Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Changing Landscape

Isaac's Pinnacle Hill
There was high ground on Isaac's homestead claim that he called "pinnacle hill."  Several years on the 4th of July, Isaac climbed his pinnacle hill to view the fireworks from towns as far away as Macksville, St. John, Iuka, and Stafford.

The photograph at right was taken of me standing on what I believe to be what is left of Isaac's pinnacle hill.  According to the current land owner, this was once the highest point on that quarter section of land, but over the years its elevation has been reduced, perhaps by as much as 40 feet.

It cannot be assumed that just because the land someone owned in the 1880s is still under cultivation, and has not been covered by buildings or roads, that it is still the same as it was more than a century ago.  The photograph at left shows the southeast corner of Isaac's homestead.  An older elevation can still be seen, but dirt removal has cut away around that elevation.  I avoid describing the higher elevation in the photograph as "original," since it is adjacent to the road and power line posts have been set, both of which might have altered the original terrain.

The photograph at right was taken from Isaac's pinnacle hill looking toward the north, and what is now an open field was in the late 1800s Isaac's timber claim.  His journal records how he planted thousands of trees from cuttings and seeds, growing not only cottonwoods but also catalpa, Osage orange, and maple trees.  (See "Isaac's Catalpa Trees," 5-30-2012; "Planting Osage orange Trees," 3-15-2012; and "Isaac Plants Cottonwood Trees," 12-2-2011, in the Blog Archives.

Generations come and go, and not even the land remains the same.  Very little undisturbed prairie remains in the community where Isaac homesteaded, and many acres are under circle irrigation.  The flat prairie land has been leveled even further, and the trees planted by homesteaders, and more planted in the "Dirty 30s" to reduce soil erosion, have died or been removed to enlarge the acreage devoted to crops.

Once Isaac knew the land so well that he could set out across the prairie on foot to walk to St. John.  Many of the landmarks he must have relied upon to find his way have changed.  I wonder if he would recognize his own claims today.

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