With a handful of county maps, backroads open wide. I’m never lost. However, serendipity and a few map symbols and icons alone cannot expose the richness of local heritage camouflaged in scenery and sprawling country side. On backroads, there are no tour guides. Or, seldom so.
At Cherry Wva, I turned left on Chestnut Road believing this was headed away from the ‘historic’ church shown on the sign. Yet, three dirt road miles later there it was. The one-room log church built by Aaron Ruble in 1835. Still standing and occasionally used. That’s serendipity. A prime discovery by accident.
While absorbed in pictures, a muddy zebra-striped Ford Bronco rattled down the road and eased to a stop behind me. There’s always a moment of uncertainty, wondering what’s next. Am I trespassing. What’s this stranger doing.
Promptly I learned that folks here share a caretaker responsibility for Aaron’s church, and show it off proudly. I learned about the oil and natural gas wells that dot everyone’s property, the historic leases and how ‘fluids’ extraction is handled. I learned that, nearby, there’s an oil well still producing since the 1880’s. I learned, according to legend, there were producing wells older than Edwin Drake’s 1859 discovery in Titusville, Pa. “They were drilling for brine; oil was a nuisance. Back then, news didn’t travel very fast in Wirt County.” I learned that, at the bottom of the hill, I could find an old A.F.A.M Lodge built in 1904. “It’s hidden back off the road,” he explained.
© d091021-015 Masonic Lodge
Burning Springs, West Virginia
Wednesday 21 October 2009