In the Spring of 1999, I had a vivid dream that embraced my love of family history so strongly, that I am sure it’s description will become a captivating account that I will gladly share with my grandchildren someday.It was a vision so close to reality that I could feel the wind and smell the budding plant life it carried.The following is my personal account of this experience; I will never forget it.
"It’s a bright and sunny day as I drive my red 1994 Nissan Sentra out the Manchester Gate at Pope Air Force Base in Fayetteville, NC.I have both windows down in the front of the car and am enjoying the spring breeze. The mood is positive and the day beautiful. However, I’m startled by the sudden sound of laughter beside me, having believed that I was alone.I turn to see an elderly man in the front passenger seat dressed in what looks to be deerskin clothing and a coonskin style hat.He is lanky in stature, though hard to tell exactly to what degree as he has both feet propped against the dashboard.He throws his head back and laughs in a gleeful tone and almost uncontrollably, and as he does so, exclaims "Look at the red bird fly…look how fast the red bird flies!"I continued driving, though to what destination I have no idea. Then, the countryside began to look familiar; we were in Rowan County, NC; approximately 100 miles from my home in Cumberland Co. where I live with my wife, Pamela and our 4 children, Brandon, Brittany, Bryanna, and Brayden.I now recognize River Road, a rural, two-lane route that I have driven along before.River Road runs south of Salisbury with Bringles Ferry Road at its northern end and Stokes Ferry Road at the other.Without being directed to do so, I stop the car.I know where I am now--it’s Noah Park (1743-1815) and Anna Reed’s (1749-1833) farm, my 5th Great Grandfather Ebenezer Park’s (1747-1839) brother and sister-in-law.
The passenger side door is closest to the edge of the road facing the nearby open field and woods that lie along the length of its eastern boundary—this is the Park Farm.The old man awkwardly fumbles with the door and then manages to open it….he never closes it and proceeds to unfurl himself from the car and walk across the field toward the woods.I follow him, observing the enticing smell of honey suckle and freshly cut grass in the air. As I do so, I notice that he never once looks back.His actions give the appearance that he knows where he is and that he has a definite purpose for being there.Having been on this land the month before with Dr. James Hinson, the present-day owner of this farm and descendant of Noah Park through Noah’s daughter, Elizabeth; I mumble to myself that the gentlemen I follow is heading for the family cemetery (50 or so stones) that I know is just beyond the tree line behind the tall fir tree that has served as my landmark to this family monument in past visits.As the elderly man now approaches the woods, I am frozen in mid-step at the sight of a man and woman standing silently and rather solemnly side-by-side in the shadows of the woods and next to the many darkened tombstones that have been there for more than a century and a half.The gentleman is tall—standing 6’4" or so in height, dark brown hair and medium build.He is dressed in a dark suit that appears to be black in color with an old-style tie. To his left is a short woman wearing a dark long dress and full- length white apron. She is an oddity, a stark contrast to the gentleman at her side—you see, she can’t be more than 5’ tall and a little on the heavy side, but with a beautiful, round face that radiated what must have been a kind personality and a life of good deeds.Only the tall gentleman in the suit speaks and in a strikingly low and raspy voice, extending his hand in a welcoming gesture as he does so…."Welcome home, Eb" he says and I felt the breath rush out of my body in total awe of the situation before me and the sudden realization of just who these three people were.
As I watch, the couple turns slowly, but deliberately, away from the fading sunlight that has found it’s way into the forest and toward Cedar Creek at the back of this ancient cemetery.Eb follows them closely behind—their feet pass silently over the fallen leaves.Astonishingly, all three though fade prematurely from my sight and into thin air, leaving only Cedar Creek in my view and the light and peaceful hissing of the wind in my ears.
I awoke with goosebumps and the same feeling of awe, because I knew then I was in the presence of my 5th Great Grandfather, Ebenezer Park, his brother, Noah and wife, Anna Reed. Eb had migrated into NC in the early 1770s from Capon Bridge, VA (now WV), and shortly thereafter married Tabitha Mills on 6 Jan 1772 in the now historic town of Salisbury. For 24 years they lived along Cabin Creek in this area now occupied by the township of Jackson Hill. That is until they left with their 10 children on horseback, traveling up the sometimes treacherous Wilderness Trail on the heels of frontiersman Daniel Boone in 1796 and into Madison County, KY, where the last 6 generations of my family have flourished.Noah and Anna, on the other hand, remained behind and died on their farm in NC.I don’t believe that Eb ever saw either of them again after he and his family departed for the Great Commonwealth of Kentucky.Hence, the apparent reason for Eb’s spiritual homecoming.
The story doesn’t end there however. That summer, I had the opportunity to visit this cemetery again (known as the Park-Bean-Wyatt Cemetery after Noah and the families that his children married into; also buried there) with newfound cousin, Susan Balde Gall of Winston-Salem.Susan, also an avid enthusiast of family history is a descendant of Eb and Noah’s brother, George Park and wife, Agnes Nichols, through their son John Park and wife, Elizabeth Owen.John and Elizabeth lived in that same area of NC near Swearing Creek close to where the ancient Jersey Baptist Church is.
While reading the various tombstones, Susan asks, "Where are the footstones?"I was puzzled, not knowing what graves she referred to—"What footstones?" I responded."Noah and Anna’s" she answered."I don’t think there are any or if they were there, they aren’t now" I said.I followed her lead and brushed my hands through the leaves and sure enough, underneath the bed of leaves were two small footstones aligned exactly with the headstones belonging to Noah and Anna.Without saying anything, Susan exited the woods for her car.She returned a few minutes later with a measuring tape.We first measured Noah’s grave from headstone to footstone—it was exactly 76 ½ inches, then Anna’s—60 inches.Not being a whiz at math, the significance of these measurements hadn’t hit me yet."How tall did you say they looked?" asked Susan, referring to the dream I described for her only weeks before.I opened my mouth, hesitated for a few seconds, and then quietly I heard myself say "6’ 4" and 5’.Susan looked up from her kneeling position and smiled gently.She didn’t have to say anything.The goosebumps and feeling of awe were back though….I had to sit down.I could smell the honey suckle and freshly cut grass.
My eyes began to water a bit now.
I don’t have allergies.
God bless us all.
In the Spirit of the Park Family of which there are many,
William "Doug" Park
(4 May 1959 -)