When Your Sister Gives Family Heirlooms for Christmas

May 26, 1858 was a big day for the Rhodes household. Mr Reuben Swope was born.

Time flew by as the family struggled to survive. Within 3 years, the Civil War ripped through the nation, through their beautiful Shenandoah Valley and even through the Rhodes household. Undoubtedly Mama Rhodes watched her growing family and wondered what they would face if they survived in this war torn Valley.

But peace returned to the Valley.

Mr Reuben became an adult, joined the church, courted and wed Mary Magdalene Rhodes. He was ordained deacon in the church, and had a number of children. And that’s about the extent of my knowledge.

RSR and wife Magdalene

Rhodes Family

Until now.

I love the group chat I have with my sisters. (Reportedly my bro-in-laws are not as fond of the constant messaging 🤔) anyhow Em dropped a bombshell several months ago: “I have the gift of gifts for Mother. Nothing that y’all get will compete. I’m sorry. It will blow her mind.”

The mystery gift was the Family Bible of Reuben Swope Rhodes. Emily’s generous brother-in-law purchased this gift at a family auction, and gave it to Em, who in turn gave it to Mother. (Mother’s Dad was given the full name of his grandfather: Reuben Swope Rhodes. Incidentally you may meet my cousin- RSR III if you’re at the right place at the right time 😉)

After Mother recovered from her shock, she carefully started perusing the pages of this brittle book. And the treasures she finding. I’m left with so many questions.

Newspaper clippings: announcing a death or a old folks singing where they sang “in the sweet bye and bye” and dinner was served on the church grounds. The most outstanding article was the death of RSR, 77 and his brother WP, 81- only hours apart. Carefully listed were the pallbearers for each brother, and the fact that Russell Cline and a Frank Hurst conducted the service. This article also informed me that my great great grandmother died on her husband’s 61st birthday, and that RSR was known for his honesty and integrity. He remarried at the age of 72 to Elizabeth Heatwole, and she passed away 3 months before RSR was stricken with a stroke and also died.

Dried flowers- so many pansies, ferns, and even a carnation. I wonder who’s eager hands had placed the fresh flower between the pages.

Bank records: a careful ledger of who owes who money lies between the battered pages. One being my great granddad, Web.

But most importantly- the family record. Carefully between the Old and New Testament is record of the family. As Mother told me who was which family, I was amazed at the number of the Valley folk who share our Rhodes family roots.

I’m also surprised that my lack of ability to spell comes from whoever kept the record. Bless their heart. Reuben is spelled Rheuben at one place and Ruben the next. Daughter Mary is “Marry”, Nettie Ellen is entered as “Netie Elen” and they are blessed by the arrival of the first son and blested with the second son.

Regardless, this family treasure has reminded me of the blessing of a godly family heritage.

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone

And our children sift through all we’ve left behind

May the clues that they discover and the memories they uncover

Become the light that leads them to the road we each must find

Oh may all who come behind us find us faithful

May the fire of our devotion light their way

May the footprints that we leave

Lead them to believe

And the lives we live inspire them to obey

(Excerpt from “Find us Faithful by Steve Green)

Also if anyone has any good Christmas gift ideas-I can use all the help I can get 😅

Kendra

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