During the weeks before-and after-our trip to the Lufty Baptist Church I listened intently for a story about the church. I looked in every corner, nook, and cranny of that beautiful old church-I even poked around outside-but I still came up empty handed.
As I learned more and more about the area-and about the people who called it home during the era of Lufty Baptist Church-I kept feeling like some thought was just out of reach in my mind. Sorta like when you see something out of the corner of your eye-yet when you turn to see what it is there's nothing there.
My scattered thoughts made me doubt myself-leaving me feeling like I didn't really grasp the whole story-making me wish more than once I hadn't blabbered on an on about Oconaluftee here on the Blind Pig.
Once I got over my infatuation with the first names like Haseltine, Eximena, Cpradela and Jessomay in the church records-I took notice of the last names.
There are Bradleys, Collins, Elliotts, Gibsons, Griffiths, McMahans, Roberts, Watsons, Lamberts, Maneys, Jenkins, and the list goes on-with all the names being the same in one way: they are still common surnames in Swain County-as well as in all of Western NC. Many folks who live right here in Cherokee County share the surnames.
I finally realized that was the story-it was the story of Granny's family who are Jenkins; of the Collins who live just over the GA line; of the Griffiths who live over the ridge; of the Watsons who live in Murphy; and of the Lamberts who live up on Junaluska. My entire experience with the Lufty Baptist Church told the story of me-and of the longevity of Appalachia.
Earlier this week we talked about how sense of place ties Appalachians to their homeland. Multiple generations of the same family being able to settle in the same area (or country as Pap would say) ensures an enduring culture.
I can never say what it felt like to lose your land-your home-your church for the supposed greater good of society-yet I can say without a doubt the members of Lufty Baptist Church were my people. They lived in the same Appalachian culture that I do where things like-independence, self reliance, faith, neighborliness, love of family, humility, humor, music, and love of place are all valued.
Even though I didn't know any of the people from the list of names I shared yesterday-they'd be no stranger if I met them today. For we'd soon find out we both speak the same rich Appalachian language, we both know about gritted bread, and with just a few quick questions we'd know who we both belonged to and we'd know we were of the same people.
Take a listen to the last video of the girls recorded in the historic Lufty Baptist Church-by far my favorite from the day.
I hope you enjoyed the song-and the entire series about the Lufty Baptist Church and the area which surrounds it.
*Source: Ocona Lufta Baptist Pioneer Church of the Smokies 1836-1939. Text by Florence Cope Bush. Over 1,000 names from church records. Copyright 1990 Misty Cove Press PO Box 22572, Concord, TN 37933-0572