Thursday, February 7, 2013

The Family History Writing Challenge-Day 7-Why Preserve Heir Land?

This morning during my writing reflection time, I realized that one way I could personalize all the data I had posted in the previous day's writing about the heir land court case was to calculate the amount of interest in dollars and cents.

When I went back to the post and calculated what the smallest value was, a mere $36.51 out of a total value of $115,000.00, I began to realize the detriment of heir land as well as the benefit.

What benefit would that be? When I think about the Hezekiah Carter home place, and the Martha Ann Heirs land, I can see in my mind's eye the toil my husband's ancestors endured in order to be able to attain such a land to build their homes, to farm, to earn their living through turpentine distillation and pulp wood lumbering...raising cattle and hogs... And I recall visiting the family cemeteries along the banks of Mitchell's Creek...driving along a rutted path through what is now a soy bean field.

How could we allow that land to fall into the hands of developers? So long as the land remains intact, without subdivision, the more secure it the family's mind. It would take quite some effort, even for me as the co-historian, to determine each and every living descendant of Martha Ann (George) Carter, to locate them and begin a dialog.

At one time, my husband and I had talked about the land, hoping that there would be someone, we did not know who, that would be able to continue paying the taxes on the home place should something happen to Cousin Hattie. We had the desire...the deep, deep earnestness to preserve that ancestral land...yet, not the finances in order to continue paying on a 17.4 acre empty field valued at $93, 730. If ever a time should come when developers would buy up the properties along the Neuse as Cousin Hattie feared, just as had been done in the North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area, where numerous elite golf course communities sprang up, my desire would be for some marker to preserve the memory of those free persons of color who settled that area and made their claim to the land.

So many times I have wished that Cousin Hattie had shared with not wanting to possess the land, but desiring someone to preserve it and its memory...the history of the family that scratched its existence from that land.

But what good is a piece of wasted, mosquito infested creek land? Certainly we would never desire to live there! And would there ever be another Carter who would desire to farm the land? Any answer to that question would be speculation.

I drafted a short email to the siblings, stating our elder cousin's desire to meet with  all of us, in what foreboded of her imminent death. One sibling responded with concerns about court costs and attorney's fees...the next was interested in preserving the land, but like ourselves, had not the finances to pay the property taxes...and the last desired to relinquish whatever claim she had on the land as a descendant. No one saw the opportunity to gather information, or understanding about their heritage. The value that would come just from speaking with their father's fist cousin.

Perhaps that is too harsh an estimation. In this fast-paced world, we all have obligations which prevent us from doing as we please. We must often choose between desire and need.

Word Count: 580


  1. Love what you're doing, Debra. My husband and I live on the Schmdt Farm, 250 acres, which has been in his family since the 1800s. My husband has done his family history, and I'm encouraging him to write some stories, especially about the prior owners of the land. We actually have graves on the farm! You're doing a great job on this.

    1. Thank you so much, Bettyann! You don't know how much your comment means to me! I have been reading everyone's really great family stories, and as I read mine I feel like it might not be interesting to folks. You have encouraged me today!