Saturday, October 16, 2010

Walking the Land of my Great, Great, Grandfather

When I was a kid, we would visit our grandparents in Indiana every summer. Spending time with my grandfather, he would tell stories about when he was a kid, especially about the summers that he spent with is grandfather. His grandfather was Iven Moore (apparently,pronounced like "Evan" in his lifetime).

Over the years, various members of our family have tried to find Iven's land, although the house is known to have burned down by the 1950's. Each of the attempts were frustrated by the poor memories of older family members and poor maps. One of the goals of this year's motorcycle trip was to find Iven's land.

My sister had dug into topo maps and property records since the last attempt. That, combined with satellite photos from Google gave us some idea of what to expect. The plan was for my sister and I to meet and see what we could learn.

View Iven Moore's Land in a larger map

Here is an interesting sidebar. I have a friend who is about to become a great grandmother. Her mother is 83 and still living, so she will be a great, great grandmother to a living child. In my case, my great, great grandfather was born in 1827 and passed after a long life in 1909. My great grandfather was born in 1831 and my grandfather was born in 1894. We seem to have a lot of space between generations in my family.

Iven was a master woodworker who made his living making everything from furniture to wagons. Although born in West Virginia, he brought his family down the Ohio on a flat boat and later moved to the hills of Indiana. The land he bought was back in the hills, on top of a tall hill. There, he built a 2 story log home in the shape of an 'L'. The outside was covered with clapboards to make the house look respectable and keep out the wind. The walls were said to be 14" thick.

He also built a barn, wood work shop, and a smoke house. Between their animals and fields, they grew most everything they needed. Using the woods around them for material, they made anything else they needed.

Iven sold a few acres up on the hill to the Harmony Church and part of my sister's research told of a small cemetary in the churchyard.

Fast forward to 2010 and we used GPS to find Mt. Moriah Cemetery where Iven and Belinda are buried. When gravestones are more than 100 years old, the carving have sometimes faded, so you use your fingers to make out the letters and words.

New resident guarding the old gate to the Mt. Moriah Cemetery.

We drove over the ridge to the next valley where Iven lived and drove right up the driveway of a house where Iven's land should be. I went up to the house to ask permission to walk on their land and met the current owner who was a very private man. Overall, he wasn't comfortable with us being on his land, but our stories were convincing and he knew where the old cemetery lay. In the end, he decided to take us for a walk and show us the old cemetery. As the current owner was uncomfortable, I didn't take too many pictures, but I did like the light coming through the trees (photo above) and somehow felt it might be the kind of thing that Iven or my grandfather would have seen in these woods.

This place must have always been remote. It is in a part of Indiana that is below the reach of the glaciers. The valley's here are narrow and winding. They have been eroded over the many centuries. Iven's hilltop is relatively flat, but hill side is steep and 50 to 100 feet above the valley.

The cemetery didn't hold any of our relatives, just a few forgotten graves overgrown by the forest. Someone had planted Myrtle at one of the graves. Over the years, it has grown beyond the graveyard and now forms a telltale ground cover in part of the forest.

I suppose that none of this is particularly significant to anyone other than my sister and I. Still, I felt a connection to a long ago ancestor. I imagined the home he built and felt the connection to the workshop and its tools. There is a wistful feeling from seeing and walking on land that connects to my grandfather's stories.

So here is to all of my ancestors. A line of people, experiences, and stories that are more a part of me than I realize.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent story, Jac. Funny how we have some need to stand where our fore-bearers stood. I think it helps us have a reference point for our own place in history. Too, I think we must unconsciously hope that we won't be forgotten, that someone will care 100 years on who we were and how we lived.