Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Alice in Journalismland: The story behind the story, part two

For several months, I had been hearing about a large stone that was being donated to the Grand Island Historical Society. As the recording secretary of the historical society, I dutifully added the information about the stone to the society's minutes whenever it was mentioned. I did not think too much about the stone, however, because I was busy with other projects. Early this month, the stone became my project when the editor of the Island Dispatch asked me to write a three-part series about the stone and about the people involved with finding it and with it being donated to the Grand Island Historical Society. 

To read part one of this series, please click Part One.



The stone... grinding stone? millstone? not sure... but definitely a conversation piece and an interesting reminder of the nineteenth century.
My second story was to be all about how the stone was found. In my conversation with Ricky Hoover, the boy scout who told me about his Eagle Scout project, Ricky's father Rick, and Ricky's boy scout troop leader Scott Swagler, I found out that there was some disagreement as to the type of stone had been located, buried underneath the ground in Cathy's back yard.
"It is a sharpening stone," Ricky told me. "It is made of sandstone, and it is too soft and too small to be a millstone."
But what did Cathy have to say? 
I called Cathy to make an appointment to speak with her about how the stone was found in her back yard. The second story that I was to write was to be about the process of finding the stone and the decision to donate the stone to the Grand Island Historical Society.
Cathy was very busy. She was planning a trip to Tennessee for her nephew's wedding. She described her nephew as a very successful musician. Despite the fact that he had no stage fright when he performed for multitudes of people, he was getting very nervous about his upcoming wedding. 
Cathy and I chose a time for the interview. We agreed to do the interview at the library. There is a bench inside the building but outside of the large room that houses the library. Before we went to that bench, I went into the library, where I picked up a book that I had requested on order. It was a book to read for a book club that I belong to. The book is The Weed Killer, by Greg Swiatek. The book club meeting has been scheduled for October 23rd. The author is coming to the meeting. It should be interesting to hear the author talk about writing a book with a serial killer as a main character.
But I digress. Fortunately, as far as I know, there have never been any serial killers in Grand Island. 
Cathy told me her story. She said that the stone was definitely a millstone. She had spoken to the guy whose great grandfather put the stone in the orchard that later became her back yard. The stone sank into the ground and, eventually, was covered by soil. It leaned against an apple tree. After a number of years, the trees roots grew around the stone. The stone had been forgotten, and it laid in the ground for years, until...
Cathy's young grandson found something sticking from the ground. He was four years old at the time and was fond of digging. Cathy described Caleb, her grandson, as a "woods boy." As a baby, Caleb had suffered from colic. She carried him to the woods behind her house. Being in the woods calmed him down, and he stopped crying. When he got a little older, he began burying his toy cars and trucks in the woods. He brought his shovel and dug up his cars and trucks. 
As a tiny boy, Caleb discovered his love of the outdoors and his gift for digging. Cathy encouraged Caleb to dig in her back yard. She had already found many old things in the back yard, including bottles and metal. "I pulled up three horse pulled plows, one was John Deere, milk cans, old cast iron wheels from tractors, metal seats, buckboards," Cathy said.
After Caleb found the stone, he started digging around it and, after a while, unearthed at least part of the stone.
Before long, people heard about the stone that was found in Grand Island. Cathy was approached by people from Williamsville who were interested in the stone. In addition, Helen Black, publicity chair of the Grand Island Historical Society, expressed interest in the possibility that Cathy could donate the stone to the museum at River Lea. Cathy, who had sold a good deal of historical stuff that she found in her yard, asked the Williamsville people if they would be able to pay her for the stone. They said, no, they didn't have any money.
That was when Cathy decided to make sure that the stone stayed in Grand Island. Helen visited Cathy, bringing Ricky with her. Ricky and Cathy's husband discovered that they both played guitar at the same church. After the discussion about the stone, the two guitarists jammed out.
Cathy donated the stone to the Grand Island Historical Society. Her one condition that she could have a Bible verse placed on the plaque that was to be placed near the stone. 
The Bible verse that Cathy chose was: "The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone."

Tomorrow's story: The unveiling of the stone at River Lea.

4 comments:

bookworm said...

I love stories of local history. It amazed me, when I was young, at how cities could eventually sink below ground level and be forgotten. So can portions of local history. Thank you for sharing this. Alana

Alyce Eccentrick said...

You're welcome, Alana. I too am amazed by cities that sink beneath the ground and are forgotten. The treasures that must be there! Absolutely priceless!

Laurel Regan said...

How interesting - thanks for sharing this piece of history!

Alyce Eccentrick said...

Thank you, Laurel!