When “heirlooms” aren’t identified, and their stories never told, they often become items tossed or sold – as they have no history, no ties to the family. So take the time to identify your family heirlooms history and record your memories so the family treasures aren’t tossed in the trash. They are just as valuable as your family photographs and also need to be documented. Sometimes it’s not even the value of the item in question; it’s the story which holds the value!
Friday Night Family Heirlooms… telling their stories: Granddaddy McKinley’s Gem Finds
Greene County was at one time home to the Creek Indians, and anyone who farmed around Siloam often found these gems as the plows were pulled through the fields.
My grandfather, Edgar Thomas McKinley, a man who worked the land he loved so dearly, always took the time to pick up those gems. As a young child, I often was the recipient of the arrowheads he gathered through the years… from the many hours spent behind his plow. At one time, I had quite a collection, but through the years… it has sadly withered down to this lone one I’ve pictured here.
My mother often told me that granddaddy would empty his pockets in the evening of the arrowheads he had found during the days work in the fields. Sometimes he even found broken pieces of pottery in the field rows – never leaving them in the field either; maybe they were even Indian pottery. His land was rich in growing timber, as well as rich in producing cotton, sugar cane, corn, and wheat. It was often said that the Indian lands were abundant in rich piles of earth and knowing how well his lands produced, it seems to have been so.
Walking behind a plow on a daily basis wasn’t the only place granddaddy picked up gems. Those Friday and Saturday night fox hunting excursions also resulted in a few gem finds. The quartz rocks above came from those finds as he walked behind the dogs, only carrying his lantern for light. As granddaddy told the story, he saw a sparkle on the ground and stopped to pick them up, tucking them in his overalls. Those overalls had so many pockets to carrying his treasures, but probably his best treasure was… well I think I’ll save that for another Friday Night Family Heirloom post.
As I researched quartz, I learned that it is the second most abundant mineral in the Earth and quite common in Georgia, and found in a variety of colors. In 1976 it was designated as the official state gem of Georgia.
Stone Mountain, what I once thought to be the largest piece of exposed granite in the world, is actually a quartz monzonite dome. In riding through Greene County, where granddaddy’s gems were found, you’ll see many large “granite looking” rocks that will remind you of a mini Stone Mountain. My mother always told me how it was said that they are the roots of Stone Mountain, pushing up to the surface. You do not see these type of rocks everywhere, but they are abundant in the fields in Greene County, especially around the Siloam area.
Photo on left from the GA. National Archives; Photo on right from my personal collection – taken in 2016.
The two rock photos are located in Siloam – same rock: It was very famous in its early day and you can see how someone wrote: “THE LORD JESUS IS THE ROCK OF AGES TRUST HIM.” I’m told in my Greene County History FaceBook page that there were many rocks around Greene County that had messages written on them… and referred to as the Greene Co. version of “See Rock City.” The message on this one has been washed away through time, as well as the shape of the road… now a paved road. I’m also told that it was known as the courting rock back in the 50’s.
There are many large rocks, sitting out in the fields, about this size on the way out to my grandparent’s farm in Siloam, and if I only could put my hands on those photos…. well isn’t that always the case; you know you have the photo, but try and find it.
There was a big rock in granddaddy’s field in the “back forty” as my mom always referred to it; her rock, her safe place. Anytime she needed to be alone and think, that is where she went. I’m sure it’s still there, but I don’t think I could get back there any longer or probably even find it.
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