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Wealthy in Heart: An Oral History of Life Before Fort A. P. Hill
10-15-2014, 01:24 PM (This post was last modified: 10-15-2014 01:31 PM by L Verge.)
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RE: Wealthy in Heart: An Oral History of Life Before Fort A. P. Hill
I encourage everyone to at least skim through this book -- especially those of you too young or too citified to remember rural life. Its main theme is recounting what it was like for families in Caroline County (those who lived on the lands that the Garretts would be familiar with) when the U.S. government bought up most of the county and established Fort A.P. Hill Military Reservation.

But don't focus just on that. I especially enjoyed the pages starting around 330 that are filled with reminiscences about families of the area during the Civil War, Spanish American War, and both World Wars.

One of my favorite passages regarding the confiscation of the land in the late-1930s is this passage: "And the first thing I remember about the government taking our land was a man from the government approached Papa . . . my father’s name was Homer Bruce. There were 17 of us, nine boys and eight girls . . . and said, “We’re going to take your land, and you have 30 days to be out. We’re going to give you $5 a acre for your land.” And Papa just stood there. All he did was just listen, was no remarks or anything. He just looking down at the ground, didn’t know what to say or what to think, you know. We had cleared all the land there by hand, and Papa had purchased about three other small farms in that same area. I think he started to moving them with a wagon and the mules. Papa found a place down at Penola; that’s a railroad town in Caroline. We wasn’t familiar with that part of the state. An old shacky house, and the wind would blow the old shutters up against the house, and the river was down there in the bottom, and we would
hear the old hooting owls. It was in a strange place."

I think that struck home with me because I was seven years old when a man from the State of Maryland knocked on the door of our Huntt home in T.B. and announced to my grandmother that they would be taking our house and front lawn in order to build a ramp onto a new dual-lane highway that would replace the old Route 5 that had run in front of our door since 1850 (then known as the New Cut/T.B. Road). My proper, Victorian grandmother let out a war hoop that would have impressed Geronimo! She asked the man what would happen to the house (that all her siblings and her children had been born in), and he told her it would be bulldozed.

My father was serving in Korea at that time, but my mother went into action and spent weeks traveling to Baltimore to fight the Highway Administration. She proved to them that the amount of money they were offering could not build or buy a comparable dwelling for us (our house had 13 rooms - five of which were bedrooms). The State decided that it would be cheaper to move the house into our sheep meadow.

Another thing that struck me with the book is that, as many times as I have been through Caroline County, I always imagined it as field after field of tobacco. This book brings out the truck farming communities that thrived there because of the sandy soil. Tobacco loves sandy soil, but so do tomatoes and cucumbers evidently because nearly all involved in this oral history project make reference to those two crops - as well as peas, beans, peanuts, and corn. I can honestly say that I never thought about fields and fields of cucumbers; but I guess that's what it takes to make bottles upon bottles of pickles!

The very last page is perhaps my favorite - “And I grew to treasure those memories because she passed it on, something that we’re losing in these generations to come. If we don’t record it now – them youngsters – because so many distractions, so many toys, and so many avenues have diverted us passing on the heritage of where the children come from.
And that’s what makes me . . . I’m proud to be American. I don’t know what, but I’m American, and I’m proud of it. And I look back . . . and this is your wealth. You inherit wealth, that’s where you get wealth from. Anybody can acquire money, but you inherit wealth. And that’s the value. And having her share that with me, and I’m sharing it with you; it’s probably why it came down like that because this is an important chapter in the history.”

October 4, 2007
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RE: Wealthy in Heart: An Oral History of Life Before Fort A. P. Hill - L Verge - 10-15-2014 01:24 PM

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