Thursday, December 3, 2009

Guest Post by Erin of Rare and Beautiful Treasures

Today's post was written by a dear friend of mine, Erin, who writes an amazing blog called "Rare and Beautiful Treasures".

She is one of the kindest souls I've never met.
You see, much to my dismay, we live very far away from each other. We met each other through our blogs and instantly connected because of our passion for all things "home". One day, I look forward to actually meeting her in person. I just know we're going to have a ball together, shopping the day away at some hole-in-the-wall junk shop, or under the sun at an outdoor flea market- somewhere between here and there.
Until then, I look forward to reading her blog, texting and chatting with her on the phone, and the launch of her baby bedding line, which she will soon introduce on her new website. It's gonna be great, and I can't wait to see all the little layers of lovely she's creating!



I just love houses.

Don’t you?

Simply put, I love everything from their architecture, to the trees in their front yards, to the concept of “coming home”.

In particular, I love historic homes.

First and foremost, for the character that so often comes with the historic package: original hardwood floors, winding staircases, wainscoting, wrap-around porches and built-in bookshelves...

(And maybe even a secret passageway behind said built-in bookshelves!) :-)

Another aspect I love about older homes is

the history behind them

The story of the house, and the generations of families who made it a home.
It's especially thrilling when the generations of families are ones from your own family tree.

Have you ever set out in search of an old family home that may or may not still be standing? If you haven't done so, and you are a house-lover like me, this is simply something you must do. My husband and I have tracked down several of my ancestors’ homes in the past few years and I promise you that the experience is priceless.

The following is my favorite of these experiences.
Although this story may not end the way you expect...

Last summer, on a very hot and humid Saturday, we set out toward a town that neither one of us had ever heard of until I began searching for my ancestors homes. We had little other than a map, tons of determination, and a point and shoot camera.

Attica, Indiana is a town so small you probably won't find it on a map. But after several hours of driving past endless fields of corn, we managed to locate the quiet, little farm town. We also found lots of friendly neighbors. Neighbors who actually knew of my fourth great-grandfather, and who could have walked us to my family's property blindfolded.
After several stops along a long, straight rural road, we finally found the homestead we were searching for...

Tall, old trees still proudly marked the perimeter of the property...

...but the cracked concrete pathway that once led to the front door of my ancestors home had been gone for some time. In its place, a pile of rubble...

I was very grateful for those chunks of concrete. Even though the house wasn't there anymore, I knew I was walking where my ancestors had once walked. I could see were they lived, and farmed. I stood where the front door had once been, and looked out over the horizon. I breathed in the strong scent of legacy in the air, and in my heart, I knew I was home. In that moment, it became clear why my fourth great-grandfather had chosen to create his home on that very spot.


If you'd like to find out more about the places your ancestors called home, just follow these three simple steps:

Step One: Spend some time researching your ancestry and determine where your relatives lived some hundred + years ago. (Bonus points automatically apply if you discover your relatives once lived in a place that will make a great vacation destination. Think Savannah, Georgia in February, if you happen to be a northern girl like me.)

Step Two: Use the internet and family resources to determine which houses, farms or plantations your ancestors once owned.

Step Three: Set out with a map and camera to find the historic home to which you have personal ties. (Triple bonus points apply if you are able to convince the current owners of said real estate to turn over possession of the property to you, because, after all, it is family property. In such an event, use the aforementioned triple bonus points to promptly purchase a bottle of bubbly and invite all of your friends over to your “new” home to celebrate your glorious coup. Make sure Layla and I are on the guest list too!)


For most of us, our homes will outlive us.
Our walls will talk long after we are gone.

I think about the house I call home today, and wonder what it will say about me a hundred years from now.
What if the house is gone?
Will the land remember?

I think about the land and houses of my ancestors, and I wonder-
what stories are waiting for me there

I need only close my eyes and remember that hot, summer day in Attica, and I instantly feel the gentle pull toward other places and other stories from my past as well.

The words continue to reverberate in my mind- a call to which I will surely respond.

Come home.

Do you hear it too?


Honorablyfallen said...

what a lovely post.. I am all about everything Home. My husband and I have taken on the job of caretakers of our old home.. I find myself talking to the house as I doing things whether is be ( painting or exploring) just to let anyone still around know what I'm doing this for the bettering of the old place, their home and mine...

I often feel like I have adopted the previous owners into my family because living here makes me feel like I am apart of theirs. And when Ed and I our gone someone else will come fill up these rooms with their lives..because guaranteed this farm house will outlive us all. We are all just a small part of its history.

~Sarahlynn ~Paper Road Farm..

People Who Know Me Would Say: said...

This was lovely to read, Erin. I know, from personal experience, that going back to your childhood home when it's no longer in the family can be a wonderful experience too!

The Brown family said...

ha! I do know where attica is...I have friends that go to our church that live there....what a small blog world...It's only a 30 minute drive from where I sit :) Great post. What a wonderful and beautiful thing to experience!

Allison aka Half of VAMH said...

Beautiful story Erin, thank you for sharing!

Lynn Kellan said...

Erin, I wish there was more than rubble to see from your ancestral home. Sounds like it was a lovely journey nonetheless.

Traci@ Beneath My Heart said...

Erin is such a sweet soul. I enjoy all of her posts, including this one. I am definitely drawn to things of the past. I can look at old photographs for hours just wondering about the lives of those in the picture. Houses are like that too. They speak to my heart!

Amy R. said...

Very cool! I MUST do that!


Pam said...

I love this post. I had never thought about the legacy of a family home. I don't live too awful far from Attica. Indiana is such a warm, welcoming place that made me feel 'at home' from the moment I moved here. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story and beautiful pictures.

Sondra said...

I love the phrase "Will the land remember."

Two years ago my daughter visited a historic mill in Missouri near my hometown; while there she felt compelled to cross the covered bridge to the land across the creek where she felt very much at peace. She took many photos of the land and huge trees. When she told me this, I said that her great great-grandpa farmed that land 100 years ago and my grandma (her g grandma) camped there during the summer weeks to cook for her father; they returned home on weekends. Her g grandma must have played under those same trees when they were smaller.

Yes, I believe the land remembers.

Erin Southwell said...

Rosemary-what an incredible story! I just love that. Exactly what I was trying to express by being "called" home.

Lynn- If you are interested in seeing pictures of a great house we did find still standing, I blogged about it here:

Thanks to everyone for the kind comments!

Tracey Johnson said...

So glad others feel so connected to the idea of home. Thank you for sharing this neat story, Erin.

Sarah said...

Amazing post. While I don't know of any property that was family owned a very long time ago, I do know of property owned right in my hometown that my Grandmother grew up on. It was her aunts house and she attended an elementary school that many of my friends did when I was a child. So strange to think of how a place can hold generations of a family.

Karen said...

As always, wonderfully said. I too love old houses and all their history and yes, I have been back to my grandparents homes, both which still stand although they have long passed on. Thanks for sharing one of your many joys!

cookie said...

Living in a 1927 Tudor style beach cottage, we have often wondered about our house. A picture taken from the pier in 1928 shows our house as only one of four on our lane with and unobstructed ocean view. The small closets and lack of storage tell us that it was simply a beach cottage and not a year round home. Was it the home of ranchers living just a few miles inland or a family from the central valley escaping oppressive heat. When I retire in a few years one of my first projects will be to find out the history of this special little house.

Heather said...

Great post! I LOVE old, historic homes. Charleston and Savannah are my favorite places to be. I would like to drive back to Savannah and look for my ancestor Eli Whitney's home. I know the ruins are all that is standing, but it would be amazing to find it.

I know someone found the home my however many greats grandfather lived in during the 1700s. I need to make a trip to PA to find it.

One day I want to live in an old house. Think of all the secrets it has.

Kate Riley said...

I adore Erin and her blog... been a follower for a long time. Thanks so much for featuring Erin who is indeed a rare and beautiful treasure.

Angela said...

What a lovely post Erin!

becky up the hill said...

I did this kind of thing twice. Once I went to Santa Rosa, Ca. to see the place where my grandparents trailer factory used to be. We had Earth Googled it and knew it was gone. One thing that tugged at my heart. There was a woodsy area next to the property with a creek. I knew my grandparents had gone to that creek, because they loved woodsy creek areas. The we all went all the way back to the mid-west to see where my gggrandparents built an old stone house (1835), still standing. Family owned for 150 years. The owner let me have a tour. It was so sweet. Thanks for sharing your journey.

Anonymous said...

I love this post. I'm all about history and family too. The folks who bought my great grandparents home are REALLY into research and found me via a genealogy website to get some stories and old pictures, and in return told me things about the old house's history. Don't you just love the internet?

Carol said...

Lovely post. I was fortunate to have a tour inside my grandparents old house by the new owners. The house was built by my grandfather in the early 30's. The new owners had done many renovations, so it didn't look the same inside. They were so gracious they gave me the old art deco chandelier and pedestal sink they had kept after renovating. I cherish those items.

Now I need to find and take pics of my earlier ancestors places. What a great project that will be.

Kathy said...

I didn't know there were others out there like me who love houses. All different is a sickness, I missed my calling of being an architect so I could be around houses all day, I have wondered why I am this way. It is nice that I know I am not alone.

Roeshel said...

Hi Layla & Kevin!

Erin, what a beautiful story. We bought an old farmhouse because we love homes with history and character. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and photos and giving me more to think about. :)

Enjoy the weekend.


Melissa Miller said...

~WOW! This post is amazing.
Thank you for sharing Erin.
I just visited your beautiful blog as well. Your home is gorgeous!

Have a wonderful weekend.
~Melissa :)

Rachel said...

Erin! I am reading this post a little late, but I can't believe it. I almost gave my husband a heart attack when I screamed out "ATTICA!" My mom grew up in Attica! She moved with her family in her teens from the neighboring town of Williamsport. Her father owned the hardware store and lumber yard (my family stills owns it). I have been visiting once or twice a year my whole life. Your post took me right back there. What a treat!

Abbie said...

Whoa! I grew up a half hour from Attica and I have family that live there as well!!! How CRAZY!!!