I spent a good bit of time visiting with my father’s mother, Mary Rose Rash Benge. We would come to Statesville to see them, and she was a source of many family stories. I surely wish I’d had some sort of recording device back then. She was born in 1872 in Ashe County, North Carolina and later lived in Wilkes and Alleghany Counties. She died in 1963 at age 91 in Morganton. The word Alzheimer’s had not been invented then.

She had four brothers and five sisters and was the oldest child. She was 67 years older than me. As a child, I just sat and listened. She was quite a talker. Alas, I never asked any questions.

In 1980, my mother and I were compiling family history and went on a trip in her VW bug up to these counties and onward up to West Virginia where we visited my grandmother’s sister, Belle. She was bedridden at that point in her life but a very clear thinker. She was eleven years younger than my grandmother and lived to be 100 years of age.

Belle told me that Mary had been baptized in the creek near the old Garden Creek Baptist Church at Stone Mountain State Park in Wilkes County. Belle said she was a little girl at that time and thought those men were going to drown Mary, so her mother took her in the woods so the baptism could be completed.

I’ve been there several times and tried to visualize this event. Last Sunday, I left Mocksville at 7:30 am and drove to this little church to attend the half hour worship service at 9. It was such a pleasure to be there and visualize my grandmother worshipping there and possibly going to school in that building also.

It was an open and friendly service. Several people spoke of concerns and comments about the old church. I described my grandmother’s experience at the church and said I was trying to reenact the time. One man offered to baptize me in the creek, but I declined.

I have located two fourth cousins who were also there, and I knew one more family who were kin to Mary’s husband. What a neat trip to worship, sing, and visualize Mary being in that same spot over a hundred years ago.

More by Marie Craig.

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