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Monday, August 22, 2022

When History goes up in Smoke

At 5:34 pm last night my phone lit up with the message "your house is on fire." My heart stopped, I opened the attached picture and started to cry. I knew the sender of the message who now lives in Texas and recognized the picture, not of the house where I was eating dinner, but the site of my ancestral home I sold several years ago. It was on fire. Friends saw the black smoke rising over the trees, realized the location, and took out their phones for photos.  The pictures bounced from Maryland to Texas to Pennsylvania to New York and then Washington State. Calls, emails, and more texts poured in throughout the evening as my children and old family friends realized I would feel profound sadness as a part of my family history was destroyed.  I soaked up all the bits of news as the flames were put out so many miles away.
Fire in Deale, Maryland 21 August 2022 - Kathleen Flanagan

Sorrow swept through the family as one by one we realized that the home our family had owned for 100 years was in crisis. Gratitude that the members of the family who have passed away would be spared today's trauma overshadowed the regrets that the vessel of the memories of so many family events was disappearing. The gabled house on the point of land where Rockhold Creek merges with Herring Bay has stood guard since 1850 and through the thoughtless actions of teens on a lark was to be no more.

House at Cedar Point in flames - Knopps
We are so grateful for the Herculean efforts of the volunteer fire department who had over the years many times visited the property to rescue weekend sailors who had crashed their boats on the rocks coming back into port, and once in 1957 when my great grandfather, fighting dementia, had wandered out in a snowstorm and was lost. But last night those brave firefighters poured water on the old attic trying to diminish the flames and then searched for hot spots until dusk.

Aftermath - Kathleen Flanagan
As we honor our family's heritage in this age of climate change, natural catastrophes, and sometimes deliberate damage, it is important to document with story and photos the artifacts and properties of our ancestors to savor all that they have meant to our family and share with those yet to come.

House shell from the water - Peggy L'Hommedieu

Tonight I am reminded that community comes together to mourn the loss of history and support, even virtually, during times when others feel loss. I researched the property over the years, lectured on the history of the area, published a BOOKLET sold by the local Historical Society, and crafted house history essays in this blog. Now my EULOGY for a house is truly a sad song saying goodbye to a piece of history that last night went up in smoke.

House at Cedar Point, 1919 - Ella Roberts