July 29, 2011
As I reported in my previous post, the first order of business upon our arrival in New Market, Tenn., was a visit to the Haworths’ church, Lost Creek Friends Church. The original building was burned in the Civil War, probably because Quakers were known to be abolitionists. It was rebuilt, though, and is still a functioning church today. The Stapletons gave us great directions, and we drove right to the church.
Unfortunately we weren’t able to make arrangements to see the inside of the church. If we’d thought of it, we probably could have arrived earlier in the day and attended Sunday services. Alas, we didn’t. But how cool would it have been to worship in the exact same church our ancestors did 150 years ago? We’ll have to do that next time.
I knew from my pre-trip research that many of the graves in the adjoining graveyard had been destroyed. What I didn’t realize was the extent of the destruction. The church sits just off the main road, in a large field surrounded by trees. When we pulled up to the church building, we could see a small group of tombstones tucked in a grove of trees in the far corner of the field. But as we made our way across to it, we realized that what looked from the road to be an empty field was actually part of the cemetery! There were patches of rubble everywhere that had obviously once been grave markers. How incredibly sad that they were almost completely gone. Even the remnants in the corner weren’t in very good shape, with the stones leaning or fallen over.
I didn’t see any Haworths, though undoubtedly they were among the many unmarked graves. Still, the whole place, the church and the churchyard, felt peaceful and prayerful and full of stories. Stories of love and loss, tragedy and triumph, conflict and peace. Stories that whisper through the trees and waft around the tombstones. Stories that will never be told again. I think that’s what makes me the saddest. As long as the stories are told, a little part of us gets to live on in this place. Maybe that’s what genealogy is really about—listening hard for the whispers in the fragments of what they left behind. The old records and documents and photographs aren’t just pieces of paper. They’re scattered remnants of a story that, if we’re diligent, we have the privilege to tell once again.
Next time: Haworths on the Holston River.
Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Nancy Shively of Skiatook, OK. Read all her posts at Family Tree University.
Join Nancy and many Family Tree University instructors at FTU’s Virtual Conference, August 19-21, 2011!