PARKSLEY, Va. (Delmarva Now) -- "I got it out of the lower part of Delaware, near where the Pocomoke River terminates," said retired auctioneer Otho Mears, 92, of Parksley, gesturing to the weathered little log building in his back yard.
It's old — that much is plain to see — but no one knows just how old. Mears estimated the building dates to between 1840 and 1850.
Mears knows as much as anyone about old tools and other antiques, and he has bought and sold lots of unusual items in his decades as an auctioneer on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
Still, the cypress log building he purchased in the late 1980s from Gumboro, Delaware — which since has stood in his back yard — may be among the most unusual items he has encountered.
Now Mears wants to put the building up for sale, but the new owner has to move it, just as he once brought it to Virginia from Delaware.
"I don't need to sell it...But I just have to cut grass," he said. The building and the split-rail fence around it make that task more inconvenient.
"At my age, I'm trying to get rid of stores," he said.
Mears disassembled the building, log by log, and transported the whole thing from Delaware down to Virginia, where he put it back together again in his yard, along with the split-rail fence.
He put an old chicken coop from Harborton he purchased elsewhere next to it and even installed nearby an old headstone that had come into his possession — it's to honor a Revolutionary War soldier, but the body's not there.
"The little gravestone doesn't mean anything to the building, except the gravestone came in here a long time ago in order to honor Revolutionary War soldiers — some of them were buried here and had no stone, so the government sent a lot of stones in, and this one they could never match up," Mears said. The stone bears the name of one Major Colony — the person who owned it before Mears was going to throw it away.
"So I just brought it here and stuck it beside the building," he said.
The story of how Mears came to own the building starts with a buggy.
It was in the 1970s. He saw an advertisement for an auction in Gumboro, Delaware, including a buggy for sale.
"I wanted a buggy, so I went on up there," he said. "When I arrived, a real old fellow, a retired farmer, was having a sale...He said when the family moved there, there were three of these buildings on the property. This was the only one standing; two were down, sort of in heaps."
The buildings were not advertised for auction. Still, the old farmer ultimately consented to sell the two derelicts, but not the standing building.
Mears bought his buggy and was the last person remaining after the auction finished.
After he loaded the buggy onto his truck, he walked over to the farmer with an offer.
"I said, 'Sir, what are you going to do with the standing building?"
The man replied, "I may go back to farming; we store stuff in that." He told Mears the family had lived in the 9-by-10-by-18-foot structure when they first moved to the farm.
Mears went to his truck, got a $20 bill and gave it to the old man.
Mears told him it was a "memory note" for the man to hold on to — in case he ever wanted to sell the building, he should sell it to Mears.
TIme went by and Mears 12 years later got a telephone call out of the blue.
"I bought a farm from my uncle in the lower part of Delaware and he says there is a building on there that belongs to you, and he wants you to come and get it," the man on the other end of the line said.
Mears and a man who worked for him drove to Delaware, dismantled the building log by log, loaded the logs on the truck, brought them back to Virginia, and reconstructed the building on his property, where he also had his auction house.
The split rail fence surrounding the building came from the same farm.
"For the first year I had that doggone thing, I believe we had a visitor every day," he said.
Anyone interested in purchasing the building — it must be moved off the property — can call Mears at 757-665-5348 or 757-894-0407.