My Blue Ridge Mountain Home Eviction: Part 9
Those once-giant peaks, which formed when Africa and North America collided more than a billion years ago, and then rivaled the Himalayas in majesty, also helped to form my Blue Ridge ancestors, and me.
The granite and gneiss stone that lay beneath the mountains’ thin soil hardened our ancestors’ backbones.
The thin layer of gray loam and tenacious red clay made farming difficult, but built our ancestors’ perseverance.
We are who we are today in great part because of who the mountains made them.
Those mystically blue mountains shaped two sets of my fifth great grandparents way back in the 1700s: Francis Meadows and his wife, Mary; and Martin Crawford and his wife, Elizabeth McDonald.
And seven sets of my fourth great grandparents: John Phillip Dietz and Catherina Heck, Martin Alfred Collier and Mary Williams, John McDaniel and Elizabeth Crawford, Bird Snow and Polly Mayhugh, William Breeding and Susannah Tanner, William Lamb and Mary Gear, and James Meadows and Catherine Boswell.
They shaped seven sets of my third great grandparents: Johannes Markey and Elizabeth Dietz, Preston Collier and Elizabeth Haney, Ellis Turner and Susannah Smith, Levi Lucas and Elizabeth Utsler, Thomas Meadows and Elizabeth Breeden, John McDaniel and Martha Snow, and Zachariah McDaniel and Nancy Lamb.
And they molded four sets of my second great grandparents: Mitchell Meadows and Verinda McDaniels, George Merica and Catharine Wagoner, Smith Collier and Frances McDaniel, and David Turner and Catherine Lucas.
As well as my great grandparents, William Durrett Collier and Mary Meadows, and Joseph W. Merica and Elizabeth Turner.
And my grandparents, Thomas Austin Merica and Florence Elizabeth Collier.
They all lived and died within a few miles of each other up in the Blue Ridge.
They worked the soil, raised their families, danced, praised God, leaped in joy, crumbled in sorrow, stood for what they believed and ignored the rest for upwards of 300 years.
They shed their blood, sweat, and tears in those mountains.
It’s where they lay their bodies down to rest each night, and at life’s end.
And finally, 80 years ago, they walked down those mountains, into the valleys below, and never went back.
Their time passed. That gate locked against them forever.
Pick up a handful of soil within Shenandoah National Park today and hold it. You can practically feel their hearts beat.
You can smell their blood and sweat, taste the saltiness of their tears. That earthiness, that is them. And us.
And we continue, happily, and grateful for our Blue Ridge Mountain ancestors.