The lots, know as numbers 11 and 12 of Block 3 of the Original Town of Hartley plat, were part of the NE 1/4 of Section 32 of O'Brien County. This land was owned by Abraham Long. He had obtained it by Land Patent from the U.S. Government in 1859. It was part of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803.
In 1881, J.S. Finster and E.N. Finster (wife) and Horace E. Hoagland and wife, bought the SW 1/4 of the NE 1/4 and had it platted and laid out in lots, blocks, streets, and alleys. The two lots were bordered by what were named, at that time, Railroad Street and Second Avenue. The lots measured 64 feet by 142 feet. The lots were sold the same year to Hephzibah Johnston, who later sold them to J. W. Walter and his wife, Ladentia, for $400.
J. W. Walter was Hartley's first attorney and later gave up his practice to become O'Brien County Clerk of Court. He built the barn, which had a second floor, and measured 20' x 32' in 1892. It had 16' posts and granite foundation at a cost of $400. Three years later he built the house and completed it in 1896. The original drawing of the house on lot 13 showed the following:
Front Porch 25' wide
Hall 10' x 15'
Parlor 14' x 13'
Sitting Room 16' x 16'
Dining room 12' x 18'
Kitchen 10' x 14'
Bedroom 16' x 16'
The drawing did not show the second floor. The over-all size is 28'8" x 46'6", and the total cost was $4700.
The house has 20" posts and a basement with a granite stone foundation. The basement does not extend under the parlor and hall. As noted on a mortgage document from 1898, it was "Painted inside and out and finished up in first-class style." There were several outstanding features of the house which include parquet wood floors and a beautiful fireplace. The third floor attic has a wooden reservoir into which water, pumped from the well, was stored. Then, gravity pressured, flowed downward to the kitchen and bathroom. It was the earliest running water system in Hartley. The wood remains in very good condition today. It has a diameter of 4 feet and is 4 feet tall and holds 375 gallons of water.
Also in 1898, the mortgage document also included, "There are sidewalks on both sides and a fine row of large trees on the outside of the lots." It was mortgaged by J. W. Walter with E. E. Hall of Hartley for $6300. The listing was $1200 for the lots, $400 for the barn, and $4700 for the house. Mr. Walter stated on the mortgage application that, "I own 1500 acres of land in my name worth on an average $32.50 per acre." The mortgage was for two years at 7%.
In 1898 Frank Patch bought the property for $6000 and had the mortgage released. The property taxes were $13.25 annually. In years to follow, the ownership passed to Nellie Patch Sanders, his daughter, who died in 1969. The next owners were Harry and Betty Eeten, Nellie's second cousin, who took possession in 1970. Betty live in it alone after Harry died in 1983.
After Betty's death in 2011, it was purchased at auction by the Town of Hartley with funds provided by a generous local citizen and is currently overseen by the Hartley Historical Society.