The Color of the Past

“The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you can see.” – Winston Churchill

Last summer, I sang in church. I have a couple of buddies who play guitar and we did a lovely rendition of “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” We even got a “whoop!” of appreciation afterwards, a real feat for a sedate Moravian church.

As we waited for church to begin, my friends and I discussed possible names for our little acoustic, folksy group. I’ve been doing some genealogical research and mentioned I had a great picture of a couple of my ancestors, the Rev. Cole Brothers. The brothers were Methodist Episcopal circuit preachers up in the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina in the early 1800’s. “Hmm,” my friend said, “Do you have any interesting female ancestors?” My great-great-great grandmother’s name was Temperance – Tempy for short. So, we’re now “Sister Tempy and the Rev. Cole Brothers!”

I don’t know much about “Sister Tempy,” but I do know about my great-great grandmother, Carolyn Neumeyer. While working as a hatmaker, she was knocked over by Teddy Roosevelt’s carriage in the streets of D.C. The President was mortified and offered her a ride home (she was unharmed). She refused, on the grounds that it was improper for a single woman such as herself to accept a ride from a gentleman not part of her family, even if he was the PRESIDENT of the United States!! Another ancestor served in the NC legislature, riding horseback from his home near Boone, NC all the way to Raleigh (probably an 8-day ride). Family legend has it that Lorenzo Dow Cole, my great-great grandfather, was spared certain death during the Civil War when the musket ball heading for his heart was stopped by the bedroll he carried on his chest. And of course, I can’t resist throwing in my 7th great uncle, the pioneer Daniel Boone. Now that’s an exciting life!

Ah, the color of our history. Our ancestors seem so much more interesting and brave than we are or think we could ever be. And yet, day after day, week after week, we persevere, even if it is just through the mundane aspects of our own suburban lives. Life is as dull as we make it.

Carolyn, Tempy, Daniel Boone, and the Cole brothers inspire me as I sometimes trudge through my own daily living. I may not be riding horseback through the rugged NC mountains or straightening my bustle after a brush with greatness, but I’m blazing my own trail. What will my descendants say about my life? I hope I can live up to the colorful legacy of my own past!