The Gathering Room

Jan
22

My Great-Aunt Ruby’s parlor was open for company when she pulled back the drapes on her front window every morning. Ruby, and her husband Carl Sergent, were well-known denizens of society in their time, and this small, humble room has seen family and friends, farm hands and state governors. The Sergent family was one of the established land-holding lines in this county going back 200 years, and it was no surprise that eventually one of them would marry into another equally longstanding family name here, the Dyes. Carl and Ruby weren’t the first to live in this old farmhouse, but they were the most prominent, and they were the ones responsible for “modernizing” the house (circa 1960) and expanding it to add several rooms and the massive front porch.





The fireplace was converted to gas back in the day when this farm held claim to several natural gas wells and the gas was plentiful–and free. No need to chop wood when you had free gas. (The fireplace stove now runs on propane.)





On the left, you can see the Sergent Wall, with twin paintings of Carl and Ruby holding central position. On the right is the Dye Wall. Most prominent on this wall is an antique photograph of John Morgan Dye and his wife Florinda. Ruby was a Dye, their daughter. My grandfather was also one of John Morgan and Florinda Dye’s children, and he was Ruby’s brother. My great-grandfather John Morgan Dye’s farm is directly across the river from my new farm a few miles away and I can see the bank where his house once stood from my new front porch, which is also where Ruby was born and raised. Once, in a fit of redecorating, I reframed a number of the photographs on the Dye Wall (except those in vintage frames) and reorganized the wall, adding some primitive craft touches. Since I’m not of Sergent descent (and am only related to them through Ruby), I left that wall alone. I did talk Georgia into cutting down on some of the photos on the table in front of the Sergent Wall because the cats kept knocking them over. There used to be, I’m not kidding, twice as many photos on that table.


Ruby was a great collector of many things, including bells, some of which are here on the fireplace mantel. She also collected West Virginia glass, salt and pepper shakers, thimbles, and other items. I doubt anyone had to think hard about what to give Ruby as a gift–all they had to do was add to one of her many collections.


There is also a great collection of heavy antique irons that sit on the hearth. Moving them for dusting is serious exercise.


One of the things I’m grateful to this old farmhouse for is that it stands as a monument to family history that is all around me in the land, but my own great-grandparents’ house (the one that once stood across from my new farm) is long gone and the land fallen into other hands. My great-great-grandfather’s house still stands, but it also is in hands outside our family now. And while I have bought back a piece of our family history across the river a few miles away, there is something about being able to stand in this old farmhouse, to know my great-grandparents stood here in this home when they came over the hill to visit Ruby, as did my grandfather and my father. I visited here often myself as a child. I knew Carl and Ruby. This house is the purest unbroken chain of family history to me. It’s also been a great education to my children, who know their ancestors now and can pick out their photos and identify them as they never could before. My daughter presented a project on John Morgan Dye that won honorable mention at the West Virginia State Social Studies Fair last year.


Living here was not something I ever expected, or planned, and sometimes it can be quite difficult, but I think it was meant to be. The generation of my family that grew up here, moved away, raised their families elsewhere, is disappearing. Fewer and fewer of them return to these hills even to visit. Other than my cousin, through his grandmother Ruby, John Morgan Dye’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren are gone from this county, and even he is not as connected to that side of his family history. He is a Sergent. I came back and I bought the farm across the river from John Morgan Dye’s farm, which was as close as I could get to buying back the family farm. I am a Dye. I know the history and the stories my father told me when he brought me here as a little girl. I can point to my great-great-grandfather Abraham Dye’s house–and I am the only one left who can. I know the way.

Except now, my children? They know the way, too. They learned it here, in this house, from the people on this wall–who were, I think, always waiting for me to get here.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on January 22, 2008  

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  1. 1-22
    7:36
    am

    I’m always amazed at the depth of your roots, Suzanne. That you know who many of your ancestors were and that you are continuing the oral tradition by passing the knowledge on to your children. And that they in turn will pass it to theirs, and so on. And one day perhaps, many decades from now, your picture will be on the wall too, and a descendant will write eloquently of your life, woven into the fabric of the Dye Family.

    -Kim

  2. 1-22
    7:55
    am

    I love how you have embraced your heritage – to come from the ‘burbs’ and make a differance in your kids lives. People are SO disconected from thier heritage that they dont know ‘where’ what’ they come from. I have always lived where my family first homesteaded 200+ years ago. I know my great-great grandparents by name and all of thier children and grandchildren… I love that my family takes pride in their history. Good luck with keeping your family ‘roots’ alive..

  3. 1-22
    7:56
    am

    Absolutely fascinating Suzanne. I think you are so lucky to be living and breathing these roots and you can pass this on to your children.
    I love the new blog and the stories from the old slanty house. I’m looking forward to the stories from the new lovely house

  4. 1-22
    8:06
    am

    Connection to ancestors–sorely lacking with so many of us in today’s mobile society. Down here on the bayou, I think of one young man who has five children, and he still lives on the same land he grew up on. Seems like that is almost unheard of in this day and age. Thanks for sharing such a vivid picture of family history, belonging, continuing . . .
    BW

  5. 1-22
    8:20
    am

    :butterfly: I think you and your family were meant to live there too, at least long enough to resecure your roots!! Happy birthday, Princess!!! Love Mary and Maddy :birthday1: :birthday2:

  6. 1-22
    8:36
    am

    I so enjoy reading your blog. Congratulations for ushering your heritage to the next generation. Being adopted, I enjoy playing in others’ generational family trees.

    Also, my family LOVES your Grandmother’s Bread. I’m looking forward to trying it with fresh buttermilk (instead of water), but I have to make my butter first. :thumbsup:

    Gizmo
    :sheepjump:

  7. 1-22
    9:27
    am

    Hey, I nominated you for a blog award:

    http://carpethis.blogspot.com/2008/01/rowr.html

  8. 1-22
    9:52
    am

    Suzanne,

    What an awesome thing to be able to give your children and your childrens children. I think our kiddo’s today need to go back to the old time roots. They would learn to appreciate things in their lives that they take for ganite. I really admire you for having the guts to make such a drastic change in your live. Most of us do not have that kind of guts. Living on a farm is a lot of hard work and should never be thought of as easy. You would know.

    Sincerely,
    Letha

  9. 1-22
    10:00
    am

    FOR the Princess :rockon:

    Hey Princess Happy Birthday. :birthday1: Wow it is hard to believe that you are 12. Seems like yesterday you were 9. Time sure flies when you are having fun. I hope you have a great day and get lots of good stuff. Think of me when you eat that yummy cake your Mom baked. I know she did ’cause she’s that kind of Mom. Take care and enjoy today. Birthday :hug: to you.

  10. 1-22
    10:11
    am

    Your posts are alway good. I don’t know if you realize that you are gifting all of us with your family history. We probably know as much about your family as we do our own. This is a good thing. All this should be written down so it can never be lost (while there is someone who knows it) What a tragedy that would be.Your children are blessed that they are getting to know wher they came from and to live where thir family history was written. That is so rare now . I have tried to pass my family’s history to my children. Don’t know how much was absorbed though. Everyone have a great day and :hug: to all.

  11. 1-22
    10:11
    am

    Yes, it is the Princess’s birthday! She will be excited that people noticed because she loves attention, LOL. I’m baking cupcakes to take to her class today, but her party isn’t until the weekend because she has an away basketball game tonight.
    :cattail:

  12. 1-22
    10:39
    am

    Happy Birthday Princess! Mine was yesterday…yea Aquarius! Suzanne, I think the importance of an oral history is an art that we are rapidly losing in our culture. Great for you. I just hope the next dwellers there will have an iota of the appreciation you have…

  13. 1-22
    11:17
    am

    What an outstanding post! Excellent! My daddy died suddenly of a brain aneurysm in his sleep in ’99…the summer before that, we went to a family reunion in rural sounthern Ohio, just down the road from my gr-grandparents’ home, where my dear paternal gr-pa grew up and my daddy played as a child when he would visit HIS gr-parents. What a treat! I have a picture of my daddy there, pointing out where the big barn used to be, where they played in the creek that ran through the property, changes that newer owners had made to the house, etc. It was wonderful to imagine my gr-pa as a teenager (the family moved to southern Ohio from KY) and picturing him working in the barn and the garden, how good it felt for him to come home to that place when he returned from WWI…I really enjoy family history.

    Here’s something you might find interesting…my 2nd oldest aunt on my mom’s side (my mom is the baby of 14) married a Sergent. They lived in West Liberty, KY until Aunt Nellie died in the ’80’s and Uncle Audie died in the early ’90’s. I LOVED (LOVED, LOVED) going to their house! They didn’t have indoor plumbing until the mid-80’s and going to their house was like visiting Laura Ingalls Wilder. My uncle built the little house (where 11 kids were raised) by himself and their staircase ran right into the upstairs wall!! :shocked: You basically had to “jump” to the right or left into whichever room you wanted to go to! Ha!! :lol: My aunt was usually on the front porch churning butter whenever we would pull up to their drive…just like a movie…and she still cooked on a huge black wood/coal-burning stove, where she made biscuits the size of saucers that would melt in your mouth! :hungry: Their farm was where I learned to milk a cow :cowsleep: , pick (HUGE!!) ticks out of dogs’ ears :shocked: (ick!), and learn to use the “company potty chair” at night when it was too scary to go out to the out-house. :drowning: Funny and wonderful memories.

    Do you know if any of your folks moved to West Liberty, KY 60-70 years ago?

    Blessings from Ohio…

  14. 1-22
    11:19
    am

    Cupcakes at school?

    Our daughter’s school would freak out if we did that. The official rule is cupcakes can onle be served the final five minutes of lunch and can not be brought out of the cafeteria. Nothing homemade, only bakery cupcakes allowed.

    To get to the cafeteria you pass by the front office, and the front office ladies get in trouble if a parent goes in with “inappropriate content”. No kidding. That’s what homemade cupcakes are.

    I understand and suppport the visitor pass rules. But come on. These are cupcakes!

    Our daughter will be 11 this spring. School district policy is no invitations to parties can be delevered during the “academic day”!!! That means the time they step on campus to the time they step off.

    We live in a smallish city (about 50,000).

    Sorry for venting.

  15. 1-22
    11:28
    am

    Kim W–I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sergents in Kentucky are related somehow to the Sergents in WV since it’s not that far! I don’t know a whole lot about the Sergent line because I’m only related to them through Ruby. I’ll ask my cousin.

    Becki–I guess that’s one of the perks of a really tiny town–they still let us do cupcakes at school here! They even let us light birthday candles!

  16. 1-22
    12:06
    pm

    I would love to have this much family history knowledge. I come from immigrants. I’m 3rd generation. My family didn’t really preserve anything of their former lives. They were so concentrated on becoming acclimated to America that things got lost in translation, I guess. So lovely for you to have the photos of days long gone.

    By the way, I sent you a question about your chocolate pudding cake. Hope you received it!

    Happy Birthday to your lovely daughter! :hellokitty:

  17. 1-22
    12:55
    pm

    :smile: This is a lovely historical post. It is grand that you are gifting you children with their heritage.

  18. 1-22
    2:02
    pm

    Oh, I almost missed Princess’s birthday!

    Have a WONDERFUL day!! Twelve was my best year as a child, hands down. It was awesome; I got my ponies, Lady and Jessica! (Mare and her filly.)

    Happy birthday! :birthday1:

    -Kim

  19. 1-22
    2:25
    pm

    First, the important business… happy birthday, Princes!!! :birthday2:

    Love the post about your roots! I’ve always had this dream of buying my grandparents’ old farm. Maybe if I ever win the lottery. :)

    But I want to know why you didn’t mention that spittoon that’s hanging out with the irons. :rotfl:

  20. 1-22
    3:28
    pm

    Happy Birthday Princess!! :birthday1:
    Knowing your family heritage is wonderful!

  21. 1-22
    3:46
    pm

    I am enjoying your blog, it is fun to see the old house and your story-telling is fun. I was wondering if you ever read Farmgirl? I think you would enjoy it. It is http://www.foodiefarmgirl.blogspot.com. I will be back.

  22. 1-22
    4:52
    pm

    Happy Birthday Princess! :birthday2: I hope you have a great day! :shimmy:

    Suzanne, that post and pictures are wonderful! You should write the history of your roots down for your children they will always remember it.

  23. 1-22
    5:07
    pm

    That’s lovely history :)

    Happy Birthday to the Princess :)

    Is the toilet frozen yet? In Scotland I lived in this shed where the water in the toilet froze one winter :lol: Now I’m in Canada :eek:

  24. 1-22
    5:44
    pm

    OMG – She has the same birthday as MARLBORO MAN!!!! Go to PW’s!!!

  25. 1-22
    7:01
    pm

    :birthday1: Princess!

    What wonderful history you have. My husband’s uncle does geneology of his father’s family and goes back hundreds of years. I know someone did it on my father’s side but although they promised to send us a copy, we never got it (they live far away and now my dad is gone and almost everyone else). All my grandparents came from Sicily so we don’t know a lot about them and there are no family homes. I think it’s fantastic that your children know all about their families and get to actually live some of it!

  26. 1-22
    8:24
    pm

    What a wonderful feeling it must be, to know so much of your families history. My path to that died with my Mother. And I’m sure it’s a wonderful feeling to know that your kids will remember it all as well.

  27. 1-22
    11:13
    pm

    This made me cry.
    What a wonderful tribute to your family and what a wonderful gift to your children.

  28. 1-23
    2:54
    am

    Having a house in a family for multiple generations is almost unheard of these days. It offers such a sense of continuity to a family. I loved this post, as well as the one before. Georgia reminds me so much of my late mother-in-law, in actions as well as looks. :mrgreen:

  29. 3-17
    10:26
    am

    suzanne, LOOK UP UNCLE SMITH DYE, HE WAS MY FAVORITE. MICHAEL

  30. 4-22
    6:50
    pm

    I enjoy the history of things and I enjoyed your family history and the pictures you share! I can tell it gives you alot of joy and comfort and peace!

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The Slanted Little House

"It was a cold wintry day when I brought my children to live in rural West Virginia. The farmhouse was one hundred years old, there was already snow on the ground, and the heat was sparse-—as was the insulation. The floors weren’t even, either. My then-twelve-year-old son walked in the door and said, “You’ve brought us to this slanted little house to die." Keep reading our story....






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