Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Bethel Church Revisited

Last Sunday, I attended the annual Holland reunion, which is always held on the grounds of Bethel Church in Union Hall, Virginia. Nearly a century ago, my grandparents—Joe and Sally Smith—traveled by horse and buggy to attend this Primitive Baptist church, which is surrounded by a very old graveyard.

 Elder John Reid Martin, my great-great-grandfather who preached there in the 1800s, is buried near the church. 

The previous time I'd visited the churchyard, his grave was blocked by boxwood. Now it's trimmed so his stone is visible.

 Here's a closer look.

And an even closer look.

Inside the church, his picture hangs behind the pulpit. He's the second one on the right.

While the church now has electricity and indoor plumbing (and Venetian blinds), the pews still look old. Did my grandparents sit in these? Chances are there were no cushions in the old days.

Near Martin's grave are many older graves, most marked by only field stones.

When I'm at Bethel Church, I usually visit the grave of Minnie McBride, who was murdered on her 17th birthday in 1908. A rosebud is carved into the top of her stone.

Some buried buried at Bethel Church had even shorter lives than Minnie. There are numerous children's graves, like the one for this little girl who "never bloomed, a rarer bud of promise."

Another little girl died a month short of her first birthday.

Some lived a long time—90 years for Mr. Matthews.

Some stones are scattered or overturned.

Some are unreadable.

But more recent ones are orderly.

Some verses of Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" could apply here. Like these:

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
         Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
         The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing Morn,
         The swallow twitt'ring from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
         No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
         Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
         Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share.
* * *
The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
         And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
         The paths of glory lead but to the grave.


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