Friday, May 16, 2014

The Delcastle Water Troughs

See Update at bottom...

In the last post about the early history of the Delcastle Golf Course property, I mentioned that in addition to the few historic sites there I was aware of, George Williamson had also brought up a few things I had not known about before. One of the most interesting is the existence of five stone water troughs, like the one seen here. Each one has a different year carved into it. The years are 1902, 1903, 1905, and 1912.

To the best of our knowledge, no one knows anything about these troughs, who made them, or why. The significance of the dates is a mystery. By my thinking, there are three possibilities for who made the troughs. If they were placed in or near the years carved on them, then the most likely suspects would be the Greggs, assuming they still owned the farm. If they did sell it in the interim between 1900 and 1915, then whoever that owner was could have made them. Finally, if the troughs were placed after the fact, and the dates commemorated something in the past, then the county could have commissioned them during the workhouse farm era.

Right now, what the dates mean is anyone's guess. Thinking that Joseph Morton Gregg could have made them (and being a parent myself), my first thought was to look at his children. He did have four, but matching them up with the dates puts them at ages 8, 6, 6, and 8. Perhaps the years commemorated something else important in their lives?

If the county is responsible for them and they were placed sometime after 1915, then the assumption is that the dates have some sort of meaning related to the Workhouse at Greenbank, of which Delcastle was a part. The Workhouse itself was opened in 1901-- close, but not quite. Maybe the dates mean something to someone who knows more about it than I.

The bottom line is that these troughs have been around for a while (Mark Julian remembers them being there in the sixties), and there's every reason to think they date from the years listed, or shortly thereafter. If anyone knows anything about these, please speak up. If anyone has any other theories that could be looked into, I'm up for that, too.

Update - 5/19/2014:

I visited Delcastle this past weekend with George Williamson and he showed me around some the sites, including the mysterious water troughs (although they're now used as planters, we're assuming that's what they originally were). I can now add a few more details, which may or may not narrow things down. They're located at the rear of the clubhouse and the front of the large barn (three at the former, two at the later). The two in front of the barn are both inscribed 1902. The three at the clubhouse are 1903, 1905, and 1912. On the opposite (back?) side of the 1905 trough there is an "M" carved within a circle. None of the others have anything else on them, although the two 1902's are flush against a wall, so you can't see the other side.

From just casual observation, it's obvious that the style of the inscriptions is slightly different on each one, as if they were different fonts. This leads me to believe that they were made at different times, and not ordered after the fact as a set. Therefore, I'm even more likely to believe that they date from the years listed. We don't know what the M is for on the 1905, but it's at least possible it could be for Morton (as in Joseph Morton Gregg). Still seems odd, though. Below are photos of the remaining troughs.




Update -- 7/17/2014:

We may be close to an answer about these troughs! Friend of the Blog Hugh Horning just passed along a very interesting piece of information to me. He says that the gentleman who lives in the house on the grounds told him that he was informed long ago by a former workfarm employee that the troughs were made by inmates at the workhouse at Greenbank, and that they were horse troughs. Interestingly, all the years inscribed on the troughs date to the time after Greenbank opened, but before Delcastle opened. If true, then the stones were carved at the Workhouse at Greenbank, then brought over to Delcastle. I'm not sure how to prove this, apart from finding a contemporary account of the troughs, but it certainly sounds plausible to me.

As for the mysterious "M" on the 1905 stone, I have  an idea about that, too. Running with the idea that they were carved at Greenbank, on a hunch I looked up the name of the warden at the time. It turns out, his name was Asmond S. Meserve. He was the first warden at the workhouse, but resigned in 1907 because of his objection to the whipping post, still in use at the time. He seems like he was a good and competent warden, and perhaps the prisoners gave this one to him personally. Just a theory, but maybe a decent one?

11 comments:

  1. I visited Delcastle over the weekend and took pictures of the troughs. I've updated the post with a little more information and photos of all the remaining troughs.

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  2. Assuming these were water troughs on a farm, they were used by animals. Hard to imagine dedicating a dated stone trough to a bunch of cows. Is it possible that the farm raised race horses? Horse racing was popular in that era. Perhaps the troughs were a way of showing off, and the years represented significant wins for the stable.

    The County bought the land in 1915, and there seems to be no remaining evidence of a horse stable or oval track. I've not been able to access the local newspaper records of that era. It would help to know who lived there 1900 - 1915. So this is just a shot in the dark.

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    1. First, my appologies to Walt and everyone else for the relative silence. Busy life events + computer problems = little posting. Sorry.

      Good point about the troughs being a bit fancier than normal. We've been calling them water troughs, but that's really just a guess. They may have been made as planters, as they're used now. I don't know of any connection between the property and horse racing, but I also don't know for sure who lived there the last few years. I do agree that they probably weren't made just to throw in the barn.

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  3. Possible new information about the troughs!!!! Thanks to Hugh Horning, we may now know their story. A fuller update is included at the bottom of the post, but the short version is that they may have been carved by inmates at the Greenbank NCC Workhouse and moved to Delcastle after it opened. I even now have a guess as to the mysterious M on the 1905 trough. Give it a read and see what you think!

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  4. There is a similar one deep in the woods at Canby Park. I've not seen it in years but knew right where it is.

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    1. Very interesting, Tommy. I'll have to look into it. If it is in fact the same type, that raises the possibility that the inmates made lots of these, and that there might be even more out there somewhere.

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  5. I will get a photo of it for you in the next couple of days. You still owe me a phone call you know.

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    1. I'd love to see a picture to see how closely it resembles the otheres.

      Can I give you a call tonight around 9 or so? After the kid's in bed and the kitchen's clean. I have your number.

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  6. I have one with 1904 on the front that came with my home. It has an "M" and "S" overlayed on top of each other located on the rear of the trough (opposite 1904 on front). Thanks for sharing this info on its possible origin. We are going to make it a planter.

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    1. Thanks for sharing, frankie. The date certainly fits with the others. Interesting that there are two letters. The fact that one is an M like the other makes it seem like they're related. I'd love to know where your house is (just the area or neighborhood), to see if these are all local or spread out over NCC. I'd also really love to see pictures of the front and back, to see how it compares with the others, stylistically. If you'd be more comfortable, feel free to email me at mchhistory@verizon.net. Thanks again!!

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    2. I'm a little slow. Thanks Frankie! :)

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