"Sure. It's the Recorder of Deeds Office. Go on over. They won't be busy right now."
(It's handy living in the county seat, with the courthouse just a few blocks away.)
So I went and inquired. And found out some things I hadn't expected to learn.
The legend around my neighborhood is that the land was a fruit farm up until 1925 or so. That about that time, the old farming couple died and their grown children didn't want to take on the orchards. That the heirs platted the land and sold it off for building lots, and barring the original farmhouse across the street and the old carriage house down the block, all the dwellings here date from the late 1920s or thereafter.
Well. That's not what it says at the Recorder of Deeds.
The area may well have been a fruit farm-- the plat is called "Groveland Plan." But it was platted and registered in June of 1889.
As for ownership of my lot* and its "appurtenances," it goes like this:
Prior to his death in November 1911, it was owned by Edward J. Allison. It then passed to his children, with a life-interest held by his widow Margaret M. Allison.
19 June 1916, Margaret M. Allison and her adult children Margaret and Dwight liquidated all their considerable property in the plat for the benefit of their minor brother and sister, selling "my" lot to Romaine A. Wilkinson and his wife Laura D.
15 April 1920, the Wilkinsons sold the property to George Henry and Cora Lezonia Jeffrey.
16 April 1920, the Jeffreys sold it to Laurie H. and Kathryn G. McLaughlin.
(There must be a story here. Were the McLaughlins family to the Jeffreys? Was Kathryn a Jeffrey by birth?).
This much I learned from actually looking at the recorded deeds. What follows is from the clerk's print-out:
1 January 1930, Kathryn G. McLaughlin purchased the property (from the estate?) for $4,600.
The next day, 2 January 1930, she sold it to Kathryn C. McLaughlin (her daughter??) for $1.
30 November 1981, Kathryn C. McLaughlin sold the property to Mary K. Soltis for $45,000.
25 June 1987, it was purchased for $1 by Mary Kathryn and James Neri (Hmmm. Are Mary K. Soltis and Mary Kathryn Neri one and the same? I suspect so). These are my POs-1, my Victorianizing previous owners. (Bless their hearts!)
28 February 1997, the Neris sold the land and improvements to my immediate POs, John A. and Kate A. Carpenter for $96,500.
And on 28 August 2003, I, Kate H., bought it from them.
Do you see a pattern here? It was so astonishing to the Deeds clerk that she dropped everything to help me search. Ever since 1920, this property has been owned by someone named Kathryn/Katherine or Kate!
Too strange . . .
But as to the house itself, the Deeds clerk brought up an assessment document stating that it was built in 1916! And she was anxious to point out that it might be older than that and probably is.
What difference does it make the the Sow's Ear is at least ten years older than I thought it was?
It's a matter of spirit as I go about the improvements. It assures me that I'm not abusing the original intention of the house by redoing it with a Craftsman or Arts and Crafts feel. Before, I felt I needed to curb my enthusiasm: after all, I'd tell myself, the house could actually date from the 1930s; maybe I should be going for that sort of style. But no. Now I know my instincts were correct.
And now I know what to look for for examples and inspiration.
There's a lot more I can find out, but that's all I had time for today.
The immediate remaining mystery is, why didn't I run over to the courthouse before and find this out a whole lot sooner?
*My land is actually portions of two lots of the original 1889 plat, but for style's sake, I call it one lot.