My Northern Neck odyssey had proven as successful as I could have hoped for so far in the discovered of the burial spot of my grandparents. I’d honestly expected to find a small overgrown cemetery with broken, illegible stones, so even it would have been wonderful the original graves, at least I’d solved what had been a family mystery for those Northens who were not raised in the area. My next destination was vaguer. Specifically, it was Bogey Neck road, the Northern clan area and the place where my contact James and the rest of the family had met Dad when he came back to his birth place in 1987. I can remember coming down to pick him and Mom up in the sweltering heat with Eli and Maya in our little non-air-conditioned Hyundai, the cornfields bone dry. We had picked them up at his foster mother Leta’s house, however, and not down in the Bogey Neck region, so I had no clues other than seeing a picture of the water – presumably the Wicomico River – from Robert’s house.
Bogey Neck Rd. was lined with small houses, some red brick, some white clapboard, some relatively new, some quite old and faded, but none of them that looked as though it was inhabited by anyone with a large income. I passed several dirt roads that appeared to go through woods down towards the water but they had signs posted such as “Trespass at Your Own Risk.” At length, Bogey Neck Rd. ended at a fork of private driveways that appeared to view down to water that I could not see at the end of the neck. There was nothing more to do. This was the first real failure, of the trip; there was nothing to do but turn around and head back down the road. My only consolation was that at least I had been in the area, so was a tiny step closer to experiencing the area where Dad was raised.
Before leaving Wicomico Church, I decided to look up the site of Wicomico High School. Just as Bootsy Burgess had described it, it was about a quarter of a mile off of the main highway. There was a new brick apartment building where the main part of the school would have been flanked by a couple of older, nice painted buildings that were now private dwellings and could possibly have been part of the school. I took pictures just in case.
At this point it was already after 3 PM and the heat was increasing. I was hoping to make it back to the Northumberland County Historical Society to see what the opportunities for research were there. On the way back, I crossed over the Wicomico River. It was very blue and much larger than I expected. I stopped on the bridge to take a picture.
This was the river where Dad and his brothers had earned money by crabbing when they were young. This was the river where my Grandmother Mattie’s body had been found floating in September of 1931. According to the Rappahannock Record, she was discovered about a mile down river from her home. Looking across the river, I knew that one of those shores, was Bogey Neck. I wondered what it must have been like there in those days 82 years ago.
I arrived back at the Northumberland County Historical Society less than half an hour before closing. A couple of people had stopped in to chew the fat and, like me, were interested in find out and talking about their backgrounds. Not having much time, I wanted to get right to work. The Northumberland County Historical Society puts out an annual journal –sized publications with articles about many aspects of regional history. Rather than subject, the index was arranged according to last names and, unfortunately, there were no Northen’s/Northern index. I did, however, spy one name I recognized, Richard Thompson. Thompson was a member of the William Claiborne party, that in the days of Capt. John Smith, had sailed up the Chesapeake and claimed what is now Kent Island in Maryland for Virginia. He was also one of our first ancestors on the Lewis side of the family. When I looked up the article, the mention was of Richard Thompson’s son, Richard Jr, saying the king had granted him one of the first pieces of land in Northumberland County. (Unfortunately, it was Richard Jr’s sister we are descended from - so no land for us.)
I was given several folders with the label Northern/Northen on them. Most were information that I already had, but there was a chart and a couple of pages that added to my knowledge of relatives not directly in our line. I asked to have a copy or two made, but given the shortage of time, even had it been new information, I would not have had the time to go through it. What I did learn there, though, is that they have a back room with several sets of journals relating to the area history. It could prove a wealth of information about those members of the family on the Lewis side who were active in the early days of Northumberland County and the Northern Neck. On the next trip down, I’ll have to give myself plenty of time.
It had been a full day, to say least but even as I was riding back, my adrenalin was still going thinking of what I had been able to see for the first time and discover for myself. About fifteen minutes past Baltimore, Eli called to ask if I could swing back by and bring Joey with me. The dog sitter that they had lined up for the weekend had completely forgotten and made other plans. I turned around headed back to Catonsville. I was actually glad for the stop. I’d been so busy and had such limited time that other than the iced tea in Warsaw, I’d eaten only a banana and some string cheese all day. Eli grabbed some dinner for me while I recounted some of what I been able to uncover that day. Joey proved an agreeable companion on the way home. He didn’t mind that I loved to leave the windows open to let the warm air rush over me as I drove and rarely contradicted me when I gave my opinions of the day.