-by Arianne Hemlein
It's the beginning of a new year in Umstead State Park, and except for a few stubborn beeches, the trees are bare. Since January is a time for reflection on the past and resolutions for the future, let’s take a quick look back at the history of our park.
You’ve probably seen some of the most obvious reminders of the past - the family graveyards and the millstone, but did you know that there is also an outhouse, a rusting shell of an automobile, and crumbling brick home foundations within the park?
The next time you walk along the Company Mill trail, envision fields of struggling cotton plants, modest homes, and a busy grist mill along the riverbank. As you cross the green bridge spanning Crabtree Creek, imagine the sound of boys laughing and splashing in the water at the nearby site of the Camp Craggy Boy Scout camp, demolished in 1938. The stone steps still remain.At one time, these woodlands were home to three grist mills, struggling farms, and a number of families. In 1934, federal and state agencies bought this submarginal land to create the park.
With the labor provided by The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration, the park opened to the public in 1937. From 1950-1966, segregation extended to Umstead with two separate areas for whites and African-Americans.
Want to know more about the past? You can read Joe Grissom’s account of growing up on the land here. While Stories in Stone is currently out of print, you can learn a lot by listen to WUNC’s discussion of the book featuring Joe Grissom and the Umstead Coalition’s Jean Spooner. Then head out to the park to see what you can find. Winter just happens to be the perfect time to explore without the nuisance of insects and humidity.
As for a resolution for 2019, consider spending more time out-of-doors in nature and helping the Umstead Coalition to protect our park for future generations to enjoy. Did you know that Amazon will donate .5% of eligible items purchased by you to the Umstead Coalition? All you have to do is click on the link on the Umstead Coalition homepage. It’s really simple and costs you nothing.
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