A Walk To Remember

The following article was written by Virginia L. Woodwell, with comments here and there by Alan Junkins. It was published in JFA newsletter no. 15. Winter 2006.

Virginia is a descendant of William Junkins (1798-1860) and Rebecca Nowell (1802-1887), and a reporter for The York Independent.

Eleven people braved the high heat and intense humidity on Saturday afternoon, August 19, 2006, to join York native and historian Ron Nowell on a walk "up the mountain," as we Junkins call it. The Historic District Commission had organized a series of walks to call attention to the neglected history of the town's Agamenticus mountain region.

Among the contingent of walkers were: Alan and Nancy Junkins, Virginia Woodwell, Kinley Gregg, George Chapmen, Jr., Alex Magocsi, Jr., and four others interested in the history of the area.

Starting at the parking area at the end of Kingsbury Lane, just off Route 91, and the start of the properties now owned by the Kittery Water District, about three miles distant from the mountain and moving towards it.

We proceeded north along a broad woods trail that had once been a road. Now deeply gullied in spots, it ran up hill for most of the one-and-one-half miles covered by the walk. We crossed two bridged streams and passed three cellar holes, an open well and two small, private cemeteries.

Participants learned that the cellar holes were the last remnants of homes belonging to families named Knight, Gowen and Junkins, and the Knight and Junkins names in the cemeteries, on such markers as bore inscriptions, documented some of that history.

The first stop on the walk was at a stone bridge at the western end of Boulter Pond. Scarcely visible now save as rocks forming a dam of sorts, Ron Nowell said that it was actually six or seven feet high, tall enough to walk through at low water. Beaver activity to the west was contributing to the high water concealing it. Nowell call the bridge "a feat of engineering," with the large slabs of granite that had been laid across the opening, and speculated that it had been built about the time of the Revolutionary War.

Along the way, the Sylvester house cellar hole stood to the left on a rise. Distinguished now by slabs of granite at its center forming a cave-like root cellar. On the top slab, old bricks testified to the fact that a chimney had once stood there. To the left were more large slabs of granite forming large front steps leading to what had been the front door of the large cape-style house. The house itself stood facing the southwest with a commanding view over the sloping fields and the York River below. Some current residents of York have lilacs cultivated from the lilacs still in evidence at this cellar hole.

Not far away from this house was its stone-lined, hand-dug well, still uncovered and with water standing within a few inches of the top and a few frogs basking in the afternoon sun. Nowell noted that it was positioned so as to get drainage from both the barn and wetlands nearby. It probably contributed to frequent deaths by "black water," or typhus.

From this point, we took a small trail off to the left and out on a promontory above the beaver-created wetland that Nowell said is properly called Knight's Marsh (that's pronounced "Mash" in Maine). A stone wall went right down into the marsh and out its other side indicating that the marsh was relatively new, as did the many standing dead trees, killed by its water. On the point where the water was surrounding three sides of the promontory was a fairly large family burying ground with many graves marked only with stones that were unmarked. A couple that were marked with legible stones read "Sylvester Junkins - December 21, 1846 - Aged 27 yrs 10 mo" another "May E - daughter of Sylvester and Sarah E. Junkins - Died - Jan. 24, 1847 - Aged 5 years."1

Alan Junkins reported that he and cousin Roland Junkins used to tend these and other Junkins cemeteries around town diligently, Roland dragging a lawn mower up the long trail to do so. Back on the main trail, we continued at a leisurely pace, the walk made even slower by the climb allowing for many conversational excursions.

In one, Nowell noted that one Samuel Junkins had been among the York contingent that accompanied William Pepperell on the Louisberg military campaign against the French on Cape Breton Island in 1745. In another conversation, George Chapman, Jr., a Linscott descendant and York native with an interest in local history, who, at 82, has roamed and hunted in these woods for years, reported that he'd once found there a primitive gravestone for a child, made of field stone and inscribed with the date 1704.

The final stop on the walk was the cellar hole of a house once the home of Daniel Junkins and its nearby cemetery. Before the forest re-grew from sheep-farming days and all the surrounding lands were cleared of trees, its high spot delivered a sweeping view that extended all the way to the Great Bay at Portsmouth, NH, and the mouth of the Piscataqua River.

The view can no longer be seen unless you climb a tree, and the road is clearly impassable save to ATVs. At the Mount, Nowell reported that, for some reason, not known, the site boasted some exceptionally good soils for gardening and an orchard. Some small clearing from that effort remains visible there today. The cemetery there documents, among others, the death of Daniel Junkins, who died at age 75 on November 11, 1848 and his wife Hannah who died less than a year later, August 13, 1849, and David Junkins who died December 3, 1855 and his wife Abigail who died January 24, 1855.

A bonus of the walk were Ron Nowell's observations about nature. He listed wild orchids that grow in the region, noted in passing a giant beaver hut in Knight's Marsh and stopped to point out nests of great blue herons in the marsh's dead pines.

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