The Account of an Old Red Farmhouse
They say if walls could talk,
Oh the things they could recite!
Well, as a century and score old farmhouse,
I believe that they are right.
I’ve been standing since before you were born
For many years I’ve been standing alone.
It doesn’t seem that long ago
When someone called me their home.
Within my walls were scenes of tragedy
But also prospects of joy.
A place to cry or to find comfort and peace
was for what I was employed.
I was someone’s dream come true
a young husband’s gift to his bride.
I was what she always wanted,
as she said when she stepped inside.
Not long after came cries of a baby
and patter of tiny feet running to and fro.
Then came markings on my walls
to signify how fast the children grow.
On my lush green lawn, they played.
They would laugh and dance and sing.
There used to be a tree beside me.
Tied to it was a swing.
I saw the children age, then leave
and have children of their own.
Sometimes they’d come back to visit me,
but then they’d have to go back home.
The couple who had me for so long
were getting too old and gray.
They could no longer take care of me
and decided to move away.
Another family purchased me
but shortly after they moved in,
the Great Depression bankrupted them,
and so I stood alone again.
They took everything they could carry.
Weeping, they hurried out the door.
Other people did the same,
And soon, my town was no more.
My neighboring homes surrounding me
Slowly fell to ruin and dust.
Old cars, still in all our driveways,
quickly became lumps of rust.
Now overgrown with dead grass and weeds
is my yard where children used to play.
My richly colored walls and floors
are now brown and wounded with decay.
The tree that stood beside me has fallen;
Broken apart due to a storm.
The old rope swing lies in a heap
in a most unrecognizable form.
Vandals tore apart my walls
looking for something to appraise.
The small barn that was behind me
was lost to an arsonist’s blaze.
Ten years later I’ve been forgotten.
No one knows that I still stand.
The cobblestone road, once thoroughly traveled,
has been taken back by the grassy land.
The only sounds I hear today
are the rushing of wind through the trees,
the lonely squeaking of my rusted windmill,
the chirping of birds, and the buzzing of bees.
I’m the only home left on my street,
and the only one left in the town.
I’m the landmark of a time gone by,
a reminder of people who are no longer around.
Who knows how long I’ll still be here,
who knows how long it’s been.
Here I stand and I will wait,
till someone calls me “Home” again.
-Dedicated to and inspired by the ghost town of Elberton, WA, lost to a fire and also to the Great Depression.
I went to Elberton once on a family drive through the Eastern WA/Palouse countryside. The first time I saw Elberton, there was an energy there that I couldn’t describe even if I tried. Much of the town was gone, but you could still see the old foundations from homes that had long since disappeared with time. The gardens, carefully hand-planted by the former residents, still bloomed. There were quite a few buildings still remaining, but they were deteriorating rapidly. Along Elberton’s main street was an old boarded up church that had a rope swing tied to a large branch. Across from the church was a row of old buildings, partially collapsed. One was an old barber shop that still had the old-fashioned red and blue pole out in front of it. A small shop that looked like it had once been a market or maybe a florist’s shop or something was beside the barber shop, and on the other side of the barber shop was a two story building that looked like it had once been a general store. Beside the church stood a beautiful two-story Victorian-era red and white farmhouse. While the other, mostly collapsed homes had faded into a dull gray or brown, this home still obtained it’s barn red color and it was in the best shape of all the abandoned homes. I remember staring at that old house and I just couldn’t fathom why anyone would have left it there. I walked up to the huge wraparound porch and looked in the windows. Littering the floor were magazines from the 1920s, 30s, and 40s, along with furniture that had to have been at least a century old. Old rusted tin and wooden toys suggested that the occupants of this home had had children, at least one girl as amongst the toys was a doll, and at least one boy as I saw on old rusted toy train and wooden cars that had been carved to look like early 1930s motorcars. Most of the wallpaper, authentic early 1900s design, was still intact. The color, though faded, was still in shades of blue and gold, which was extremely popular in the mid-1910s and the approaching art deco style that dominated design themes in the 1920s. A dining table was still set up in the dining room, still with six chairs at the table. Honestly, I’ve seen occupied homes on the show Hoarders in worse shape than the interior of this home. I could tell that whoever lived here must have adored their home and seemed to take great care of it.
The second time I went to Elberton was over a year later. The three or four buildings that had lined the main street across from the church were in piles of rubble and the red, white, and blue barber pole lay amidst the rubble, completely broken. The house that was next to the red farmhouse was also in a pile. The mostly-dead trees that had been erect when I went there last had toppled over. One of those fallen trees was responsible for the collapse of a house behind the red farmhouse. The tree had fallen completely through it and had flattened it. But while all these buildings were gone, that red farmhouse still stood.
The last time I went to Elberton, I actually cried because the red farmhouse was gone. The rope swing on the tree branch on the tree that had been in between the church and the farmhouse was gone. The branch that held the swing was also gone. There wasn’t even rubble left of the old farmhouse. The only building that remains from the old main street is the stone church.
There were only two houses intact that I saw while we were driving through Elberton. Both of those homes were occupied. It was a few years in between the second and third times I went to Elberton, and there wasn’t much left of it, it had changed so drastically even from the last time I went.
If you’re into ghost towns and want to visit the beautiful rolling hills of the Palouse, I strongly suggest you look at Elberton. To some people ghost towns are just that. Old houses are nothing more than old houses. To me, those walls can talk. If that red farmhouse had a voice, I would have loved to have heard what it had to say.