The Homecoming

20 02 2012

Image“Alas!  How we forget that we are but strangers and pilgrims on the earth; that we are journeying to our eternal home, and will soon be there.”  Octavius Winslow

The exquisite manor you’re seeing in the picture is the oldest structure still standing that is attributed to one branch of my family. This was the home of John Wesley and Emazetta Marshall, my great-grandfather and grandmother.  It’s located near Hillsville, Virginia and sits near the top of a mountain named after all my ancestors that settled there, hence, Marshall Mountain.  The house is approximately 400 square feet in size with one main room taking up the entire downstairs.  It was used as kitchen, (in the winter when it was too cold to cook outside) family room, sewing room and parents bedroom.  It had a fireplace used for heating and cooking.  The upstairs was where the children slept except for the youngest who slept with mom and dad.  They numbered 7; 2 boys and 5 girls; with one more girl who would be added to the family after they moved to West Virginia. The only heat was what rose from the fireplace on the main floor so Emazetta would make quilts for added warmth.  (This art has been practiced and handed to each generation since.)  A stream ran next to the house for fresh drinking water and washing. A root cellar was built right on the stream where food would be stored and kept fresh due to the cold temperature supplied by the ground and the running water.  It also had an outdoor kiln for baking, woodshed and smokehouse used for preserving wild game that had been hunted for food.  Oh yes, and of course the small facility that made every modern home of its era, complete, the outhouse. The entire “estate” sat on several acres of land, mostly used for growing vegetables.  Just up the road and a good walk farther up the mountain is the Marshall Family Cemetery.  When visiting there, we have discovered grave markers that date prior to the Civil War.  John and Emazetta’s daughter, Coral, passed away at a young age from eating tainted green apples and is buried there.

I’ve enjoyed my visits back to the original homestead, exploring and doing research of my ancestors that has been aided by “shirt-tail” relation who still live on Marshall Mountain and have been generous in sharing historic family information.  Upon returning to the area I’m always surprised to see the old place still standing, seeing that it is well over 100 years old and has stayed abandoned for more than 70 of those years.  No, there’s just not a lot to behold anymore, the old house rickety and barren, several old foundations where other structures once stood, the creek and a large field of weeds and wild flowers.  Not much to see with the eyes, until you use your other senses, like listening quietly to all that’s around you.  Your vision becomes filled with people and activity.  I can see John working the fields or preparing fresh game with seasonings. The boys and girls are busy with chores; Emazetta is preparing dinner over the fireplace or sitting in her favorite rocking chair sewing quilts or clothes. Toward evening John and Emazetta take up seats on the front porch, drinking coffee and talking about the day’s activities and what still needed to be done.  The children are upstairs supposedly going to sleep; but whispers and giggles are being exchanged until weariness sets in on sleepy eyes and the only sound left is the stillness of a quiet Virginia mountain night.

I was told many stories from those days from my great-aunts and great-uncle that were old enough to remember living only a generation from early pioneers.  From my young perspective back in the days of hearing the tales, I gathered the idea that life was hard and lacked any form of fun whatsoever.  My one aunt was quick to expel that idea.  She spoke of that time as if it was beyond special, perhaps magical.  “If we were poor, we never knew it,” she would say.  “It was just the way things were, everyone working together for the good of the family and loving being together.”  That, I realized later, was the catalyst for the love generated amongst them all that lasted all of their lives.

I’m reminded of two saying when writing this; “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to get back to.”  The second; “There is nothing half so pleasant as coming home again.”  The elder generation of my family shared many things:  food, shelter, clothes, home, love, each other and most of all a Savior.  Each held to a strong conviction in Christ Jesus and through Him, one day, they would all be together again in a new Home–forever giggling and telling stories with joy and jubilation. Looking forward to joining that family circle some day!  🙂

John 14:2 – In my Father’s house are many rooms.  If it were not so, I have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.


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