Saturday, February 28, 2009

Back in Time: A Story of Home

On a porch near Rowlesburg, WV

These pictures could have been taken many years ago, but all were taken this year around West Virginia, most quite close to home.

Somewhere along Route 33.

At Greenwood Cemetery in Sistersville

Near the community of Gay.

On Joe's Run.
Recently I was talking with a friend who mentioned that although she had traveled widely in her life, she always wanted to come home to West Virginia. I know what she meant. On my porch I have a slate that reads, "If you're blessed enough to live in the mountains, you're blessed enough."

I am always eager to return to my home in the mountains and to my own front porch. My house is small and certainly not convenient. Internet service isn't dependable, the road is in rough shape, mud is a constant enemy, it's a long way to town or to my job. Why does it mean so much to me?

I've lived here for almost 35 years. Prior to when I moved here, the land had a its own history. We found arrowheads in the gardens, testament to passing Native feet. Initials are carved in a tree on the banks of our little run, cut there by my 70-year-old neighbor when he was a teenager.

A different neighbor told me once about a dead baby found under the old schoolhouse on an abandoned road that borders our property. No one ever knew whose baby it was, she said. Later when I asked her about the story, she did not recall ever having told it to me, or even the story itself. Was it true, or did she confuse it with something that had happened somewhere else? I will never know now because she's passed away. But I remember the story, and continue to tell it because her telling was so vivid and detailed. It is true to me.

Over 70 years ago hardworking people used to live in the log cabin on the same abandoned road where the schoolhouse used to be; when I explored the cabin once I found the walls were papered with newspapers from 1938. The people who papered those walls gave the road its name, Bucket Run, because they were paid with buckets of pickled corn and beans when they worked on local farms. Or so another neighbor told me, and I like to think it's true.

No one knows exactly when but certainly before 1900 a family named Fulmer had a cabin on our land. It was below where our house now is; they built a rough cellar house of creek stones too. The creek was just below the cabin. This hollow got its name from the Fulmer's, but only the older people remember it. We did not know there had ever been a house here when we bought this place, and I think how odd it is that we chose to build very near that dwelling site. The Hinzmans bought out the Fulmers and used this side of their ridge land holdings for sheep pasture, and to grow corn, wheat and sorghum. At that time the land was almost completely clear of trees; When we bought the land from a descendant of the original Hinzman owner, it was growing up in brush. Now it is almost all forested.

Along the side of our run and driveway you can still see the faint trace of the wagon road that took travelers from the ridge down to Bucket Run and on to Trace Fork. You have to look close to see it. It's a good place to sit and listen, imagining the rumble and creak of farm wagons, the huffing of horses pulling heavy loads through the mud, and the encouraging words of the drivers.

We've made our own imprint on this land, planting trees, cutting brush, making gardens and putting up buildings. Future generations will dig up marbles, nails, and other oddments when they take on projects and will probably wonder who left these things in the dirt. Like me, they will make up stories and mental images of the people who lived here and the things they did. I hope they paint kind pictures of us.

Family stories like ours are why so many West Virginians who live elsewhere long for home. This is a state of storytellers who pass on from one generation to another the memories of who they are and where they came from. Those memories root people to this state, even if they have never actually lived here themselves.

It’s the stories, after all, that make a place “home.” It’s our history, and the histories of all those who passed before us that make where we live special, a place to return to again and again, even if only in memory. It’s not the buildings, the flowers, or the furniture. It’s the stories that bring us back to the place we call “home.”


Janet, said...

Loved your post, Susanne. I often wonder about the people who lived here before we did. There're stories I've heard about our place, too, and the surrounding area.

Vera said...

I really liked the story.

Matthew Burns said...

As somebody wrote on a big rock in their front yard up in Preston County, "God I Love West Virginia".

Anonymous said...

I was born in TX, raised in OK, with a child born in Chicago and now live in GA. We discovered that our family roots reached back to West Virginia. When we traveled there and explored the one lane roads where our family may have once lived, we stopped to take pictures and were blocking a farmer's way. We apologized and told him why we were there "looking for the Griffin land." He said 'I live on the Griffin land.'
No Griffins had been there for 100 years, but it was their (our) land. We were home.

solsticedreamer~laoi gaul~williams said...

i really love this~it would be great as part of a podcast so i could lay under the trees and listen to it!

Granny Sue said...

I would expect that you would find many arrowheads around your area, Janet, because of the way the land lays, so open and rolling. Even if a house is not old, the land on which it is built has a history. It would be interesting to know yours.

Vera, than you for your comment. I enjoy reading your blog too.

That sentiment sums it up for most of us, Matthew. Come what may we love it here. Your blog is really a love story about your home. Like all love stories, the people aren't perfect, but that's what makes it interesting.

Anonymous, your comment read like a poem. What an experience, and you said in few words what I was trying to say. My husband said there are a lot of Griffins in Lincoln County, and he wondered if that is where your family was from.

laoi, I have never tried a podcast. That is something I need to explore. Maybe this summer. It would be neat to have posts available that way. As the ADA person at work I am always looking for ways to make things accessible; a podcast could do that for my blog too. Thank you for mentioning it.

Cathy said...

I loved your story. It's hard to make people understand the sense of place that West Virginians have.

Anonymous said...

Rabbit, Rabbit, Rabbit...

Just Had'ta,


Granny Sue said...

Hey, I remembered, Aaron! About 11:00 I remembered. A little late, so does that mean I get just a little money this month?

That sense of place is what defines West Virginians, isn't it Cathy? Or perhaps it holds true for the whole Appalachian region?

Jason Burns said...


Funny you should mention marbles- since I bought this house in Morgantown, we've found a lot of stuff from the previous owners - including a handful of marbles, most of which were stuck in the old ductwork of the heating system. I guess they rolled down a vent sometime ago, since the duct they were in no longer worked.

I've also found a big piece of red and yellow glass slag from the glass factory here in town (now defunct and the building is a restaurant). More things - a silver table spoon, a check written from the Bank of Morgantown in 1947 for $5.00 (tucked into the fireplace, no less). A small brass bar that looks like a tiny piece of bamboo, some old zinc canning lids, and other stuff (like the dead mummified pigeon that was stuck in the chimney).

Granny Sue said...

Fascinating stuff, Jason. Except for the pigeon, poor guy. (Reminds me of the mummified copperhead some friends found under their bathtub when they remodeled).

We used to find cool stuff in our yard in Virginia--civil war bullets, buttons, and mortar balls, stuff dropped by the people who'd lived there before us, etc.

Deborah Wilson said...

Lots of catching up to do over here Sue. A good post, I like the pic of the wooden swing bridge. The last one that I walked across was years ago at the Nanthala Gorge - but it has since been torn down and a new walk bridge built.

Laura said...

If you look closely in one of our pastures you can see a trail that goes past an old dugout. You can still find the indention of the dugout. It was a line camp when this part of Texas was part of the JA ranch. Fun to imagine being a cowboy alone on the range with his horse and some cattle with no towns or fences in sight.

Loved your story, made me think of all we've found around here. The kids go "treasure" hunting in the pasture all the time

Granny Sue said...

Hi Deborah! Nice to hear from you again. I love the old bridges and try to photograph them whenever I can. They are rapidly dying out, I'm afraid.

Laura, that must be something to see. Do you have photos of it? The country must have seemed very big back then--and the cowboy probably felt like it owned it all.

Tipper said...

Loved this post!! I wish all those folks who lived there before you could tell their story now-including the Indians.

Granny Sue said...

Me too, Tipper. It's similar where you live, isn't it? our ridge used to be what they called a "trace" or an Indian trail leading from the Ohio River into a wide river valley in the next county. I can see why they'd travel this way--no mud or floods to worry about, and the ridge runs for miles and miles with no breaks. So it was as close to a good road as they were likely to find, much better than following a creek.

Anonymous said...

Okay, you've stumped me. What is the first photo of, the thingies hanging on the porch? Batsy in Idaho

Granny Sue said...

Dipper gourds, Batsy. Weird picture, isn't it? I had to take a photo of them, made Larry turn around and go back---poor man, he's so patient with my "stop!" and "turn around!" commands.

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