Monday, August 8, 2011
Louisa County Roots: Part Three
The rain had briefly stopped when I made it here in front of the Cowles family farm and I was a bit disappointed. The satellite imagery taken June 19, 2009 according to Google Earth showed a building standing there and there was obviously nothing there now. I pulled out the printout that I had made and compared it to my surroundings and then it hit me. The house was gone but there was a barn possibly back behind the trees somewhere.
Using my zoom and walking further down the road, I found the barn hiding behind trees and corn but it was to new to have been around during the time of Joseph Cowles. So instead I concentrated on the views that they probably had back in the mid 1800's when they were living here. I must say, there were quite nice as the next two pictures show though they don't convey the depth of the valley down there where Long Creek flowed.
I knew going to the Chapman farm that it was an active farm full of outbuildings. I had toyed with the idea of pulling up the driveway, knocking on the house, introducing myself as a descendant of the family who used to live here but I could never figure out how that conversation would go beyond that. Also, it was only a little past eight in the morning and it was raining out, probably not the best of times to stop by. So I paused, took the above picture and continued on.
Although the Chapman farm was only a quarter mile from the Cowles farm on the same road and the Grim farm was only a quarter mile from both of those farms, it required a circuitous route to drive between them first driving down to the Long Creek flood plain, crossing the creek, jogging down a quarter mile to the next gravel road, crossing the creek again and heading back across the flood plain. In the picture above, I am crossing the flood plain heading back towards the farms. The farms of the Cowles and Chapmans are on the hill on the far right of the picture and the farm of the Grims is on the hill just to the right of the road in the center of the picture. The backside of those hills is also the valley of Long Creek further upstream. The hills actually form kind of a peninsula into the Long Creek valley.
The maps on Google Earth had shown several outbuildings on the Grim farm and though they had a deserted look to them (as much as can be seen from low earth orbit) I wasn't sure until I arrived and saw the driveway. I knew then that it was abandoned or if not, the hermit that lived there hadn't driven anywhere recently, lived with a broken window and didn't bother mowing the lawn. So I drove up to find out.
I didn't spend much energy looking at the house or any of the outbuildings which were all too new to have been around back then. But one look at the barn and I knew it had been. There was a lot of junk inside that door in the picture above but it was still raining, I didn't have a flashlight and I figured it was critter and snake heaven in there. If I got into some sort of trouble, there wouldn't be anyone to find me anytime soon. So I just squinted into the gloom and walked around to the ramp on the side of it leading into the middle part of the barn and where the horses could pull the wagons full of hay or grain up into the barn.
This view shows that ramp and that it wasn't much more inviting than the door leading into the basement of the barn. Despite knowing that pushing through the trees would completely soak me more than I already was, I went ahead and did so.
As I stood there in the entrance letting my eyes adjust, I saw three very large vultures sitting on the rail not ten feet from me. They all were looking at me with a look that said, "What the f%$# is he doing here?" All four of us paused for a bit eyeing each other up and wondering what the do until I finally broke ranks first and slowly started to reach for my camera. One vulture heaved himself out the door on the right side, a second one hopped to the floor and hopped over into the corner where I couldn't see him and the third did so as well but not before I got one shot of his back before he hopped.
The interior of the barn was fascinating. The flooring was 4 x 12 inch oak planking that would cost an astronomical price to purchase today but back then was probably considered as plentiful as weeds. Never-the-less, it was sagging in the middle, was well over 100 years old and spanned the basement full of rusty metal junk that I didn't have a flashlight to see. I opted to just stand their in the opening on the rock sill of the barn and not venture inside. Besides, two of the vultures were in there somewhere and they were ugly looking bastards.
The mow floor, my immediate ceiling, had what appeared to be 8 to 12 inch trees split in half and used as joists which they topped again with thick slabs of oak. It is no wonder these things still exist after all this time. They were the modern day equivalent of a tank.
Looking out the opposite mow door, I could easily believe that I was my third great grandfather gazing out of the barn on a rainy day. I would have liked to have gotten some sort of souvenir but I wasn't prepared for digging further and technically I was trespassing on somebody's farm, even if it was still owned by a descendant of the Cowles as I later found out. So I stood where the old house probably had been judging from the 1930's aerial photo I had found earlier, took a photo for posterity now seen below, and made my way into the nearby town of Morning Sun.