I recently had the opportunity, along with some friends, to explore Aldrichville which is on the Long Trail in Wallingford. With Pete Saile, Deb Brown and Debs parents, Gene and Ruth Lane, I toured this once thriving turn-of-the-century mill village. David Lacy, U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and Sheila Charles, also an archaeologist, were our guides.
The day was significant for me because my grandmother, Edna Bam May Earle lived in this community as a child from 18891891 and 18951896. She was born in 1885 and attended the one-room school. My grandfather, Frank Earle, was one of several blacksmiths.
As we walked through the woods, I could almost see my grandmother playing with other children. She was a remarkable woman of great fortitude despite having lost her husband and three-year-old daughter to tuberculosis within three months of each other in 1924. She raised my mother alone, working as a seamstress. Her mind was still keen at 99. She died in 1984, just two weeks shy of her 100th birthday.
David and Sheila spent three hours walking us past old cellar holes from the homes of French Canadians, across the brook to where the locals lived. We saw the site of the boarding house where the unmarried loggers lived and passed the remnants of the sawmill and blacksmith shop. Artifacts are scattered throughout the area and are a testament to a busy, active logging community; over 7,000 have been catalogued. A porcelain doll arm was found at the site of a house near the blacksmith shop where my grandmother may have lived. I imagine it could have been her doll. My grandmothers spirit is strong as I felt her presence with me as we walked through the woods of her childhood.
Starting in 1995, 25 kids researched Aldrichville over four summers. They reenacted life in the village by dressing in period costume and using oral histories, maps, photographs and school and census records. One of them dressed as Bam and recalled her life using words from a narrative recorded by my mother.
What a great learning experience that binds one generation to the next. We are not solitary beings. The past influences us to this day and will for generations to come as we continue on our own journeys.