Archive for the ‘history’ Category
Once again, it’s been a long while since I posted anything to this blog. I always feel a twinge of guilt over not keeping up with things the way I used to, but c’est la vie. Perhaps I will do better in 2013.
Today, I’m writing about some interesting odds and ends having to do with the old house that I’ve been working on at Round Hill, Nova Scotia. Over the past three summers, I’ve gradually pieced together some of its history, largely thanks to my neighbours, Kirk and June Whitman. They have been such a great source of information on Round Hill and the former inhabitants of my place. A couple of years ago, June loaned me her copy of the local Women’s Institute history, “About Round Hill” by Merle Gibson. Also, a loose leaf binder filled with pages of historic house surveys for the immediate area around Round Hill. Using the survey pages, I discovered that my house had been built around 1860 by John Henry Healy (born about 1836, died 7 Dec 1894). After Healy’s death, the house passed through the hands of a long list of owners. One of these, the Brown family, occupied the house some time around the mid-1930s to mid-1940s (I don’t have the survey sheet with me so can’t give an exact date). Sometime soon, I’ll write more about the Healys, but today’s post has to do with the Browns.
One day this summer, while I was in the garden playing my fiddle, Sage raced across the yard to bark at several women who had appeared at the front gate. I was a little mystified as out-of-the-blue visitors are extremely rare at my place. I recognized one face among them – a neighbour from across the brook. She explained that the group were descendants of the Brown family. They had been in the area for a family get together and decided to search for the old family home as their mother, Marion, had grown up on the property and wrote several short stories pertaining to her experiences. The daughters wished to see the setting for these stories so that they could better envision where their mother and the rest of the family had spent several years of their lives. I led them around while pointing out some of the remnants of former buildings. Before leaving, one of the daughters (Esther) mentioned that, at some time, her mother had sketched a map of the property. I expressed interest in seeing it. As it turned out, Esther obliged by bringing me a copy when she returned in August to see the property again with her husband, daughter and friends. With Esther’s permission, the map is reproduced above. Click on it for a larger view.
Of course, the map was of interest to me as it confirms some of what I know about the property. However, it is of even more interest for the personal notes which it contains. They helped me to connect to past occupants of the property. Making use of the map, some of what I have learned from conversations with Kirk and June, and a few of my own recent photos, I would like to comment on some what I know about my place.
I’ll start with two photos of the front lawn (see above and below). Marion has noted that there are several Acacia Trees (Very Noble) in the front garden. They are Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) which is also known as False Acacia. A few elderly trees remain along the fence line of my property providing nice shade in summer. Unfortunately, quite a few succumbed to old age and their large trunks may be seen among the perennials which I planted in the front garden. In the spot where my lawn chairs sit, Marion mentions “We played croquet here, but not on Sunday!”. My flower garden is approximately where “Meg’s first flower garden of California poppies” was located. It’s interesting that there are still poppies in that area – not California, but Oriental poppies that come up along that corner of the house. The original flower garden must have become lost in the lawn as there was no garden when I first came to the house three years ago, but to me, it seemed like a natural spot as it could be seen out the front windows of the house.
I got a bit of a laugh out of one of the diagrams on the map – the four stick men located on the other side of the Boundary Fence. They are noted as being “4 Whitman boys who jeered at us after dark.” I took a copy of the map next door to ask my neighbours about some of the notations and that got a chuckle from Kirk as he did recall that he and his brothers did tease the Brown kids when they played croquet in the front garden. Kirk also remembered the large apple tree with a hole in the trunk that used to stand close to the store building below my place – the tree that Marion describes as a “Message Tree” where the Brown children would leave messages to each other. Kirk tells me that the tree is long gone.
Moving to the back yard, Marion has noted where the current drilled well is located (Mr. Patrician’s well). Also, the Plum orchard. Unfortunately, there is just one remaining plum tree (see below). It has small red plums that are not much larger than a cherry — quite good tasting. I often pick a few to eat when I’m working in the yard. The Barn on the map is no longer standing, but I was aware of it as the rotting timbers are lying on the ground with a tangle of grasses and brush over top. Marion mentions that one cow named Buffy, and a calf named Plantagenet or “Guppie for short” lived in this barn which was “not used to capacity”. The strawberry and tomato patch is roughly where I made a strawberry patch after removing a pile of rotting wood and where I had been considering making a large vegetable garden.
Moving along down to the brook (see below), once again the map is quite accurate in depicting certain features. There is a small, treed, uninhabited island in the middle of the brook. The Brown children named it “Stepping Stone Island” as it was only accessed by a row of stones. The “Deep Place” is still a deep spot where Sage and I swim. There are two spots where one can cross the brook on stones when the water level is low in summer. One of those rows of stones can be seen in my photo. The place which Marion has noted as the “Very Peaceful Place” is a little terrace about six feet above the brook – it is to the left in my photo just past the tree on the shore. I cleaned up that area in summer 2011 and made it into a place to sit and enjoy the sound of rushing water as it tumbles a few inches over the stepping stones and turns a little bend. It was nice to discover that the spot was enjoyed by someone else almost a century ago, and perhaps others long before. Esther shared one of her mother’s essays about Stepping Stone Island in which the Brown children crossed over and were then trapped over there when the tide came up the river. This was in the days before the causeway at the tidal generating plant was built at Annapolis Royal. Kirk has told me that the brook used to reverse as far as the highway bridge just down from my place. So interesting to think of people playing on the little island, and about the days when the tide was unimpeded on the Annapolis River. There is still some tidal effect, but not so pronounced as it would have been when the Browns resided at Round Hill many decades ago.
There are more notes and stories contained on the map but they would deserve more photos and explanations.
Tonight is New Year’s Eve. I’m here in Bisbee for the winter. I’ve been playing a lot of music since arriving – fiddle and mandolin. Just last week, I purchased a 90 year old tenor banjo which should be arriving soon. Larry and I started up a small celtic music night and have met and been playing with a few musicians here in town. Sage and I are doing okay. I am beginning to think about work at the old place this coming summer.
I wish all of you the best in the coming year.
It seems that summer has arrived here in Round Hill. Nights are still quite cool, but days have been warm and this week threatens to be quite hot. I continue to work away at things here – both indoors and out. Instead of writing much in this post, I thought it would be fun to share some photos taken over the past week or so (click on all photos for larger views).
To begin, the above photo was taken down by the river. As you may recall, I have been cutting trails through the property and have cleared four access points to the shoreline. This is the one that I can see from my bedroom window. The photo was taken about three-quarters of the way down the hill. From my room, the chair looks quite tiny. Anyhow, there is now a steep but walkable trail from the house to the river. It’s a nice view. One of these days, when I actually take some time off work around here, I may actually go down and sit in that chair.
This photo is of a rusty cast iron tripod that I found while clearing trails back in the woods. As I work my way through the property, I constantly unearth objects. This is the largest as yet. Mostly, I find glass bottles, tin cans, metal pans, and occasionally reams of the most horrid looking “barbed tape” fence wire which I carefully remove and wind into hoops to be stowed in a safe place. The history of this property has something to do with the stuff that I unearth. Behind the old house, there was once a barn, and on the hillside down to the river, an old cooper’s shed where barrels were once made for shipping apples from this region. Down by the river, on a lot which is now severed from this property and owned by a neighbour, there were once two large factory buildings for the Round Hill Woodworks. Only one building remains. It was the general store for the village for many years, before eventually closing down and being sold off. In any case, with so much activity on this property, it is really no surprise that objects are unearthed almost everywhere I look. Kind of fascinating.
If you are on Facebook, you’ll already know that I spent last Sunday removing three large windows from the second floor level of the house. Last summer, I made an unsuccessful attempt to remove the rotten old storm windows from the upper level. I soon discovered that the windows were not only attached by the regular screw bolts, but that they had also been nailed to the sashes using huge common nails (ggrrrrhhhhh!!!!).
There was no way that I could get proper leverage to extract the nails while standing at the top of a ladder, so I decided to leave the job for the winter and figure out a different way to get the old windows off the house. This time, I tackled the job from the inside, first removing the inner windows which all need some repair work anyhow. Then, I used a crow bar to partially pry each window away from the sash. Once there was a crack of open space, I threaded some cord around each window and tied it to a nail I hammered up above the inside window frame. Then I finished prying the windows out, catching them as they swung out and down, but stopped from crashing to the ground by the cord. With the windows now out of the way, I can do some repairs to the sashes and the upper siding and finish painting the upper level exterior before summer’s end.
My modus operandi for working on this place is to tackle several jobs at a time. I know that probably bothers some of you. Why not start one job and just work at it until the very end? Well, that wouldn’t suit my personality too well. I like to have several irons in the fire at all times. There are practical reasons as well. Sometimes it is too hot to be working on the trail building project, or it’s been raining and the exterior walls are too saturated to paint, so I need an indoors job. That’s what the above and the next few photos are all about. As some of you may remember from last year’s work program, I repaired and painted the downstairs but stopped about half way up the staircase. Now I am carrying on into the upper level. The above photo is of the long room with two windows that look out onto the front garden (the same window openings featured in the photo further up this page). I like this room very much and intend to turn it into a studio at some point – maybe around the same time that I go down to sit in the chair by the river.
Anyhow, the condition of the walls in this room are not too terrible, other than at one end where the plaster is off the lath on the sloped ceiling, and there are planks that were covered with wallpaper which frames a rather spooky closet. The rest of the ceiling is peeling and requires scraping – all similar to the Room of the Scary Wallpaper which I worked on last summer.
There is a square tower room as well, and it is almost ready for painting. There are two more bedrooms and a long hall on the back side of the upper floor. They are in rather dreadful condition and will require *a lot* of work. I don’t think I will get to them this summer.
Anyhow, here is the same view of the *proposed studio* after most of the wallpaper has been scraped away and the first coat of plaster applied. It is already looking much nicer and brighter in the room and my imagination is busily creating visions of a nice studio with a work table, easel, cabinet for paints and brushes……… Well, I shall get there eventually.
Now, lest anyone think that I don’t take the odd day off, The above photo will prove you wrong. On Saturday mornings, I usually tear myself away from work for an hour or two to visit the Annapolis Royal farmers’ market. Generally, I buy a couple of soft pretzels and fruit turnovers, then poke around looking at everyone’s stuff. The above insulators were acquired over a couple of weekly visits to one of the vendor’s tables. At some point, I hope to build a little glass shelf upon which they will sit at the top of the now-absent windows of the partially-plastered studio room. Do you get how all of this works? It’s all about building up a series of carrots leading from one job to the next. Somewhere at the end of the string of carrots, there is a chair by the river and several colorful insulators displayed on a glass shelf.
Okay, I know what you are thinking. What on earth is this photo about? Well, this is a photo of the next major town north of here – as depicted on a postcard dated circa 1900. It is one of about two dozen neat old postcards in a scrapbook owned by my next door neighbour. In my *spare* time (what’s that?), I have been scanning the cards, along with an old post office register book that was kept by her uncle from 1894 to 1931. The point of this activity is to preserve these relics for posterity. Once I get a bit more *spare* time, I hope to contact the local historical society to find a safe, permanent home for the old postal register – where it might prove rather useful to genealogists and historians of this region. For those who are interested, I have put .jpegs of all the postcard scans in an online gallery here. Hope that link works.
Now, believe it or not, I do manage to remember to stop and eat occasionally. Of course, by the time that happens it is usually around 7 or 8 in the evening. A week or so ago, I decided it would be nice to cook the odd meal on a barbecue. Only one problem – no barbecue – as I gave the old one away when I sold the farm. However, I had noticed a small kettle type barbecue on sale at the local grocery store, so I stopped by and bought it, a bag of chunk charcoal, and a bunch of vegetables. The barbecue came -unassembled – in a large box weighing 25 pounds. At first, I thought to leave assembly until later in the afternoon – after all, the instructions said it would take just 10 to 15 minutes to assemble the unit. However, some rational part of my brain quickly deduced that there was no way that 25 pounds of barbecue parts were going to fit together and be ready to cook in 15 minutes. About 1 hour and 15 minutes later, the barbecue was ready for charcoal. The asparagus and the long strips of a sweet red banana peppers proved to be especially good.
Of course, no long, busy day of work would be quite complete without turning on the UV lamp and firing up the camera gear for an evening of mothing. Listening to Loons calling, Barred owls hooting, coyote howling, raccoons fighting over vegetable scraps back at the compost bin while you photograph moths can be so relaxing. With any luck, I get a few nice moths like the Pachysphinx modesta in the final photo. It’s a good way to wrap up the day before catching a few hours of sleep in preparation to start all over again in the morning.