April 14, 1955
Transcribed by Elsie Sampson
* CAL’S COLUMN *
These lines are being written on April 6, 1955. Fifty-one years ago this morning, the writer saw the first dead person that his eyes ever beheld. We had avoided attending funerals and being around the dead up to this time, 51 years ago. It was a fine spring morning and we were then four months from our 13th birthday anniversary. We lived in our father’s home in the Mace’s Hill section of Smith County, Tenn., and as a family, we had been wonderfully blest. There had never been a death in our immediate family, the writer being the oldest of his father’s children, all of whom lived to adult age. In fact eight of the ten sons and daughters are still living. Our brother, Albert C. Gregory, was the youngest of the family, and lived until Dec. 21, 1935, when he died from pneumonia, the first of the ten to die. Our sister, Anna, died on June 24, 1950, the second of the family to pass away. The other eight are still living, and for this we are very grateful.
So death had never come into our family at the time of the opening of this account. Some 400 yards down the valley from our little home lived our grandfather and grandmother, Stephen Calvin Gregory and his wife, Sina Gregory. With them lived their youngest daughter, Melissa, and her husband, Richard Monroe Campbell, and one child, little George Campbell. George was about two and a half years of age and was idolized by his mother, who was our own “Aunt Melissa.” George grew worse and died the night of April 5, 1904. Early the next morning our aunt sent for her nephews and nieces, the writer and his brother and sisters, to come and see her dead baby.
Never had any of us seen a dead person, and the writer entered the stricken home with fear and dread and apprehension. If our aunt had not been a favorite with us, it is doubtful if we would have gone at all. Anyway, we entered the home, to look upon the lifeless form of little George. We can still see him as clearly in our mind’s eye as we saw him that April morning in 1904. He lay so still and quiet in his home-made cradle, while his mother, our own aunt, wrung her hands in helpless agony of soul and cried, “O my baby! O my baby!” We can see that sorrowing mother wringing her hands in helpless grief and hear the broken-hearted words that fell from the lips that had so often been pressed to the cheeks of her little boy. Our heart then knew for the first time something of the terrible things of death. We lived the scenes of the child’s death in memory many, many times. In fact we had never before seen the realities of death so clearly as we beheld them that April morning.
In the afternoon of April 6, 1904, the body of that little cousin of ours was borne by loving hands to its last resting place in the valley to the south of our grandfather’s home. Thus began our old family burial ground. We recall that we heard one of our uncles say that one buried alone or in a lone grave “would not stay long by himself,” signifying that before long another grave would be made there in that narrow valley. We wondered then who would be next to rest there in the repose of death. sure enough in slightly less than four months, the mother joined her little boy in death, her desire to live seemingly having been lost by reason of the baby’s death. So on Aug. 3rd, the same year, ou own aunt, the meek and obedient youngest daughter of our grandparents, folded her hands all too soon and bade farewell to her husband, her father and mother, and her nine brothers and sisters. She was the first person we ever knew that lost her desire to live. We recall that when she contracted typhoid fever in the summer of 1904, the attending physician sought to arouse her to her need to live, to make an honest effort to recover. But she could not be aroused to her duty to try to live and gradually sank lower and lower until near noon of Aug. 3, 1904, two days short of four months from the death of little George on the night of April 5th, she quietly passed away, singing a joyful religious song almost to the end and dying in the triumphs of a living faith.
Her mother, Sina Gregory, then in her sixties, recovered from typhoid fever, largely because of her desire to live and her making a fight to recover. The daughter, less than half as old as her mother, refusing to fight for life, became an easy victim of the malady, typhoid fever. The writer was also stricken with the same disease, which kept him in bed from about the middle of August till the first of October the same year.
The burial place of our cousin was a favorite play place in our childhood. Nearby were many trees, some grapevine swings and a blackhaw tree. But after the burial of the little boy it became a place that our childish steps avoided. We did not like to pass by the lone grave even in the middle of the day; and passing at night was a horror to our mind and we seldom passed that little burial ground in the night.
Today our own father and mother, Thomas M. and Etta Ballou Gregory, lie side by side not far from the grave of little George. Our grandfather and grandmother, Stephan Calvin Gregory and Sina Gregory, lived only a comparitively short time after their daughter had “gone the way of all the earth.” They, too, sleep the long sleep of death in that same little cemetery. Our uncle, Monroe Gregory, and his wife, Laura Towns Gregory, rest from their labors in graves nearby. Our aunt Martha Gregory, the way of all the earth.” They, her husband sleep side by side near our father and mother. In all perhaps 50 are buried in this little valley, just east of which is a huge hill. In our mind we have often pictured coming from the east on the bright cloud of His glory, the great King, and with Him the souls of the children of God whose mortal remains lie in their graves, with the encircling hills all around them.
But to return to our horror of death half a century and more ago. We could not sleep well for a number of nights after little George’s death. We were afraid to sleep in that portion of our father’s house which was toward or nearest the scene of the child’s death. Could we have known then that our life’s course would lead us to have a part in or to conduct nearly three thousand funerals, we think that life would have lost all its enjoyment for a country lad of the long ago. But God is good in not revealing the future of this life to us. So we continued on our way until we were slightly more than 18 years of age when we were joyfully converted and our awful fear and dread of death subsided. Today we look upon death without the dread and horror of the long ago. In fact there are times when we can say with Job: “I would not live alway.” We do not mean that we desire to die, but the love of God in our heart has driven away the fear, the dread, the horror and the terror of death. We still love life and desire to stay here on the field of duty and labor as long as it may be the will of God. But we confess that we are growing tired and that Heaven is a very desirable place and is nearer than when we first believed. Thank God for the lessening fear and dread of death as we grow older and for the brightening prospects for the grand and wonderful reunion that lies somewhere beyond, for the knowledge that in the great day, by the grace of God, we can say: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?”
This Article Appeared In The Times
But Was Not Actually Titled Cal’s Column
We have next to nothing on the Forgy family. We have no record on any Forgy family in Smith County, Tenn., for the years 1820, 1830, 1840, 1850 nor for 1870, for which we have the census records.
We have a record of all the Baptist ministers of Tennessee from its formation down to the present and there is not a Forgy among them. There is not one Baptist minister in the entire southern part of the United States by the name of Forgy. We have looked through the list of Baptist ministers of the United States for the eighties and find not one listed. However, it is possible that they might have been of some other religious faith. But we find no record of the name in the early history of Tennessee, not one person of this name being listed by Ramsey in his “Annals of Tennessee.” We also looked through the Encyclopedia Brittanica, but found not one member of the family listed. Neither have we found the name in “Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge.”
But this does not mean that there is no record of the family. In looking through “Bible Records & Tombstone Inscriptions.” we find the following: “Farewell--Rebecca Crawford, wife of Hugh Crawford, daughter of A. and I. Forgey, Dec. 18, 1818, age 68 years.” This is a marker on a grave in Washington Pike Presbytarian church graveyard in Knox County, Tenn.
On page 267, same book, is the following: “Mrs. Elenor Forgey, communicant. Family: Hugh, married Sept. 25, 1824; Mary, communicant; married Sept. 29, 1825; Nancy, Andrew, John, Samuel Scott; James, born Aug. 18, 1797; married Jan. 24, 1819, died Oct. 10, 1835.” The above is copied, word for word, from Ebenezer Church Register, but we have no way at this time of knowing where this Ebenezer church is located. Others mentioned in the same records included: James Reece, Sr., wife, Elizabeth; Thomas B. Reece and family, Asenath, George, Ruth, Sarah, Elizabeth, Flavy, Joel Reece, James H. Reece, Susannah; Richard Henderson, wife, Jean; Rufus Giles, John Osman, William Ramsey, Ezekiel Alexander, Tirza Egnew, James Frankford, Samuel Caldwell, Mary Jane, Isabelle Caroline; Richard Balbdridge, Plum, a black man and his wife and family: Phill, Hilas, all communicants; Isaac J. Thomas, his wife, Asenath, born Jan. 11, 1784--Aug. 23, 1821 or 24, (indistinct). Family: James Houston, born Sept. 22, 1808, demised 1836; John Addison, born May 28, 1810; Isaac Jetton, born June 12, 1817; Charles Harris, born Aug. 16, 1819; Martha Patience Green, baptized May, 1830. Others mentioned in the same records include members of the Mckee, Henderson, Stockard, Alexander, Ramsey, Boyd, Tate, Ames, McCarthy, Hudson, Harper, Benderman, Davidson, McDuffee, Therrhis, Waid, Booker, Galbreath, Stegall, Turvines, Thompson, Thomas, Magown, Watson, Maxwell, and other families.