Wafting Biscuit Breezes On An Old Crepe Myrtle

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Careful where you step I told myself while taking these photos this week. You should be extremely careful while taking photos of old and abandoned homes such as this. Not only because the grass is tall and the pathways uneven but also because the wells that delivered fresh water are hidden. One wrong step and who would hear your fall? The ground was squishy and unnerving to tread across. Determination urged me closer to my past. This is the home of my great great grandmother who lived in the early 1800’s and this home was probably in the family during the 1700’s. My great great great grandparents lived in the area also and they owned much of the land from here to the horizon.

I have strong connections to my past and much still remains of family treasures about these folks who came when no one else lived in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Seeing this old homestead and all the outbuildings is an exciting peek in to the past and a generation of people that clinged to every minute of every day. Their hardships were many and a farming accident could affect the welfare of those occupying the land in all directions. They farmed together back then lending a helping hand as needed but so busy they hoped no one needed it. So it was that they were proud of what they had but willing to give a hand when needed.After all, most of them were cousins.

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How does it feel to walk on land where a generation from the 1700’s to today have lived, cried, lost a loved one, shared the joys, and bore the children who would become doctors, farmers, dairymen, lawyers, furniture makers, CEO’s, career military people, mothers, fathers, and gardeners. Can you imagine the stories that rooted from a place so grand? Is is standing there proudly today through the strength of the generations supporting her frame? It feels a bit like the next breathe will carry you to the sounds of life within the walls. The house lives and wills you to imagine how she stood over 200 year ago.

100_5586A glimpse of the presence of its love is in the delicate threads of the curtains hanging in the doorways and windows. Quietly standing there with only the company of the beating of my heart, I stared at the soul of the house. Keenly aware that this very same screen door had welcomed the laughing children who would become my great grand parents. Keenly aware that the parents and great grandparents of these children had grabbed the handle on many a day and opened up the warmth and love that waited inside. Did this entry see sorrow and happiness? Did it see fear and worry? Did it welcome home the weary and give comfort to the father who was humbled by the very weight of farming day to day. Certainly my great great grandfather’s rough and handsome hands lovingingly and bone weary grabbed the pearl door handle and looked forward to the meal that wafted through the threshold.

100_5588In the glow of an evening, was my grandfather exhausted from a day farming and providing for a large family. Were there little hiding eyes belonging to a child looking that way? Were the eyes of a child crouching behind the bush that her mother had planted? I pictured the father tenderly glancing that way and motioning a loving gesture and call to supper. My family is famous for the suppers and meals prepared from the recipes so old and delicious that a supper table could be filled with mouth watering friends from all over. All my grandfathers have been proud to put a hearty meal on the table and swap a few tales with a twinkle to the eye. Stories around the table were as common and numerous as biscuits out of the oven. One was not more than the other.

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100_5611The tree that shaded its family from the summer’s blaring sun and still hanging on so the house would not be alone. Its outstretched arms weak and trembling with age. Still standing proud over the home it had loved and belonged to for those hundreds of years that children had played below the canopy. Branches reaching up and joining the heavens connecting the past to the now. It rains down the branches and on to the roof like it did in the summers and froze in the winter. Looking earily close to the end of its days, is it waiting for the great great grand-daugther to come back to record what was written in her heart.

I counted the chimnys that rose with the branches and the number was three. The wood it must have taken for keeping the babies warm was probably a chore for the brothers who grew strong on hearty farm dishes. Grandmother’s kitchen jutted out from the side of the home. One door on the front shared a view with the door on the back. Most definatley a set of doors placed purposefully for the cross breezes hoped on a sticky afternoon of cooking. Cooking for a family too numberous to sit around the table. They would spill on to the porches and stairways. No one minded for grandpa was swapping a lie and swatting a fly. It was story telling time and it could be just as well heard from the front as heard from the back. Biscuits could be eaten wherever you sat.

100_5592So much was still in the house that it spooked me to think there were still eyes looking out of the windows. Peeking in the windows were the things of a time when the home was filled with family. So many more questions still to ask at a time when I can sit down with my cousins who all live in the area and pass the old place every day of their life. Did they think what I thought and perhaps that is why it had never been disturbed. I hope to find out that this old homeplace is destined to live till we are gone. My children can visit and stand at the door where laughter and they were born in our dreams.

100_5607It could be right here in the meadow behind that house that I was one step away from a fall to the bottom of the well. Where was that well? It had to be here. Not knowing if I would find it under the overgrown grass, I stepped softly and gingerly through every clump. I had to get this far back to see the porches where beans were snapped and watermelon was eaten. Spitting contest were a sureity. We are a fun family who plays games of checkers, skips rope, tosses bean bags, and goes for a walk. It would have been busy and productive on the porches in the back. Little bits of treasure littered the ground but were they hiding the opening of that well?

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Come and get your supper rings out the supper bell! From the back porch, they looked out on the squirrles, the woods, the cows, horses, outbuildings, and farm equipment. Grandfather was a circuit riding preacher but he was also a farmer. No place on earth can you be closer to God than a farm. He must have prepared many a sermon at the reins of the mule who pulled the plow. No better way to think of sowing the seed than where God said we would toil. Planting for God is not much different than prparing the soil to recieve the life giving seeds of faith.

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Even the birds were not forgotten or a place for the plows, tools, and things used to farm on the land of my fathers.

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Ruts in the ground that a wagon once drew.

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I’ll go back and see my grandmother’s Crepe Myrtles bloom. Not sure I’ll be able to handle something so old that holds the keys to my family who saw the same blooms decades ago. How old are they?

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It took me over 210 years to get here and I’ll go back sooner than that. I’ll go back to get the stories from the cousins who own all the land within miles and miles of our home. I have been looking for the house since I knew it existed. Just this week, I was able to discover it was a house I had passed a hundred times both in my childhood and today. I left home in 1974 at 16 and just returned in 1999. Much has happened and been lost since then.

How fast our history can escape from the many branches of a family so large. I am thankful that some of those folks have kept it undisturbed. Maybe there are plans to renovate and preserve? I hope. When I looked up the tax records, I discovered that in 10’s of 100’s of miles in all directions were the names in my family tree branching right off the same great great grandparents. They are close enough to be neighbors. Who would have known? I guess we should be careful who we marry.

+++++ If you enjoyed this story then please let me know.

21 Comments Add yours

  1. jmmill says:

    Dear Anna,
    This story,rich in history and family love and admiration, touched me deeply. The pictures were breathtaking and I had an errie feeling whilereading your description of the possible scenes through the front screen door. I kept feeling ( although I am immensley glad that you didn’t) like you were going to fall in that well. I hope you had someone with you. Upon conclusion of reading the entire passage and looking at all of the pictures, I returned to the screen door and sat back in my chair for a few moments and let my imagination hear the sounds of quiet chatter of folks sitting on the steps and children running in for supper.. What a story teller you are! And the photography was superb! Thank you so much for sharing this .

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  2. Sue Langley says:

    Great post, and one your chilldren will enjoy as well. My sister and I keep close by working together on family history, even though she’s so far away in NZ. You can reconstruct fascinating stories like you have done here, and it’s fun!

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  3. Betty says:

    What a great story and the photos are great! I should write up something for my children and grandchildren to have about my maternal grandparents home in Eastern Shore Maryland. My kids have seen the outside but never the inside. It was sold to a local family’s maid and it caught fire and is just sitting there. Supposingly 7 in one family owns the property. It’s a shame somebody in our family didn’t buy that property from them. Wished they family would allow the fire dept to use the rest of it and burn it for practice, have somebody come in there and clear the land so it would look better to the neighborhood. It breaks my heart to see it in disarray because I know my grandmother took good care of the house in her earlier years. You’ve given me food for thought, and in my quiet time, I will make an attempt to write up the story of my grandparent’s house. We didn’t go there very often as we lived in NC. We would take the Ferry from Norfolk area over to the eastern shore, then a bus from there to get to Grandmom and Grandpop’s house. There is a tunnel that goes across there now.
    Sounds like you have a lot of memories that are worth a story. I write all my stuff down. But I can tell you that kids aren’t interested in that kind of thing until they get our age. So don’t be surprised if they roll their eyes at you. But it shouldn’t stop you from writing it down or it will be totally forgotten. I’m already losing my mind 😉

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  4. Ginger says:

    There are old farms like this strewn all over North Carolina. I always feel melancholy when I see them, abandoned. You have done a wonderful thing by getting these pictures and telling this story. I think it is very important to honor our pasts. I have a blog about my late grandmother, Gladys, who passed away this past Oct. at the ripe old age of 96. I am trying to honor her by posting old photographs and her stories and poems. It is at http://www.gladysstory.wordpress.com if you want to get to know her.
    You have a delightful blog about your grandmother. I enjoyed reading her poetry and learning about how she overcame obstacles and persevered to become a published poet and artist. Her most attractive trait was a love for everyone both nice and not so nice. That is probably the best thing she left to you. I can see how she will be missed forever.

    Oh yes!, I love my family’s rich heritage in the South. I saw the Arlie Oak at your site so I’m assuming you are from this area too–right? I’ll document anything old and full of stories. I just love it.

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    1. Ginger says:

      Thanks for visiting grandma’s blog! Yes, I am, as they say, “Wilmington born and bred”. I like to tell folks that there’s only about 4 of us left. Everyone else that lives here is from Long Island! Nice to meet another Carolina gal for me, too. We are special, ain’t we?

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      1. Betty says:

        Ginger, do you still live in the Wilmington area? I’m from Brunswick County(Leland) and left there 49 yrs. ago. You can e-mail me if you’d like.
        Betty, your email is protected here. You must use it to sign in so I know you are a real person and not spam==but your email will not be shown to anyone else.

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  5. Take my breath away Anna! I love old farm houses, I guess because my Grandfather farmed, worked hard and lived similarly to your Grandmother.

    I am in awe at how well the old farm is today. It was clearly well built and it hasn’t been touched by the looks of your pictures. There are many people who pillage old farms these days. Have you taken the old door knobs out? taken some of the wood to make things, mementos?
    I’m lucky just to have gotten those shots without being shot at. At the time, I didn’t know that I had cousins living in all directions. Country people look out for each other and probably knew every move I made.

    I still have to call the family llsted on the lot deed. It is a family member I’m sure. Our family is so large that even my Aunt and Uncle who showed me the house didn’t know who owned it. I came back home and looked on the county tax records. It was obvious land was divided out to certain children of that first generation and have never been sold. And it’s just down the road from me and I never knew it. I will ask when I call if I can have a few things but I’m betting not. If nothing has been disturbed then that might just be the way they planned for it stay. I might even chicken out asking them for a trinket or two cause it might be seen as ignorance on my part. Some people think you ought to have enough sense to honor the past by leaving it as is. I’ll let you know if I get anything.

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  6. Cinj says:

    What a great story! I had several of my grandpa’s relatives who lived around your area of NC before they moved to Indiana and Minnesota in the late 1800’s.

    It’s amazing the number of kids they had too. I guess now we know why those older homes were so big! Do you have any Bowmans or Hunts in your family tree? At least when my relatives moved north they didn’t have to be so careful about who it was they married.
    Amazing isn’t it? I lived down the road and didn’t know it was there…or there but not in my family. These things amaze me. I don’t have any Bowmans or Hunts that I know of in my line. The Bowman name is pretty common around here.

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  7. joey says:

    Anna, you are a treasure and a gift keeping the word alive! I write from my rich mother’s stories and, though long gone, will keep history (although a bit twisted to make a novel strong) and those that lived, still breathe.
    I tried to follow the nonwrimo but lacked the discipline to finish it. You write so well that I’m sure your novel will rock! I enjoy research and putting the clues together. I’m also good at puzzles. We went to supper last night with our grown kids. The last night home for my oldest. Makes me sad but we had a good time. One of my sons brought along a rubic sp? cube to challenge all of us to a one side all color challenge. It was loads of fun and we took our turns frustrated with the thing. I remember they were popular when I was a kid. We had the mini ones and would take them to school and work on them when the teacher wasn’t looking. I could have played that thing all night.

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  8. Wanita says:

    Anna, how wonderful that you know your family’s history from so long ago. That is certainly a treasure. I enjoyed your post and the pictures. As I looked at them, I imagined what the house and buildings might have looked like when they were first built. I’m sure they were beautiful.

    Blessings,
    Wanita
    I do a lot of imagining too! I suppose I could write a historical fiction novel if pressed. Someone would have to do some heavy editing but it would be a pretty good story.

    Like

  9. Marnie says:

    This was a wonderful post. I’m interested in genealogy and have researched my family back many generations. So far I haven’t been able to visit any of the old home places but I have a few photos which I treasure.
    Marnie
    Then you know how hard the digging is to find information. I get off on rabbit trails following some lead which leads to more leads and pretty soon, I’m lead somewhere else.

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  10. Sherri says:

    Anna, I loved the story and pics. What wonderful family history! Thanks for sharing!
    I have lots more stories and I’m working on the gaps and facts. It takes a long time to research. I’m just dusting the surface on this branch of the family. It is a ton of fun though.

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  11. What a lovely story and how neat to find the places your relatives lived. I enjoy these stories.
    ~Angela 🙂
    and you know…they were just down the road the whole time. Our problem is that each generation had more than a dozen kids. We lost track of what was what.

    Like

  12. Anna,
    We have so much in common- I am deeply connected to my childhood home and am intrigued about anything to do with the past. Whenever I am in the city, I take a drive to my old house. Unfortunately, my family roots are in Honduras, and I have never visited there so my childhood home is the deepest my past goes. Wish I knew more like you know about your family.

    I admire your research skills and wonderful photography. You are also quite the storyteller. I can hear your voice in every sentence.

    I would love to read more posts like this.
    Shirley
    We do have lots in common! No wonder you skin is so beautiful…that is the Honduras I suppose. Lucky you.

    Thank you for wanting more stories cause they are just about to bust out anyway. I am trying to remember not to let my voice get so high when I’m excited. And then..I laugh through half what I’m saying when my tickle box gets turned over. No one can hear me when I really get to laughing and I can’t breathe at all.

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  13. Racquel says:

    I was just amazed to see this 200 year old home still standing. How wonderful to have this history & the legacy your great great grandparents passed down to the future generations.
    I have the telephone number to the family that owns the land. It will be fun to meet with them and fill in the story gaps. I can find out for sure when the home was built and where the rest of the family built. On the day of my visit to this home, I also visited another home just down the road belonging to a famous Uncle Sol who ran a dairy farm where my father worked as a child. I heard about my dad riding a dairy cow like some people ride horses. Dad would take the cows down to the creek for a drink and some grazing and then back up to the barns for milking. I’ve seen the creek and the diary farm just this week. And now I have the names of those family members who inherited that land. The home and barns are still standing. I’ll write about it soon.

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  14. Kathleen says:

    I loved this post as well Anna. To have such history in one place is incredible to me (who has moved around so much I don’t feel those same roots). I think it’s amazing (and wonderful) that your familys homestead is still intact so you can go back, reconnect and record it for all time. You’re so lucky to know so much about your past.
    You know, maybe it’s because I was the youngest in the family being raised by the oldest members of the family. I was close to the source. It helped that my great aunt was a prominent member of the Old Salem community. She graduated from Salem College in 1913 and worked there until her retirement in 1957. I was born in 1958 so she had lots of time to devote to me and was fresh from the best archives anywhere on earth. I know that place inside and out from playing there as a child. They have been moved to another location in Old Salem but the books are the same.

    How many children read archive books for fun? And my aunt talked and talked. She talked when I thought I wasn’t listening and it soaked in. She was the treasurer secretary for the school and did her genealogy on the side. She was extremely close to her mother and determined to give her recognition for the lineage that made our area great. She did. I retained enough of that info to carry on. I hope my Nana is pleased. She died at 102 in the Moravian Home. I hope I live that long.

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  15. Kim says:

    What a lovely post – I enjoyed it greatly.
    I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thank you

    Like

  16. Gail says:

    Anna, Your roots do run deep in North Carolina! It is a powerful feeling. While I am rooted to my family and gardening, I have never had this deep attachment to a land or its history….I think I told you this earlier; my family was so eager to be assimilated into the melting pot of the US…they forgot the family history. I loved the story and the photographs….gail
    Of course Gail it is my ultimate goal to find out we are cousins;) I would be surprised if you weren’t my cousin. One branch of our family went to Oklahoma to live and marry in to the Indian tribes, one branch went to Indiana and became a family of famous circuit riding preachers, and another went to Tennessee for land opportunities and they have raised quite a few doctors. This is not a unique story for just my family. In all my research, I’ve discovered that every family back then was large. They would all branch out and some would become highly educated. It was their drive in the life that hard working parents had passed along to them. So I can be telling my story but you can bet it’s probably your story too.

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  17. Les says:

    Anna I enjoyed this post as well. I sure hope your home place has someone who will take care of it. I realize that the brick and wood are not the memories, the people are, but places like this are disappearing all too fast around the country.

    In 2007 I found some on-line info about a house that was once in my family. The place was built around 1740 and the last known pictures were taken in the 1930’s as part of a WPA project and from there is was listed in 1960 as being used as a hay barn. I thought surely it could not exist, but we found it, and someone was restoring it (although very inaccurately). I hope to post about it sometime this winter.
    I really look forward to reading about your home. I’m extremely interested in that sort of history where it touches several generations for all time. They struggled and worked hard to pave a way for us. I know of a few famous members our family who went on to make an impact on the world. Life is big and little at the same time.

    I don’t like to see something improperly restored but at least a portion of your roots will still be there. Not many people are that lucky. When I first discovered this home was still standing, I was told to look for a home with a tree growiing right in the middle of the house. There is a tree very close to the house on the side where the kitchen joins the main structure. From the road, I can see where someone would think it was growing right in the middle. In our search for the home, I had passed this one but didn’t think it could be cause it was not falling down. So I think some care has gone in to the care.

    I peeked inside the store houses and it was almost a treasure hunters delight. I wouldn’t say they were antiques but they were bit and pieces of old farm equipment and farm tools. Old crates and straps used to harness the mules. I wonder if my grandfather was a mule riding circuit preacher? His father was a Methodist preacher and so was his father. And several men in those families became Methodist preachers. It is all so very grand and contains more stories than I can write in a life time. I’m going back to interview the family that lives right beside this farm as from the tax records, they bear the same last name as do other same last names occupy many more farms around. Too good to be true.

    Thanks again for sharing your story.

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  18. fairegarden says:

    Hi Anna, yes, I did enjoy the story. The house and land around it have survived many an exciting adventure it seems. Happy new year!
    Frances
    Thank you Frances and on my, you have the most beautiful year end post about your home and flowers. I was amazed at them last night while at your site.

    Like

  19. Phillip (UK) says:

    Amazing pictures Anna. I help run the local Heritage Centre here and we have local Iron Age sites and the probable site where King Alfred defeated the Vikings so I feel with you about the importance of history and its relevance to our lives today. I love old houses like that.
    Wow Philip…I can trace my family back to the estate of King George the 1st but doubt I’ll ever see one stick of that history. But King Alfred…my goodness, that would give me chills every day. At one time, I applied to be a docent at our colonial settlement of Old Salem I refer to. I was a tour guide at West Point New York so this would come easily to me. They weren’t needing people that year so I may reapply as they have seen an increase in tourist. We would have to wear period attire and you know that would be fun.

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