Cabin Life- The Search for History

Yesterday I took the day off from the nursing homes to come up to the cabin. I wanted to be present for the passing on of my great walnut tree.

Actually, I didn’t want to be present. I just felt I should be, since I’m the one who’s responsible for giving the order.

Well, the tree guys didn’t come. Turns out they said they thought I couldn’t take off work Tuesday, so they decided to start on Wednesday and “finish the week out” at my house. This was per Mertis who had to call them as my cell doesn’t work at the cabin.

Later Marti reminded me my last words to the tree guys were, “I’ll see you Tuesday!”



I used the time “wisely” by heading off to research the cabin. I hit the Blue Ridge Institute first where the very nice director gave me the number of a local historian and told me to call her.

On the phone. You know how I am about phone calls!

So instead I went to the Franklin County Historical Society. “You should’ve called Edith,” they told me. “She really knows that area. That’s where you should start.”

“Well, I didn’t want to appear completely stupid, so I thought I’d find out as much as I could from y’all first,” I lied.

This completely threw them. “Well,” the sweet, gray-haired, volunteer said. “Linda’s in the basement. I hope she comes back up. If she does, she’ll be able to help you.”

And if she doesn’t? What happens in the historical society basement that decides whether Linda gets to come back up or not? I never did find out. Had I been a really good investigative reporter and been rude enough to ask, I might’ve found the real story. As it was, I gleaned enough to make me think perhaps she was doing her own research as she is on a book deadline. When I’m on a deadline, I look for whatever quiet space I can find and the basement of the historical society sounds perfect.

Linda did re-emerge and she was as sweet and delightful as the volunteer. And very helpful. Linda said, “You really should call Edith. She hasn’t been in good health and she is getting older…”

I know I should call Edith.

“She’s very nice and she’d love to talk to you,” Linda added, perhaps knowing the look of phone phobia when she sees it. “But you can also go to the courthouse and search through the records. Go back as far as you can. Once you have a family name, we can help more. Just go to the Clerk’s office and act dumb- they’ll help you. They’re really very nice and they love to help but if you act like you know what you’re doing, they won’t help you a bit.”

“Oh, it won’t be an act. I really am dumb about all this.”

So I drove to the little courthouse and prepared to throw myself on the mercy of the Clerk.

The Historical Society ladies were totally right. A stern-faced, gray-headed, woman named Mary turned out to be amazingly helpful. She reminded me of my junior high school librarian and intimidated the heck out of me with her no-nonsense insistence that I “Get closer so you can watch how I do this.”

The great thing about Mary is that she does not suffer fools gladly and assumes you will be watching so you can then complete the search on your own. She is a natural born teacher. When people do things for you, it’s almost a vote of no confidence- it’s an unconscious message that they feel you’re too dumb to do it yourself. So Mary gave me a great gift.

Three hours later, when I was still hard at work but totally into it, Mary walked by, munching on a cracker left over from her break. “You’re having fun, aren’t you?” she said.

I didn’t even need to look up to hear the complete change in Mary’s voice. She was smiling and happy. Apparently, I’d passed muster.

“I love this,” I told her.

“Just wait until you get to the books on the top row,” she said, indicating the earliest deed records. “You’ll really love that.”

And I did, and I do. It was the greatest fun in the world. I was reading about people I’d researched, looking at their signatures, or in most cases, X’s and feeling as if I could almost reach out and touch the past. It is an awesome feeling- to see history coming to life before you.

Attorney’s researching cases swirled around me, busily accumulating information for upcoming cases or real estate ventures. The paralegal from my closing came in and settled her papers on the long wooden stand next to where I was working.

“Well, how are you?” she asked. She wanted to know all about what I was doing there, maybe worried some glitch had turned up in the property.

When I told her, she nodded wisely. “You really should call Edith,” she said. “She knows a lot about that side of the county.”

“I know,” I answered. “I’m just doing the groundwork first.”

So when I do finally call Edith I will ask her all about the Wade family- from Posey Wade on back to Royal Wade. I will ask about Thomas Jones who bought land on the branches of Turners and Nicholas Creeks in the late 1700s. But while I know the “facts” of my property and some of the lore, I don’t have a true feel for what is true and what is fiction.

Is a Confederate soldier buried here? Are those the remains of stills in the woods? Are there really photographs of my cabin from long ago? What gives this place such a special and warm feeling? It’s more than the cozy style of the cabin. It is the place itself, the land that gives off such an inexplicable aura.

1 comment:

Heather said...

Hi Nancy,

I'm really enjoying hearing about your discoveries with your cabin and just wish that I could actually experience the aura and the feeling that you are getting from there. I think I do know what you are feeling though as I have felt it at least once in my own life before. It is a powerful feeling..almost an instant connection and it does make you want to know as much as you possibly can about that certain place.

I hope that you will continue to post updates up here about it because I, for one, am very interested!

By the way, when I looked at the second to last picture from this post..the one with the rocking chair and window, I almost expected to see a woman standing there, dressed in period clothing and looking out that window. It just struck me immediately, for some reason!