural damage done by water and termites.

Three years into the project, the process is slow, but it is fitted around their lives and as Sara Floyd says, “real life never slows down”. Currently they are continuing the process of removing the vinyl siding and restoring the original wood elements on the exterior of the house. When weather conditions turn them indoors, the focus turns to finishing their authentic farm-style kitchen. They blog about their progress, and how to bring out the hidden potential in any home, at www.bryartonfarm.com.

The rural farmhouse on Bryarton Farms is currently undergoing siding restoration.

Grieved by forgotten farmsteads dotting the landscape, it has long been a dream of the Floyds to save an 1800s fixer-upper farmhouse surrounded by natural views.

A before and after photo of window and siding repair shows the Floyds’ eye for detail during restoration.

“We are passionate about saving a part of America’s heritage for future generations,” Sara said. “Our favorite part of this project has been soaking up the journey together. A family who plays, creates, and works together grows stronger. I imagine it is much like the White family who farmed this land together over 124 years ago.”

Sara and Michael keep the former owners in mind when making decisions about the restoration.

“When you gain insight into who the first owners were and what type of lifestyle they lived, you can start to understand many of their building decisions,” Sara said. “Researching the original owners of your historic home creates a connected relationship between you and your home.”

Connect to your home’s history

So how can you find out your own home’s hidden history? These steps will help you through the process:

  • Chain of title search – make sure you have the legal description of the property. The deed indexes at the register of deeds office at the county courthouse will be able to lead you on a trail to the first landowner.
  • Tax assessment rolls – for Osage County, these can be found in part at the Osage County Historical Society, in Lyndon, and also at the Schuyler Museum, in Burlingame. These records will be able to help you track new construction or additions to the home.
  • For properties within the city limits, check the Sanborn fire insurance maps. Maps for Kansas begin in 1883 and continue through 1967. Sanborn maps can be found online many times through your local library.
  • County plats and atlases can be found at www.kansasmemory.org. These will show the locations of residences on the property and if you’re lucky, a sketch of the farm, or even pictures of individuals.
  • City directories – you can find these at historical societies, or even libraries.
  • Census records or the agricultural census can provide insight into the previous owners.

Photos of remodeling thanks to Sara and Michael Floyd.


wendibevitt2016bWendi Bevitt is owner of Buried Past Consulting LLC. She has lived in Osage County for 18 years and her research interests include Osage County Civil War veterans and Osage County history.

Contact us: Osage County News | P.O. Box 62, Lyndon, KS 66451 | [email protected] | 785-828-4994 | Powered by Osage County, Kansas