History: A House and a Hurt

I’ve been really livin’ local the past few days. It was the Kent County Historical Society’s annual historic house tour on Saturday afternoon in the midst of a big War of 1812 weekend, which began with a lecture on Thursday night, another lecture by the author of In Full Glory Reflected: Discovering the War of 1812 in the Chesapeake, and ending with a skit featuring Miss Kitty Knight and Philip Reed.

I guess this local living emphasis really all began with people. And ways to love them. I had our grandson on the brain as well as our great-niece and great-nephews, as I was wondering about exciting stories to tell them and books to read to them. I’d had a conversation on Thursday afternoon with the Director of the Kent County Historical Society at the Geddes-Piper House where she referred to this same principle of people connections, when she said that it wasn’t just about this 17th century chair or that 18th century chess set, because history was bigger than that; history connects the items and facts with the stories of the people who used them and lived them. Well, I can tell you that I found her charming, engaging, and super-friendly; she was making personal history with me on the spot, as I connected with her instantly and with her “take” on her job – that of preserving and passing on story. I really was all ears. I determined to soak in all the history I could so that I could pass on cool stuff to the next generation of children whom I love!

Prior to this weekend, I’d begun reading a book that my father’s sister, Aunt Elizabeth (Duvall), wrote. It’s a local history book (which seemed so exciting to me when I heard about it – we had a copy but it had never occurred to me to actually read it; it was just fun knowing she’d done it): Three Centuries of American Life: The Hynson-Ringgold House of Chestertown, 1988. So about a week ago, I picked it up. I’ve read the first third of it. I have to say that it is dry reading – mostly facts without much story – but the names are familiar to me, so I’m pushing on. I did latch on to parts of it, though. There was the bit about the chess set that Daniel Webster and Henry Clay had used, and then I saw that same set on Saturday when we did the tour! It was next to the coconut cup on a little table. Can’t tell you about the table, but the cup is a different matter; it has quite a story! It was given to Miss Caroline Thompson by her fiance….who ended up becoming engaged to her sister when Caroline was out of town! Do I need to even say that Miss Caroline got rid of that cup as fast as she could? The cup got passed down through a different family, but it came back to the house after Caroline left it – after her death, (after she died at age 100). Apparently, the whole thing really made its mark on Caroline, who never married, but who did quite well enough on her own, thank you very much. She was a woman who must’ve known her own mind and even after death got the last word on the subject. She did consent to having her body placed in the family plot, but it was not in the nice, neat row that the others rested in. It was at the edge, and her tombstone wasn’t a nice, neat rectangle; it was “a carved granite stump, complete with bark, fungus growth, fern and even broken sticks and nuts, supposedly left by a squirrel” (p 30). So you see what I mean. The stories grab you, and make you want to traipse off to the cemetery to see the stone and sort of salute the sassy lady. …Which is actually exactly what I intend to do this afternoon – AFTER calling the kids to see who wants to go on a history hunt …. which will also include a story and the hind end of a horse ….