Published 10:34 am Wednesday, July 30, 2003
Attics are wonderful things
By LYDIA GRIMES - Features Writer
I wanted to tell you what an interesting weekend that I had. It really has nothing to do with genealogy, or, yes it does in a way.
I had been invited to return to the church that I attended as a child and give a homecoming talk to the congregation about the founding of the church and the person that founded it. That person just happened to be my great, great, great grandfather, Elias Snell. An interesting story about the church was all a misunderstanding.
Some years ago, a relative of mine wanted to erect a monument to remember her ancestor Ellis White Snell, who deeded the land for the church, which began in 1830. Another relative became quite upset about the whole matter because she said her ancestor had just as much to do with the gift. This was a mystery to me until I happened to find a little book in the Mobile Genealogical Library. It was called "Early Churches in Alabama" and there was a short paragraph on Asbury Methodist Church. The article stated that the land was given by Elias Snell and because the Methodist Conference did not require a deed there was not one signed. However, in 1869, after the death of Elias, they did require a deed and Ellis White Snell signed it to the Conference as he was the executor of his father's estate. Thus the confusion was cleared up and today there is a three foot high memorial to Elias and all of his 17 children standing by the front steps of the church. I used to think it was very amusing, especially having known both of the relatives that were in conflict. One of them was very proper and was in charge of whatever she set out to do. The other was what we called "an old maid" whose most remembered quality (at least to me) was the fact that she drove like a crazy person. When you saw her coming down the road, you just got out of her way and let her have the whole road, as she planned on having it anyway.
Anyway, my talk went rather well, I think. At least everyone told me it did. We had a large crowd and a wonderful lunch afterward. The present pastor went to his office and brought back some books that had been turned over to him and my jaw fell open when I saw them. It was a list of members dating back to the early 1860s. I have been promised a copy of the book and I will be looking for it with great anticipation.
That afternoon, I went to pick up my new cemetery book that my cousin just had published. It is the first one done for the county since 1948 and it was needed badly. I can't wait to have the time to browse through it.
On my way home that afternoon, I passed a plantation that belonged to Major James Carroll, an early settler to the area, and a brother to my ancestor, David Carroll. The owners of the home are descendants and were at the church earlier in the day. I was promised some new material from her.
A couple of miles on down the road I passed another house, which was also built in the 1830s. It just happened to be where my great, great, great grandmother Rhoda Stephenson Carroll died in 1858. I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to get some photographs of the old house, even though it doesn't look as old as it is.
I stopped and asked permission to photograph the house and had a conversation with the family that lives there. They are renting from the owner, who is a descendant of the original owner.
The renters were really interested in the history I was able to relate to them and asked me if I would like to go into the attic and see if we could find anything that might have a date. I, of course, jumped at the chance and took a step back in time.
The attic is full of old trunks, pictures, furniture and even old military uniforms. I plan on going back and getting permission from the owner to do a little looking on my own. I can't believe that they have just left all that stuff up there. I was told several years ago that there was even a portrait of my ancestor who died there. I did see a large canvas something, but it was a dirty you couldn't tell what it was.
It always amazes me that people are not interested enough to preserve the historical materials that they have. If I can still find things like this in today's world, so can you. See what you can find and take care of it.