Dark and musty, in a quaint sort of way, the courthouse was everything you'd expect to find in a small town with a history dating back to the 1700s.
Feeling a bit like fish out of water, we wandered into the hall of records, and approached the tidy little clerk that stood behind the old wooden counter. The room smelled of lemon oil and old books; it's four plaster walls were lined with heavy bookcases, stacked full of worn leather binders.
We found what we were looking for, deeds and titles to our property dating back to the original land grant from the state of Pennsylvania in 1838.
. . . by the line of the Mill Creek Road, south thirty perches to the line of James Adams land, thence . . . thirty seven perches to a post on John Gilmor's line, thence . . . east twenty-three perches to a plum sapling . . .The documents were handwritten until 1949, when the county made use of a typewriter. We read with fascination, the names and dates recorded, as well as the monetary exchanges. One particular line, in a deed dated in 1886, was of particular interest, as the property description was amended thusly,
Together with the right to use the tail race, as has been heretofore used and maintained. Said property being known as the Factory or Woolen Mill property. . .A quick cross-reference in a handwritten, paperback, history of our tiny little town, verified that a woolen mill had indeed been erected and operated on our property, all those years ago. In fact, not one, but two mills had been built, along with a series of stone and earthen dams (a tailrace) to divert water from the creek, into the mill.
The remains of an old stone foundation were located in the woods at the undeveloped end of our parcel of land, as was the tailrace, its stone walls collapsed in places, and covered in a century's worth of vines and moss.
We'd long known about the foundation, but had been told by our uncle, that it was all that was left of an old schoolhouse that had perished in a fire. Perplexed by the misinformation, we researched further to find that a schoolhouse had in fact stood on the banks of Mill Creek a little further upstream from the Mill. After poking around a bit during our spring clean-up, we managed to locate three of the cornerstones from the school's foundation, proving it had existed.
Located in an area thick with briars and brambles, little attention was paid to the massive old mill foundation, though apparently, residents of the cottage hacked their way through the heavy underbrush every so often, to dispose of unwanted household items.
While clearing the land for the construction of our house, a pathway was opened to the old mill site, giving us a better view of the history of our property, and the people that lived here.
I stood atop the mill wall this morning, camera in hand, and surveyed the deposits left by those that had come before us. Annoyed at first, by the thoughtless nature of those that had cast their trash into the woods, I began to view things in a different light. Like the foundation itself, each and every item laid to rest at the bottom of the foundation, had a story to tell, a history of it's own to share.
They were items from a century-old summer cottage - a card table, an old aluminum lawn chair, a porch glider, springs from an old mattress, a bed frame, a portable record player, a creamery pitcher. I photographed each, and imagined I heard, the scratchy strains of an old record (click) on a humid summer evening, the squeak (click) of a rusty old bed spring, the laughter and yawns (click, click) of a family at peace.
All photos by Mrs. Green Jeans, 2011