The Pocatalico River at Stringtown.
In my latest Charleston Daily Mail column, I write about our visitors who came the day I posted about The Strange Case of the Box Mix. The visitors that day were the two daughters of my Great-Aunt Oshial (who was the sister of my Great-Aunt Ruby–of the slanted little house fame–and my grandfather Romeo).
That’s Barbara Vineyard on the right, and her younger sister Janet on the left.
Barbara grew up in Stringtown. (The family had moved to town before Janet, who is much younger, was born.) Stringtown is the long-ago lost oil boom town that once existed in the area surrounding our farm. Our farm was once the beating heart of old Stringtown. We named our farm Stringtown Rising Farm in its honor. My great-grandfather’s house stood on the bank across the river from our farm. My father was born on the hill across the road from my great-grandfather’s house. He grew up in another house a mile down the road. Across the river is an old schoolhouse (now used as a residence) where my grandmother was the one-room schoolhouse teacher.
There’s nothing here now but wild woods and a few scattered farms. Forests have overtaken hills that were once cleared and dotted with little homes.
This photo was taken from the hill on our farm and shows the clearings and the houses that once stood on the hill across the river.
The derrick in the picture stands off to the side of our house, in what is now Beulah Petunia Land (not far from the milk stand). I wrote about our old derrick here and you can see photos in that post of what it looks like today. Notice the numerous oil derricks in the photo. This was an OIL BOOM TOWN. (Our best guess is that this photo was taken in the early 1900s, probably no later than the 1920s, possibly quite earlier. By the 30s and 40s, the boom was dying. The end of WWII spelled the Great Exodus from Stringtown as young men like my father returned from the war only to leave again to find their futures in the big world outside these hills.)
This is what the hill across the river looks like now from our porch, just a little to the side of the perspective of the photo above. The hill in the center of the photo is the same hill. (It’s just covered with trees now.)
There was a town here once. It’s gone.
I was surprised and delighted recently to receive in the mail an account, written by Barbara, of her childhood in Stringtown. What an amazing piece of history, but beyond that, it brings our farm and the area around it to vivid life. I can see Barbara as a little girl looking for tadpoles in the ditches along the road, see her little red house and her dolls she hid from her brother, see her playing in the river, catching minnows and catfish in her hands. Oh, how I feel her pain when she talks of walking up the steep hills.
And the food. Oh, the food. Her descriptions of food on the farm when she was growing up make me drool.
I excerpted some of her account in my Daily Mail column today, and I’ve posted her entire account on my website. Barbara’s account, in all its delicious detail, is fascinating just from a historical perspective, but from a personal perspective, the places she writes about are all within a few miles of my farm (and much of it directly across the river). The Olive and Romeo mentioned in the account are my grandparents. My grandmother Olive was the one-room schoolteacher. I love the bits Barbara includes of the scandal when Olive courted and wed Luster. (My grandfather, Romeo, died when my father was four.) Luster was the same age as my father. Olive’s house, which is just a mile down the road from our farm (Skip lives in that house now), was built on one of my great-grandfather’s farms. He was so mad at her when she married Luster that he fenced off her house from the rest of the farm. It was a huge scandal of the day, in this tiny rural community, for the schoolteacher to marry a young man half her age. (Note: My mother’s father, my other grandfather, died when I was five. Luster was pretty much the only grandfather I ever knew growing up. He was a really good grandfather and my grandmother was so devoted to him.) Olive, by the way, was the one who taught my mother (her daughter-in-law) to make Grandmother Bread.
You can find Barbara’s full account (laboriously retyped–no, I don’t have a scanner–by me with Morgan’s help) here on my History page.