Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ravenden Springs

We don't always make it down to my family's yearly meet-up in my grandparents' hometown in the Arkansas Ozarks, but this year we did. Ravenden Springs is a very small town, probably what you imagine when you imagine Arkansas living, and the small country cemeteries around it contain almost all the ancestors that we know.

abandoned church at one of the cemeteries that we visit

Not a direct ancestor, but if he's an Allison and in this cemetery, then I'm related to him!
We bought crayons and sketch pads to do headstone rubbings, but Syd also liked to copy them.

This is my great-grandfather, who died when Pappa was between the ages of my two kiddos. When he died, Pappa had to leave school and go to work full-time to support his mother and siblings.
I should mention that the kids, though they were troopers, were bored to tears during this trip. They come by it honestly, at least, because I remember these trips as among the most boring events of my childhood, battling for the honor with visits to my great-great aunt (six-hour drive to St. Louis, sitting for the rest of eternity in her apartment flipping through a Norman Rockwell coffee table book, six-hour drive back home, with ZERO sightseeing during the entire duration of the trip. Seriously, people. We were in St. Louis! Take me to the freaking zoo, why don't you?!? Or maybe, I don't know... the ARCH?!?). 

I, however, now that I'm grown, really enjoy revisiting each cemetery and special spot in this small town:
The list of graduates of the Class of 1944 from the Ravenden Springs school, which taught all grades in a single building. My grandmother's name is at the bottom of the list.
Part of the old school building is now used as a town hall.
Another part of the building is used as the town library.
 We also get the chance to meet up with the distant relatives who still live in the area, as everyone comes out to the same cemetery on the same day to clean it up, put flowers on the graves, and visit.
One guy brought a bunch of his family's old photos. 

I love looking at all the details in old photos. Check out that kid's dress! And their dolls! And that guy's fedora! And that little girl's giant hair ribbons!
This is definitely one of the traditions that made my family what it is, one of the defining aspects of my family, and it's the centerpiece for a lot of what I want my children to know about what it means to be a part of our family. Things like yes, your great-great-great grandfather did fight for the Confederacy. We can go visit the battlefield where he fought on our next trip.

Yes, all these graves do belong to very young children. They're your Pappa's brothers and sisters.

Yes, many of these headstones are homemade. Store-bought headstones are very expensive, so many people made the headstones for their loved ones themselves. See the carving marks?

No, there wasn't always a store here. This used to be a field where your Pappa worked every day when he was your age. No, he didn't go to school. Remember all those brothers and sisters? He had to earn money to take care of them.

Look, here's your Nana's grave. You didn't know her, but she made the best peanut butter cookies, and she always put cherry icing on top.

Yes, I know you're bored. Get out of the car anyway and come look at more old graves with us.

Yes, you are getting on my nerves, actually. Go have your cousin take you to poke around inside that abandoned church for a while.

Yes, as a matter of fact, I probably will be buried here on top of this mountain, too, a million miles from everywhere, just to make you come back every now and then and keep remembering for me.


Tina said...

I love the photos. One of my favorite places to hang out when I was a kid was a the cemetery that was just a few blocks from my house. I use to pretend I was Harriet the Spy or just escape to the quite when my parents would fight.

It's awesome that your family has these things. I'll be the first to admit that I am pretty crappy at keeping us in touch with both sides of our family. I know Emma would benefit from more family time, but it gets to a point where we can't be the only ones doing the traveling, sometimes I just want people to come visit us.

They are getting better though.

julie said...

Oh, I am SO bad at keeping up with family, too. I just have the kind of family that is impossible to ignore. Like, no matter where you're trying to hide, they WILL find you and they WILL make you feel guilty enough to drive down to Arkansas for Christmas yet again.

It's such a middle-aged lady hobby, but I'm getting pretty interested in my family's genealogy. It's a rare puzzle, because my family is farmers all the way down, and farmers are not noted for keeping good genealogical records, you know? So around 1850 or so, any records just stop. And then you've got to wonder--where did we come from? Matt already knows he's from Germany. Well, I want to know where I'm from, too!

Unknown said...

My dad was born in Ravenden springs. My sisters and I have all been working on our family history!! Along with a couple of cousins that we have recently gotten acquainted with. We started a Facebook page called family history ravenden springs AR. we are going to people's houses and copying old photos and meeting a ton of people.

julie said...

I just asked to join your group! I can see that the main photo is of the same church that I photographed here--I can't remember if that's the church by the cemetery that has my great-grandmother, or the one with my ancestor who fought in the Civil War. Those are the only two relatives who aren't buried in our family cemetery, Charter Oak.


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