Peering In

As I pulled into the parking lot beside the old school in Sweden, Maine, I was excited to see the door open, meaning that for the first time I’d get to step inside and take a look.

S1-old school

The Sweden Historical Society had recently had the building cleared of asbestos and hopes to possibly turn the 1827 structure into a museum.

S2-lathe

My friend, Janet, who is past president of the SHS, invited me in and gave me the short tour–especially of the former bathrooms where the renovation revealed the plaster and lath originally used to finish a wall. The wooden lath was attached directly to the studs and then embedded with plaster; often horsehair plaster.

s3-wall paper

Once the plaster dried and formed a hard, smooth surface, it was either painted or covered with wallpaper. Janet was thrilled by the discovery of the latter and has plans to preserve it within a frame. Do you see Donny’s signature? I wondered if he got into trouble for writing his name on the wall.

s4-original entrance

We didn’t stay in the building long because we had a walk planned, but first, Janet provided a bit more history including pointing out the original door on the front of the building.

s5-foundry

And beside that in this small hamlet that is home to a community church, town hall, town office and the old school, sits another building that looked like it had been there forever. It was an old foundry that Janet explained had been moved from another location–a frequent happening during yesteryear. This year it was dedicated to the founders of the SHS (apropos–foundry for the founders), Kay and Dick Lyman.

At last, we were ready to begin our walk.

1858Map_comp_1000

1858 Map

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1880 map

The route was a short one, but it took Janet, her friend Karen, and me about three hours to walk from Route 93 to Webber Pond Road and back again.

s6-the road

We began beside the foundry on the colonial road. Though it’s still a town road, it’s no longer traveled (except by logging trucks a few years ago).

s7-fence post

Not far along, Janet pointed out two granite pillars, indicating a fence line. And then we went off-roading, in search of other evidence of the use of this land.

s8-well

And what to our wondering eyes should appear, but an old well, its covering slabs now turned upright. We poked about some more, but found nothing else in that spot and suspected it was a well for the farm, rather than for a house.

s9-barbed wire

As we returned to the road, our suspicion was correct, for we found barbed wire that would have held the animals in. We stepped over it.

s12-bridge

Our journey continued and at a brook that flows from Keyes Pond to the north down to Webber Pond, we came to a crossing. It was a crossing that also had us wondering for it was made of large granite slabs than ran east to west in the direction of the road. Number one, we didn’t expect the slabs to serve as a bridge, and number two, if such was the case, we thought it would have made more sense if they were turned 90 degrees. And so again, we wondered what the story might be. Perhaps wood once covered the stone?

s19-single wall to double

For most of the journey, the road was bordered on both sides by stone walls–all freestanding, but some single-wide and others double. Single indicated either boundary or a way to keep animals in, while the double made us wonder about a plowed field. We noted neat construction where the stones were carefully stacked and messy sections where it seemed they’d been tossed, and again did some more wondering–were the messy parts the work of youngsters?

s11-Christmas fern 2

It wasn’t just the historical artifacts that drew our attention. Check out the withered leaflets on the Christmas fern. Its spores formed on the underside of a few leaflets, aka pinnae, of one or two fronds and that was sufficient for reproduction.

s15-lungwort 1

We also found an old favorite, lungwort; an indicator of old growth, thus a rich, healthy ecosystem.

s14-lungwort 2

And an equally fun lesson for Karen, who lives in Illinois, and had never encountered it before. Janet poured some water onto the lungwort, which is a foliose lichen, and the miracle occurred on cue.

s16-lungwort 4

With a twitch of her nose and a wink of one eye, we watched as the water reached the lungwort’s surface and changed its color from gray to bright green, while where no moisture flowed, it didn’t transform. Lichens have a high resistance to damage by dehydration and will suspend photosynthesis when they dry out. The cool thing about them is that once wet, they can quickly absorb water and get back to food production.

s18-bluestain 2

We also spied a cool fungi, and one that we seldom see fruit, but this year has been different and we’ve discovered it periodically. This is green stain fungi, so graced with the common name because it really does look as if the wood had been stained green. I used to think it was an old trail blaze. When it does fruit, the mushrooms are tiny, but among the most beautiful–at least in my mind.

s20-Mrs Webber

At last we reached Webber Pond Road and we crossed to the cemetery, where Janet pointed out those for whom the nearby pond and road were named. She also noted that while most foot stones in a cemetery are positioned in front of the headstones, these were located behind. Indeed curious.

The cemetery was our turn-around point and we followed the route back, but actually went off route because we were looking for a foundation or two. We found none as we paralleled the road, but that’s okay because it just means we need to return.

Back at the old school house, I said goodbye to Karen (on the left) and Janet (on the right) and gave thanks for the opportunity to look keenly with them–as we peered into history.

 

 

Following In The Footpath Of Others

Rain marked this morning’s dawn, but that didn’t daunt our group of six. We donned overcoats, gloves, hats and waterproof boots knowing that we’d encounter mud along our intended route.

And so we met near the former site of the Methodist church in the northeast corner of Sweden–Sweden, Maine, that is. Our intention was to follow the snowmobile trail for a couple of miles and visit foundations and a few other historic sites along the way.

s-you are here map

Maps dated 1858 and 1880 show a network of roads that served the scattered neighborhoods of this town. The trails we were about to walk on follow the footpaths and wagon tracks of earlier people. These were once town roads. We happened to be in the presence of the president of the Sweden Historical Society and she gave us copies of the maps to help us gain a better understanding of our destination. She also printed out a topographical map so we’d have no excuse for getting lost.

s-following trail in

With the sun suddenly shining upon us, we laughed at ourselves as we moved along because we traveled at breakneck speed. Well, for us anyway–1.8 mph when we were moving. Note the phrase: “when we were moving.”

s-stream to Patterson 1

Along the way, we paused to admire the streams that flow toward Patterson Brook and

s-vp 1

checked on life in a potential vernal pool.

s-stream 2-mill site

While we find water so mesmerizing, I couldn’t help but wonder about its potential here for the early settlers.

s-stream 3

Several times we found stone walls on either side of the streams and didn’t know how to interpret their meaning. That was OK–we appreciated not having all of the answers.

s-stream 4

The opportunity to partake of the beauty among friends old and new was enough.

s-cheyenne

Even four-footed friends.

s-single:double wall

The stonewalls, both double and single in structure, indicated that the land had been cultivated. We tried to make sense out of the sudden switch from single to double and back to single in a short distance, but really, they didn’t necessarily build walls according to our expectations of what life must have been like–a single wall meaning keep the farm animals in or out and the double being a garden wall–lots of times it was probably just plain common sense and a need to get rid of the stones that rose with the frost.

s-drilled rock

Eventually, we climbed over the wall and headed up toward this monument. Dave, who lives in this neighborhood and knows these woods well, encouraged us to ponder.

s-drilled rock 2

Why was the top of the rock split off intentionally and then left there?  Was it intended for a foundation stone? Was the neighborhood abandoned before this piece was used?

s-town line 1

We wandered further through the woods and came to the Sweden/Waterford town line. Two stone walls less than ten feet apart mark the boundary. Waterford to the left and Sweden to the right. (Did I get that right, Linda?–my left and right?)

s-town line

Orange paint also marked the boundary line.

s-kneeland foundation

We’d crossed into Waterford and stopped for a break at the Kneeland (1858)/Kimball (1880) residence, a rather large foundation with a center chimney.

s-fdn rocks, squirrel table

Apparently, we weren’t the only ones who paused here for a snack.

s-hidden brook

And then we crossed the snowmobile trail once more and began bushwhacking again. Though you see only tree shadows, leaves and moss here, it wasn’t what we saw, but what we had the honor to hear that made us stop–an underground brook. It felt like we’d stumbled upon a secret spot.

s-stone chair 2

Dave led us uphill to another special spot a friend of his discovered years ago–the stone chair. You have to wonder about this. We’re in the middle of nowhere that was once somewhere. Below this is a large hole in the earth, possibly a foundation of sorts. And beside, a skidder trail. So, who built the chair?

s-stump by chair 100:50

Atop the foundation of sorts was this cut stump–we surmised it was cut about fifty years ago and that it was about 100 years old at that time.

s-group 1

It really doesn’t matter. What matters is sharing the discovery.

s-chair and Sophie

Another four-footed friend also thought it was rather special.

s-cable

Not too far from here we found something else that spoke of logging.

s-goshen 2

We continued our bushwhack to another site of importance–and came upon it from the backside.

s-goshen sign 2

The Goshen Cemetery, circa 1815. Notice the raindrops and blue sky. A few drops fell in the middle of our walk and then it cleared again.

s-goshen cem 3

The cemetery contains stones that had been buried under the duff, but when discovered, were uprighted in spot.

s-goshen stone 2

s-goshen tomb stone

The tombstones are unmarked and as far as I know, two theories exist–an epidemic struck the neighborhood and those who died needed to be buried as fast as possible, or these were the tombs of the residents from the town’s poorhouse.

s-goshen sign 3

One thing we do know for certain. The bears like the sign and it has been remade several times and posted higher and higher in hopes that they’ll leave it alone.

s-bark art 1

Those were our historical finds, but we also made time to enjoy our surroundings, beginning with artwork created naturally.

s-beech elephant

I always say that beech bark doesn’t remind me of elephant skin, but today–elephant legs and feet, for sure.

s-downy rattlesnake plantain

Peaking out from the leaf litter, downy rattlesnake plantain showed off its white-veined leaves. Stained glass windows come to mind whenever I spy this. And though its the commonest of the rattlesnake plantains, I’m always in awe.

s-checkered rattlesnake

We also nearly stepped on its cousin, checkered rattlesnake plantain. I do have to say that if I were in charge of the world, I’d switch their names.

s-artist conks

We found artists conks and

s-hemlock shelves 1

old hemlock varnish shelves.

s-porcupine den

We know where the porcupines denned,

s-moose:striped maple

moose browsed,

s-pileated 1

woodpeckers dined,

s-deer rub

deer rubbed their antlers,

s-deer rub:paw

and pawed the ground. Do you see it at the bottom of this photo? It’s a scrape meant to communicate information to other deer.

s-flying squirrels 1

But one of my favorite sights of the day–the flying squirrels that scampered up an old snag. Notice the flat tail–a rudder.

s-fs 2

And the flap on its side, that furry membrane that stretches from the wrist to ankle–a parachute of sorts for gliding from tree to tree.

s-fs 4

And those bulging eyes–the better to see in the dark.

s-heading home

Four hours and almost six miles later, we followed the trail out, thankful for the opportunity to spend time wondering together and follow in the footpath of others.