Attending the Church of My Ancestors

One of the highlights of my trip was attending church services at Salem Presbyterian Church in Washington County, TN. The church is on the grounds of the old Washington College, one of the first colleges west of Appalachians. Unfortunately, the college is no longer active, but the buildings remain.

You’ll find information about the college and church at Goodspeed’s History of Washington County, Tennessee.

The church was founded in 1780 by Rev. Samuel Doak. When Adam Mitchell arrived in Washington County, he first attended this church, which was 10 miles away from the Mitchells’ home. The current building was built in 1894, but I was told the church bell is the same bell from the original church. The church has beautiful stained glass windows in honor of Rev. Doak.

I was lucky enough to be there on Fellowship Sunday. The gracious church members invited me to attend a wonderful potluck lunch in the basement of church. Lulubelle lounged in the shade of the magnificent trees of the campus, doted on by all church members.

Imagine worshipping in a church your ancestors worshipped in 100+ years before! The experience was amazing, and I felt a real connection to those Mitchells of long ago as well as the welcoming people of the present.

Visiting in Mississippi

While in Mississippi, I got to spend some time with direct descendants of Hezekiah Mitchell, Adam’s youngest son.

Jerry Mitchell and his family took me to the Mississippi State vs. Auburn football game. To spare embarrassment, I won’t mention the score! But I had a wonderful time with the family.

Jerry’s father babysat Lulubelle while we were at the game. When we returned, he said, “Mr. Bowles, I read your book. The stories that you told are the exact same stories that I’ve heard of all my life from my ancestors.”

The whole family was welcoming and friendly, and knowing that another branch of the family shared the same stories gratified me and reinforced what I’m doing in telling the family stories.

Reader is Moved to Tears

Not long after Spring House was published, I spoke to a local organization. I shared a story from the book, and after the program, an elderly man approached me and said, “The people in that story you told are my family!”

Although the book is primarily about the Adam Mitchell family, many other people who lived in the area and participated in the historical events are included. The index, though unusual in a novel, makes it easy for readers to find information for their own research.

The elderly man at the meeting wanted to buy a book immediately. Can you believe I hadn’t taken any books with me? I learned that lesson – now I always have books with me wherever I go! But since I couldn’t sell him a book right then, I told him I could mail him a copy or he could attend the group booksigning with the Writer Friends of the Library, which happened to be that same evening.

He showed up at the booksigning and found the part about his ancestors. As he sat there in the bookstore reading, tears welled up in his eyes because he was so touched by reading about his own family’s heroic exploits during the Revolutionary War.

The bookstore representative saw a customer crying over my book and said, “Wow! Your book must really be good!”

Summertime Memories

Summer always brings back memories of my childhood summers spent on Uncle Lester and Aunt Izola’s ranch. We would eat peaches while we turned the crank of the ice cream freezer making peach ice cream. My cousins and I just couldn’t get enough of those wonderful fresh peaches!

And the stories Aunt Izola and Uncle Lester told – we couldn’t get enough of them either. I developed my love of history and especially the Mitchell family stories sitting on the front porch, eating peaches and listening to my relatives’ stories. You can read more about how I came to continue the family story-telling tradition at The Westward Sagas.

Getting to Know – People and Stories

As wonderful as it is to see my name on the cover of a book as the author, the perks of writing about family history are even more exhilarating. I’m finding distant relatives I didn’t know, learning more about my ancestors, and hearing stories I can use in future books in The Westward Sagas.

Recently, Jerry Mitchell, his father, and his aunt Margaret Mitchell from Houston visited me. They wanted to be sure that the family they were reading about was really their family and became very excited to discover that we indeed share the Mitchell ancestors – Margaret even shares a name with Adam Mitchell’s mother.

We were talking about some of the incidents in the book, and I mentioned the bravery of the historical Margaret Mitchell in saving the family pewter from the British. Not only was the pewter valuable to the family, but it also could have been melted down by the British and used as ammunition against the Americans. Margaret Mitchell became very emotional upon hearing that story. She owns a piece of the family pewter – a pitcher! She didn’t know the history; she just knew that the piece had been in the family for generations. Knowing that at least one piece of the pewter collection is still in the family was as great for me as learning how the piece survived the Revolutionary War was to my distant relative.

If you are a descendant of Adam Mitchell or have any information about the family, fill out the contact form or get in touch with me by mail, phone, or e-mail. All my contact information is on the Web site. I’d love to hear your Mitchell Family stories!

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