Looking for those who are no longer there…

Posted on August 14, 2011 by


This past Thursday, I drove through Clear Spring, Maryland. To be honest, it was part of a rather out-of-the-way detour that I made (by choice) en route to another location.

Looking west, along Rt. 40 (National Pike) toward Clear Spring. Fairview Mountain is in the background.

Certainly, it’s not like I haven’t been there before… but, I just wanted to visit again… and, I’m sure it won’t be the last time I will stop by.

Why? What made me want to go to a place I had been to so many times before? There are no museums, no battlefields, no document collections in facilities that I need to review again (well, actually, yes, there are, but I never seem to find the local historical association office open, no matter how many times I’ve visited), there are no people there who can tell me what they saw and/or experienced during this time, 150 years ago… nothing, really, that I haven’t seen already. What was I looking for; who was I looking for; and why was I looking?

At this time, in 1861, decisions would be made in the town, that would impact several families there… decisions that resulted in some family members never returning, or… returning in boxes, ready (somewhat) for burial. Being the Sesquicentennial, I wanted to capture “a piece of that time”. I was looking for a personal “Sesqui moment”; a point in time for special reflection, on my people from that time.

But, what is there that would offer points for reflection? There was a need for items upon which to focus my attention within the context (mindset, if you will) of the Sesqui, and the only things noticeable (other than a few trees that look large enough, here and there) as witnesses to that time are headstones and buildings.

Of course, I made the obligatory (but always… as morbid as it may seem to some… a pleasure, and never really a chore) visit to the Lutheran cemetery in town, where many of my Moore relatives are buried. As I walked into the cemetery, I paused at a few graves along the way, that were here during this time, 150 years ago.

Though not as silent as those who lay under the stones, most tell us nothing about what was going on, at that time. There are, however, a few exceptions, that do tell us something about the ongoing story of life (and death) in the town, in the face of war… and not a result of the war…

For example, as this image reminds me, only weeks before the day of my visit, 150 years ago, 2 1/2 year-old Kate S. Hower, daughter of Jonathan and Elizabeth Moore Hower (a sister of my third great grandfather), was buried, and the family was in mourning. Little Kate had been named, in part, for Elizabeth’s sister-in-law, my third great grandmother, “Kate”, and for Elizabeth’s mother, “Sanders” (her maiden name). Perhaps a very small detail to some, but part of the story of my family from that time. It reminds me that, no matter how focused we might get on battlefields, big names, and the like, we shouldn’t lose sight of the not so obvious places and people. Yes, the war was about to impact the community and my family… but, the death of this child also had some impact among my family members in Clear Spring, 150 years ago this month. This was a part of their story, during the war. Despite the war, life and death, not as a result of war, continued, and still had significant impact.

Leaving the cemetery, and making my way back into the town, different buildings caught my eye. I’m not a specialist in historical architecture, but have seen enough period buildings to take note of some along the way.

I wondered… what did these buildings see? I even wondered if the glass in any of the windows once held the reflections of people from that time… along with their worry, uncertainty, and grief.

This particular building was gutted by a fire within the past 2 years, and is currently being restored.

Looking inside the fire-gutted building.

Yes, I was looking for people who are no longer there, but for having taken the time to look for them, morsels of their life, as they knew it at that time, were possible for me to capture. I spent time trying to see the things they saw, and some of the emotions they may have felt at the time; a part of, and separate from the war… but still 150 years ago, this month. It was a personal Sesqui pursuit away from a battlefield, yet it still has its place in understanding the overall picture.

As many know, Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain said…

In great deeds, something abides. On great fields, something stays. Forms change and pass; bodies disappear; but spirits linger.”

While I agree, the terror experienced on the battlefield leaves something significant in its wake, I’m also of the opinion that something significant lingers, away from those fields, and should be considered in our Sesqui reflections.