About me

Monday, May 30, 2011

Finding Alice and Ben

Years ago for Mother's Day or Easter or some other undefined event, my parents would drive the 30 miles east to visit the graves of my Mother's parents. Grandmother died when my mother was about three, according to family tales, and my grandfather died about three years before I was born. This latter fact, I never knew, or had forgotten, until I found the graves.

Some 30 years ago on a bike trip, I stumbled upon the church and cemetery, but I could not remember exactly how I got there. I couldn't even remember the name of the church. I only remembered it was in the Broadslab Triangle bounded by Goldsboro, Benson, and Smithfield.

So off I went, figuring old memories would take me along. Five hours, one dead snake, and an open grave later, I knew it was a hopeless mission. There are millions of small churches in that area, and they all look alike. I went back to Smithfield, parked at Holt's lake BBQ, and called Buck. A half-hour later, he had told me where the church was, offering directions that I'd never be able to follow, but then he mentioned the crossroads nearby and, oh so much better, the remembered name of the church.

Selah. I immediately recognized the long forgotten name (and vowel sound).

A quick Google search solved the problem. Yes, Google knows everything, even about Selah Christian Church. Go figure. And my GPS could find the address. Well, after I have a BBQ dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon.

Thirty minutes later, I'm there. And yes, it's a Christian Church, not a Baptist. I didn't know that was possible in that corner of the world.


I remember a different picture from 30 years ago, with a smaller church, but I suppose things can change in three decades of my absence. The well with the hand pump is gone from the front lawn. They have automatic sprinklers now. The church has grown and is also further back from the road than I remembered.

They even have a mailbox.

The rest was mostly where I left it, not having substantially changed since we visited in the 60s, driving there after lunch, after church, in a pink Nash Rambler with no AC. Those endless drives and subsequent driving are likely what motivated Mama to get her own driving license.

My family on both sides cultivated dysfunctional behavior to extremes. I suspect they hauled Alice way across the county not only to be with her parents but also to take advantage of a plot that was already paid for. With the children off in the orphanage, there would be less inheritance to split.

Here is the marker.

Here's the foot marker for Alice.

And Ben. I had forgotten Ben was here.

Notice that only the year is given. These people had some trouble with official records, and my mother had to have her sister attest to a birthday to receive Social Security. The people in the county courthouse did not bat an eye, and they proceeded with the paperwork as though most people did not know when they were born.

Alice was born a Howell. Here are the markers for her parents. The taller is for the husband. Imagine that.

Ages ago, my brother visited some ancient family with my mother and aunts. One of the older men in the house took one look at Bro and pronounced, "That boy's a Howell." Bro never did make it to a codicil, however.

And so now we know, and Google knows, where my maternal grandparents and great-grandparents rest. The knowledge is as secure as it needs to be, and I can quit dreaming about it being lost.

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