Thursday, August 8, 2013
The Preacher’s Corner
An explanation for W.J. Ross tombstone
Genealogical researchers have found a real boon from all sorts of Internet sites that record information of interest to their research. One of the most interesting sites is called Find-a-Grave (http://www.findagrave.com. To my surprise, on this site I found my family’s grave markers in this region photographed and described with details of the family tree. Who knew?
The site sheds light on another tombstone I have been interested in. The unfortunate person is not a relative, but given what is on the stone, you can see why I am interested. The marker reads, W.J. Ross, 1865-1910, “A sinner saved by Christ but murdered by the church.”
The stone is in a small cemetery in Hickman County, Ky., called Rock Springs Memorial Cemetery. It is on the west side of U.S. Highway 51 at Crutchfield, Ky. – about five miles north of Fulton. The grave is locally famous and was shown me by my late cousin Thomas F. “Fred” Winter who lived nearby.
Mr. Ross rests in a cemetery near the one where all my daddy’s kinfolk are, and I have had the opportunity to visit the site many times. When I published a story about this tombstone back in 2004, I said, “What a story must be connected with this tombstone!” Linda Jones at The South Reporter, who creates the headlines for my columns, asked, “Reckon the preacher had a hand in it?”
I wondered what on earth a church could have done to make a member feel that way, though I know of situations in my own experience where people probably come close to such emotions. Churches are made up of sinners and sometimes go to great lengths to prove that this is true.
My friend Bobby Mitchell did some research and found a possible explanation. Here is what Bobby found out about W.J. Ross: A person connected with the cemetery named Tracy Dennis told interviewer Laura Garrigus Davis from the Find-a-Grave website that her grandfather donated the land for this cemetery. She told Find-a-Grave that she heard her granddaddy tell the story connected to this headstone many times. It seems that the family attended the Crutchfield Primitive Baptist Church (once located behind the cemetery). When Ross died his father asked that the church conduct his funeral. Because the church was in the middle of a revival, they refused. They did not want to disrupt the revival with a funeral. The father was deeply grieved at their refusal and decided to get even with the church by having the quote placed on the headstone. It is said that the church tried to get it removed, but failed at their efforts. The W. J. Ross grave is Find-a-Grave Memorial # 101596541.
Now, I have another story about this old church. This occurred when western Kentucky was still pioneer country. My great-grandfather sometimes worshiped there, and as was the custom of the Primitive Baptists, the church had old fashioned foot washing services. My grandfather and his brothers were full of mischief, and they filled great-grandfather’s socks with chimney soot. Needless to say, great-grandfather, who was the county sheriff, was greatly embarrassed when it came time to remove his shoes for the ceremony. When they got home, all the boys got a sound lesson in “spare the rod and spoil the child.”
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