The Stearns Family
Lyman Stearns (born March 11, 1808) was the son of Jesse & Betcy (Gilson) Stearns, of Walpole, New Hampshire. He married Rhoda Ann Graves on September 8th, 1834, and came to Copley, Ohio on their “wedding tour” to visit his brother, John Cooledge Stearns, a noteworthy abolitionist. They moved to Copley in 1835 and then to Parma in 1856. Sometime between 1835 and 1855 they constructed a Yankee Barn. In 1855, the Stearns farmhouse was completed and the Stearns family moved in.
The farmhouse is representative of the Greek Revival style of architecture, popular throughout the United States prior to the Civil War. Our young country, which adopted much of it’s form of government from the Greeks, was also inspired by the “recent discoveries” of many Greek temples and antiquities.
Like most Greek Revival buildings, the original farmhouse structure had symmetrical, evenly spaced, multi-paned windows, substantial cornices that extend into gable ends as “returns”, and a roof with low pitched gables, similar to those of Greek temples. Also, it was, and is, painted “classically” white. It is one of the oldest remaining wooden houses in Ohio.
The Gibbs Family
West Side Cleveland meat processor Earl C. Gibbs and his family bought the Stearns farm in 1919 and built the newer house in 1920. The family continued to graze cattle here through the 1970s, by which point the Parma suburbs had completely surrounded them. The City of Parma purchased the property from the Gibbs family in 1980 to preserve this unique remnant of Parma’s rural heritage. The Parma Area Historical Society has since maintained it as a working educational and historic farm.
The following is excerpted from a conversation with Earl and Eliza Miller Gibbs, August 12, 1972, by Norma Grady Fillipic of the Parma Regional Library.
When Earl and Eliza Gibbs came here in 1919, Parma was still rural farm country. There was no gas, water or electricity. The nearest grocery store was Adlers Grocery at Pearl and Ridge Roads. A dinky trolley ran on State Road from Brookpark Road to Bean Road (now Ridgewood Drive) and Ridge Road was paved on only one half of its width. The first gasoline station going north from Bean Road was by the Brooklyn bridge on Pearl Road.
The elementary school for the Gibbs children was Pearl Road school on Pearl Road. There was also a District school at Ridge and Ridgewood Drive and in 1919, twelve children graduated from Parma’s high school on Ridge Road. High school students walked distances as far away as Wallings Road (3 1/3 miles) to school each day. In fact just about everyone walked wherever they had to go. The only public transportation to downtown Cleveland was a through-bus to Cleveland, with very long waiting times in-between.
Earl Gibbs bought a brand new Ford for $360.00 and his boys learned to drive quickly. You didn’t need a drivers license and there was plenty of space to practice. When he purchased the Ford, it was with a promise that if they sold enough Fords, Gibbs would receive a rebate, a sales idea unheard of in its time. (This unprecedented sales idea, happened again in the auto industry in 1974 to bolster the sales of new cars in a lagging economy). Gibbs used the front seat of his Ford for his wife and family and the back seat for his meat deliveries (The Earl C. Gibbs Co., est. 1911), and Henry Ford did sell enough new Fords that year so Earl Gibbs got his rebate—$60.00.
All week long Earl Gibbs hauled cattle in his open staked truck, but on Saturday it would be scrubbed clean. On Sunday mornings he would start out and pick up every child along the way and take them to Sunday school at the Presbyterian church on Pearl Road. In the winter time he would simply put a canvas over the top and continue to pick up the children. Earl Gibbs did this every Sunday without fail from 1922 through 1937.
Mr. & Mrs. Gibbs raised a small number of beef cattle on their 48 acre farm on Ridge Road. Mr. Gibbs said he just kept enough there to keep the land clear. There are still cattle there today. He had a good friend, Fred Geist, across the road who had forty dairy cows on his 100 acres and also made maple syrup- the best in town.