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Just A Small Country Church
It was a small country community Church of Christ. Everyone just called it “Gregory Chapel." People named it that since our family had donated the land. There was nothing outstanding about the small, simple, white clap board building. There were many others just like it all across America. But this one was located at Mountainburg, Arkansas where my ancestors had settled.
What distinguished it were the people who attended services there. Generations of my family had attended church in the little wooden frame building. They first arrived in Crawford County from Wayne County, Kentucky about 1840. Our family land originally began as a 160 acre tract of land. My grandmother inherited 40 acres of it.
My surname isn’t Gregory, but my Grandmother’s folks were. The “Young” moniker was on my biological dad’s side. They had the distinction of being one of the first families thrown out of Canada for stealing horses. This group must have been really bad …because nobody ever gets kicked out of Canada!
But, getting back to the point, people attending Gregory Chapel were ordinary honest, hard working country folk…the heart and back bone of America. Most were farmers, carpenters, masons and housewives. And most were related to everyone else in some way. “Hey you in the back row…watch the Ozark inbreeding jokes”!
Actually, there was some of that going on between cousins and such. I know of at least two in my family who married 2nd cousins. Maybe that’s why skin problems like psoriasis seem to plague some of us.
Marine Corps Dress Blues
In later life I joined the Marine Corps and would occasionally come to visit on vacations. On one such visit Grandmother saw my Marine Corps “dress blues” uniform and insisted I wear them to church. I obliged her. When she saw me dressed in them she asked me what rank of officer I was. I told her I wasn’t an officer. Then she wanted to know if I wasn’t an officer why did I have so many pretty brass buttons. I honestly couldn’t answer her. Grandmother only had a 6th grade education, not uncommon in her time and place.
However, wearing my dress blues to church turned out to be a big mistake. The parishioners kept turning around to gawk at me and nobody seemed to pay attention to the preacher’s sermon. I apologized to him later.
They Just Couldn't Sing
What I remember about the church was the meetings outside immediately following Sunday services. The old folks would gather and exchange news of the goings on around the “Gregory Chapel community. I was just a youngster of 5 years at the time I first remember going. The year was 1957.
My younger brother Mike and I were staying with our grandparents since Mom had gotten ill. Our most vivid recollection were the three elderly “Brown” girls”. They were all spinsters and known collectively as the “Brown girls”.
Of course, somewhere in the tangled mess of our family tree, they’re related. But we remember them clearly because, not only were they nice ladies, but they just couldn’t sing. I’ve never heard anything to describe how it sounded. Their high pitched squawking and off key renderings could make a freight train take a dirt road. Over the years on visits to my Grandmother’s we went to Sunday services with her. The preacher and congregation never seemed to change except for a few missing folks who had passed on.
My step granddad didn’t attend that church though. “You couldn’t take off your shoes and sneak into that church without everyone turning around to find out who was coming in” he would criticize. “Besides, they don’t even have a piano! Whoever heard of a church without a piano or an organ”?
Grandmother explained that since there weren’t any pianos mentioned in the bible they weren’t going to get one. I’m sure the addition of such an instrument would’ve helped a little to improve the “Brown girls” vocals. Maybe they could’ve gotten a harp?