Thursday, June 26, 2008

Hey look! Another receipt!

When my father, James Wood, inherited Poplar Grove from our cousin Lloyd, I was ten years old. Even at a young age I was overwhelmed by the property. I had spent my whole life living on Indiantown Farm so it was not as if a farm was a new an exciting novelty to me. I was familiar with farm life and the beauty of my family's property. However, Poplar Grove was a new experience because it feels as though you have set foot into the past. Although the farm has been inhabited by many ancestors for generations, there seems to always be a feeling of time travel upon entering the property. Even at the young age of ten, I was able to appreciate this sense of history that Poplar Grove holds.

Now, ten years later, I am lucky enough to be a part of the group of researchers who are exploring that history. Everyone working on this project has their areas of expertise and interests whether it be in the political background, military history, or farm management throughout the centuries. The collection offers information in these areas and so much more. The best part about working on this project is seeing the excitement on my fellow researchers' faces when we discover something particularly interesting. When we uncover a petition against slavery or a detailed map for the plan for a railroad on the Eastern Shore, the excitement about the discovery is contagious.

Of course the project has its tedious aspects. Sometimes I feel myself getting frustrated at my ancestors for saving every receipt for grain that they received within a five year span. Currently, my ancestor Edward B. Emory has been the victim of most of my verbal abuse. He is an historian's dream come true because he saved every piece of paper he ever received and had more mail delivered than I have in my lifetime. I am now so familiar with his handwriting that I do not even have to read his signature before I recognize a letter, check, or receipt as his. However, despite my frustration at Edward, I appreciate his careful record keeping. I remember that every receipt gives a more detailed perspective into the lives of my ancestors. As a descendant, I feel that it is important to understand and get to know these ghosts of the past. After all, without them I would not have this incredible connection with the past, my heritage, and the land that ten generations before me have lived on.


maria w. said...

Olivia, that is so cool that you have learned to recognize the handwriting of a distant ancestor! I am fascinated and excited by this project and the incredible finds I've been reading about on this blog.

As another Indiantown kid, currently raising the 12th generation to live on this land, I'm feeling a palpable connection to our family's history (and future), and also to the country's. The past and present are not so far apart as they often seem, and the interwoven connections among people and events make for a rich understanding of American history and culture.

Lori Benton said...

I appreciate this blog. Keep up the good work, all of you. There are many, many out there who wish they could be in your shoes.

I'm particularly interested in information found about the hiring out of slaves to neighboring estates (mentioned in an article on the finds, which I read earlier in the week), if anyone is of a mind to post about it.

Anonymous said...

I first heard about this discovery on CBC Radio - Canadian Broadcasting Corp. public radio service and was fascinated by the interview. Truly, a time-travel discovery, a time where a common man shares his private life with us. How fortunate we are to have this rare glimpse of times past.