July 24, 2014

A Special Church Pew

A Special Church Pew

This is a story about a church pew. 
I know, I am always telling you a story. 

This is also a story about my great grandmother Levona Riggins Tarter
 (born 1886) from South Fork Creek, Casey County, Kentucky.

Levona grew up on what is called South Fork Creek by the locals.  Turn off of hwy 910 in Casey County and you will be there. Today the area is know for its Amish farms and products. The road follows a creek. And if you go all of the way to the end of that road...you are way out in the countryside. The last time I was on the very end of that road... several years ago...it was still gravel. I do not know about today. A road that goes off from South Fork Creek road is South Fork Ridge Road. Makes sense. At the top of the hill there is a small church and cemetery.  My great and great great grandparents rest in this country cemetery. Riggins and Tarters are side by side.

South Fork Church in Casey County Kentucky and is the oldest continuously operating church...in Baptist history. 

My great great grandparents attended this church, so this is the church that my great grandmother
grew up in. The first time I was in this church was for her funeral, and then again for my great grandfather John Franklin Tarter's funeral. I grew up knowing that this church was special to my great grandmother...but it has been lately that I have learned of her and her family's involvement with this church and its members. 

I only know of a few things that she did for the church...but there may have been other ways she helped them. When the church needed new pews sometime in the 1900s...she paid for them. I am guessing that a local furniture maker/carpenter made them. My mother even told me that there was a Riggins who made furniture...but no information on who made the new church pews. I learned that she also helped out when the church needed to be painted, etc. 

Let's backup a few months. My mother called me to tell about her pew that arrived. I do a Q and A session with mother. She ends by saying that she just loves her pew so much...and would not take anything for it. By this time I am wishing that I also had a pew, but understand that there are only so
many to go around...and they went to the grandchildren. I was a great grandchild...the eldest great grandchild. My mother was the eldest grandchild.

A few months pass, and my mother calls me to say that "they" had some extra sections of pews and that she and dad were getting three...for their kids.

I was so excited. 
I was going to get a pew too.
I wanted a pew so very much. 
Family antiques are so meaningful to me.

Well, my son brought my pew home to me this week. As you can see, it is a simple pew. But that simple pew tells the history of a church and my great grandmothers love of that church.

The long pews were divided into smaller sections, with new end pieces being added. I do not mind that one end is new and the other end is old. That is fine. There are character marks on the seats. I imagine kids climbing around on them. I imagine the many people who sat on these pews every time the door of the church was open.

I did not know my great grandmother as intimately as some of my cousins because I lived away from the area. I only remember her as an older lady, with her grey hair pulled back into a little knot. I remember that she always had on an apron...because she was always in the kitchen cooking it seemed. 

And was she a good cook? Oh yes! She had a huge wood burning "cookstove." She kept a box of kindling next to the stove to feed the fire. She had a huge cast iron sort of stove. I do not know for sure how she regulated the heat...but I can tell you that she made the best biscuits! And chicken. And homemade butter. And slaw. And custard pie. And cake. And vegetables. 

In the summer afternoons she would wear a bonnet and work in her garden. My great grandmother Levona was a disappearing breed of Kentucky woman. She did not have a modern washing machine when she reared her kids....just imagine!

For now I have my pew sitting in the mud/laundry/butler's pantry room. 
I plan to dress it with a couple of pillows to make it pretty. 
Although to me, this little pew is pretty as it is.

This is the antique end of the pew. It has a few cracks. But that is fine. I will not be trying to fix those cracks. They show the age and story of the pew.

Above is a picture of Levona as a young girl with her parents Montgomery and Fannie Riggins, and younger brother Lee Riggins. Below is a picture of her as I remember her, along with my great grandfather.

This is the house (built 1800) where she reared her family. I remember going to family dinners here at Thanksgiving and Christmas. She always had an open door and a full table for family and friends. With the passing of my grandfather this 
house left our family, but we still have the memories. 


My story ends for today...but there will be more.
Thank you for visiting. 
Let me know about your special grandmother memories. 
I would love to hear from you. Just leave a comment below.

Thanks for stopping by.

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Hello, I'm Sheila and my house is a giant art project! I enjoy creating an environment where my family can feel safe, secure, and loved. We are empty nesters learning to slow down and enjoy life.

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