24 September 2015

On the Maury River Yesterday & Life Lessons

The ruins of Gooseneck Dam on the Maury River
Men may dam it and say that they have made a lake, but it will still be a river. It will keep its nature and bide its time, like a caged animal alert for the slightest opening. In time, it will have its way; the dam, like the ancient cliffs, will be carried away piecemeal in the currents. ~ Wendell Berry
The Maury is named after "the Pathfinder of the Seas", Matthew Fontaine Maury:
On the outbreak (1861) of the American Civil War, Maury returned to Virginia to become head of coast, harbour, and river defenses for the Confederate Navy, for which he attempted to develop an electric torpedo. In 1862 he went to England as a special agent of the Confederacy, and at the war’s end (1865) he went to Mexico, where the emperor Maximilian made him imperial commissioner of immigration so that Maury could establish a Confederate colony there. In 1866, when the emperor abandoned this scheme, Maury went back to England. He returned to the United States in 1868 and accepted the professorship of meteorology at Virginia Military Institute, a post he held until his death. ~ Encyclop√¶dia Britannica
Below is another photograph taken of this same spot by legendary train photographer O. Winston Link in 1956. Obviously, this photo was taken prior to the dam being "carried away piecemeal in the currents" by flooding caused by Hurricane Camille in 1969. Note the tower in the background of both photos for reference.

Image credit.
The take away lesson is that despite man's best efforts to control "nature and nature's God", nature and God eventually win. The laws of the universe enforce themselves.

And below is another photograph taken by Link's assistant as Link was setting up for the photo above. Link was standing at about 7 o'clock and six to 8 feet from where I was standing when I took my photo.

And one final thought by historian Stephen Ambrose:
In the 19th century, we devoted our best minds to exploring nature. In the 20th century, we devoted ourselves to controlling and harnessing it. In the 21st century, we must devote ourselves to restoring it. ~ Stephen Ambrose


cenantua said...

Very cool, Richard. How old is the dam?

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Robert - I believe in the 1830's. Then concreted over in the 20th century. The original dam was built of cut limestone.

Robert Lewis Hawkins said...

Love that river, though I haven't enjoyed its banks for some three years. Still have relatives in Rockbridge County and closeby, and my great-grandfather Alexander Nelson Bell of Goshen was one of those who carried M.F. Maury's body through Goshen Pass one final time prior to laying him to rest in Richmond, according to Maury's instructions (so the family story goes). R.L. Hawkins, Nashville, majedwards@aol.com

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you for the comment Mr. Hawkins. That's an interesting family connection.