It would be hard to tell our story without first sharing the story of our house. So here it goes:
Coleman House was built in 1879, by Mr. Jon LaFon. The house is described by historians as “an unadorned and rather plain Queen Ann style”, but most folks agree that the architecture is really quite interesting. The huge front gable gives the home a Queen Ann look, however the four massive columns are classic Tuscan. Inside, in the front parlor, the mantle and adjacent archways are from the earlier Federal period; which predates the house. It is widely believed that both the mantle and archways were part of an earlier home built on this property, and when it burned down they were salvaged and incorporated into the “new” house when it was built in 1879.
In 1912, Clell Coleman, a local business man and politician from an old Kentucky family, purchased the home from the LaFon’s for $6500. Clell had 10 children, but only 9 were living as the youngest baby died at birth. It was this house where Clell, and his wife Lulie, raised their children. Clell became sheriff of Mercer County in 1918. In 1923, he was elected Commissioner of Agriculture for the State of Kentucky, and elected to the office of State Auditor in 1927.
One of the largest business enterprises in Mercer County at that time was Clell Coleman & Sons, a partnership consisting of Clell and three of his sons: David Walter, Lee James and Jack. They owned and operated the roller flour mills, the lumber and coal yards and as dealers in grain and feed they handled 70,000 bushels annually – shipping grain and feed and trading and shipping livestock. It was a million dollar business in Burgin Kentucky!
Well, time passed and the Coleman kids grew up, got married and had children and then grandchildren and then great grandchildren. The house stayed in the family through WWI. During this time, the second and third floors were sectioned off into several small apartments and rented out. In 1952, the Coleman family sold the house, and for the next 55 years numerous local families lived their lives in the comfort of this old house; adding their own unique touches to its history. For instance, it’s been said that during the 60’s Doc Bailey was in a feud with his neighbor, Mr. Arnold, who lives in the old civil war house next door. Apparently, as the story goes, one day they got to drinking and fussing and fighting, and the next thing you know shots were fired. The bullet hole in the living room window is still there today. Oh the stories this old house could tell if the walls could talk!
By the time Dick and Marion Bauer bought the house in 1993, with the intention to restore it and open a bed and breakfast, the house had become a little run down. They spent 11 years working on the house. They pulled off years of old wallpaper and paint, replaced the roof and restored old original mantles; all while running a successful bed and breakfast. One of the most notable contributions the Bauer’s made was the construction of the carriage house. The work was done by their son Tom, and was built to reflect the architecture of the big house. Many of the unique features in the carriage house were designed using materials salvaged from the big house, such as bead board from the third floor and a shutter found in the attic. In 2004, the Bauer’s sold the house to Mike and Denise Merriman who continued to operate the bed and breakfast for 2 more years as Merriman Manor.
And now for the best part…..remember back to the Coleman’s and their many children and grandchildren and great grandchildren? Well, in 1913, Clell’s oldest son, David Walter, married a woman named Florence Nooe. They had 4 sons named Clell, D.W., Hunter Lee and Jack. These boys grew up, got married and had families of their own. Jack even became famous as a basketball star, and played on 2 NBA championship teams. After his career he came home, married a hometown girl and settled down to run his family business. He had twins, a boy and a girl, and eventually the son grew up and took over the family business. Following in his great grandfather Clell’s footsteps, little Jack also went in to politics and served for 14 years in the Kentucky House of Representatives. He married a time or two and had 2 children. In 1998, he met Cala Hays, a Kentucky girl by way of Texas, with Utah roots. They dated for a while and then got married. Together they raised their 5 children. Meanwhile, the old Coleman House was back on the market. Encouraged by older Coleman relatives to think about buying it, Jack and Cala took one look and immediately felt like they were coming home. They purchased the home in March of 2007, and began renovations. The entire kitchen was gutted and redesigned. Local craftsman, Aaron Moberly, was hired to build the bead board cabinets. He also designed and built the bar and mantle at Ballard’s, the old western saloon on the third floor.
Ballard Harris was Cala’s maternal grandfather. He was a third generation of pioneers who left Virginia in the middle 1800’s, and went west to settle in Utah. Ballard was a cowboy straight up! He never wore anything but Levi’s, boots and spurs and his dirty old cowboy hat. He was a local legend who always had a word of advice and a gallon of gas for folks who were traveling across the barren Utah desert. He was a storyteller with an art for telling tales on himself. He had a big laugh. His wife, Wava, was the post mistress of Cisco, Utah, and used to sort the mail for the town of 50 people behind a beautiful antique oak postal cabinet. When the post office in Cisco was closed, Ballard and Wava moved the postal cabinet down to Dewey, Utah; a tiny spot on the banks of the Colorado River. There it was displayed in a little gas station for 40 years.
Ballard died in 2005, and left the postal cabinet to his granddaughter, Cala. She and Jack knew that one day they would use it behind a bar in a room dedicated to showcasing the life of Ballard Harris. In the summer of 2007, Jack’s twin sister Jan died. She was only in the Coleman House one time before her death. Looking for a way to heal from this devastating loss, Jack and Cala began work on the third floor renovation.
The room was a huge mess. Used as storage for the last 60 years, there was a lot of black coal and grime, as well as cracks a mile wide. It took 55 cases of caulk and tons of paint to restore the original beadboard. Gas logs were installed, and the circle top window was uncovered. The floors turned out to be beautiful original poplar floors. After three months of working every night, the project was complete; right down to a glowing, neon orange Ballards sign. The final piece to put in place was the postal cabinet. By now the cabinet was in storage in Cedar City, Utah. So Jack and Cala flew to Las Vegas and rented a Budget truck to drive the cabinet back to Kentucky. Three days later, a crew met at the house to carry the pieces up to the top and set them in place. The room was complete and has turned out to be a favorite spot for family and friends to hang out.
Now time has passed, and the kids have grown up and moved on to lives of their own. The big house that has always had a crowd was beginning to feel pretty quiet. This was when Jack and Cala decided to open a bed and breakfast. It seems like a great way to share the story of “this old house”.