Dennis Dean’s Limestone House
Dennis Dean’s Limestone House
by Martha (Marti) Dean Fritzen
NOTE: we have many other photos that will be inserted with this article soon – stay tuned ! !
Dennis Dean was born in New York state in 1824.
Forty years later in 1864 he moved to Saline Ford, Nebraska (now Ashland)
and built a grist mill on Salt Creek (now between 11th and 12th Streets) at the spot
where the ‘new’ high bridge goes over Salt Creek & the BNSF railroad,
connecting Ashland NE to Highways US 6 & NE 66.
Before coming to Nebraska he had lived in New York, Michigan, Indiana and Iowa.
When he married his first wife in 1843 he did some farming and in 1849 he started running mills
and by 1852 he bought his first mill and continued running mills.
He sold the Ashland mill in 1883.
He farmed and also sold lumber, coal and farm machinery during
and after the time that he ran the Ashland mill.
In 1885 he left Ashland and moved to Morrilton, Arkansas
where he bought a saw mill, 1000 acres of timberland and a locomotive.
He produced lumber for two years before he returned to Ashland.
Dennis was a prominent person in the Ashland community.
He was the founder of the Baptist Church * *
He was the first County Clerk of Saunders County and held the office of Justice of the Peace.
In March 1870 he was elected Chairman of the Board of village trustees at their first meeting.
He helped organize a bank and served as its Vice President.
* *see Ashland NE Churches page (Baptist Church) for more information
On January 16, 1865 Dennis bought a quarter section of land.
The legal description is SW1/4 Section 1 Township 12 Range 9. He bought it for taxes and paid $45.00.
This section includes most of East Ashland except for a half-block strip of land west of 6th Street.
Its northern border is probably Birch Street and the western border is 14th Street.
Approximately 1/3 of the section is outside the city limits south of East Ashland.
A small portion is on the west side of Salt Creek.
Dennis’ house was built on Block 16 of the Dennis Dean Addition in that quarter section of land.
Block 16 was just north of the Dennis Dean Residential Lot which was a four-square-block area.
Its borders were 9th Street (now named Dennis Dean Road) on the east,
Fir Street on the south and 11th Street on the west.
Eleventh Street isn’t on the map but it is approximately even with the east end of the Silver Street bridge.
The border on the north was Dale Street.
Although it was called the Residential Lot, he had farm buildings on it.
He built two barns, a corncrib, ice house, chicken house, and blacksmith shop on this lot.
He raised cattle and chickens there as well as having a large garden including grapes.
The Residential Lot and Block 16 were not platted into the usual smaller lots
so this is the only legal description we have for Dennis Dean’s property.
Click here > The old maps of Ashland (maps are in .pdf form)
When Dennis was about 65 he made a list of what he had done during his life.
In that list he states that he built his house in 1865.
That date is probably correct since he bought the 160 acres of land in that year.
The house measured approximately 60 feet by 30 feet. The walls were 18 inches thick
and the windows were 6 panes over 6 panes except for the small ones upstairs under the eaves.
There was a front porch that faced west and stretched the entire length of the house.
There were two chimneys, one at the north end of the building that went down to the basement
and a center one that went down to the living room floor.
The woodwork and floors were made from hand-planed walnut.
The basement extended under the whole house with
one outside entrance and one inside at the center of the house.
There is not very much information on the rooms in the house.
The photos of the family taken inside the house show Dennis
in front of his desk talking to family members.
Another photo of the same room shows Dennis and his wife, Drucilla,
seated by a small table in front of the desk.
Their daughter, May, and son, Roy, are standing behind them.
In this picture we see that the desk is in a small room and that Dennis
may have considered this room to be his office.
There is a photo of his sons sitting around a large dining table.
Another picture shows a variety of family members sitting at the same table.
More of the room can be seen and a window is visible so we know
that the table is in a separate room and not part of the kitchen.
A family picture taken ^ on Dennis’ 80th birthday was probably taken in the living room.
The furnace room was in the northeast corner of the basement.
There was a sofa there where Dennis could take his after dinner naps.
He was away from the noise of the family and it would have been warm.
The stones used to build the house were rectangular limestone.
When the house was taken down some of the stones were used
to construct a commercial building just north of 120 N. 14th Street.
That building burned and several of the stones were saved and
stored by the Saline Ford Historical Preservation Society.
There was a cistern on the east side of the house with a sandstone wash house built above.
Dennis used spring water to fill his cistern and piped it in from springs that were 4 or 5 blocks away
on or near the property which now has the address of 709 Dennis Dean Road.
The old maps of Ashland had a street going through
about where that house is and it was called Spring Street.
This street was platted but was never actually there.
Click here > The old maps of Ashland(maps are in .pdf form)
Dennis Dean’s property appears to extend east to the Beetison Addition,
where the Beetison Home & Mansion was built on the crest of the hill.
Israel Beetison built his home in 1874 – 1875, according to family records.
East Ashland is quite hilly and the water would have had to travel uphill
to get to Dennis’ house and to his cattle on the Residential Lot.
Lillian (Dean) Bailey, who was his great granddaughter,
believed that he must have used a hydraulic ram to move the water up the hills.
“This small device is a cyclic water pump powered by hydropower.
It functions as a hydraulic transformer that takes in water
at one ‘hydraulic head’ (pressure) and flow-rate,
and outputs water at a higher hydraulic-head and lower flow-rate.
The device utilizes the water hammer effect to develop pressure that allows a portion of the input water
that powers the pump to be listed to a point higher than where the water originally started.”
(definition found in Wikipedia)
The first addition or change the family made to their house
was to convert part of the front porch to a room for Drusilla’s plants.
They called it the conservatory and it was on the southwest corner of the house.
In 1874 he built a brick addition to the house on the northeast corner.
It included a new kitchen and a bathroom. The water tank for the toilet was six feet high on the wall.
Ralph Dean, Dennis’ grandson, said that that was the first indoor toilet he saw when he was a child.
The bathtub was made of zinc and had a wooden cover for when it wasn’t being used.
The steam heat and hard coal furnace may have been installed at this time.
In 1870 the railroad built a line through Ashland and nearly went through Dennis’ house.
The raiload was built by the Burlington – Missouri Railroad – who extended their rail lines
from Plattsmouth to Lincoln and Kearney (then known as Fort Kearny).
The BMR was later bought out and merged with the C. B. & Q.
About the same time a rail line was built from Ashland to Schuyler & beyond.
We invite you to view our page entitled Railroads of Ashland.
We will detail the (4) rail lines that served Ashland in the past.
The tracks were very close to the Mr. Dean’s house ! !
In the photograph above, there is a road next to the picket fence
and the railroad tracks are next to the road.
The railroad wanted the land Dennis’ house was on, but he made a bargain with them.
He furnished their trains with water and they let him stay in the house as long as he lived.
Dennis Dean’s personal blacksmith shop on his property
Dennis Dean’ Grist Mill in foreground – notice the bridge in the background – one of many over Salt Creek in Ashland, over the years
Dennis Dean died in 1908. The house was dismantled by the family in 1917.
It appears that many parts of the house were recycled.
My mother, Lillian (Dean) Bailey, had just a little memory of the house.
(see Lillian’s recollections, below)
” In 1917 I was 5 years old. That makes it possible for me to remember
something about Dennis Dean’s house.
I can recall walking in the front door and being amazed that there were
holes in the floor and I could see down into the basement.
The reason for the holes in the floor were that the finishing floor
had already been torn up as the house
was gradually being removed from the railroad’s property.”
“I walked on through to the back door and on to the back porch.
There was the wash house built of sandstone and beneath.
It was the famous cistern from which Dennis furnished water for the railroad.”