Franklin attended Holly Grove Christian Church from his infancy till his passing. I interviewed Franklin at his home in the room he claims to have been born in (although he doesn’t remember the occasion). Here are some memories shared by Franklin Ware:
“It all started in my mother’s womb” (at this point I interrupted Franklin and told him I thought that was too early-on for this interview). Franklin then guessed he became a member of Holly Grove at the age of 8 or 9. He indicated that people joined the church much younger in the old days. He remembers being baptized at Shelton’s Mill, as everyone was during those days. His first memory involved the old Shelton’s mill bridge and crossing the South Anna river. “We had an old mule named “Ole Joe”. Every Sunday morning, we would all pile into a wagon and hook up Ole Joe for the trip to church”. Franklin estimated 6-8 children, Aunts, Uncles, his Father, Mother, and Grandparents would all ride together. He remembers “many people would travel in carriages, but we rode in a wagon”. But a problem with the trip always occurred at the bridge. The bridge during this time was a metal suspension bridge with wooden boards forming the roadway. Well it seems Ole Joe was not very comfortable crossing the bridge, he pretty much refused to. Franklin continued “My Grandfather would have to whip Ole Joe to get him to cross the bridge. But once he was across the bridge, Ole Joe would take off and run the rest of the way to church making for quite an exciting ride. We all held on and enjoyed the fun. Ole Joe was always known as a fast mule around the neighborhood and could actually go to Richmond and back in one day.”
Franklin held virtually every office in the church over the years. One memory involved a time when the church members had “The Itch” (most likely Scabies). Franklin was treasurer of the church during this time and his job was to collect and count the money (he guessed he was pre-teenager at this time). Well he noticed after one Sunday service the money really stunk (literally), it smelled like black sulfur powder. This powder was the medicine being used to cure “The Itch”. Well sure enough, Franklin caught “The Itch” from handling the money and had to be treated with black sulfur powder, wrapped in a sheet, and put to bed. He indicated this was quite a stinky lonely time and a tremendous sacrifice for the church.
Another memory involved tearing down the old church building for the new church and how once the windows and doors were removed from the old building a tremendous storm went through the area. “It knocked down trees and caused a great deal of destruction to our neighborhood, but the church was unharmed. Many feel the only reason the church wasn’t flattened was because the members had just taken out the windows” Franklin, as do many of the older members we have spoken with, misses the old church but understood as the demolition took place that the old building had gotten in bad shape and a new building was the correct answer to the problem. Franklin noted how Possie Chenault and James Noel had really sacrificed to build the new church and deserve a tremendous amount of credit for their efforts in our church and neighborhood.
Another of Franklin’s stories involved the “All Day Meetings” held the last week of July. Franklin remembered how Holly Grove was famous for these meetings and different preachers were brought in to speak. Some of them were very colorful people. Franklin remembered Preacher Graybill who would bang on furniture, blow horns, and raise his voice as he preached. Franklin stated “people didn’t have money back then, everyone was poor. Many times, we would have emergency board meetings to discuss paying the preacher and often the people on the board would chip-in and cover the expense.” One time, a Preacher was paid for his services with live chickens that were later killed and eaten for dinner. Franklin spoke about the all-day meetings where people would eat lunch in the woods and socialize while sitting on the roots of the big trees in the cemetery. He also remembered some of the younger members would do some “courting” at Matt Lloyd’s well during these meetings (although Connie, Franklin’s wife, denies ever partaking).
Finally, Franklin spoke of how he has taught classes in Church (one of which was a bunch of troublemakers who were corrected with the threat of having to read the lesson if they misbehaved, he had no problems following this threat). He stated his happiest days in church were the days his Daughters were married and the day he was made Honorary Elder. He guessed he had played many roles in Christmas pageants and enjoyed the ball teams of the past.
It was a pleasure to interview Franklin. It is interesting to listen to the stories of the elder members of our church and hear of the hard times, sacrifices, and true faith of our past members. They have provided us this wonderful church and place of worship we enjoy today. Our challenge is to remember these sacrifices and provide our children with the same living gift.
(Interview by Byron Wilson 6/28/99, Franklin has since passed on)