Old Homesites

This past weekend, I took the girls to Yorktown to visit family. On the way up, and the whole time we were there, I found myself pointing out old homesites to the girls. They were skeptical – but I wasn’t. I learned how to spot where homes once stood on an empty landscape when I was a little girl.

You know you’ve stumbled across an old homesite when you find daffodils growing on a bare plot of land. Daffodils aren’t native to the Americas – and they don’t spread like invasives. So when you see them, you know someone planted them exactly where you found them. Mamaw and Papaw taught me this little trick, and it’s never failed me.

The old homesite pictured above is at Washington’s Headquarters site on the Yorktown Battlefield. I knew a home once stood in the field because of the blooming narcissus. According to a nearby sign, I was right – a house was situated at the site during the battle of Yorktown.

Of course, daffodils aren’t the only telltale sign of an old homesite. My cousin’s husband said he remembers chimney remnants among the flowers. Chimney remnants are a definitive way to tell that a homeplace once existed!

The whole discussion made me think of all the other ways to identify an old homesite. I dropped them below for y’all. Enjoy!

Identifying Old Homesites

  • Hardy Orange – In colonial days, colonists imported hardy orange to use as protective hedges surrounding their homesteads. They candied the rinds and used the fuzzy fruits for pectin.
  • Family Cemetery – If you stumble across a family cemetery in the woods, there’s a good chance that the original homeplace is nearby.
  • Roses – Roses were imported to America, and like daffodils they don’t spread. If you find them growing in the wild, someone planted them there.
  • Foundations – Less conspicuous than a lone chimney, but just as telling are home foundations. Sometimes these are buried – but others, you’ll find brick or stone columns popping up out of the ground.
  • Trash Pits – Before solid waste management and landfills came along, people dug pits near their homes for household trash. These are a treasure trove full of old cans, glass, and bits of pottery.

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