As seen in the June 2007 edition of W&ET Magazine
Roads To Nowhere- Bridges Of Desolation
By: Ed fedory
Such roads often remind me of Robert Frost's short poem about a man stopping on a snowy evening, somewhere between the village he left and his far destination. The horse wonder why the rider has stopped, as the man watches the snowflakes slowly descend. And I well remember a spirited discussion between a youth with common sense and an overly cerebral English professor who sought symbolism in every line of poetry. Where she ever got the idea that the poor fellow was going to commit suicide, I'll never know. I knew he was looking for a tree, and so voiced my opinion. Needless to relate, such practicality and common sense was but a wasted effort in English 101. I figured having a doctorate degree would kind of guarantee you'd know which end of the snake had the bite... but it doesn't.
Once part of the rural road system, this section has been maintained by a farmer so that he can reach his back fields. Along such roads are the remains of abandoned dwellings... the only ingredient needed for a great hunt!
Many of these roads today are only recognizable by the ruts gouged in the forest floor in centuries past. In cases where they were destined to traverse slopes, the roadbed was cut level, leaving the scars and evidence of their existence. Most are heavily overgrown today and often difficult to find. At one time those old roads linked farms to mills... and mills to villages. The more traveled roads were eventually paved over and became the thoroughfares over which we travel today. The "roads less traveled" reverted back to trails, and people moved from the homes that once existed along their margins. The roads became lost in the undergrowth and forests.
This eagle breastplate was brought home from the war and found around the remains of an old roadside dwelling.
Chances are you have an Old Mill Road or a Mill Pond Road in your own hometown, and you'll generally find them along creeks and streams, as a dependable source of water was needed.
Nearly hidden under a covering of vines and undergrowth are the laid-up stones of an early foundation. Besides a detector, a curious mind and a good set of eyes are needed for this type of relic hunting!
If your remaining energy allows, follow the forest roads leading to the mill. Sometimes they can be very difficult to find, but the existence of a ruined bridge is always a helpful clue. At the site of one particular mill, I climbed down to a ruined bridge and then up the slope to find an old roadway. The road was pretty overgrown, but it was soon evident that besides the deer, groups of hikers or fishermen had used the trail before me.
The objects and coins found around old dwellings often reflect its multiple occupancy over the centuries. The pictured recoveries represent a time span of almost 175 years in our nation's history!
Many dirt roads and "seasonal" roads are currently in that transitional phase toward extinction. Not enough people live along, or use, such roads to warrant governmental expenditures on paving. However, in years past there was a reason for that road's existence, and generally it wasn't because only one or two families lived along its edge. Many of the other families simply moved on... into the valleys... into the villages- and their former dwellings are usually marked by moss-covered stones and hidden by ferns just off the side of such roads.
With the overlook forgotten, we set about exploring the road. Every place where there was a cut in the stone wall, we searched. In some cases we found cellar holes... in other cases we simply found patches of flat ground and a few large, flat stones that had once supported a cabin. In all cases, we found relics!
Ranging out from the old roads and dwelling remains, you may be fortunate enough to stumble upon the sites of old orchards. Such sloping grounds often produce a bumper crop of old coins and large, flat buttons.
With the frontier protected, farmers and settlers move onto the land. Forests are felled, and wells are dug for a more immediate source of water. Villages are built, and the rural economy travels along newly formed roads along the valley floor, rather than near the rocky shelves from which the natural springs issued. Eventually, those newer roads are paved, and once again the trail leading between the natural springs returns to the animals and the infrequent hunters. Find a natural spring and you'll be shaking hands with our earliest Colonial history!