Drawn to The Lost, Abandoned, and Forgotten

What is it about abandoned places that attracts us?

Years ago I had a recurring dream about walking with friends in the woods. Sometimes it's freezing cold with snow on the ground. Other times it's the height of summer, yet cool in the forest.

We come upon an old, falling down abandoned house. Approaching carefully, we walk up rotting steps on the wooden front porch and peer in the windows. The dream always ended before we could enter the mysterious old home.

Every time I had that dream I woke up thinking I've got to find that house. There's something in that house that I need to find or know about.

Last year my sister and I visited the farm where my grandmother grew up. We parked between two old barns. It was pouring rain but the cows in the barnyard didn't seem to mind. Cousins now owned the farm but no one was about.

I had the distinct feeling that I'd been there before. The setting reminded me of the dream, minus the woods surrounding the abandoned house. Not truly abandoned, the old farmhouse is being used to store lumber. Cornfields are planted within 10 feet of the front door. If there was a porch, it's long gone. A small dilapidated summer kitchen sits just feet from the main house. Cows watch us as we wander around in the rain. I take a few photographs, wondering, have I been here before? 

Wolfinger Farmhouse Two Doors and Window 1.jpg

 

 

©BARBARA BOWARD PHOTOGRAPHY

Family Stories

My grandmother, Miriam Kathleen Brown Harbaugh, began writing her life story in the mid-seventies. She wrote by hand on lined notebook paper with a blue ink pen. I am certain that my love of reading, stories, and the telling of stories via photography, came from my early years hearing Gram's stories, as well as my mother's stories as we pored over family photographs constructing her albums.

Here is how Gram begins her autobiography:

"Diane and Barbara have asked me on numerous occasions to write for them some of the interesting events that occurred in my life...both have seemed so earnest about this that today I thought, "Why not? I shall try."

"I am next to the youngest in a family of twelve, in fact there were fifteen all told, but two died in infancy and one, my brother Paul, at the age of four. My parents were David Columbus and Sarah Alice (Lumm) Brown. They lived on a small farm nestled in the mountain at Foxville, Frederick County, and close by the Mountain Methodist Church called Bethel. My parents, the two babies who died in infancy, Paul, and my older sister, Jenny, who died at the age of fifty, are buried there..."

Brown Family1.jpg

"A few years before I was born my father sold our little home in the mountain and moved to "this side of the mountain" to a village called Pondsville. This small settlement boasted a one room school, a grocery store and a church. I've forgotten of what denomination. There he rented a farm. There were at that time seven girls in the family: Bessie, Mary, Elizabeth, Fannie, Jenny, Marjorie and Alice. No boys! My father and mother, and the seven girls, worked hard to make this farm pay, and directly there was born, yes, a boy, who was named Orville. Then came two more boys, Reuben and Stanley, and lastly, myself and one more a girl who the older children named Margaret Evangeline, but who soon became Eva to everyone. I captured Miriam Kathleen, although I was told often by my sisters that there was quite a disturbance over whether I was to be Miriam Kathleen or Miriam Blanch."

 

©BARBARA BOWARD PHOTOGRAPHY

My Love for Photography and Stories

My interest in photography started when I was a child. But not in the way it started with some kids who were given a camera at a young age and encouraged to shoot. I loved looking at the old photographs my grandmother and mother had accumulated, hearing them tell about their lives, and about the relatives and ancestors in the photographs. Photographs taken in the 1930s seemed sincerely aged to me, and the ones from the late 1800s positively ancient.

My mom was the family photographer. Gram (Mom's mother) was the family historian and storyteller. My love of photography and personal histories comes from them. Both of them told me so much about my great-grandmother (Grandma Brown) that I felt like I knew her!

I loved it when Mom brought out her albums she'd made as a teenager and young adult. When I was around 9 years old, she showed me how to add to her current photo album: choose the best photographs, put them in chronological order, plan the placement on the page, wet the little black photo corners, place carefully, and use white ink to write a funny caption and the date. I loved it! I studied the photographs as she shared her memories with me and I had more questions about the ancestors than there were answers.

Most of my gram's storytelling revolved around events and memories of her own childhood, or Bible stories. I wanted to hear both. As I got older and moved away from home, I'd talk with Gram about writing. She and I both were great letter writers. Some weeks I'd get 2 or 3 letters from her! My sister and I wanted her to write her autobiography, including all the stories we loved, and maybe some new ones. Eventually, we pestered Gram often enough that she started writing her story. 

My grandmother, Miriam Kathleen Brown Harbaugh. Portrait  from her 1920 Smithsburg Maryland High School Yearbook, when she was a Junior.

My grandmother, Miriam Kathleen Brown Harbaugh. Portrait  from her 1920 Smithsburg Maryland High School Yearbook, when she was a Junior.

Mom (Marian Elizabeth Harbaugh) and Dad (Roscoe Wolfinger Boward). This photograph contains many things  I  love about photography - blur, light, dust, sepia, old cars, joy, and so many questions. Who was the photographer? Where was it taken? Did they just hop out the car for the photo? It looks like winter - no coats? 

Mom (Marian Elizabeth Harbaugh) and Dad (Roscoe Wolfinger Boward). This photograph contains many things  I  love about photography - blur, light, dust, sepia, old cars, joy, and so many questions. Who was the photographer? Where was it taken? Did they just hop out the car for the photo? It looks like winter - no coats? 

©BARBARA BOWARD PHOTOGRAPHY