Notes From My Knapsack 1-26-17
This village of ours is theirs, too
We live in a Granville which was settled, historically speaking, in 1805, but there's historical documentation for Welsh pioneers from 1802, accounts of those passing through in 1751 and 1773, and the so-called settlers were not, surely, discoverers.
The thousands of years of Native American occupation has left marks on the land in earthwork architecture, and objects that Thoreau evocatively called "mindprints" all over the landscape, "artifacts" in a more scientific mode we might say.
The design and sequencing of the projectile points made from flint tell a multi-thousand year story (often called, inaccurately, arrow-heads even though many or most of them were hand-held stone spear points and sometimes simply tools wielded in a leather-padded hand).
So we Euro-American occupants of the land have it in trust; it has been "ours" in the sense of a dominant group's hold for over 200 years, but as Ohio-descended Native American Indians start to return from Oklahoma and Kansas and beyond to visit, to ask questions, we find our stewardship today to be something more tangible.
In the same manner, new residents arrive, and the older occupants look askance at their ways, their expectations, their assumptions. This, too, is part of the stewardship we have for this village of ours, this awkward dance of approach and distance that has played out for generations.
Coopers and blacksmiths and farmers came from New England, displacing hunters and gatherers; grocers and clockmakers and architects moved in among the early American village lots, and new ways pushed against the old. Wells were filled in downtown and water was piped in; railroads and interurbans came and made horses nervous and livery stable operators even more so.
Now the opening of a highway, flowing without interruption from the Blue lots at the airport in Columbus to the Thornwood Crossing exit, means a new resurgence of commuters into this village of ours. Questions about school programs and crosswalks unsettle assumptions long unchallenged. Expectations continue to shift, and press, and force changes from the downtown core to outlying school buildings still in sight of plowed fields and grazing flocks.
John Sutphin Jones knew something about bedroom communities, even if he didn't know the phrase. He came to Granville seeking a town house, a country house, and ultimately a guest house, as his business sprawled from Sunday Creek's coal seams down near Chauncey to the Chicago office building he worked in at the time of his death in 1927.
Today, his town house is the home of Denison's president, Monomoy Place; the college owns his guest house the Granville Inn; our village as a whole possesses his country house, the Bryn Du Mansion. The Sunday Creek Coal Company is no more, and the Old Colony Building in Chicago itself is student housing. Now our Granville school district stretches up north of Dry Creek and south far beyond the expressway, even past Union Station.
So in truth this village of ours has never really been ours, not ours alone at any rate. We have a trust, a responsibility, even when the title is not entirely clear, to care for this land and these roads and streets and schools and businesses, not for ourselves but for those who are coming to live here next.
And they could be, if history is any guide, almost anyone.
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him about your sense of stewardship here in Granville and environs at email@example.com, or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.