Sunday, March 7, 2010

Hidden Behind the Fence

I love reading history books. Each page can hold an adventure of discovery, the thrill new born generations, and the agony of lost life & wounded love. Nevertheless, there are more journeys for the one who decides to kick over stumps, hike through briers, and turn over stones in order to come face to face with turning points & markers of the past.

With the last few cold months this past winter, I had a burst of Spring fever. I called my dad on the phone and invited Him to go with me to a couple old Baxter County cemeteries. The one that was an interest to me was the Whiteville Cemetery. Fortunately, this cemetery is a little over a quarter mile from my house… as a crow flies, and it lies about a mile by paved road. The target of my exploration was James “Jacob” Mooney’s grave. I went out about a month ago during the last snow storm and had a dickens of a time in finding him. I spent almost a frozen hour with no avail. His grave site is a little unique.

Why? Here’s a little back history.

Jacob Mooney came from Tennessee to the Baxter County area via the White River on a flat-bottom keelboat in the early 1800’s. He set up an Arkansas Trading Post on the White River a couple of miles north of Cotter, Arkansas. When making his first trek here, he brought a large load of inventory. Here is the list:

1 large bridle cow
2 black & white spotted pigs
1 speckled rooster
6 red hens
2 guineas
1 runty, but friendly bull
1bushel of dried yeast foam
20 kinds of seeds
1 hogshead of black power
10 pounds of flint
1 anvil
1 forge
1 liquor still (He's Irish!)
100 bolts of cloth
144 needles & sewing thread
1 demijohn of live beer seed

By the fall of that year, a large log building for a store and two cabins as living quarters were constructed. Jacob commuted from Tennessee to his Arkansas Trading Post for some years and settled down here after the death of his first wife in Tennessee in 1832.

Accompanying him on the first trip where nine men, including a partner named McDonald, four slaves, and four hired men to help push the boat up stream. The latter four men were called “Lungeons” or “Melungeons” who were believed to be foreigners of mixed blooded Mediterraneans of possible Jewish lineage and who lived prior in America to Columbus’s discovery. This is the one...peculiar thing...that was unique about Jacob Mooney. He mixed with foreigners & slaves. Subsequently, when he died, he was buried outside the cemetery fence with the mixed-bloods who lived with him.

For many years a huge oak tree grew over Jacob Mooney’s grave. This tree was periodically struck by lightning. According to Mary Ann Messick, there were two explanations folks had to this phenomenon.

First… Jacob had taken Indian silver, and the metal was drawing the lightning.

Secondly…God was showing his wrath because Jacob Mooney had lived with foreigners.

If you would like to read the whole story in detail, read Mary Ann Messick’s book, History of Baxter County: Centennial Edition 1873-1973, page 6-7.

So…let’s go to the Whiteville Cemetery.
(Click to enlarge the following pictures.)

By the cemetery is the Whiteville Baptist Church.

So, where is his elusive grave?

Find the fence...under the trash & leaves.

 Tombstone inside the fence…grave outside the fence.
Who & where are the others outside the fence?
Notice the hills of the White River in the background.
We cleared the debris.
Rest in Peace.
Closing Thoughts...
As we left the cemetery, I started to reflect on what I have left outside the fence.

Who have I left outside the fence because I could not see past their faults or the commotion in their life?

Is there a speck of sawdust in my neighbor’s eye that irritates me while I have an old tree trunk in my own eye?

Have I become lethargic in my purpose in this short trek of life?

Have I disregarded what was given as a gift of life and relegated it by only acknowledging its’ headstone?

I ask you too, Dear Reader, are there fences we need to destroy and walls we need to build…together?

Are we accepting today's circumstances as God’s wrath…when it is Him giving us an opportunity to mend a fence with a neighbor or assist in pulling the debris away that would tarnish their name?

Wrath is for the is a day of mercy.

I find it is probably better to ask these questions now…in order to hear…on that Last Day…”Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Comments?  Email me!

Works Cited:
Messick, Mary A. History of Baxter County: Centennial Edition 1873-1973. Mountain Home, AR: Mountain Home Chamber of Commerce, 1973. Lithographed by International Graphics, Inc. Little Rock, AR.

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