ARCHIVES | defender of the people
(By Stephen Kelley for The People’s Defender)
Thomas and Sarah Kirker first settled in Eagle Creek in late 1794. According to local lore, the Kirkers were the first permanent white settlers in Liberty Township and possibly Adams County. Their first home was a log structure, typical of those built by early settlers in the Ohio Valley. Over the years, the Kirkers managed to clear much of their acreage and begin farming.
In order to supplement their income during these early years, Kirker worked for his friend Nathaniel Massie as a chain hauler on Massie’s survey crew. In 1797 Massie was district surveyor for the Military District of Virginia with Thomas Kirker as one of his chain bearers and Duncan McArthur as marker. A rather distinguished crew! Two future governors of Ohio and one who declined the governorship when offered it. A number of plots of land that Kirker helped Massie survey adjoined Kirker’s Eagle Creek farm and were later acquired by Thomas and Sarah and their descendants.
In 1805, the Kirkers hired Thomas Metcalf to build them a new house. Metcalf, better known to his friends as the “Old Stonehammer”, was a stonemason by trade and was responsible for the construction of several stone structures in Adams County. He later moved to Kentucky, became involved in the state’s political system, and was elected to serve as the tenth Governor of the Commonwealth.
Metcalf built a one-and-a-half-storey house for the Kirkers that stands today. Measuring thirty-two feet wide and nineteen feet deep, it is constructed of locally quarried dolomite and limestone, the chisel marks still clearly visible one hundred and eighty years later. The massive walls have an average thickness of fourteen to sixteen inches. This beautiful old house has remained in the Kirker family since it was built and has hardly been touched. All doors, floors, window frames and sashes as well as all door handles and latches are original. The only significant alteration to this house occurred a few years before the Civil War when the south end of the structure was removed and a large two-story addition was built by George Kirker, the Governor’s youngest son .
Other attractive features of this iconic home are its full size basement with the floor being exposed bedrock. And, unlike most houses built during this era in southern Ohio, the Kirker house has a centrally located chimney stack instead of matching end chimneys. Shown is a contemporary view of the Governor Thomas Kirker House built in 1805. This structure was nominated and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.