Copyright 2010, CABS for Reflections From the Fence
Randy Seaver from Genea-Musings has posted his challenge this week it is "Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Wild and Crazy Genealogist?"
* What is the most wild, crazy, off-the-wall, or really stupid thing you have done in pursuit of your ancestral families and their family history?
I knew immediately the most wild, crazy, off-the-wall AND stupid thing I have done, hands down this story wins! And, here it is:
The Search for the Charles G. Trumbo House, Rockingham County, Virginia, April 1997
The occasion was Heritage Day for descendants of Brocks Gap residents. The event is held every spring and this compiler had been unable to attend until 1997. Of course, that also meant a long drive from Michigan, the car packed with more family files, computer and research paraphernalia than with clothes. I looked forward to researching in several libraries I have heard so much about, but had not had the time to get into on a couple of previous trips, haunting a couple of county courthouses in search for documents on several elusive ancestors, cemetery visits to photograph headstones of ancestors, finding houses that my ancestors had lived in and of course, taking photographs of those, and visiting with Alva and her sister Nancy Bodkin.
Sometime during the visit, Nancy and I decided that we should find the house my great- grandfather lived in. (It should be noted that compiler thinks that Nancy decided we should go find the house!) Nancy even knew who owned the land the house was on. So she called the home of the owner, finding his wife home, but not the owner. His wife gave us directions, of the general type and told Nancy that the drive, the land and the houselot were over grown, and that finding the house would not be easy. She also told us that her husband was out of town and would not be available to take us out there on the day we wanted to go.
Nancy in a fit of frustration blurts out that we are going to go try to find the house anyway!! Nancy is DETERMINED!! Now you have to know that Nancy has lived in Rockingham County for all her life and she knows everyone! She also has what one would commonly call "spirit". And Nancy loves to laugh and have fun. Anyway, off we go. Nancy and her grandson, who should have been in school, but was not because he had smacked a kid the day before and was expelled for the day, and yours truly.
We drive to Timberville, head back to the orchard area and root around for a while. We drive several of the back roads and don't find the "locked gate" we need to find. While we had been having lunch just prior to this little car ride, someone had mentioned to Nancy that maybe the city hall would have a detailed map and could point out the property on it to us. After snooping for a while we decide that the city hall plan sounds pretty reasonable, so back to town we go. When we walk into city hall Nancy knows the lady working there. Of course. But, this lady says there are no such maps. However, she has a suggestion. How bout the firemen??? They need to know where all these houses are in case of an emergency. One of the firemen, almost all of whom are volunteers, also happens to work for the city. So this kind lady gets on the CB and calls up a fireman for us. He calls back, talks to Nancy, he knows just where we need to go, after a few minutes of describing the route we need to take to locate the property he decides to come to the city hall and lead us out there.
A few minutes later we are headed back towards the property, we are led right to the gate, locked gate. Oh, we had been in the right place the first trip out, but did not see the gate, did not look on that side of the road. So, Mr. Fireman tells us, you go up that hill, round that little bend, look for a tree, etc., etc., etc. I ask him, how far??? Bout quarter of a mile?? Yea, that sounds bout right.
Nancy, Grandson and yours truly duck under the gate and start walking up the hill. Looked like a little hill, but that thing never stopped going up!!! After about a mile Nancy announces she is not going any further. Of course, her grandson and I keep going, I went about another quarter mile, and he went maybe even another quarter mile. I think he said he reached the end of the road. NO HOUSE!!
Oh, and that road, it was in great shape! Fresh gravel, wide, clean, no briars. This does not look like a road that is unused. In fact this road looks better than a lot of driveways do in Rockingham County. This road was good enough to drive a 18 wheeler down, well, maybe not a 18 wheeler, but a truck of substantial size would have no trouble whatsoever navigating this "driveway".
It was a beautiful day, sunny, warm and a pleasant breeze, a great day for a hike, which is about all we got out if it.
The truck pulls up beside us and we have a little conversation: We are looking for the Trumbo house. Is there a house still standing? Yes, we think there is one, way down over several hills, briars, hard to reach, abandoned, roof may still be there. I am the great-granddaughter of the fellow that lived there, I want photos for my children, to preserve their heritage, etc.,etc. etc. Yes, the gate is locked again, it HAS to stay that way.
These two young men are looking at me like I am full of poison. I don't have the Rockingham southern drawl/accent. I have a big, fancy, professional looking camera. I mention a couple of times bout my great grandfather, they look at my camera very suspiciously each time. You know that saying, "the hair on the back of my neck stood up", well it DID!
After a short conversation we continue back to our parked car. We are disappointed that we failed to find the house.
*Alas, the story is NOT finished, come back tomorrow morning for the REST of the story!
**Graphic courtesy of findfreegraphics