Even though Vergil, several millennia ago, said that ‘tempus fugit,’ time flies, as I was looking east out my home office window this holiday morning, I was struck by how slowly changes can happen. The two oak trees in the distance above are living witnesses to the events described in my post “July 4th, 1842.” 174 years ago, this very day, at this very hour, they and the other oaks in “Coffin’s Grove” sheltered the crowd that listened to Henry Branson Elliott’s Independence Day oration. Perhaps his podium stood where the trailer for my lawn mower is parked today.
Most of Franklinsville, and much of eastern Randolph County, stood in my yard that day. Many of them are buried in the Methodist cemetery about a hundred yards further east. I have pictures, and potholes in my yard, indicating that there were at least 4 other large oaks in the grove that day. What with the realignment of the road, and the driveway, and paving, and etc.- perhaps there were once many more. The one on the right was struck by lightning a few years ago, and hasn’t been doing well since. One closer to the house died in 2006, and when the stump was cut I counted more than 220 rings. That oak rose from its acorn about 1780, as did Elisha Coffin, born in 1779 and the owner of this property in 1842, when he (and the tree?) were 63 years old.
When I started this blog in 2007 I was just thinking of using it as a place to post short notes on the history of Randolph County, North Carolina. I have file drawer after file drawer stuffed with research I’ve conducted since the 1970s, and if I waited until I wrote a book that would encompass it all, most of it would never be seen by anyone. Now that I’m in my sixties, I realize more and more that our productive time is limited, and that time passes and we all grow older, if we’re lucky. I have owned Elisha Coffin’s house and property since 1989, and I have planted trees here of my own that I won’t see on their 63rd birthday. But time labors, and everything changes, as Ovid wrote in the title of this post.
One thing that has changed starting this past Friday is my paid job. For almost 30 years I’ve practiced as a self-employed attorney in Asheboro, and wrote history part-time as a hobby. Now my hobby is my job, and I will practice law part-time, if at all. As of July 1, 2016, I am the Director of Local History and Genealogical Services at the Randolph County Public Library, and this blog can be found on the blog roll of the library website. I am sure that this will allow me to add more material to this collection, which has gradually become more of a resource for local history than I ever dreamed.
But then, one of those things that time has labored to change are printed books. Thanks to Google an hour’s historical research on the internet can be faster, deeper and broader than ever a day in the library and archive once was. This blog has started to fill a Randolph-county-shaped hole in the interwebs even though I didn’t foresee that at the time. A challenge in becoming a librarian in the digital age is figuring out how to serve future generations who haven’t been raised to hold books in the high esteem of their forebears. I’m not sure what that may look like, but I am sure this blog will be part of it.
Since I’ve been in a Latin mood this morning, here’s another phrase you may have in your pocket. “Annuit Coeptis” – “He nods at things being begun,” usually translated as “God approves our undertakings.” It’s the motto on the reverse of the Great Seal of the United States, and is on every U.S. one-dollar bill. Like planting trees and founding countries, much of what we start we may never see completed. But still we begin, and hope it all works out for the best.