Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Serendipity and Schoolhouses

Serendipity.  That’s what Dottie said as we got back into her car after a chat with a local man after we stopped to snap a picture of his house.  The front door was open and he invited us in and showed us around.  We connected because we’re ‘old house’ people, or more accurately, ‘old building’ people.  Old buildings are a way to connect with the past, with people who came before us, a way to honor the hard lives they led, and a way to be a part of what will be history someday.
            After I interviewed Dottie Young, who grew up right in Clarksville, for some of the history on last week’s schoolhouse cover story, she invited me to go along on a tour of old remaining schoolhouses in the area. She told me fascinating stories of people and places as we passed mile after mile of cornfields. “That house was constructed without nails,” she said as we passed a large white farmhouse, and “my mother was born in a house that used to stand here on this corner.” 
Dottie told me of tiny, nearly forgotten cemeteries tucked in the acres.  She has ancestors buried at many of them, dating back to when this area was settled.  She took me to an early surviving log cabin—and I was amazed.  It still has a wood shingle roof!
I’d never been on most of these roads, but I’d been to one of the old schoolhouses we visited.  I actually wrote about it here back when I first discovered it by accident. Just a shell now, in ruins but still standing, it touched me so deeply then and still does.  Dottie thinks it was called ‘Willow Pond’.
Down the road from that schoolhouse is where we met Josh Reynolds.  His is an amazing story of how he and his wife Laura purchased their schoolhouse and have renovated it into a beautiful, cozy home with soaring fourteen foot ceilings and wood floors. What’s now the front door wasn’t the original entrance, but there was a big hole in the wall from where a tractor had been driven right through the wall—on purpose—a common practice back then.  The limestone plaque is inscribed with the name Charles Zeis, Dottie’s great-grandfather.
I feel so much gratitude for those who work to preserve our stories and our buildings and our past. 

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