HISTORIC HOMES OF HERKIMER COUNTY
THE RALPH D. EARL HOME
Originally Published January 4, 1949
Thank you to Beth A. Brewer, publisher of the Evening Telegram, for permission to reprint historical articles on our site.
The venerable and imposing residence of Mr. and Mrs. Ralph D. Earl at 138 W. German St. is not only one of the most stately of Herkimer homes but also one of the most historic. It was originally the residence of Dr. William Petry of Revolutionary War fame, paternal great-grandfather of the present owner, Ralph D. Earl and the property, now comprising 19 acres, dates back even further to 1765, the year the doctor emigrated to this country from Germany.
The architecture of the house does not conform to any defined pattern, having been renovated and extended to suit the wishes of the various members of the family who have owned it during the past century and a half. The French mansard roof was added as a third-story in 1874 and served as a ballroom where the reels and schottisches of the period were danced. The Colonial style porch was added about the turn of the century.
The present Earl homestead was built in 1804 by Dr. Petry after an earlier house on the same site had burned. Evidences of its great age may be found in the basement where the original 10 by 10 beams, hand hewn from the white oaks on the estate and hand wrought iron nails may be seen.
The builder of the house, Dr. Petry, was only 32 at the time his liberal spirit directed his steps to America as the only asylum for the oppressed but already he had acquired considerable reputation in Germany. Born Dec. 7, 1733 in Nierstein, Germany, he was educated in medical colleges at Manheim and Strasburg and then served as principal in charge of the field hospital in the army of Frederick the Great of Prussia.
After coming to this country, Dr. Petry soon became one of the leading surgeons of the Valley and was active in civic and political affairs. He married Salome Wolff, daughter of John Wolff of Crosby's Manor.
During the Revolutionary Was he was surgeon in the Tryon County Militia under Col. Frederick Fisher and fought in the Battle of Oriskany in 1777 as captain of a company. It is interesting to note that he dressed General Herkimer's leg on the battlefield but did not concur with his colleague, a young French surgeon, who amputated the General's leg below the knee several days after it was shattered at Oriskany though unable to save the General's life by doing so.
Dr. Petry died Aug. l6, 1806 after playing a prominent role in the early days of the village and county. He served as treasurer of the Reformed Church for years. Many of his surgical instruments are on display in the Herkimer County Hisorical Society building.
Margaret Petry, daughter of the doctor, born at the homestead, became the bride of John Earl and mother of Samuel and Robert, both likewise born at the homestead, as were Ralph Earl and his brothers and sister, now deceased, in the next generation. Samuel Earl, father of Ralph and his brother, Robert, were both attorneys and practiced law together in this village. Robert achieved distinction as Chief Judge of the State Court of Appeals, a position to which he was appointed in '1892. He was also one of the founders and first president of the Herkimer County Historical Society as well as founder and donor of the Herkimer Free Library.
Ralph D. Earl, present owner, is an attorney and chairman of the board of directors of the Standard Furniture Co. of which his son, Samuel D. Earl, likewise an attorney, is president.
Picture and Article Copyright © 1949 Herkimer Evening Telegram
Copyright © 2001 Betsy Voorhees
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