Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Old Cellar Hole By: Alma M. Sevier 1980's

This is another entry from my grandmother's journal. She used to take me to these cellar holes sometimes and we would look at the fallen mossy rocks with remnants of bottles and jars jutting out from them.

The Old Cellar Hole By: Alma M. Sevier 1980's 

The yard is silent now. Grass grows knee hight right up to the front step. Honeysuckle is growing within the foundation walls. All is so quiet.

The road has become grass covered. An aging lilac bush; two stately elms; possibly a clump of daffodils remain; almost always a patch of myrtle. The myrtle is very likely covering a small grave. One of the stately elms has aged; so much so it has broken over like an elderly man. It is ready to return to Mother Earth - dust to dust.

Once a family with several children walked and romped this dooryard. The trees must have shaded them in play; the farmer rested his team after watering them at the well. Long hot summer days. The breeze always blows on this yard as it sits on a hilltop overlooking a deep falley. The yard would have been tread bare beneath young bare feet. A rope swing; no doubt; swayed from one of the strong elm limbs.

I stood on the front step today when I went to call. Of corse there are no buildings there now; no front door. The cellar walls and the cistern are open to the black berry bushes; which are growing up from the cistern floor. No one answers my step, but I go each year anyway. Just to be neighborly and have a quiet moment to think.

Do you suppose old homesites grow lonely? Do they miss the new baby's cry; the little children's laughter; the older children's secrets? I feel once a site has been lived on there are always parts of the past events that occurred there; left behind. PIces of broken pottery; a rusty can; and empty medicine bottle; a cement path; and old well. All of these things had and importance at one time.

A red-winged blackbird settled down with a warning sputter. It aroused me from my deep thoughts. I always "feel life" when I come upon a cellar hole or empty house. These places held pioneers; people who cleared the land; lived; worked; died. Did many things we do now. They moved on; the place stood vacant. Many causes and reasons are given for the desertion. Fires, no insurance monies to re-build. Bad roads no easy way to get to needed supplies and medical help. Taxes! Many of Central New York pioneers moved on to lands "out west".

Stone walls were lain if the ground provided enough stones. Orchards were carefully planted and cherished. Many varieties of fruit. These were the source of delicious pies in the winter. Wells had to be dug by hand and stone walls lain to line the pit. Many stories are told by our ancestors of the walls falling in on whoever was working there. Of children falling in and being seriously injured or drowning. Some of these wells went as deep as twenty feet and more.

Many cellar holes are deserted due to result of fires. Started by overheated chimneys or lighting; or overturned lamps or candles. There were not volunteer fire departments then. If you couldn't put the fire out with a pail of water you were doomed. It was cheaper to desert the place and find a new home if you were a poor family. Neighboring farmers usually bought the land; adding to their existing acreage.

Many un-marked graves are in the dooryards of these vacated home sites. Many lay in the door yards of existing homes. They lay under the before mentioned myrtle patches and shrubery. I myself have an aunt who died at birth; buried in a dooryard at ONondaga Hill; and a cousin buried in another dooryard in Onondaga Hill; due to childbirth death. Babies were born un-assisted some times; into cold bedrooms and often into a large poorly fed family; everyone being at a weakened state. Many serious diseases passed through communities; un-checked by our modern vaccinest. If a family lived isolated deep in the sparsely settled lands they were helpless to do much better.

If one listens close to the "old timers" tales about these homes and deserted sites, you realize they AREN'T forgotten!! It's just that people who lived there formed new life and homes somewhere else. Their memories return often. So often one hears a child from these sites; now full grown and possibly aged; reminisce about "how cold the water always was from that well; that farm crew the best potato I 've ever eaten; there was the best apples from that orchard".

No; they aren't forgotten; they are just un-used. So when you pass one - don't PASS - PAUSE and look around (with the landowner's permission). Step up to the "front door" and listen. Listen - do you hear sounds of a past life? I'm sure you'll find a surprise there - if only a memory of YOUR old home; somewhere in your past.

Written in memory of the "Morgan Place" atop Smith Road, New Woodstock, NY It has been bulldozed over now and is part of the neighbor's farm field. There are many, many such cellar holes throughout the local State Lands; located between New Woodstock; Erieville and Georgetown areas. Many are almost invisible now in 1997 but can still be found if you park your care and HIKE!!

No comments:

Post a Comment