The Money Place: Reading The Landscape

The fast falling remains of the Money cabin.

It’s not often you have the kind of unfettered access to a location like I have had with the Money Place, and as a result, I have tried various means to really understand the property and its story. This includes standard genealogical research, property records, aerial photos, and even metal detecting.
Today though I want to take a quick look at the land that makes up this old farm and see what we can discover.

An old pathway a falling tree just happened to accentuate.

Most of what I will show you in this post is forested land. But it wasn’t always so, in fact as late as the 1950’s and 60’s, much of what you see covered in trees was fairly well cleared and used as farm land. I know this for sure because of aerial photos, but if I didn’t have those, I could still come to the same conclusion based on what can be seen on the land.

First, I think it’s worthwhile to talk about what kind of farm this was. The Money property was extremely typical of small, one family rural farms in this area. They probably grew tobacco, corn, or cotton.
Most money and effort was put into the land as that was what sustained the small farmer, and so you might note that despite having such a modest cabin for a home, there was infinitely more time and resources put into barns and cultivation. The homeplace was somewhere to sleep at night and eat meals, because the rural farmer of the past actually lived most of his life outside.


Lets start with a sure sign of agriculture. Rock piles like the ones above are simply everywhere along the edges of old farm fields. They are numberless on this property and range in size from fairly small like the one above to several feet across and as high as two feet off the ground.
These “clearance cairns” represent an incredible amount of time and sweat and are monuments to the hard work of first people who plowed these fields. Finding these with the plow and then removing them would have been an incredible task on a new piece of ground, but once the majority were removed the farmer could be sure he had usable acreage for planting. If you come across piles like these in the woods, it’s likely you’re on the edges of old farmland.

Water management was absolutely necessary. If there ever was a well here, it has long been lost, but there is at least one spring. Though nothing more than a trickle now, it’s possible this wasn’t always the case and someone in the family saw fit to fortify the springhead. Whether this was simply a spring pond or a spring box of sorts is not able to be determined, but this construction is man made and had a specific purpose.

Though a bit hard to see in the photo above, there is also evidence of retention ponds on the property. This one in particular was constructed to catch rain and runoff from ditches along the road and from an adjoining property. The opening in the front of this dam would then allow water to slowly flow out and down a drainage run that lead to the main farm fields, eventually emptying into a small creek. It still sort of works, as after heavy rains it’s easy to see water has moved along the run from this area.

Preventing erosion was another necessity on worked land, and the terraces on this property are numerous and quite large. The one in the photo above doesn’t seem like much but it stretches about 50 feet across and is likely between 8 and 12 feet high depending on how it’s measured. In the depression where the majority of these terraces are they completely change the landscape, turning what was once steep and unusable land into flat and tillable soil that wont simply erode into a gully. The amount of hours and effort put into these must have been staggering. There was no heavy equipment, there likely was no tractor. At best this family had a mule and a wagon.

A smaller terraced area near the creek that prevents erosion.

Last, there are still several noticeable pathways on the property. These range from what is clearly an old wagon track (where I uncovered a mule shoe metal detecting) to a much larger, flatter path that might have been for a tractor toward the end of this farm’s life in the 1960’s.

Very clearly a cut road.

These are just s sampling of what can be found on this property.
Hopefully they give you an idea what to look for when you are in what seems to be trackless woods. It’s very possible the weren’t always trackless, and if you take the time to notice your surroundings you might even uncover and old story time has forgotten.

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Published by Abandoned NC

I went back to my old home and the furrow of each year plowed like surf across the place had not washed memory away. -A. R. Ammons

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