The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

New Preacher In Town - Part 7 of 12

By Ernest Markwood Pritchard © 1986
Edited By Emily P. Cary

Issue: December, 1986

Photo of the Pritchard family taken in 1971 (the last one of them all together).Left to Right: Helen Pritchard Allen, age 82; Ernest Markwood Pritchard, age 78; Mildred Pritchard Reynolds, age 76. This was taken at the Lyndon Reynolds, Sr. farm, Grape Island, St. Mary, West Virginia.Photo of the Pritchard family taken in 1971 (the last one of them all together).Left to Right: Helen Pritchard Allen, age 82; Ernest Markwood Pritchard, age 78; Mildred Pritchard Reynolds, age 76. This was taken at the Lyndon Reynolds, Sr. farm, Grape Island, St. Mary, West Virginia.Mildred committed a crime while we lived in Hundred, at least it appeared so to us at first glance. She arrived home one day with a cucumber for Father. Mother knew that Mildred had taken no money with her when she went out, so she assumed that someone in town, probably a church member, had given it to her. However, when questioned, Mildred nonchalantly replied that she got it from Mr. Hambleton's store. The worst was then suspected, and soon realized. Mildred confessed that her little girl friend had dared her to take a cucumber from the basket in front of Hambleton's store. Knowing that Father always enjoyed cucumbers, Mildred thought it a good idea.

When Father and Mother had calmed down enough to question Mildred, they obtained this explanation: She didn't think that the Hambletons wanted the cucumbers or they would have kept them inside with the other produce.

Soon Father and Mother happily realized that Mildred hadn't really stolen the cucumber, but had merely taken something she thought no one wanted. After explanations, including rules about respecting the property and rights of others, Mildred was sent back to Hambleton's store with the cucumber and words of apology for taking what was not hers. Of course, before Mildred returned to the store, Father explained it all to Mr. Hambleton, who had a hearty laugh at Mildred's mistake, but assured Father that he would talk seriously with Mildred in order that she might properly respect the property of others. Mildred never forgot this lesson.

All of our family liked music, and each of us tried in some way or another to express himself musically. Helen took organ lessons even before we had an organ. She practiced on the organ of a neighbor. Mildred sang in school programs. Mother sang alto in the choir. Mother had always sung alto and could sing her part well with any soprano who could carry the lead.

Mother loved to sing in the choir and quickly learned the members of Father's new charges by joining the choir wherever we went. Father had a sort of baritone or bass voice, and he could lead the singing in church or prayer meeting when occasion demanded his services in that capacity. Enoch, also sang in the choir. He had a tenor voice, which often vied with the sopranos in carrying the melody when he thought they needed his help. I played the fife.

Father's four churches required a great deal of travel for short distances, but he also managed to make longer trips, whenever possible. He liked to travel, and found many reasons for being at distant places at various times. Of course, they were all legitimate trips, most of them being connected with church work. The fact that ministers of the gospel traveled for only one cent a mile added weight to Father's arguments that each contemplated journey was necessary.

On one of Father's trips to Moundsville, I went along for the ride and to visit, as well, the Riggs boys whose family had moved there recently from Littleton. I was eager to see my old Littleton chums, Clarence and Ernie Riggs' home. We did start in that direction, but before long, it became apparent that Father knew nearly everyone in that town.

Within the first square, a man called out, "Hello there, Reverend," and Father, responding in his usually jovial manner, began a conversation with the old friend which seemed to be without end.

I tugged at Father's coat tails, occasionally asking a question to remind Father of what I regarded as our real mission, such as, "Where do the Riggs live?" or, "Is it very far to Ernie's house?"

At length, we started once more on our way, my anticipation rising with each step, but again I was thwarted. Another of Father's acquaintances appeared out of nowhere to cross the path, and another long conversation ensued. Over and over again Father's acquaintances appeared as if by magic, halting our progress toward the Riggs residence.

Nevertheless, all unhappy trials must come to an end. As a result, we finally reached our destination. Mrs. Riggs met us at the door, and when she called the boys to tell them I was there, Ernie Riggs, who was in the backyard, started rolling around on the ground, carrying on with all the gymnastics in his repertoire to display his joy at my arrival.

Mrs. Riggs beckoned us to the rear of the house to witness Ernie's demonstration of happiness in my honor. The sight of his impressive exhibition of welcome made me feel that my trip, despite its many delays, had been well rewarded, and our reunion proved to be more enjoyable then I could have imagined. We were not permitted to depart that evening until I had promised to return again as soon as possible.

I did return to Moundsville on several different occasions, visiting the Riggs family each time. On one of those trips, Father met an old friend who had become Chaplain of the State Penitentiary located in Moundsville, and we accepted his invitation to visit that institution as his guest.

It was all such a great lesson to me that I made up my mind, while within the penitentiary walls, to never do anything which would bring about my confinement therein. On a later occasion, during which our entire family visited former Hundred friends in Moundville, we were invited to attend Sunday church services in the penitentiary.

As we sat in the balcony to which only women prisoners were admitted, the Chaplain who accompanied us, pointed out two millionaires sitting below us. Their sharp dealings had caused them to run afoul of the law. Right then and there, I quietly resolved never to become a millionaire, a vow which I have, perhaps, carried out too religiously.

Our whole family made two or three weekend visits with friends at the Moundsville Chautauqua, where we heard lectures, music, readings, and even saw moving pictures (a film of President McKinley walking the White House grounds). There we mingled with friends from Hundred and Littleton who had cottages nearby.

Father, especially, enjoyed the Chautauqua. He liked the various programs, but, best of all; he loved the privilege of being with many of his friends and acquaintances, of whom a large number were ministers. In his enthusiasm, he spoke of renting a cottage at the Chautauqua grounds for the next season, delighting us all.

We always enjoyed hearing about Father's plans for the future; even though none of us knew how he'd get the funds to carry them out. The dreams, a great deal of fun while they lasted, even included an ocean voyage to the Holy Lands. At least Father had been able to attend the World's Fair at Chicago, even though Mother was unable to go with him on account of my arrival in September of that year, 1893.

One of my favorite trips with Father was to Wheeling in regard to some church conference business... and also to confer with Enoch's wholesale dealer while there. Father and I greatly enjoyed it all.

During our last summer at Hundred, I spent several days at the Kingwood Camp Meetings with Father. We ate free meals with other clergymen in the Camp Meeting dining room, and I sat with the preachers on the platform at several meetings. I thought the congregation assumed that I was a minister too, even though my size would have indicated a rather early entry into the clerical estate. Through Father's vast acquaintanceships, I met other boys close to my age and spent a great deal of my time between meetings exploring the neighboring community with them.

The visit of the merry go round to Hundred was one of the high spots of our stay there. The Hundred school children were invited by Mr. Redes, the merry go round owner, to visit in a body to enjoy free rides. On one happy day, accompanied by our teachers, we took advantage of this offer, and for half an hour or so, we rode to our heart's content.

Each day, the first and last rides on the merry go round were free. I would eat a hasty supper and run off to be there for the first ride. Mother finally advanced the time of our evening meal by a half hour to insure my full and complete participation in disposing of my share of the good food she had prepared for us.

After the first ride, I usually stood around envying the boy that Edna Arton (Mr. Redes' grand daughter) invited for a free ride. I even dreamed of marrying Edna and riding continuously ever after on the wonderful rotating horses and sleighs. Occasionally, I was able to obtain a nickel for a paying ride, but more often I just rode the first and (infrequently) last rides, and dreamed.

At the close of the Annual Methodist Conference of 1905, held in September, as usual, we anxiously waited to hear of Father's appointment, for he had been pastor of the Hundred Circuit for four years, and at that time the average West Virginia Methodist pastorate lasted only two years.

I am sure that on the closing Monday morning, as he joined in singing the hymn traditionally sung just before the reading of the appointments, Father was not worried about how great a sacrifice might be asked of him a few minutes later, for the future always looked bright to him. Filled with trust and enthusiasm, he loudly sang, "I'll go where you want to go, Dear Lord, over mountain, or plain, or sea."

We children were eager to seek new pastures, and Mother was equally eager, but in the children's picture, the pastures were only for gamboling and kicking up our heels like young colts, never troubled by the responsibilities that our elders faced.