Thursday, February 26, 2009

You'll Always Come Back:

In an earlier post I recounted the adventure of locating the site of my great great grandparent's cabin, the original Dutton homeplace in Kentucky. David and Mary bought land and made their home here in 1810. Before I started work on You'll Always Come Back, I barely knew their names, much less anything about their lives.

The first clue that started me thinking about them came from my dad's story, told to him by Pete Dutton, of "The Battle of Dutton Hill" during the Civil War, an event that Pete witnessed in person. In that story Pete said that when the Southern soldiers heard the shots of the approaching Union soldiers, they left the yard and high-tailed it up to the summit of Dutton Hill, where they constructed barricades by tearing down the rail fences (which no doubt Pete had labored to build in the first place.) Pete carried my grandfather, then two years old, and he "Granny Dutton", as my dad called his grandmother Lucy Browning Dutton, "went to David Dutton's house."

I began puzzling about where, exactly that house had been, and with the sleuthing described in that earlier post, my nephew Dave & I located what I was fairly certain was the site, but it took the contributions of 3 of my cousins to bring some certainty and clarity to that discovery.

My cousin Peggy, whom I'd never even met before starting work on this project, shared a stack of her grandmother Lucretia's letters, and many photographs. One of those was a correspondence with a distant relative in which Lucretia wrote: "I live not far from the Dutton Cemetery, where many of our ancestors are buried, near David Dutton's homeplace." That confirmed the location of the site, which I could not make out from the 1810 deed alone.

Then there was my aunt Gertrude's scrapbook, also mentioned in an earlier post, which my cousin Barbara shared with me.
Gertrude and her friend Marye went on a hike in 1931, and Gertrude illustrated the event in her scrapbook with 5 photographs. Two of those were of "the old cabin" ~ was it David and Mary's? Since their hike was on family land, it seemed likely, and once I knew the site of the cabin, I looked again to see if the landscape surrounding it matched. Much has changed in nearly 200 years, but I'm convinced now that these are images of the original Dutton home in Kentucky, where my great grandfather and first namesake, Daniel (1, as I label him) was born.

David and Mary came to Kentucky from Wythe County Virginia, from a German-speaking farm community of, as they're called "Pennsylvania Dutch". Once I started digging, some of the peculiarities of my family revealed ancient roots. My cousin Fred had visited Wythe County, and had told me that he happened to arrive on the very day that the Dutton homeplace there was being torn down, for the logs, destined to make some "historical" something-or-other for a tourist attraction on the coast.
He watched it happen with a mixture of horror and fascination - because the deconstruction revealed the original 18th century cabin within a later facade - and luckily, he was there to take pictures of it. He's hunting around in his stack for those, but in the meantime he sent me this b & w copy.

Once I have reconstructed what the size and shape of these habitations were, I'm thinking of making a little animated video in which the transparent structures reveal the birth, growth, maturity and death of the inhabitants, in sequence, one frame per year.


Mary Beth said...

Oh Dan how very exciting! Thank you for sharing the photos.

Thank you also for speaking so openly about your art. Your passion makes me find time to slip more art into our very structured curriculum. Today we did Aborignial Snake Drawings using colored chalk on black paper. My little students really impressed me!

Dan Dutton said...

I'm glad you're slipping the art in, Mary Beth. If I was structuring the curriculum, it would be the first priority - how can you learn to do anything without learning about your own imagination & how it works?