There were two things that stood out to me as I studied the story--the simplicity of life and the minimalism and lack of preparation for the burial of the deceased, yet the ethereal qualities that were present.
The account that took place was written by my great-uncle, Alfred Blalock, Sr. who was a minister in the Willow Spring, Wilson‘s Mills and Dunn Areas. My grandmother, Annie Eliza Blalock Adams, was Alfred’s Blalock’s sister.
His mother, my great-grandmother, of Willow Spring had died.
This is a transcription of the record that he wrote about her funeral.
“That year, 1908, my mother, Christiana Matthews Blalock age 80, had died and my wife, Emma, and I drove from Dunn on a horse-drawn buggy to the old homestead in Wake County. The Blalock family graveyard located along Hwy. 42 near Blalock’s Cross Roads in Willow Spring was where we went to pay our last tribute of respect to her memory. Quite a number of relatives, neighbors, and friends gathered and viewed the remains at the burial ground in front of the home. When the casket was closed, some men started to make preparation for lowering it into the open grave, but there was no one to officiate at the committal.“
Rev. Blalock goes on to say, “God impressed upon me to speak, but I resisted. I began to choke just as if someone had taken hold of my throat. As those in charge were continuing to struggle with the chest, I suddenly said, ‘Hold on!’ When I blurted that out, the choking ceased. At that point, I took my Bible and began to read a chapter. I expounded on the Scriptures and made a few remarks about what my mother’s life had meant to me and those who knew her. In closing the memorial, I offered a prayer of benediction. When I looked around at those standing in close proximity to the grave, I saw only a few dry eyes. Everyone had been stirred by what I had to say.”
“Later I stepped over to the road, (the cemetery is still located beside Hwy. 42E) and I saw a carpenter whom I had known; someone who had constructed my home when I lived on a farm in Wilson’s Mills. This builder had been passing by at the time of the activities, and he stopped to take in the service. Before I had gone into the ministry, he and I chose to go carousing on several occasions. We had drunk liquor, cursed, and served the devil together. It was the first time he had seen me since God had saved me from all those things. He said to me, ‘Alfred, I believed you had received salvation when I heard you were saved; now I know, first-hand, you are a changed man. No one could have done what you have done here today without the power of God. I know that He guides you‘.“
Rev. Alfred Blalock, moved by the power of God, was enabled to deliver the eulogy at his mother’s gravesite when no one was present to speak.
It was all very impromptu and without planning or display—-quite different from funerals today with all the beautiful music, elaborate and detailed trappings, and formal procedures, not to mention the flowers.
The simplicity of 1908 style funerals, compared to today’s ceremonies and burials, gives us pause to wonder what the next hundred years will bring?
James Alfred Blalock, Sr. was born March 22, 1869 in Willow Spring near Old Stage Road. He was the youngest of Hugh and Christiana Matthews Blalock’s nine children.
He entered school at Buies Creek Academy in 1887 and there met Miss Emma Byrd, daughter of Rev. William Byrd who lived outside Buies Creek.
They were married October 18, 1888 at the home of Miss Emma’s father.
The couple‘s former teacher, Prof. J. A. Campbell, performed the ceremony.
James Alfred was in the ministry for 40 years; served as pastor of twenty-five churches in two Free Will Baptist Conferences; lived in three states, nine counties; built eleven houses and moved thirty times. This is a quote he used, “I have no continuing city here, but I seek one to come, not made with hands, eternal in Heaven.”
Miss Emma died January 29, 1941. She was buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Dunn, N.C. Rev. Blalock died October 7, 1960. He rest beside his beloved Miss Emma.
Three ministers spoke at Miss Emma’s funeral and two spoke at Rev. Blalock’s.
Neither service was as plain as the one for Rev. Blalock’s mother, Christiana Matthews Blalock of Willow Spring, 52 years earlier.
This article was taken from the book: “Heritage of Harnett County,” Copy Right 1993, Campbell University and “The Story of My Life” by Rev. J. A. Blalock.