Saturday, March 7, 2009


I went in to work today, a Saturday, to work on a project that I just couldn’t finish during the week. After a few hours of peace and quiet with no one around, I was able to head for home with a clear mind. What I never anticipated was that I would soon find myself traveling back in time 160 years. My mind wandered as I made the 22-mile drive, passing farms and fields, making my usual right and left turns, thinking about the trees along the way. How impressive they are – especially the centuries-old oaks that have watched over us and our ancestors.

If the large oak trees on our property could talk, imagine what stories they might tell! Did they witness a farmer, working a field with plow and horses? Were they standing at the edge of a field of tall prairie grass, visited only by the local deer and coyote population? Or are they the only remaining descendants of a forest of oaks, with their deciduous neighbors taken during the lumber boom of the 1800’s?

In my curiosity I dug through our old papers, and found the original abstract for our property that has record of all of the previous owners, dating back to 1849. It was that year when the federal government transferred the section of land that we live on to the state as public land. As I fingered through the document, I found our parcel was first sold to a private citizen in 1893, a man named Otis Staples. Recognizing the surname from the historic building in Stillwater in which my artwork is displayed (the Isaac Staples sawmill), I spent the next hour researching to see if I could learn anything about the man who had once owned our property. I found reference to an Otis Staples, who with his wife Matilda, left Stillwater in the early 1900’s and traveled to British Columbia to form a lumber company. This is noteworthy because Isaac Staples was a very powerful lumber baron in Stillwater, until his death in 1899, and while I could not find a solid connection between the two men, I feel this is more than just a coincidence.

Our abstract further states that Otis kept the property for less than two years, after which time he and his wife, Matilda, sold it to “an unmarried man” named Ivar Liljigren. I can only guess what might have taken place during that short period of time. Possibly Otis and Matilda planned on building on our parcel of land, then changed their minds. Perhaps Otis had logged the property and then sold it to Ivar as farm land. Or maybe it was simply part of a tract of land that Otis never even visited. I may never know, but I can see that I need to continue snooping to learn more.

Until later,


CousinK said...

And of course I had to smile when Mr. Staples' first name was Otis.

Oh --- you are such a thinker!
Continue snooping and drawing those wonderful trees.

Tonia said...

So interesting! You would definitely like the book The Story of Edgar Sawtelle.

Dana Leigh said...

History can be fascinating.