Tuesday, August 21, 2012

My grandparents' anniversary ... August 21, 1904

There's a narrow gold wedding band I wear along with my own. It is my grandmother's wedding band that was left to me when she passed away many years ago. Inside is engraved my grandparents' initials and the date of their wedding ... August 21, 1904 ... 108 years ago today.

My grandfather was from Grayson County in southwest Virginia. My grandmother was from Allegheny County, NC, just across the New River and state line. They met at an all-night dance, a tradition during those days in the mountains where the young people would meet at someone's house for a dance party. The social gatherings would last all night because folks lived such long distances from one another and it was difficult and dangerous to travel through the mountains after dark.

I don't know how long they courted but my grandmother, whose father was a prominent and prosperous store keeper and farmer in the Turkey Knob community outside Sparta, NC, consented to become my grandfather's wife and move away from her family. Because the marriage license was obtained in Virginia, my grandparents, along with the wedding party, walked to the Virginia-North Carolina state line and were married in the middle of the road. I heard from my mother that was a common practice back in those days.

Their names were John and Molly and they were two teenagers beginning life together as generations had done before in those isolated hard-scrapple mountains. They settled in a small cabin on the side of a mountain near an area known as Mouth of Wilson, located in the shadow of Grayson Highlands and Mt. Rogers in the days before it became a state park.

The land was sloped and rocky ... the elevation was over 3,500 feet ... and to walk it today makes me wonder how they were able to survive in the harsh winters and difficult summers. In two rooms, they began raising their family that would eventually include 10 children ... my mother was the youngest. My grandfather farmed with a mule and plow, piling rocks on the hillside that are still in place to this day. A small creek passes below the cabin, a source of water during the days they lived in those cramped, sparse conditions.

They were surrounded by family. Our relatives are all through those hills, most staying close as they grew into adulthood, married, and raised families of their own. My grandfather's parents lived in a log cabin on the Knob, the family place that was made up of two rooms and a fireplace on the ground floor, and one large room upstairs.

Because they were tough and made their own way, they set a work ethic for those of us who followed that continues to this day. And, as I once again look at the gold band on my ring finger, I think about how it all began on this day 108 years ago when John and Molly became man and wife.

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