So, last weekend was one of those vacation days, and the “better half” and I decided to go exploring. This part of the South is a treasure trove of hidden gems if you love history, and I feel sure you do if you are reading this blog. We decided to find Hopewell Cemetery, the oldest –still identifiable--graveyard in the county. I had heard of this graveyard for years but had never actually visited it. I knew it was maintained by the Warren County Historical Society of which I am a member. I asked directions and discovered that it is right behind a modern elementary school, so off we went. A few miles west on a modern Interstate highway, then a number of miles further down a modern state highway---made a couple of wrong turns, what’s the fun of exploring if you don’t make a few wrong turns?—then down the “right” country road. I drove around behind the school and then took a slight left turn. Exiting the truck, I walked between the towering forest giants and the ancient tombstones, then I crested the ridge and stepped into the past…
The forest opened up and I stood on the top of a ridge looking across the broad valley in the direction of the Mighty Mississippi. Suddenly I was no longer in the 21st. century less though than 50 yards from blacktop. I was a settler of the early 19th century laying eyes on this fertile valley for the first time, seeing the promise of a new country, where a man’s success depended on his own industry and not a noble name.
Perhaps I am a veteran of the Revolution awarded a land grand in lieu of unpaid wages, his stone is nearby. My fellow settlers and I will found a church here, and name it Hopewell, for this is a land of hope. Here we will pray to our God for all to be well, for life is hard on the frontier, and the death angel is always close by. Nearby a tombstone depicts a mother weeping for a lost child. The stones are worn with age and weather, some have been broken by falling trees, but still they speak to us across the years. Not every stone here is ornate. Not far away, a simple marker is obviously homemade. Over sixty years old, it is crudely cast from cement with the name and date etched by hand. A land of plenty and poverty that is the enigma that is the South.
The Church is gone; the small riverport town it served is gone as well.
I turn and walk back to my truck. My wife was already beside it waiting. She does not realize that it is in fact a time machine which, in a moment, will carry us a few miles and almost 200 years into the future…
…To see a slide show of my visit to Old Hopewell visit my Facebook page
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