Friday, February 08, 2008

NC trading path, politics and painting

One of the things I love about the winter is the ability to see things you can’t in the spring, summer and fall. I spend as much time out of doors as I can, and up in the Blue Ridge where we’re building a home on the (it turns out) five-year plan, the winter landscape reveals more than just how the land rises and falls.
With the trees stripped of their leaves and the winter winds pulling down dead branches and thinning the undergrowth, you also see the game trails that deer and other four-footed creatures use to get down to the pond or over to the confluence of the creek. And you can clearly see the old logging roads that the Connors and Woods used when they operated a saw mill up there more than half a century ago. On weekend hikes it’s a lot easier to follow the old Brammer Spur Road as it begins to snake down towards Woolwine, or the Connors’ Spur Road that once led over and back down the mountain.
So when I first began reading the blog maintained by the Trading Path Association (http://www.tradingpath.org/) and learning about the group’s First Sunday hikes, I knew they enjoyed those winter walks as much as I do. Last weekend they planned to hike in the Duke Forest, a lovely area I spent a lot of time in during my college years at Chapel Hill.
Here’s a snippet from a recent post, about plans for a hike near what they believe to be “part of ‘Hartford,’ a community planned by Thomas Hart, a crony of Governor Tryon, Edmund Fanning, and Judge Henderson (of Louisa and Transylvania Company fame). Plotting the road remnants in the area now indicates the existence of a major 18th century road nexus, perhaps, atop a pre-wagon infrastructure. Recently the North Carolina DOT erected a historical marker near here to note a Revolutionary War engagement at Hart’s mill.”
The post went on to say it’s part of an area where a famous U.S. senator spent his boyhood days: “And if that isn’t enough, Thomas Hart Benton [Thomas Hart's grand nephew] played all over this land in his youth, before he was thrown out of UNC and his family moved west. You’ll recall that he achieved everlasting fame for brokering the Missouri compromise in an attempt to avoid civil war. How he found himself to be a senator from Missouri is another wonderful story tied to the old landmarks at Hartford. One of these days, maybe we’ll locate his childhood home.”
Thomas Hart Benton, born near Hillsborough 1782, was not only one of the first U.S. senators from Missouri, but was also the great uncle of the painter by the same name who died in 1975.

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