Hidden History in Your Own Backyard

No matter where you live in this world, you’re surrounded by history. Some of it’s obvious — an old castle or famous ruins and monuments for example. But some history is hidden. There might be stories swirling around you that you’ve never even heard, even if the signs have always been there, just out of sight.

Today let’s talk about that “hidden history” and how it can lead to interesting little adventures right in your own backyard.

What is “Hidden History?”

When I use the term “hidden history” I don’t always mean that historical elements are completely out of sight. Sure, there might be a fascinating story about what used to be located where your favorite mall is now, but with no remnants remaining. But I’m talking more about the markers you can still find today — old ruins tucked away in the woods where most locals never go for example, where trying to find them is half the fun.

My Backyard

My life has been full of hidden history, and I’d like to share a few examples with you — some personal (discovered through my own genealogical research) and some simply local or in areas I’ve travelled to. Here are three of my favorite examples:

  1. St. Peter’s Village and the Old Mines — There’s a beautiful little old village close to my hometown called St. Peter’s Village. It was a company-owned town back in the area’s mining days. The town itself is historically interesting, but I wouldn’t call it “hidden.” I drive through it several times a week. However, I didn’t know until recently that the old mines are supposedly still around to be found. I haven’t been able to find them yet though. I remember looking up the location on Google Maps only to be told I’d have to make a right down a road where it only goes to the left. I’m sure they’re there, and I’m sure plenty of people have found them. I’m not even sure why I’m interested to see the location, but I am. And to me it’s a little bit of “hidden history.”

    St. Peter's Village
    Credit: Wikipedia

  1. My Ancestor’s Missing Grave — Through my family history research I discovered that my 11th great-grandfather was a Puritan minister from England who came to Connecticut shortly after the Pilgrims. He was one of the town founders for both New Haven and Milford, CT. I decided to visit Milford to find some of my ancestors’ graves in the old cemetery and to visit the location of his original church and home. There were quite a few of them there — the graves I mean. But his has been lost. People can guesstimate where it is, but no one really knows for sure. There’s a rough idea that it’s located within (or just beyond) the current backyard of his old homestead. While there I was also able to see other things — the plaque put up on the old bridge as a memorial for him, the stone and plaque in front of his home’s location, and the second church built in the town (his original one no longer stands). Because of my direct ties to that bit of history, I found it completely fascinating, and plan to go back to keep searching for new stories.
    Peter Prudden's Memorial
    Memorial for the Rev. Peter Prudden in Milford, CT
    Peter Prudden's House Marker
    Rev. Peter Prudden\’s House Marker in Milford, CT

    Samuel Prudden's Grave
    Samuel Prudden\’s Grave at the Old Milford Cemetery in CT
  2. Ruins in the Park — There’s a county park nearby where I enjoy hiking or just walking through their fields and woods. It’s huge. For the most part it’s just you and Mother Nature out there. But just beyond one of the less-visited fields you’ll find stone ruins of an old home. I don’t know what the story is behind them. But I enjoy just going out there and connecting with a bit of history from time to time. The mystery of it is probably much more interesting than the real story anyway.

    Section of Warwick County Park Map with Ruins Marked (Credit: dsf.chesco.org)
    Section of Warwick County Park Map with Ruins Marked (Credit: dsf.chesco.org)

There have been other instances of somewhat hidden history in my life. I was taken to a reservation with an abandoned village and a little graveyard in the woods for example. And the hidden history from my own family’s past spreads far and wide to England, Germany, Poland, Russia, and Ireland. Someday I look forward to visiting those places to conduct my own research.

Your Backyard

I’m far from the only one who is surrounded by hidden history. I’d bet you are too, even if you don’t know it yet — after all, that’s why I call it “hidden.” What could be lurking in the woods near you? Are there any mysteries or local lore that have caught your attention?

The next time you’re out about town, look with a closer eye and see if there’s anything you may have missed before. Sometimes hidden history is right in front of our eyes — we just aren’t prepared to see it when we’re distracted with modern living.

Do you have any interesting stories about hidden history where you live? If so, please leave a comment and tell us about it. I’m always fascinated by the stories, so I hope you’ll share.

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