The Ecology of a Ghost Town

Today – Remnants of Frost Town

Almost all of the buildings from the days of Frost Town are gone. Many of them were left to collapse in on themselves and decay into the ground, leaving behind stone foundations and refuse. Some of those foundations were destroyed in the 1980s during the construction of modern-day Gulick Road. Today, the forest around the Cumming Nature Center hides eight house foundations, a section of Frost Town Road, and the town’s abandoned cemetery.

This sign is located at the intersection of Frost Hill and Gulick Roads. In the mid to late 19th century, this would have been the town crossroads, with bustling activity and multiple mills. Today it is very sleepy, with just two original buildings near the intersection; the Wilcox house and the old school house. Over the years more than a dozen buildings within a half mile of this intersection have disappeared. Image: Photo by A. Smith, 2019.
This image may just look like a pile of rocks, but it’s actually an old house foundation that has mostly caved in. In the 19th century, residents used fieldstones to construct their cellars. After abandonment, the wood decays away while the remaining foundations are exposed to moisture and eventually cave in. Keep an eye out for suspicious piles of rocks in the forest. They may be an old house! Image: Photo Taken by A. Smith, 2022.
This well was discovered by accident in 2020 and then documented again during our 2021 LiDAR survey of the CNC property. It is a few hundred meters from Gulick Road in deep woods with only a very small pile of rubble next to it. Wells are a great indication of human activity, as they are very easily identifiable and are usually set up near a dwelling. Just watch where you step in the woods! Image: Photo by A. Smith, 2021.
It’s hard to make out in this image, but this is a former section of the Frost Hill or Frost Town Road that once extended south along the western border of the CNC all the way to West Gulick Road. The pile of rocks is actually the remains of a fieldstone wall that once lined the road. While the remnants of the road are difficult to see, they can be found near the CNC’s wilderness trail with a discerning eye (and extra attention to rock piles). Image: Photo by A. Smith, 2021.

Archaeology at the CNC

Even with most of the buildings gone, we can still find many hints about Frost Town’s inhabitants. If you were an archaeologist excavating one of Frost Town’s former homesteads, you would be thrilled to find piles of bricks, mounds of dirt filled with metal and glass debris, and holes filled with rocks. These are the remains of fieldstone foundations, trash pits, wells, and industrial equipment that was left behind as Frost Town was abandoned.

In this pile of rubble, you can just make out the teeth of an old two-person saw, twisted in the rubble. Piles of rocks can be natural, but they can also be piles of debris from former houses or industrial spaces. This picture was taken just south of the welcome center near Gulick Road, showing an old trash heap with many wonderful artifacts dating to the early 20th century. Image: Photo by A. Smith, 2022.
This image shows a chassis along with other remnants of a small guage vehicle, found deep in the southern part of the CNC property. Frost Town Archaeology’s survey team discovered a collection of at least three of these rusted-out chassis, alongside broken bottles, cans, and other trash dating to the middle of the 20th century. The vehicles and debris were probably part of logging operations in the 1950s or earlier. They may have also been caught in a forest fire that raged through the area around Frost Town in 1952 or 1963. Image: Photo by A. Smith, 2021.
This image shows Tim Sandiford, survey specialist and member of the Frost Town Archaeology team, holding a bit of metal recovered from an anomoly detected during LiDAR survey. Note the jubilation on his face knowing we have found more foundations and more artifacts on the CNC property. Image: Photo by A. Smith, 2021.

Natural Regrowth

In the years since Frost Town was abandoned, a second-growth forest has grown up, obscuring field walls and covering old building foundations. But we can still find clues about Frost Town’s farming, logging, and settlement activities in the vegetation today. Here are a few easily identifiable ones.

This photograph shows a gnarly apple tree that has been abandoned to grow in the wild. Apples are not native to the area, so when you see an apple tree in the middle of a forest or nature preserve, it’s almost certainly a remanant of an old orchard or a tree intentionally planted by people who once lived nearby. While this image is not from the CNC, there are probably some hiding out there! Image: Photo by R. London, Wikimedia Commons, 2014.
This tree is located right near the sugar shack. Without other competing trees, it has developed gnarly, expansive lower branches and a wide canopy. With competition for light from other trees, this one would be a lot slimmer. Image: Photo Taken by A. Smith, 2022.
This image shows the Frost Town Archaeology team heading up Frost Hill Road to the Hall Site where you can make out the giant canopy of a walnut tree, towering above the others. The tree is right next to the abandoned house foundation and is a perfect example of a wolf tree. It was able to grow so huge and wide because there were no other trees to compete with it. It may have even been planted intentionally over 100 years ago. Image: Photo Taken by A. Smith, 2022.
An image of the pines located just south of the CNC welcome center. Today the pines are a beautiful, serene space used for weddings, events, and camps. But, it was originally a logging stand, planted in neat rows about a hundred years ago for later harvesting. The CNC has a few of these logging stands located throughout its property. Image: Photo Taken by A. Smith, 2019.

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