Monday, June 23, 2008

A farm, a family ... and their stories

 A first-time visitor to Poplar Grove may think that it has been frozen in time since the 18th century: the old manor house, the outbuildings, the ancient boxwoods and family cemetery all evoke many generations of permanence and self-containment – almost a dream undisturbed by history.

But in fact, the farm that is Poplar Grove has been in constant flux throughout the past 340 years. Its name has changed; its ownership has passed through many hands; its boundaries have shifted repeatedly, growing and shrinking, breaking apart and coming together again. Old proprietors have gone and new ones have intermarried with other families, split the estate among heirs, sold off land and then reacquired it.  

Like the manor house itself – a fabulous hodgepodge of architectural tastes spanning three centuries – Poplar Grove embodies the dynamic change and constantly renewed ambition that are America’s characteristic heritage. And it has always been tied in many ways to the world beyond, even far beyond. Those who have lived there have had roles to play in many important chapters of the country’s history: the American Revolution, the War of 1812, the debate over slavery, the Industrial Revolution, the Gold Rush, the Civil War, the rise of the United States as a global economic power. Some family members stuck close to the ancestral soil; others ventured thousands of miles from home. And while a few succeeded brilliantly in their ambitions, others did their best but failed.

Tens of thousands of tattered and crumbling pages preserved by generations of Emory descendants have carried the hopes and dreams of their ancestors into the present day. Each scrap of paper represents a story, a moment in time that has survived: whether an episode as mundane as the purchase of a new pair of shoes, or as dramatic as the outbreak of the Civil War.

These papers hold, still mostly unrevealed, the secrets of many intertwined lives, and it is through them that the dry bones of history can come to life. In sharing some of the documents here, we wish to honor and respect the long-departed men and women whose histories are contained in their pages. 


Darlene said...

Have you taken any pictures of the cemetary?? It would be great to see pictures that you found in the trunks and match them to the headstones... just a thought

Isabel Wheat said...

What fun to hear about Poplar Grove on NPR. My great grandmother was Anna Miria Hemsley Emory and she married William Potter Thomas Turpin from another nearby farm, Locust Hill. I am Isabel Emory Turpin Wheat...would love to see Poplar I am a landscape gardener and studied Garden History in Graduate School...would like to see the property layout...