The story of an old well and its secrets - Part 1

in #story6 years ago

Once upon a time...

In the courtyard of the Burgundian farm where my parents live, an old well was said to contain a silver sugar bowl.

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Before I begin my story, I first have to tell you about my great-grandfather, Robert, whom some of you already know a little through my mom’s series "Nous sommes de la boue qui marche" or my own posts: "The treasures left behind my great-grandfather".

Robert married Geneviève in 1927, and bought a farmhouse in the French region of Burgundy in 1947. Two years after the death of my great-grandfather, in 1981, my parents purchased the home, and thus kept it in the family. The house had long been a farm with all that it entails: barn, stables, henhouse, pigsty, shed and workshop. To provide water for the animals and tend to the needs of the people living on the property, a well was built in the front yard.
We believe that this well dates as far back as the 17th century, because, above the door of the house is a stone lintel on which is engraved the initials A.G. and the date 1665 - date to which the house and quite possibly its well would have been built.

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Marriage of Robert and Genevieve in 1927

Born in a bourgeois family, the eldest son of 5 children and educated by a preceptor, we can say that the beginnings of Robert's existence were rather comfortable. However, as we all know, times were to change drastically in the first half of the 20th century. Robert, along with many other men of his generation were sent to the battlefront, to fight for their country. He would eventually live through the war of 1914-1918 then that of 1939-1945, forced to live a life filled with tribulations most of us will never fully understand.

I will not go into the details of what he lived in 1914 as this journey deserves its own series of posts. If you are interested in learning more about his life during the war, and you happen to read French fluently, my mom @ofildutemps has been writing his memoirs of the 1rst World War, using the letters he wrote while fighting on the battlefront (“Nous sommes de la boue qui marche”).

In later years, he became the director then owner of a hotel restaurant in Creil, a city in the north of France. This is also where he taught himself to cook.

When the 2nd World War broke out, the Germans requisitioned his hotel. He gave up everything by obligation and left with his family, during the debacle, in his region of origin, Burgundy. It was there that, after going through some unconvincing jobs, he rented a farm and became a farmer. The house was on the demarcation line – the border which separated the free zone to France’s occupied territory - but that's another story.

As he often did when changing professions, Robert went straight for the books in order to acquire any new skills required to do the job well. He was a man who displayed incredible energy as soon as he found a new passion - whether for cooking, farming, breeding farm animals, drawing or painting - nothing stopped him.


Oil painting made by Robert - view of the well in the front yard of the farm

However, all individuals do have their flaws, and Robert had two main ones: he was very spendthrift and could not stand anyone upsetting him. He would have great bursts of anger and sometimes even become violent.

My great-grandmother would do everything to avoid upsetting her husband because, according to her, these moods were due to the trauma he had experienced during the 1rst World War. Or, at least, this is what she would convince herself of. Yet, sometimes, she too would become extremely upset, entering great fits of anger, worthy of those of Robert.

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1946 - Genevieve, Robert, and a worker threshing wheat

And that's where we come to the story of the well (props to you for making it this far!).

One day, around the year 1962, Robert told his wife that he had sold some of her jewelry in order to pay for the horse he had just bought. Since it was apparently not the first time he had done something like this, Genevieve went into a rage.

She grabbed the first thing she could find which belonged to Robert - the sugar bowl – walked furiously over to the well in the courtyard, raised it above her head and threw it violently inside yelling: "Well this is what I do with YOUR things!" And proceeded to go back to taking care of her little pigs.

This sugar bowl was entirely made of silver and engraved with Robert’s name. It had been offered to him at birth, as it was commonly done within his family, along with a cup and a saucer, a spoon and a coffee pot. Coming from my great-grandmother, this was an abominable gesture of revenge. She was so frugal, the complete opposite of her husband in this regard, that by doing this she demonstrated that she could not take it anymore. Enough was enough.

She told my mom this story while laughing one day as they discussed my late great-grandfather’s fits.

A few years after my parents bought the house, my mom remembered the story her grandmother had told her. She let my dad know and they decided to have the well cleaned, which was in great need of some spring cleaning anyway!
Would they find the silver sugar bowl? or maybe gold coins? or both?
Considering the age of the well, estimated to be almost 400 years old, would it be so crazy to think that quite a few treasures could be hidden inside, waiting to be found?

The mind wonders….

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1975 - my great-grandparents in front of the well

  • Would you have reacted the same way as my great-grandmother?
  • Do you think the silver sugar bowl was ever found?
  • What else could they possibly find hidden at the bottom of a 400 year-old well?
  • Would you have gone to find it, or left the mystery unsolved?

Stay tuned for Part 2 to find out what my parents discovered in the well...


This story is a translation and slight adaptation of the one written by my mom in French. You can find her original post here.

Don't hesitate to leave comments, ask questions, and share your ideas - I love to hear from all of you.

To view some of my previous posts, click on the links below:

“Learning is not a race for information, it is a walk of discovery” - Jane Healy

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Beautiful memories

Well, firstly I wouldn't personally have acted like your great-grandmother because I'd happily trade jewels for a horse, I love horses. :) But, I do see where she was coming from.

Secondly, the more I hear of your grandfather the more I feel his kindred spirit. I know what it is to be at the tail end of a once more 'better off 'family and I certainly always turn to the soil and cooking and animals and the paintbrush to keep me going or when I need to forge ahead. I'm hoping there is a parallel me hanging out with your great grandfather somewhere.

I LOVE that well and the house. I have, well @winstonalden and I, have discussed getting a cheap old farmhouse in France. There are some affordable ones with some need of 'help'. Now, however, he is back to working in the city, but I still keep that hope alive.

I Love old things. I have a cottage I love here on the cape that is old for my country, built in 1718, and it too has an old well on it. Though not a great stone one like this, the early settlers in American in New England mainly used the forest to build their things, so we are lacking is some stone and brick that they used more in the South. But the history of the house speaks to me. I have to rent it out in Summers to keep it, but I do what I have to do and this time of the year, when it is empty (usually have a winter tenant but he left early) I go there and just sit in it's history.

I have had my family live in it. My aged dying mother with Alzheimers spent her final days there. I helped my father weed the old brick path that meanders in the back garden. We have had it filled with family and friends in Victorian costume for one of our crazy 'themed Christmas' we used to do. IT is like a portal to the past for me and sometimes I think, if I squint just right, I can see someone in Puritan garb using the old open fireplace in the keeping room, now dining room.

I love this story and the connection to your family. And I really do love Steemit for bringing these sort of things into my life.

I think I would probably look for the things, as I am always randomly finding old pits of pottery or glass bottles when digging a fence post at our old place. Once I found an old Victorian shoe when I was digging a deep hole for a grey water drainage.

Again, lovely story. What an enchanting read with my morning coffee.

Thank you for such a thoughtful comment Donna.

It really is lovely to be able to connect with so many different kinds of people from around the world, and to inspire each other the way we do.

Your cottage sounds like such an amazing place... and built exactly 300 years ago! That's considered extremely old in America, right? - it's like owning a part of your country's history. What an intense spiritual experience it must be to have the chance to even just sit on a bench or in the grass in the property and let your mind wonder about all the souls who have passed through these walls.

I'd love to see photos of what it looks like. Or even just the well if you have one and care to share. Even that Victorian shoe and all the small "treasures" you have found. I love treasures, old stones, and anything that lets my imagination run wild. I find them fascinating.

Thanks again for coming by. Glad to have my stories accompany your morning coffee 😊

It's so astounding to me that you have such detailed records and stories of your family, I've got nothing like that so it really blows my mind to have info so far back...

Also, to answer this question, this makes you PRETTY MUCH the nick cage of your family's version of National Treasure- if I had details like this I'd be ALL OVER filling in the gaps and finding secret sugar bowls ;)

Haha, I'd like to be referred to as Harrison Ford instead. Huuuuuge Indiana Jones fan here (humming the theme song while typing this).
In the summer time, my brother and I even go looking for treasures in the nearby fields and forest paths with a metal detector. I wish I could show you our collection of treasures found over the years, but I'm pretty sure it's illegal, and they look far better at home than trapped in a museum.
Props to my mom for this post though... she's the one who knows all this stuff. All I can do is read my great-grandpa's memoirs and listen to my grandparents tell their stories as well.

Ooohhhh I was excited for the second part of your story... Now the Indiana Jones vibe and casual treasure hunting too?!?
Tell me you're going to Steemfest3 (don't abort that mission!) because we have stories to trade!

We sure do buddy. No aborting allowed... hhhmmm, that came out weird (pun intended).

You ain't right!

But i ain't wrong, right?

Pardon my interruption, but where and when is steemfest3?

No idea. I don't think they've set a date or place yet. Soon I hope :)

Yes! you're how the stories live on! Super important, and something you don't appreciate until you're older. <3

I have such awesome metal detector memories from being a kid, we grabbed a half broken on out of someone's trash and never found anything but in my wild imagination EVERYTHING was treasure from ANCIENT CIVILIZATIONS

Alright. That's it. SteemFest 3. Bring your metal detectors. No going home until we find you a nugget.
(oh and meet @scan0017 if you haven't already... he's a crack up, you'll love his emoji posts)

yes we've met! I believe on the first day, that one's got a screw loose for sure, but it takes one to know one ;)

LOL! True Dat!

also, do you also hate snakes?? haha

Naaah I'm cool with snakes. Not so much with giant rolling boulders and monkey eyeballs soup though.

LOL fair enough!

Woah now I’m really intrigued!! would love to see your treasures!!! But totally respect that they need to stay offline ;) lol!
Also, I grew up watching those movies so totally am an Indiana Jones fan (plus I grew up in Indiana so feel that kinship with him too lol!)

I'm glad you brought me back on that topic because I just went to verify what I had looked up a few years ago on the net, and it looks like the laws concerning the use of metal detectors for treasure hunting are a bit more vague than I previously thought ( in France at least... laws probably vary quite a lot from country to country).

They'll definitely have to stay offline for the time being. But I'll look more into that, as I'd love to be able to share these treasures with you.

And remember: "X never, ever marks the spot" ;)

Je fais aussi de la détection, avec l'autorisation des propriétaires il n'y a pas de soucis.
La région où l'on est est riche en vielles pièces romaines et aussi les plus communes les Napoléon !! Ahah

Mais oui des pièces, qu'est-ce qu'on en trouve! Tu es dans quelle région?
Autorisation des proprio oui, mais je t'avoue quand meme que cet article ne rassure pas:

Article L542-1 du Code du Patrimoine (reprenant la loi 89-900)
«Nul ne peut utiliser du matériel permettant la détection d’objets métalliques, à l’effet de recherches de monuments et d’objets pouvant intéresser la préhistoire, l’histoire, l’art ou l’archéologie, sans avoir, au préalable, obtenu une autorisation administrative délivrée en fonction de la qualification du demandeur ainsi que de la nature et des modalités de la recherche.»

Comment sais-tu que ce tu trouves n'est pas un "objet pouvant intéresser la préhistoire, l'histoire (...)"?

Je suis entre Nîmes et Avignon dans le Gard.
Il est interdit bien-sur de détecter dans les endroits historiques et classés.
La loi anglaise est beaucoup mieux conçu que la notre.
Les archéologues s'associent aux détéctoristes pour les recherches historique en toute légalité,
de ce fait plus de choses sont exposé au public.
Ici il y a beaucoup de particulier qui ne peuvent pas partager leurs trouvailles malheureusement.
Et elles restent dans des placards!
Beaucoup d'agriculteurs ont trouver des vestiges et les ont recouverts sans les déclarer,
pour ne pas voir leurs champs détériorer par des recherches, et ne pas pouvoir s'en servir pour leur travail.
La limite de la loi est toujours délicate. Surtout en France
En général on ne trouve pas des choses de grandes valeurs,
mais juste le faite de tenir quelque chose dans ces mains qui à 2000ans où 10000
comme des morceaux de silex taillés de la préhistoire que j'ai trouvé dans la garrigue,
ou des dents de requin qui ont des millions d'années nous rappelle que nous ne sommes pas là depuis longtemps, nous petits humains !! Ahah

C'est bien vrai ca, joliment dit!
Génial de rencontrer un autre amateur de détecteur... en plus tu t'y connais. Je viendrai vers toi pour toutes questions du coup😉
On dirait qu'on trouve a peu pres les memes choses.
As-tu déjà fait des blogs sur tes trouvailles?

N'hésite pas si tu as besoin !
J'ai voulut faire un blog il y a déjà 2 ans, et il faut que je trouve le temps , entre le jardin, les balades et steemit !!
Tu en as fait un toi?

Oh my gosh, I love this story. I read through it enraptured! I love stories like these and am so enamored with the well! Wow 400 years old- or older!! We in the US are jealous of the ages of your things you’re able to own lol! Can’t wait for part two ✨

We Europeans know that you Americans are jealous. We Europeans enjoy rubbing our thousand-year-old things in your face, because we're a bit arrogant like that 😜
Although we do think your Native American history stuff is pretty cool too 😍
Part2 coming out soon, to a theater near you.

haha too funny! their history is so cool, but it's also a devastating history: the colonists wiped them out and over time stole all the land, broke all the treaties and relegated them to little tracts of land in regions they were unfamiliar with. the native spirit took a huge shock, but i see a lot of revival happening, too, of old skills and culture! saw you just put out part two- going to take a look! woooo!

Hahaha! Hurry hurry grab the popcorn 😉
Yes, all stories of the colonial era have their tragedies. The French have nothing to be proud of in this regard, that's for sure.

Wow taking us back to memory lane. What an amazing story. M really confused at these questions #my bad. I'm so anxious to know what was finally discovered in the well. Lol

Part 2 coming out later this week. Get your popcorn ready ;)

Hahahahahahhaah sure 🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿🍿

Oh gosh!!!! I can't wait for part two! What happened? So much history. I wish I could see pictures of my great grand parents and hear their story!

Glad I've got your attention :) The second part with all the treasures found will be out shortly.

This is a fantastic story. You have a remarkable family and I am curious to know if the sugar bowl is indeed at the bottom of the well. I think there was a lot of rubbish at the bottom, maybe even bones from a little animal that fell into the well a long, long time ago or broken pottery. We will find out in part 2 of your story.

Those are all very good guesses @clio.
Plus remember, there was a lot of mud accumulated over the years at the bottom of the well... many things could potentially be trapped in it, and preserved much better than if they had been in direct contact with water.
Stay tuned and thanks for stopping by 😉

For some reason, I cannot give an upvote. I try it later today.

Aaaahh the mysteries of Steemit... I get that too sometimes. Lots of bugs on here lately.
But do not worry, your comments are enough for me :)

Oh i love your great-grandmother! Would i've done the same thing? Yeah man! In the river if there's one nearby.
Oh..were there other treasures???

Yes, a river would have been a different story. He might have jumped in to try and retrieve it... who knows. Although he sure didn't care to go look for it in the well. Hmmm, I'm sure it would have been funny to hear his side of the story as well.
Treasures are coming in Part 2 :-)

When is that Part 2?

When we feel like writing it. Don't pressure me woman!

Then don't write anything that have any suspense in it😂😂


It's very sunny in this part of the is it in Burgundy??

Wonderful post, I love learning about your family history. My grandparents tend to get very worked up when angry as wel, same story too, my Grandpa had a crazy temper and a spendthrift (gambler actually) my Grandma was also always yelling, kept the family together though. She once went to my grandpa’s mistress with a shotgun.

I’m curious to find out more about their (your) story and what else they find in the well! Best wishes!

Oh my... with a shotgun?! That woman sure didn't mess around!!! Were any shots fired??
I forget where you are from @artzanolino. I'd love to read more stories about your grandparents...

Thanks for stopping by. Stay tuned to either my mom's post or mine to find out what they found.

No shots fired, but she said if she ever slept with her husband again, it would be her last...

I’m born in France (father is French/Italian) and my mother is Indian/Surinamese) but I live and was raised on Curaçao. They have a lot of old school stories cause they were brought up quite poor in Surinam... My grandfather had 22 siblings from the same parents and my grandma 12+, they has 10 children together. My grandfather developed a very heavy gambling addiction though, it led to neglect and all of my uncle’s, exepct the one who died of leukemia at 12 (due to living close to the oil refinery) All ended up in prison or addicted to drugs (one of them passed away a few years back from an o.d) There are so many heart breaking stories that I think it’s been a big part of my escape into art.

Stories like when my grandma really wanted to learn to swim... She bought herself a bathing suit and applied for lessons. My grandpa threw the bathing suit away and made sure she couldn’t go. My grandmother still can’t swim and she’s lived on an island most of her life 😭

Curaçao, wow. I remember seeing a beautiful documentary about the island once. Curious to know how the situation is over there with Venezuela right next door..

That is a gigantic family you have there. Gigantic being an understatement! And a lot of difficult life stories for so many lives.. probably deeply rooted in the issues faced from growing up in poverty (i'm guessing). Addictions are often a common denominator arising from such tragedies, a form of escapism we all so easily fall into.
Looks like your drug of choice was and still is art. I hope you stick to that one for as long as you possibly can, as I love what you do, and many others also do here on Steemit.

Thank you so much for sharing your stories with us. It's always so fascinating to try and understand the art behind the artist.

Thank you, it's a very beautiful island, a gem in the Caribbean, we are quite far removed from the other islands, so we have remained a bit isolated and original.

The situation with Venezuela is deteriorating, politically there is turmoil and the Venezuelans have imposed a trade embargo on us (strange, cause they had more to benefit from it) Maduro is making a situation of Us against the world, and a lof of people are buying it.

I'm always shocked when I meet Maduro supporters, we are also receiving refugees by boat, sometimes they capsize and we have bodies that wash up on shore, and the island is not doing enough to do something for the Venezuelan refugees here. We send them back...

Historically we have a deep history with Venezuela, plenty of trade and friendship, even Simon Bolivar, the great South American liberator, was a refugee on our island for some years, his right hand man, and essential figure in the liberation of South America, was Pedro Luis Brion, a Curaçao born freedom fighter.

We have watched Venezuela deteriorate since Chavez took over many years ago...

The addictions are definitely a coping mechanism, I'm 31 now, and I fighting hard to not let the patterns I was raised with dominate me. It seems easy, but taking responsibility for your own traumas is quite a challenge for me...

Art has definitely been instrumental in allowing me to try and change my perspectives...

Thank you for the extra info.
It's always much more reliable to hear it from someone who sees it with his own eyes than to listen to our media feed us what they wish to feed us.

As for the addictions, I think all of us fight them in one way or another, some to more extremes than others. The patterns do shape us, but like you say, it is a struggle to not let them dominate us - sometimes the struggles last a lifetime. It looks like your approach is leading you on the right path though... :-)

I think the "fits" of anger were by-products of what they went through during those wars years. A form of PTS if you like. I have heard stories of what happened during those years and I can't imagine how they made it through. And yet they did. I can see your great-grandmother probably had enough and that was the straw that broke the camel's back and she did it without really thinking about it atthe time. I am curious to know wht your parets found in the well.

I completely agree. We'll never truly understand the horrors they saw which shaped the rest of their lives (thankfully).
Stay tuned to find out the secrets hidden deep down under ;-)

The family has excellent stories!
WOW! it really amazes me. and very wondering, I am reading with interest :)
Continue to your great stories. It's nice to learn things about the family.

there are few people nowadays that were able to keep and remember their family history... And you have a rich stories behind... waiting to read more stories...

Thanks @jezmacher. Stay tuned :)

My what a wonderful story...please don't keep us waiting for the results! lol. What a colorful journey your great grandparents had. I love the pictures. Sounds like your great grandmother found a way to keep up with her husband. You didn't tell us what he did when she threw the sugar bowl in the well! Can't wait for the next installment.

He didn't care, he had a HORSE! hahahaha 😜

Thanks for sharing this photography is very nice post

amazing photography with great writing...👍

Really interesting and intriguing story however your narration is so fluent and smooth . I read all the story in one breath now going on the second part of it...

Cheers @mnallica. Happy you enjoyed reading :)

I love this story. You are a talented writer and have some great subject matter there. The thought of her throwing the bowl down the well really makes me laugh. Go girl!!! He must have been quite shocked.

I wish I could tell you what his reaction was. For some reason I am guessing he didn't care so much, seeing as he had his horse already and never bothered to go searching for the bowl..
Thanks for your visit @riverflows :)

That must have irritated her!!!!

I bet yeah! Although she was laughing about it with my mom years after...

Its funny in retrospect. My favourite funny in hindsight story is the night... oh wait... you will have to wait for that one...cue suspense music

Haha! Looking forward to it ;)