Visualizing a community, and “my people’s” place in it

Posted on October 29, 2009 by


A couple weekends back, I had a chance to make a sweeping “history run,” starting at Loudoun Heights and ending up at Dam 5. All-in-all it was a full-bodied trip, and accomplished within seven hours. At Loudoun Heights, I finally had the chance to meet Craig Swain and his “assistant,” talked a bit, and took a quick look at the two remaining houses at the site where Mosby tried to take on Cole on an incredibly cold night on January 10, 1864. From there, I “pressed-on” through Martinsburg toward Clear Spring, did a cemetery walk at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, found two of three headstones I was hunting, and then moved-on to Rose Hill Cemetery for a shorter walk (where I found another grave of interest… Capt. Samuel Gideon Prather, Co. F, 1st Potomac Home Brigade Infantry). I then moved on to the once bustling village of Four Locks, which is now part of the NPS’ Chesapeake and Ohio Canal National Historical Park. I had been there before, but wanted to gather some additional photos. Not only that, but I had the chance to begin to imagine just how bustling a community it was back in 1861. While I was there, I think I saw one other visitor, and that was it. What once was a village is now a site with no people and relatively few remaining buildings from that time. Nonetheless, I was able to grab little glimpses of things that bore witness to a time in a place that has nearly been swallowed-up over time. I also had the chance to take yet another look at the Lock 49 lock tender’s house… in which (I recently discovered) my third great-grandparents Moore likely lived in 1858, while he served as lead lock tender at Four Locks. With this in mind, I also took another walk along the four locks (#47-50). The last time I visited, I tried to imagine how many times my ggg-grandfather Moore made it through the locks in his canal boat, carrying coal from Cumberland to D.C., and returning through the locks to get more. This time, I tried to imagine the rigors of life as the lead lock tender, a job that didn’t pay particularly well and could have been rather hectic. One of the things that struck me was how difficult it probably was, often depending on the number of boats moving through the four locks (each boat taking approximately 10 minutes to move through each lock, allowing the water levels to even off) and the odd and inconsistent hours at which they may have moved through them. I also took the time to imagine the community that has been portrayed, so far, in the newspaper articles that I have been featuring in posts (Four Locks is part of the Clear Spring District).

From there, I hit the road again, moving across the Washington County countryside to Dam 5, the site of Stonewall Jackson’s efforts (in December 1861) to severely hamper the efforts of the C&O canal to keep coal and other supplies running to Georgetown and Washington, D.C. He caused a little pain and discontent, but didn’t affect the canal as much as he reported. Had there been better weather… and a better time of the year… things may have been different.

You can see photos from part (Four Locks and Dam 5) of my “history run” via these links (here and here) to the HMDb.