Memories of Oak Grove

Memories of Oak Grove

Part Four:
The Church and The Cemetery

by Goldman Dewitt Freeland
Reprinted with permission.

The Church
(Oak Grove Presbyterian Church, U.S.A.)

The Oak Grove Presbyterian Church was one large room. If you came in it from the front double door, you would see rows of slatted benches. You could also see the pulpit and the choir loft, as we called it, slightly elevated above the floor of the church. The middle row of the church was broken up to provide space for a large wooden stove, not a pot-bellied stove, but a long flat stove that would hold wood probably four feet long. A stove pipe ran some 20 feet up to the top of the high ceiling of the church. The pipe was so long that there were wires coming down from the ceiling and at varied places around the chimney to keep the sections from buckling and falling.

As you looked inside the church to your left, the ladies usually filled these pews. Small children sat with them. As children became larger, they could "promote" back to the pews slightly away from their mother. On the right hand side of the church, the men sat. Most of the men did not come in until the bell rang for the church to start.

One of the things that I remember about the church was during the fall of the year wasps would come out of the belfry where the big bell was hung in the attic. The wasps would attach themselves to the ceiling and as the fire got hot they would fall off on people. One of the fun things was hoping that they would fall off on some woman or some girl and hear them squeal. Of course if they were to fall off on some of us boys, we would make a big to-do about slapping them off.

We had a paddle pumped organ. The song leader directed the singing and kept time by his right-hand chopping down half way then to the right, back to the center, up to the starting place, back down, then to the left, back to the center and up to the beginning point - each time stopping in the center as his hand went by. Then he would repeat.

For small children, we had playing-card size pictures with condensed religious lessons on the back. They had pictures of Jesus, Paul and the Apostles, Moses and the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets, etc.

Children, young boys and girls, men and women all received good religious training at Oak Grove Church at that time and I am sure still do. Teachers may not have been as well-educated or have Bible knowledge expected today, but they had a sincere dedication to have us know who God was, what Christ taught, what he had done for them and our ancestors, and what he could do for us. We got the message and the memory lasts.

One of the things you remember and respect about your parents were the things that they taught you growing up and how you are proud of them for being active in the church and community. My father led the singing. He was Sunday School Superintendent. He taught the adult class and he was an elder in the church. My mother cooked Sunday dinner, took care of eight of us children and came to church while daddy was busy with this work.

Another memory is the Sunday-go-to-meeting knee britches young boys were required to wear to dress-up. When we could go from knee britches to long dress-up pants (not overalls), we felt grown up. Yet, we were at that age where we wanted to go barefoot (except at Sunday church) from early spring to early fall. Having bare heels tough enough to bust a chestnut burr was an achievement.

The preachers that we had at that time were Rev. MacMiken, Rev. Tom Neal, Rev. Hart, Rev. Hack Neal, Rev. Sam Presnell, Rev. Steffy, and Rev. Barrow. I can also remember when we had what we called protracted meetings, when visiting preachers would come and stay. When the preacher would visit, of course, the children would have to eat at the second table. In addition, sometimes we had to mind the flies off the preacher as they ate their meal, usually with a peach tree limb. Flies were a difficult thing when I grew up. Even though you had screen doors, it was almost impossible to keep flies out of the house.

This is a good time to mention all-day meetings - preaching, singing, and dinner on the ground. "On the ground" was usually wire fence laid flat and stretched between trees about three to four feet off the ground and used as a long table. We had congregation, group, and quartet singing. A quartet I remember had Oscar Fleming, his brother, and a Mayes. Another well-known group was called "The Sumner County Quartet" and composed of Luther Freeland, Walter Brown, Mr. Alexander of the Alexander Funeral Home and a Mr. Crowder, a merchant from Rock Bridge, I believe. They were gospel singers who entertained. Later I recall a group made up of Johnny and Russell West, Walter Brown's daughter, Freda, and Walter's brother, Ollie.

The Cemetery

The cemetery has been mentioned before, and the reason being, it has been so much a part of the Oak Grove Community. It was started as a family "graveyard" with the original Sherron family being the first to be buried there.

In the early 20's, it was deeded to the Oak Grove Church when land adjacent to the plot was sold to permit individuals of the community to use it. Granny Sherron Anglea, who owned and sold the land, reserved a plot for her immediate family. Later, grandfather Sid Freeland sold more land to the church that also joined and he too reserved a plot for family use.

In early years, generally the third Sunday in May, families and friends of those buried there met at the old Sherron house and yard. Sometimes they spread lunch around an old "gum" tree and fellowshipped together.

Men and young boys sought out Uncle Effrom Sherron with the goatee and listened to his slightly off-color jokes to the dismay of Granny Anglea, his sister. The action of Uncle Effrom's goatee, while he cackled and hollered at his own jokes, provided sufficient amusement.

After lunch they gathered at the cemetery on temporary benches, chairs, and on the ground under the shade trees to hear singing by quartets, trios, duets, or to participate in group singing.

In recent years, it has gradually developed into a Homecoming Day at the Oak Grove Presbyterian Church with lunch being provided by the ladies of the church. Decoration of the graves usually takes place before or after the 11:00 a.m. church service. Representatives of the church see that the cemetery is well-kept by donations from relatives and friends of those buried there.

Part One: Preface, Forward, Oak Grove - Incorporated, and Growing Up

Part Two: The Sherrons, The Freelands, The Angleas, and The Others

Part Three: Living and Working

Part Five: The Schools, The Stores, and The Garage

Part Six: The Blacksmiths and the Grist Mill, The Carpenters,The Doctors, Roadwork, Recreation, Health, etc., The Little Book, A Special Place

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