I’m proud of my new T-shirt. It features a screen print of a stoic, Daniel Boone-like pioneer figure standing on what could pass as the Jonesville bluff that’s overlooking a pristine Yadkin River.
When I saw a picture of the Jonesville pioneer on the internet I just had to drop by the flea market over in Swaim Park on Labor Day weekend and get a shirt.
I needed yet another T-shirt like I needed another hole in the head. But the scene of the Jonesville pioneer is so rich in historical flavor as well as so rich in artistry. My compliments to the Historical Society across the river that produced it.
It helps to take a step back once in a while and see from where we have come before we resume proceeding to where we are going. It also helps to know that at one time, during pioneer days, about all folks had here in the hometown were woodlands and rivers and whatever campsite you could set up before nightfall.
The nice homes of today and the big stores bursting with more than we need and the smooth, paved roads and the comfortable job sites and schools and all the rest that we take for granted did not come to pass easily or quickly.
It took hard work and determination and risk and faith and a whole lot more by multiple generations who came before us to turn the Yadkin Valley wilderness as depicted on the Jonesville T-shirt into the fine, modern community we enjoy today.
Whenever you pass me by and take a glance at the back of my T-shirt, or of someone else’s, I hope you’ll remember.
It’s convicting when you reflect on the modern, little inconveniences that upset us so in light of the big challenges our forebears once faced here.
Not long ago the Better Half reported that the internet service at the house was down. After the two of us kept getting “not connected” messages on multiple tries, she started panicking. She had to log in some information on a web site, while I began thinking where could I go to send out the next “Hometown” column that, after all, mustn’t be neglected.
The internet service was back on the next morning and all was well. But consider our little crisis to the monster crises faced by pioneers like the one depicted on the Jonesville bluff.
Just the week prior to getting my shirt, I had a chance to drop in on a living history program out of town. The theme of the program was “The Great Wagon Road,” the famed 18th Century wagon path taken by many southbound pioneers from Philadelphia en route to these parts to start new lives.
Ancestor McCann probably took the Wagon Road after getting off the boat in Philadelphia from Ireland in 1800. So I wanted to learn more about the road and the times.
The highlight of the program was a replica covered wagon, on which you probably couldn’t fit all of your refrigerator if turned on its side.
Those were the types of wagons, I was told, on which the pioneers coming here carried the sum of all their remaining worldly goods. I remarked that while on the road only one or two would be able to sleep in so small a wagon. A history re-enactor answered that the people probably slept under the wagon, not daring to unload their valuables out in the open. Talk about priorities.
The pioneers probably walked alongside their wagons over hundreds of miles to get here, I was told. The journey took months.
They had to worry about food, getting sick, shelter from the rain and cold, dragging a wagon across rivers and getting bushwhacked by bad guys.
My idea of a hard time is losing my internet connection.
So I put myself on the Jonesville bluff that I see on my T-shirt, and in my mind’s eye I’m watch during the 1760s when the upper Yadkin Valley saw its first white settlers.
Now fast forward. I see rugged men and trailing families fording the river down and to my left. As the years pass I see people across the river chopping trees for their cabins and firing flintlock rifles in a critical hunt for food.
More years pass, and time speeds up. Land is cleared along the river bottom and crops are planted. A village that will grow to become Elkin sprouts up. Wagons haul cloth and other manufactured goods from water-powered mills out of sight up on Big Elkin Creek.
Stoneman’s troops march through. Brick buildings replace wooden ones. Now the railroad’s steam engine whistles through the valley.
The scenes pass by faster still. Power poles sprout up along the roads and replace some of the trees that had once stood tall and proud. Electric lights shine from glass windows. Cars replace horse-drawn wagons, and asphalt covers dusty and muddy streets, where I see hemlines creep up and sneakers replace work boots.
What an awesome sight. It all makes for quite a story that we’ve begun here in the hometown.
Who knows what will come along next, and I’m staying put right there on that imaginary bluff and will keep watching.
Stephen Harris returned home to live in State Road.