There it goes! On May 13th of this year the man standing in the foreground of this photo had just cut down our old ash tree. It was quite tall as you can see by comparing the man to the tree, at least 80 feet. For no less than 200 years it stood, the center of our driveway for many of those years. I remember Uncle Joe and my husband Ben discussing how huge it was, then joining hands to see how far they could reach around the tree, their hands never touching. It was a resting place for the birds and squirrels, a place for the cats to climb…oh, it even got a few bumps from being backed into a time or two.
In the chill and dreariness of the day, Ben and his sister, Alvina, watched from our property as I stood on the steps on the hill of the museum’s property taking photos. The first cut of a large limb felt like a knife to my heart and a tear slipped down my cheek. A little melodramatic…perhaps, but there is a story behind this old ash tree and why we now consider it part of our family history.
Sad to say, we can’t recall all the details of the story passed on by Uncle Frankie, a good reason we should document such stories as they happen or when told to us. Originally our home was located south of the museum’s existing gazebo on the banks of the Mississippi. We don’t have a record, at least not at this writing, of when it was actually moved. The construction of the Blanchard Dam started in 1923, so the home had to be moved or it would have been lost to flooding.
Grandfather Peter Smuda, with some help, moved the house from the old foundation using heavy ropes, logs and a horse, or maybe two, to the dirt road. At the time, the elevation of the road was much lower than it is today. Getting that far was only part of the battle, now they had a hill to get up before reaching the new foundation grandfather had built.
We were told they put ropes around the old ash tree to help pull the house up the hill. Now we didn’t think at the time to ask exactly how they accomplished that feat, but Uncle Frankie did say it took two days, and they had to sleep in the house overnight in the middle of the road. There was not much traffic on this road back then, but those that did come by had to detour through our property where a small cottage is now located, down a hill until they came to Pike Creek, which was only a stream at that time, to continue their journey.
How they got the house (minus present front and back additions) onto the new foundation is just pure speculation on our part. Too bad we weren’t listening more carefully to Uncle Frankie as he reminisced about this move.
~ Alice Smuda