Welcome to the Author’s Blog!

Welcome to this internet opportunity for us to communicate. Whether you have read the paperback or e-book version of “Hidden Secrets of Jacob’s House”, or are thinking of reading it soon, you might enjoy a bit of chit-chat. By the way, all of the pictures can be clicked to see a larger image.

There are any number of subjects we can talk about, be it the book’s plot or its characters. Or you may choose to learn more about the ghosts who inhabited Elmwood House where I grew up (and its fictional counterpart – Jacob’s House). Located in York Pennsylvania, Elmwood House is owned by the Memorial Hospital, and now named Elmwood Mansion.

I can think of one subject you might like to inquire about. “Why did I choose to write about the “ghosts”?

“Why” was because for most of my life I had kept to myself all of my youthful experiences about our apparitional sightings. Then there came a time when I could contain myself no longer. My need to “tell all” occurred after I had written my first book, “Elmwood House, If It Could Speak, What Stories Would It Tell?” It was then I determined that perhaps the ghosts themselves needed to speak….they needed to explain what happened to them and why they are there in the first place. I even had the crazy thought that if they told their stories, it might help them to finally find their peace.

In 2007 I took up my pen and paper and started to scribble their reasons. Then my imagination took over, and the plot of the book was born. Since everything took place within the house in which I grew up, I thought it best to show you some pictures. The first is a water color of Elmwood House painted by my mother in 1940. Note the house is elevated four feet higher than in the following two photographs that were taken much earlier, when the house stood on its original location.

The change in elevation was the result of the house being moved in 1905. In 1903/4 fires (believed to be arson) devastated the farm’s mill, barn, and creamery and prompted the family to make the momentous decision to physically move the house away from the other farm buildings. In order to make this move, the house had to remain at a constant level while being hauled by mule teams over rosined logs, for two city blocks to its new and lower elevation.Elmwood House circa 1900: no wrap around porch

Before the move circa 1900

Please note that in these two pictures the house, in its original position, sits at ground level.

Now that you’ve seen these pictures of the house, let’s go on with additional information.
In the mid 1980s’ the Memorial Hospital purchased Elmwood House, and began to restore and remodel it. A short time later, after the old house had been modified to meet with modern standards, it was completely decorated and furnished. By the late 1980s’ the house was ready to fill its new position as the hospital’s Conference Center, and re-named Elmwood Mansion.

I had no sooner started working on my fictional story about the original Elmwood House, than I realized I needed to do some research to complement what I already knew.

I was aware Elmwood farm had been purchased by a Pennsylvania German farmer by the name of Jacob Brillinger in the early 1830s’, and built Elmwood House in 1835 as the manor house of a large farm. Needing more information, I obtained a short biography on Mr. Brillinger that had been prepared by the Memorial Hospital for the occasion of their opening celebration of their Conference Center. It was from that biography I took, and patterned the recorded activities of the original Mr. Brillinger, and applied them to parallel the activities of my book’s main character, fictional Jacob Dellinger.

Next I went to work on the persona of the imaginary Jacob Dellinger. As Brillinger’s biography did not give me any reference as to what his personality had been like, I was able to create what I wanted to portray as the main character. I created Jacob Dellinger to be a man of principle, one who had to struggle to follow his own convictions, but capable of taking risks in the name of justice. With this done, I found in my mother’s collection an old, leather bound conglomerate book of Godey’s Ladies Book and Graham’s Ladies Magazine, both dated 1850-51. It was from this source I found what I imagined Jacob Dellinger might have looked like.

Jacob at age 20 Jacob at age 30 Jacob at age 50

I then created the next character — Jacob’s first love, Lou Ann. Because this young lady is from the South, the house Jacob designs and builds for her, has the look of a southern plantation with its tall front porch columns. As this look does not fit into the surrounding Pennsylvania German architecture, it indicates Jacob had previously been so impressed by the beauty of the south he overlooks his surroundings and builds what he wants.
Then while rummaging through that same Godey’s Ladies Book I found a picture of a young lady, and I immediately recognized it as Lou Ann. Lou Ann should appear to be a sweet, child like girl, one with whom Jacob could fall in love.

Later in that same biographical article of the actual Mr. Brillinger, it notes that after he builds a beautiful home for his intended, she ends their engagement, and leaves him. However it does not mention that later in his life he married a woman named Elizabeth.

After searching the York County Court House Deed Book I found and made a copy of a hand-written deed-of-sale document, dated March 29, 1879 from Jacob Brillinger and his wife Elizabeth to my grandfather John Henry Small, for the sum of $34,400; thus proving the existence of a woman named Elizabeth as his wife. At the bottom of that said deed there was this remarkable “Indenture”, signed by Elizabeth Brillinger on March 29, 1879.

“The said Elizabeth Brillinger being of full age with sound mind, living apart and separate from the above co-signer, Jacob Brillinger, did examine the above deed of sale, and did of her own free will voluntarily abstain from any funds received by her said husband Jacob Brillinger.”

After reading this deed and the strange Indenture, I could imagine, and compose what kind of marriage Jacob and Elizabeth might have had.

Again I looked in Godey’s Ladies Book to find how I imagined Elizabeth may have appeared. That task didn’t take me long, as the moment I came upon this picture I knew I’d found her. After taking one look into this woman’s steely, sharp eyes, I was able to put together Elizabeth’s personality traits.

As for some of the book’s other characters; they just came to me. In fact it felt as though they just appeared and introduced them-selves. Here are drawings of what ex-slaves, Caledonia Jones and her husband Old Tom Jones might have looked. Callie is sitting in her rocking chair, and Old Tom (after his haircut) is shown carrying his hat.


Now let’s review the photographs used for the front and back covers of the book.

The front cover background shows a stair case with a newel post in the foreground. “Why” you ask, “show a picture of a stairs with a newel post? My answer is this rather odd choice not only attracts your eye, but also it indicates perhaps something important and mysterious happened there. It is mysterious because you just don’t know what the mystery is, and you feel compelled to read the book to find out.

The back cover background also looks mysterious. It shows a rather spooky view of the present building’s front porch steps taken on a snowy winter day, with a sinister looking black lamp post in the foreground.

Both the front and back covers took a long time to evolve. Thanks to the photography and artistic skills of two of our grand daughters, Victoria and Carolina, plus my friend Valerie Williams, the pictures suited my fancy perfectly.

The ghosts however weren’t that difficult as I had my mother’s recorded account. This coupled with my own vivid memory of our family’s encounters, the story unfolded. By using my imagination I fitted each future ghost, along with their stories, into the plot of the book to match with the realities of our family’s earlier experiences with our ghostly visitors.

Now it is your turn to ask me questions, or to give me your opinions about the Hidden Secrets of Jacob’s House.

Please contact me at:
Ann Niess <anniess@embarqmail.com>