Contrasting Historical Experiences

One of the many heavily forested sections within Price Park

Around sixty years after the Revolutionary War soldiers marched through Price Park, slaves fleeing from bondage used the land for refuge, as it was a part of the Underground Railroad. While I am again, only drawing conclusions based on what I know about history, I believe that the relationship with the land that these slaves would have found was much more meaningful than that of the American soldiers in 1781. Given this, comparing the two based on somewhat informed imagination is very interesting to me.

Rather than chopping trees or treading heavily on grasslands, these people would have been very appreciative and aware of the nature around them. The trees within the forestry, such as American beech, red maple, and the tulip tree, would have been places to hide behind, being naturally rather large. Their age and therefore usefulness would have been estimated by the size of their circumference. While not necessarily completely aware of the land beneath their feet and what inhabits it, I would imagine that these people were not stamping into it, but rather walking lightly, an attempt at making as little noise as possible. In addition, the fact that Price Park’s landscape is specific to the southern region, and slaves at the time were largely in this same region, there was an intense familiarity with the land. While the connotations of this are certainly not positive ones, as it was forced and violent labor, this relationship with the land they inhabited was undoubtedly a strong one, full of knowledge and awareness.

There was nobody immediately available to help or heal in the case of wounds, as soldiers would have had in the form of war hospitals. Because of this, escaping slaves would have had to know which plants or natural life would aid them in case of injury or sickness. For instance, the bark of a white oak growing in Price Park would soothe as sickened stomach, the juices of the nettle leaf or the tick trefoil herb would stop the stinging of an open wound. These are the skills which come with knowing ones land on a deeper level — of appreciating what resources are available.

Similarly to the soldiers of the Revolutionary War, there was likely not a sense of peace within the forestry of Price Park. It was certainly very scary, far beyond my imagination. Yet at the same time, there was probably a sense of hope, with the knowledge that one was on the way to freedom, and ultimately a better life. I wonder how every sound, like the call of a Chimney Sweep, or the creaking of the treetops, would have an effect. Was this ever present awareness of surroundings a source of fear? Likely, but at the same time it was a source of life. One likely had to know which sound was associated with what, so that a foreign sound (a human would have been a foreign sound in that relatively untouched land), would sound like a warning signal.

Ultimately, this connection with the land provided solace. While a scary task to venture out on, these people at least had their knowledge to rely on as a sense of comfort — something that not many can or could have said for themselves.

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