Tracing the Family LegacyGershom & Lucy Lewis Gifford
Seven generation of Gifford-Blanchfield family members resided in this historic homestead, built in 1839 by Gershom and Lucy Gifford. Though briefly owned by nonfamily members, the house returned to its original builders' family a century later when Covington and Dorothy Blanchfield, a fifth generation Gifford descendent, purchased it in 1941 nd raised their two sons, Gerald and Robert, there. Gerald and his wife, Bette, took over operation of the adjoining farm and roadside fruit stand in 1955. Their children, Vicki and Rick, grew up in the house. Gerald was a well-known Harborcreek farmer who also served as Township Supervisor/Road Master (1974-86). He and Bette later spent their winters in Florida, where Vicki had moved in 1973, until retiring in 2000. Gerald died in 2001. Rick lived in the house continuously until his sudden death in 2014, at the age of 56. He had often expressed his vision that the beloved family homestead would eventually become a permanent home for the Harborcreek Historical Society and a piece of living history for future generations. In 2015, Bette honored Rick's generous wishes and lifelong affection for the historic family dwelling, when she donated it to Harborcreek Township. Under its stewardship, the municipal committed to preserve the Gifford-Blanchfield House as
the permanent home of the Harborcreek Historical Society, as a venue for community events, and for posterity.
Gershom and Lucy Lewis Gifford bought 120 acres from the original 2,000-acre Irvine's Reserve on October 12, 1839, for $3,600. They settled in harborcreek with their daughter, Rebecca; son, Washington Franklin; and his bride, Eunice Hotchkiss Gifford. Gershom and his son, along with local Lewis kinsfolk, built a large colonial-style homestead.
When Washington Franklin and Eunice welcomed their son, Horace Franklin, on May 1, 1847, three generations shared the residence.
Rebecca Gifford, who never married, inherited the homestead and 50 acres of the farm from her parents. On September 2, 1891, she signed a five-year mortgage with her uncle, Marcus Lewis, which allowed her to move out of the family homestead and into downtown Erie. She did this believing that her estate would remain safely in the family bloodline, but Marcus Lewis died in 1892, and when Rebecca died in 1894 without repaying her loan, the Gifford homestead and farm were sold in Erie's Orphans' Court two years later. It would be 45 years before the descendents of the Gifford family owned the property again.
Covington Allen & Dorothy Russell Blanchfield
A. and Dorothy R. Blanchfield, Gershom and Lucy's great-great granddaughter, returned the homestead and farm to the family on pril 7, 1941, when they bid $6,000 at a sheriff's auction. They updated the dilapidated farmhouse, installing indoor plumbing, and expanded production of the farm, opening a family-run fruit stand in 1949. Here, the couple raised two sons, Gerald "Jerry" Russell and Robert Allen Blanchfield. Covington worked for General Electric for nearly 30 years.
Gerald Russell & Bette A. Smith Blanchfield
Covington and Dorothy Blanchfield's eldest son, Gerald, married Bette A. Smith on February 26, 1955, at the First Presbyterian Church of the Covenant in Erie, where they first met. A full-time farming family, they raised their children, Gerald Rick and Vicki Lee, in the homestead.
The farmhouse and farm were sold to Gerald and Bette on October 13, 1970.
Gerald Rick Blanchfield and Vicki Lee Blanchfield
Gerald Russel Blanchfield died in late 2001, leaving his estate to Bette. She divided the house and farm, and gifted co-ownership of the house to their son, Gerald Rick, on January 21, 2003. Bette, Gerald Rick, and daughter, Vicki Lee, co-owned the farmland.
When Gerald Rick Blanchfield died suddenly on April 29, 2014, his mother Bette faithfully followed his wishes, deeding the Gifford-Blanchfield House and 1.81 acres to Harborcreek Township on October 16, 2015, for use by the Harborcreek Historical Society.