Sunday, June 21, 2015

Dig It

     There's this little slice of land I'm rather fond of. It's over by Eagleville and the Battenkill washes a few hundred feet of it. Close by the water is low lying alluvial floodplain that grows an eruptive jungle of trees and shrubs with an understory of ostrich ferns up to your chin. Then there's a slight depression, perhaps an old river meander, before the ground bumps up in a steep bank thirty or forty feet high. Here there's much improved drainage and sugar maple, cherry and white pine to show for it.

     The rest of the lot slopes gradually up to the intersection of a couple of roads. One's paved and great for road biking, the other's dirt and tree shaded, just right for running and walking. There's a curious tent shaped hill on this upper section, the gravelly summit of these wooded acres. It might be a kame leftover from glacial times. In any case, it adds topographic spice to the landscape.
     With great neighbors, a charming covered bridge nearby and sweet mountain views this would be just about heaven were it not for the ransom I have to pay to Washington County, the Town of Salem and the Cambridge School District. I have my "What was I thinking" moment every year when the tax bills come. The rest of the time I go over for a quiet place to read, listen to the birds and soak up the rivers tranquility.
     Other than clearing a little path from road to river I haven't changed things much. My one addition being an old lawn chair that I leave at the top of the bank. This is my woodsy study, a place of escape and inspiration. But others have been here before me and a little poking around reveals signs of their passage.

The Eagleville Endowed Chair in Peace and Relaxation

     Close to the road are a couple of depressions in the ground. Old cellar holes? Nearby is a short section of laid up stone, perhaps a foundation or wall? Then there's a roll of old page wire on top of a metal man hole cover. Removing these reveals a dug well maybe three feet across and fifteen feet deep to water. It is lined with field stones and appears to be fully functional, just waiting for a pump.
     This was obviously somebody's homestead at one time and checking Morris Levy's 1853 map of Washington County reveals a house and lot lines on this spot.

Don't chase white rabbits down this hole, Alice

     You can see larger trees along the old property boundaries, plus fence wire embedded in the trunks. There's also evidence of more recent activity in the form of planted red pines and Posted signs put up by Lee Wulff, the noted fisherman/writer and former owner of the land.

     Standing between the cellar hole and the well I found myself wondering what you'd find if you dug into the ground. Curiosity about the past, people who came before us and their possessions come together in the science of archeology. It's usually defined as the study of the human past thru material remains. It's sometimes seen as a branch of the broader discipline of anthropology, the science of man.
     Don't we all have an inner archeologist? It's a part of us aroused by finding something old that that once belonged to another person. It could be as intriguing as an arrowhead or as mundane as a broken piece of china. It has been touched by others hands and we can't help wonder about its story.

     The epicenter of archeology in Washington County has to be Rogers Island. It and other nearby sites in Fort Edward have been professionally excavated in digs that hundreds of local people contributed to. The Rogers Island Visitors Center interprets the areas history and is well worth a visit. David Starbuck is the archeologist most closely associated with discoveries made here. He will be giving an upcoming talk at the Visitors Center on Sunday, June 28. He's also a prolific author with many books on regional history to his credit.
     Over in Eagleville I think I'll let the ground hold her secrets. There are enough clues on the surface to satisfy me. Besides, any digging would disturb the wild ramps that grow there in profusion and my wife would not be happy about that.

Wild Watch...
     There's a couple of fox pups that can be seen outside their den on Burton Road near the intersection with Easton Station Road, south of Greenwich. Just sit quietly in your car and they play unfazed.
     Also have heard reports of sand hill cranes around Greenwich.  Anybody know more about those?

No comments:

Post a Comment