I’m always fascinated how people are drawn to big old houses. People think that these are the ones with all the stories. Yes, if you want stories of large parties, one rich person hobnobbing with another rich person, and yes sometimes intrigue. But if you really want to find a place with a story to tell, find the places you might not normally look at.
Smaller houses, even one or two room shacks, the old stores and abandoned buildings along the highway, or even an old bridge. Don’t look for your stories in cemeteries unless there is a reason to go there for something in particular. Big mansions are great places to explore, I’ve done a couple myself, but rarely will you find a story that is new or different in these places.
An old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere had a family who once lived and if they were lucky, they managed to make a decent living. A lot of times they didn’t. They struggled, suffered, and died in those little houses. If they were lucky, they raised families that grew up in those houses and ultimately just decided that wasn’t the life for them and moved on. If they were unlucky, the whole family came to an end inside the wall of the house.
Old abandoned stores on the backroads used to be the meeting places for people to gather and talk. The local news was passed on in these old dilapidated places. Children reached for penny candy out of old jars while their parents popped their little hands because they might have the penny to spare. Women bought their sewing supplies in these places while stocking up on the things they couldn’t raise themselves, most always counting the pennies making sure they didn’t overreach what was in their tiny little change purses. Men bought their seeds for planting if they hadn’t stored any from the last harvest, but they usually tried to save what seeds they could. You needed a part for that broke down old tractor sitting in that old barn, that was on its last leg maybe, had to be ordered from a catalogue. God help you if it broke down during planting season or when it came time to harvest. If you didn’t have the money to order that part, then you might be out of luck all together.
The thing is, somehow people often came together to try and help one another back then. Your neighbor from down the road might let you use his or he and others would come and help you using just their hands. As isolated as these places might seem to us as we drive by them now, back then word got around when a neighbor was in need.
More and more as time passes, we’re losing all signs of what was once there. Just as we are losing all these wonderful old places, whatever they are, we are losing touch with where a lot of us originally came from. If you have older relatives somewhere, go visit them. Let them tell you about your family’s past and how it was for them and the people before them. You might be surprised at what you find out.