Sweetheart and I were on vacation for a couple of weeks recently. (Although I don’t know why we call it a vacation when we are retired and don’t work for gainful employment.) We like to find interesting sights and sounds as we travel. Sometimes, we see signs along the highway enticing us to come and see more. Sometimes, we take the road less traveled, along secondary and other back roads.
In fact, as we were coming back from Florida, we decided to cut across from one side of I-75 to another and take a back road as we approached Hillsville VA. We took a look at the atlas we had with us and believed that doing so would cut out quite a few miles of travel. If we had looked a little closer, we might have noticed that we would be driving through a national forest and that the elevation in one area was 5,729 feet! It didn’t take us long to figure that out, however. We kept going up, up, up and the road kept going ‘round, ‘round, ‘round. At some points we could see the road we were on going the opposite direction on our right, while there was a chasm between the two sections of road.
We couldn’t go faster than 25 miles per hour in many places. A stretch of 90 miles took us twice as long as if we had stayed on the interstate and backtracked to our destination. We wondered if we would reach the farm market we had in mind before it closed at 5:00. Halfway between, however, we drove out of the forest and onto improved highway. We managed to get there in lots of time.
Well, one of the attractions we took in was a Civil War town in Florida that was no longer inhabited. Its name was Columbus and the people made their living by raising cotton and securing pine pitch and sending it to market by steamboat.
All that was left of the town was a small cemetery and a few pieces of machinery from the stern wheelers that carried products down the Suwanee River and brought goods back. (Yes, it is spelled Suwanee. Stephen Foster left the “u” out, so it would sound better in his songs.)
Well, while meandering through the remnants of the town, I began to wonder. How does a town just dry up and disappear? It was only 100 years since the town closed up shop. Why weren’t there more remains? Shouldn’t there have been a few run down houses, or a few smoke stacks? Shouldn’t there have been some trees still producing some fruit? I didn’t see any of that. There were just a few plaques scattered here and there that told a little of the story of the town.
I asked Sweetheart how this could have happened. Why couldn’t the residents have found other work to do to keep the town alive? Why couldn’t they have gone with the flow and kept up with the times? His answer was that they just didn’t care.
I guess if towns and cities, where businesses and companies are moving out, are not to become ghost towns, the only thing that will keep them alive is if people care.
It’s too bad that the people of Columbus didn’t care enough. On the other hand, if they had, we wouldn’t have been walking through and hypothesizing its demise.