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Hughes Chapel Methodist Church A Recalling

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Hughes Chapel Methodist Church—A Recalling

(Submitted by Louise Eads DeHart)
This little wayside church, known simply as Hughes Chapel, located on Maries County Road 616, is recalled because it played a major role in my grandparent’s life and through my grandmother Louisa Ellen (Carnes) Eads, an influential religious role in mine.
Grandma told me that she and my grandfather, Moses Washington Eads, were charter members of Hughes Chapel. Their names are not included in church records, parts of which are lost through time. Chartering occurred, after all, over one hundred years ago. Aunt Mandy’s name, Mrs. Benjamin Eads, has survived, as have others that Grandma mentioned.

I have the impression that services were held, beginning in the 1880’s or 1890’s. Grandma married my grandfather on August 28, 1884, at age 22, bringing with her a strong heritage of Methodism. She was a granddaughter of Jehu Carnes, after whom Carnes Campground was named. According to Everett King, a county historian, “Jehu Carnes was one of the first if not the very first of the early Methodist ministers in Maries County, coming here from McMinn County, Tennessee, in the middle 1830’s.”

Grandma’s faith was strong through terrible sadness. She lost six of her ten children before they reached age five, another at age twenty-five, and her husband twenty years prior to her passing. Therefore, many graves needed remembering with flowers and we did that on Decoration, now known as Memorial Day. This day occurred on May 30, now changed to the fourth Monday in May. Grandma was always concerned about her “pineys” (peonies). How hers managed to stay fresh until May 30 is still a mystery. All my “pineys” transplanted from Grandma’s are gone by mid-May.

Grandma and I cut the “pineys” on the morning of May 30 and stuffed them into half-gallon fruit jars filled with water. We thought that green jars were better because green shaded the stems from the sun. At the cemetery we scooped the dirt out from in front of the tombstone to make a hole big enough to hold the jar upright. Although Grandma went to Hughes Chapel to church, she and Grandpa buried their deceased children in the Waidelich graveyard. We didn’t discuss but it’s possible Eads’ started using Waidelich before Hughes Chapel had a cemetery.

Grandpa had a right-of-way described as one acre without “metes or bounds” over which he drove his wagon up an extremely steep hill, known in the 1930’s as the Willie Wyss hill. It certainly deserved a name, as it is almost “straight up.” A wagon road led from my grandparent’s house in the valley one and one-half miles up to Hughes Chapel. The portion of the road that passed through the acre was not to be fenced off, but it was. Dad had his family in the wagon on the way to “homecoming” in 1938 and we came upon a five-strand barbed wire fence. Seemed a shame that someone had fenced off the road and we had to double-back after our horses had strained and sweated heavily to get up that hill. It was sad to hear my dad talk about an agreement made sixty years earlier, about which the new owner had no knowledge. Maybe he did know, because he had placed a fence across the plainly visible wagon road.

Hughes Chapel Methodist Church was not locked in the 1930’s and I liked to explore inside it and “thump” on the organ. My dad said, “Of course she can go in there—her grandpa helped build it.” I was very careful with the furnishings and the songbooks. When services were held during the mid-1930’s, I was the organist for Sunday School and church. The real thrill, however, was that Clay Hawkins sometimes played the organ. He could play by ear or by note, adding extra chords, runs and triplets. I often asked him about his talent and he always said, “I don’t know why I can do that.” Many modern day musicians have this wonderful talent, and I still marvel at their ability.

We sang many beautiful songs, too many to list, really, but I can’t resist giving a sample: Almost Persuaded, Beautiful Isle of Somewhere, Blessed Assurance, Brighten the Corner, Bringing in the Sheaves, Church in the Wildwood, Dwelling in Beulah Land, God be with You, God Will Take Care of You, He Keeps me Singing, He Leadeth me, In the Garden, In the Sweet Bye and Bye, Jesus is Calling, Let Jesus Come into Your Heart, Love Lifted Me, Nearer my God to Thee, Old Rugged Cross, Rock of Ages, Since Jesus Came into my Heart, Softly and Tenderly, There is Power in the Blood, Throw out the Life-Line, When the Roll is Called up Yonder, When they Ring those Golden Bells for You and Me, and Wonderful Words of Life.

We had Epworth League, too, in the late 1930’s. It was awe-inspiring because attendance was booming and we met at night. Some folks had Coleman lanterns that were fueled with gasoline, and then air was pumped into the fuel chamber. The best craftsman (my brother, Virgil Eads) held a match under a metal coil and magically, the mantles caught fire and a nice light shone from the pulpit, casting a glow on our expectant faces. I don’t remember the teachings of the League, just an overall impression of really enjoying the meetings. Shortly after our group disbanded, the Epworth League became the Methodist Youth Fellowship, in 1941.

My Aunt Ella (Sudheimer) Eads had a close connection to Hughes Chapel, for her father and mother had given the church 1 1/5 acres on May 26, 1884, by Warranty Deed. She knew all members and often told me the names, including those of the prominent George Henry Opperman family who regularly attended services. They were handsome, dressed very well and rode in a large green car. This car was a 1929 Model-A touring car, with curtains. In 1938, it was still shiny, perfectly preserved and they could get it started. Gossip tells that the family found a bag of cash beside the main highway, which was never claimed. Speculation ran wild, for it was suggested that the money might have been someone’s ill-gotten gain. Whatever its source the community was glad that it was never claimed and the family that made the lucky find could buy their Ford.

After this purchase, they could stop walking and carrying their “Sunday” shoes. All of the family could ride to church in style and comfort. During this time, ladies wore their “everyday” shoes to the edge of the clearing around the church. Then they changed their shoes and stockings. I remember that my mother and I followed this custom. My mother pulled on her silk stockings very carefully. Silk stockings snagged easily and led to runs. The task was easier for me because I wore anklets for “Sunday.” We did not ride to church in the wagon, for Dad said that the team had to rest on Sunday. It was only for homecoming that Dad hitched up the team to take my mother, his mother and me in the wagon. Grandma could not walk the total distance from her house to the church; therefore, Dad made an exception and the team worked on this Sunday.

We dressed in our best and I recall a full-skirted dress that I had made from materials ordered from Montgomery Ward. Grandma wore her best, black dress and bonnet. She occasionally would say, “I just have to have a new dress.” Then she had either Miz Copeland or Miz Mosby make a nice silk dress for her to wear to church. Buying this dress was a big event in my grandmother’s life, for material and trimmings were carefully selected. These items could cost as much as three dollars, but color was not an issue. Only black was appropriate. First names of business or professional people were not used in our family and I was not told the first name of either of my grandmother’s dressmakers. When I visited Mrs. Madolyn Baldwin in the early 1990’s she told me that the dressmakers in Vienna were Zettie Mosby and Cora Copeland. They were paid very little, perhaps one dollar. Think of all their efforts: measuring, drafting a pattern, fitting the dress to her customer and sewing black silk with black thread. Lights were dim in homes of the 1930’s, for only households in towns or cities had electricity and they featured one twenty-five watt bulb hanging from one fixture in the center of each room. Those who paid household expenses did not want their electric bill to exceed forty cents a month. A dressmaker might locate her machine in front of a window and sew during daylight hours. My mother had told me that a lady had to have a dressmaker. It was all right for a woman to sew clothes for her own children, but the “Sunday” dress that she wore must be special and made professionally.

For this premier event of homecoming at Hughes Chapel, Grandma, of course, had to wear a corset as a “foundation” under her fancy dress. She told me that she didn’t eat too much for the laced-up corset left little room for the food served at this bountiful feast. Dad called it dinner on the ground, but actually we used sawhorses and boards for a table, a table then covered with tablecloths. We had lots of slaw and potato salad (homemade dressings), deviled eggs (if a fancy cook, they were sprinkled with paprika), cucumbers, onions, tomatoes, other vegetables available from the gardens, homemade breads, cakes, pies and fried chickens. Casseroles, dips and molded salads were not fare of the 1930’s. We didn’t search for white meat, for we were thrilled just to have chicken. I believe that the only item bought for this feast would have been the “baker’s” bread that some families could afford to contribute.

When I visited Hughes Chapel church March 29, 1996, to take photographs, the door was locked, but I could see through the windows. One is not supposed to look through a window of a house, but I suppose my mother would have allowed me to look through the windows of a public place. The organ, piano, wood stove, pews, pulpit, lectern, mourner’s bench and every other furnishing sat just as the last person left it. Also, it appeared that a number of folding tables sat against the back wall. All were in readiness, waiting for another festive occasion. As luck would have it, we actually had a very nice homecoming later that year, perhaps the final one. These celebrations have apparently ceased, just as services in the old church ended in 1967. – Louise Eads DeHart

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