For millennia, these meadows and rocky outcroppings were the stomping grounds for wood bison, wolves, and of course, the Iroquois Confederacy. (Jeff continues to keep eyes peeled for an arrowhead).
Then along came the Europeans with their pesky notions of land-ownership.
I'll gloss past the colonization. We know the basics: the French trappers and traders, the priests, the English settlers, the Revolution. Now, to zoom in to the details of that little corner of the world that catches my attention. In 1791, New York State was strapped for cash and land speculation was all the rage.
Leading to the Great Macomb Purchase of 1791.
This back-room deal sold off nearly 4 million acres of Northern New York for a whopping 8 pence an acre. Of course the sale was meant to encourage economic growth and settlement; the land was meant to be earmarked for Revolutionary War veterans.
Nothing new under the sun: scheming and greed resulted in a solid scandal and several fortunes lost and made and not a lot of veterans hammering swords into plowshares.
Namesake Alexander Macomb* was a fur-trader/wheeler-dealer, who, in the way of many a land speculator, found himself in the weeds: even at pennies an acre, 4 is many millions of acres.
He spent time in debtor's prison after the Panic of 1792. He was forced to do a bit of a fire-sale of his purchase, which is how Jefferson County ended up with a contingent of French aristocracy for a while**.
*Why, yes, his son was General Alexander Macomb, who lead the United States to victory at the Battle of Plattsburgh, which helped turned the tide of the War of 1812.
Some decades later, the Would-Be Farm took shape. Roads arrived, and someone drove a few hemlock posts to mark the corners of the property.
The earliest European owner might have put up a house. Some barns. Sheds. So might the next couple of owners (I have the title search in hand. Who knew that the Farm was part of Macomb's Purchase? I'm surprised by how interesting I find it. I never liked history class in high school.)
But these days, the only remaining structure is an abandoned farm house.
After all, it’s a familiar, plain, elegant pattern of so many farmhouses in the North Country.
I don't know what the design is called, officially –– vernacular architecture, maybe? with a splash of Neoclassical? Maybe one of my clever architect friends can give me some more insight on how to best describe it.
But it’s about 20 feet from the road. It's not especially charming. There’s a truly gruesome detached outhouse.
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And most decisively, the underpinnings of the structure have come undone: while the topline looks good, the interior is all sliding into the foundation.
Gravity is not just a good idea: it's the law.
One day, when I am tip-toeing around in these sad little rooms, I might find myself hip-deep in debris alongside the porcupine that lurks in the cellar.
I always check to be sure the phone is in my pocket when I venture inside.
But it's comforting to find out a little about its past.
To know, for instance, that the flowers (the iris and violets, hosta and columbine, lungwort and daffodils) probably came from this 100+ year span of women before me who cared for this farm: Julia and Harry farmed the land from their wedding in 1937 until 1980. Julia's mom, Georgiana was probably born on the farm in 1868, and spent her 80 years on this bit of earth. So nice to meet you! I hope you like what we are doing with the place.
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