Johnson Pentoney Farm will stay in the family

by Trish Rudder

Many Morgan Countians have families with deep generational roots. The Garvin Johnson family is no exception.

Local resident Donna Johnson Didawick said her family has lived in Morgan County for generations and believes her original descendants were Scandinavian who migrated to England.

Didawick is the living heir to the Johnson Pentoney Farm east of Berkeley Springs.

With 42 windows and six outside doors, it was known as the “house with many windows and doors” in 1906 when the three- story farm house was built.

The house is situated along the top of a 300 ft. bluff with Sleepy Creek going two-thirds of the way around the farm, Didawick said.

The family was told it was one of the largest houses in Morgan County.

About six miles east of Berkeley Springs off Rt. 9, the 133-acre property on both sides of Sleepy Creek was purchased by C.I. Pentoney from John Goodman in November 1905 for $1,500, according to the Morgan County Deed Book No. 49.

Pentoney timbered the property and one of his customers was Mr. Roy Kesecker. “He built a barn which is still standing along Rt. 9 on the left-hand side before Spruce Pine Hollow Park,” Didawick said.

In 1942, Didawick’s father, Garvin Johnson and mother, Opal Householder Johnson, purchased the 133 acres, excepting one-half acre for the Goodman cemetery and 13 and one-half acres to John Goodman, according to the deed.

The first floor has nine-foot ceilings and consisted of two large living rooms with two front doors, a dining room, kitchen and one bedroom with a clothes closet.

Mr. Pentoney had nine children and he built five bedrooms on the second floor, three with clothes closets and a broom closet.

The third floor stayed unfinished and is large enough for an apartment.

A cellar is under half of the house. The house has a front porch and an L-shaped back porch.

Pentoney built an attached covered breezeway to the smoke house and a small garage for a buggy or small car on the end. He installed carbine (gas) lighting throughout the house with brackets on the walls to hold the lights.

The original outside of the house was wood, painted white with green trim. In the 1960s pink and gray siding was put on.


A working farm

Didawick and her sister, Mildred, grew up there.

The family of four lived on the first floor and one of the large living rooms was turned into the girls’ bedroom.

She said it was a working farm and the family raised corn, wheat and tomatoes, which was the “cash crop” and sold to the Kesecker Tomato Factory close by.

Her mother also grew tomato plants which were sold to other families throughout the county. They had a big garden and fruit trees. They had cattle, pigs and chickens. The parents and the girls did all the work with no outside help. It was hard work, and Didawick said she never wanted to work on a farm again. She lived there until 1957, when she was married.

She said her parents lived in the house and farmed the property until the late 1970s when they built a new home on the farm. The farm and two houses were divided at their deaths to their two daughters, Didawick and Mildred Close.

Didawick inherited the property in 2011.

“This is not for sale and will always stay in the family,” she said.

“Our son will inherit the property,” Didawick said. She said her son and his family are planning to return to Berkeley Springs.

“Mark will remodel it and live there with his family.”