All I have to do is walk out our back door for some real history — something straight from the 1830s. I’ve run this story before, but it’s been awhile, so I figured I’d print it again. It interests me.
John and Loudicie Adams left Pickens, South Carolina, 182 years ago and stopped on the property where my wife, myself and our two children now live. They’re buried in the graveyard that is fenced off in the cow pasture back behind our house. His grave shows that he lived to be 103. They buried several young children in that lot.
When they walked here, they had a milk cow that pulled a big barrel full of their possessions. He was 33 and she was 18. It was 1835. She had two children and another on the way.
My wife knows the story of John and Loudicie Adams, because she heard it from her grandfather, “Papa,” (sounds like Paw Paw) whose house we now live in. His mama was “Addie,” and she had the house built around 1914 shortly after her husband, “Callie,” was killed in a logging accident in Ila.
Papa cut hair in what is now our daughter Addie’s room. There are a number of you out there who know more about this than me, who actually sat in that room and talked with Roy Adams and paid the $1 for a haircut. I understand when he started, he charged a dime. He apparently didn’t do it for the money. If you lived around here and knew him, I’d love to hear it.
I only met him once. And that was when he had gone to a Commerce nursing home only weeks before he died in 1999. But the place is filled with his presence. The old beautiful barn he built some 65 years ago sits right across the road. And I like to sit out on the front porch and look at it, along with the large, perfectly symmetrical white ash tree nearby.
The presence of his son, Ed, who grew up in the house, is everywhere around us, too. And we see him most every day. “Pa” still loves his cows. But he loves his grandchildren more. And it is always nice to see his truck pull up the driveway. He is a pretty quiet person, but if you can get him talking, he has all kinds of history and know-how in his head. I wish there was some sort of USB cable to transfer that information to my head, but this computer doesn’t have tremendous storage or processing power.
It’s not lost on me, the connection to history in our homeplace. I find that to be a great gift. I grew up in Macon. And we lived in a great spot for a kid, at the very end of a dead-end road. I could play wiffle ball or set up a little Evel Knieval jump ramp in the road without fear of cars. And I could climb down into the little creek and play out whatever battle fantasy I wanted. But I had no knowledge of anything outside of the present. The land we lived on had its history, just like every place does. Just think of all the unknown histories that surround us, all those ghosts that can’t be greeted. That creek was surely significant in lives of the long gone — just as it was in ours when the water rose in the great flood of 1994 and ruined that boyhood home.
But the old house behind our Madison County home sits on rock foundations. And when I think of the creek on our property, I often think of John Adams, who surely picked this locale because of its proximity to that creek. I think of him carrying those heavy rocks from the creek to the homesite. I think of him using an axe to take down trees, then arranging the logs over time. I think of John and his family living for nearly two years in a brush arbor or tent as he built the home. Imagine the harsh winter. Who delivered that child? What wildlife did they encounter? How did they make it? I know most of us, myself included, aren’t cut out to make it like that now. I wish they had written about themselves in later years. Imagine a journal of those days.
The old porch, where John and Loudicie once greeted visitors, has partly crumbled. It’s a difficult step into that home, which is now more cozy for skunks or snakes than people. A doorframe inside is only about 5’6”, which lends some credence to the common assertion that people were “shorter back then.” That old house is no place to stay now. But I think of the pride John and Loudicie must have felt in the place, how great it must have been when they finally had that first meal at a long-gone table that John surely constructed.
I think it’s always a good idea to write down what you know of your family history and to speak with the older folks around you to find out what they know. Document it. Even if it seems mundane and trivial to you now, someone may later recognize the treasure for what it is.
Zach Mitcham is editor of The Madison County Journal.