Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Big Green Book

One of my goals when I decided to move to the woods was to find out as much as I could about the history of the property I live on. There was an old mill site, many cabin sites, a small river said to be used by early trappers, stories of a sugar cane patch, an old schoolhouse foundation and a name I found for the community that used to be here; Owl Rock. One of my earliest posts was about a visit to a small library in a nearby town looking for information. During that visit I bought a large green book published in 1927 about the history of the County for $65.00 from a delightful librarian named Irene.


After my first read of the book I was very disappointed to find nothing I could relate directly to my property.

About a year later, I read it again. I began to recognize familiar surnames of people I had met and so I would ask if they were related to founding families I had read about in the book. Not surprisingly, in this lightly populated County, I found several that were direct descendants. I even found some of my own relatives. Still, no one seemed to know anything about Owl Rock, the mill or the schoolhouse. Most people said if I’d come asking 10 years earlier, some of the ole timers would surely have known something about the place…but the ole timers were gone now: Another round of disappointment from the big green book.

About 18 months ago, while looking for something to read I opened the big green book again. This time, instead of looking for something that might relate to Owl Rock, I just tried to enjoy it for the history it provided about the district I was in. Very early in the book was a story about something called “Track Rock” that had first been reported in the late 1800’s. It was described as “a great sandstone”, in which were a number of impressions of cloven hoofs in a variety of sizes from seven inches down to two inches. The larger looked to have been made by a giant ox or buffalo. There were also three impressions that appeared to have been made by the moccasined foot of a human giant. The human prints were five inches across and fourteen inches long. Beside the human prints were what appeared to be dog tracks. The theory was, all of the impressions had been made when the material on the surface of the rock had been in a plastic state and somehow preserved for, perhaps, centuries. The location of this “great sandstone” was described in great detail and it was not too far from the little town nearby. Dooley and I decided that this might make for a good adventure so one Sunday morning we set out to find it.

It wasn’t long before we found ourselves deep on private property, and after a brief discussion decided it might be best if we did a little more research and tried to locate the property owners. While walking back down along a creek next to a dirt road, the property owners found us. They were returning from church and slowed their car when they saw us down by the creek. I learned a long time ago the quickest way to defuse a potentially embarrassing trespass situation was to put a smile on your face and walk towards the trespassee. Dooley took my lead and smiled as best he could.

I explained our quest and, thankfully, they turned out to be really nice and very understanding folks. They also knew all about “Track Rock”.

They said it used to be on their property but in the early 1980’s the State decided to dam up one of their creeks and create a reservoir to help control flooding. They were force to sell the property by the imminent domain law. Sadly, during the construction of the reservoir, “Track Rock” had been destroyed. Oh shucks, I thought, another big green book let down. Then a wonderful thing happened. The nice folks said if we would hop in the back of their truck they had something we might be interested in. So, we did.

After a short drive we came to a delightful little farm house and were invited in. In a little room just off the back porch was a museum-like display of information about “Track Rock". Since it had been on their family property for about 150 years they had lots of pictures, reports written by anthropologists and naturalists who had visited over the years, newspaper articles and even plaster casts of many of the tracks. They told us, since erosion had erased many of the impressions over the years, people quit coming to look at the rock in the early 1960’s. They were curious how we came to hear about it. I laughed as I explained we had read about it in a history book that was originally published in 1927.

Since that wonderful little adventure 18 months ago I have a new-found appreciation for the big green book. Whenever Dooley and I feel adventurous we just look in the index for something intriguing, read about it and go looking. We explored an old grist mill site, a field where county fairs used to be held, and a hillside where a town once stood during the booming wildcat oils days. Sometimes we have pictures from the book to help us visualize and sometimes we just use our imaginations as we explore.  I truly love to imagine the people who might have walked, worked and played in these long gone places just as I often do for my own long gone Owl Rock.

…And what if I had not wandered into that little library in search of a history book. I might never have met Irene who helped me publish this blog, and I most certainly never would have met Dooley the dog who I bought from Irene a few days later. I owe a lot to my big green book.
















langela said...

Very fascinating! I love exploring old places and imagining the people who once lived there. What fun that you can do that.

Angela said...

I hate it that they had to build a dam and cover up such a landmark. I've not really heard anything interesting about the property we own except that they used to have a revival here at one point. I know that one of the neighbors was married in what is now my front yard. Sadly that ended in divorce! lol When we first moved here I was really trying to find out as much as I could. I do have all of the deeds for the past 100 years. That's as far as they have at the courthouse.

I'm glad you met Irene too. You wouldn't have Dooley to keep you company if you hadn't!

Roger said...

Not only did they build a dam, they won't let you fish there....damn gvernment.