Sit a spell
While education was still in a primitive stage the history of a family was done orally. When few could read or write it was the only way of passing the names on to the next generation. Today, with a more technologically advanced society, the telling of the names is dying. Certainly the information can be typed on paper or entered on a computer disc, but can a person interpret feeling or individuality from those mediums? Will the names simply remain words on paper or blips on a screen, or can they realistically become images of actual people without the voices of those who once knew them? The oral history added a personal touch to the memories of our ancestors. It was a tradition among the hills of southern Miller County, this telling of the names.
As a child I often sat in the lap of Melvina Luttrell Witt. Aunt Mel would draw stick figures in the dirt at our feet and give each one a name. There was me. There was Dorsie. There was Fred and Parthena. There was Bluford and Mary and Tom and Safronia. The figures all looked the same, but each name whispered to me across dark ages. The soft voice of Aunt Mel brought each name to life, fleeting glimpses of unknown faces, barely discernible amidst the blackness of the past. It was her way of passing on the names.
Stationed beneath a second story window in the home of Verdie Witt Shelton was an old trunk. Inside it was a varied collection of keepsakes, fragments of her life. When I would stay overnight with her, Aunt Verdie would go to the trunk and produce a box of photographs. She would sit beside me on the bed as her worn fingers would lovingly trace the images captured there. Uncle George Witt, Aunt Ruthie Topping, Grandpa Jesse. It was her way of passing on the names.
Some of the names spoken by my great-aunts were names that I had never heard before. Though I did not know why, I could sense how important it was that the names be passed on, and how important it was that I learn them. The importance I did not understand is made clear to me today when I look at my child and realize he never knew my Aunt Mel or my Aunt Verdie. I now see why they taught me names I did not know. And though he never knew them, he will know them through me, for they have now taken their places in my heritage and their names are among those spoken when I hold my son and, in my turn, pass to the next generation, the telling of the names.
From "Sit A Spell, Poems of the Ozarks"
by Marcellus Bosworth, The Bard of Osage Beach, printed in 1974
Miller County folks have a passion for preserving their history and heritage. In pulling together material for this web site, we discovered a wealth of perspectives put together by a variety of authors. Some have been prolific and widely circulated; you will probably recognize their names. Others are people who have had one or two special stories they wanted to share and their names may be less familiar, but their accounts are equally valuable.
Please help us preserve our history by adding your photograph or story to our pages.
The Miller County Historical Society continues to be the repository to archive the history and genealogy of Miller County and is operated solely with volunteers. The cost of utilities and supplies to provide these services continually increase. Membership dues provide most of the funding for the Society and without your continued support, we could not continue to be open as much as we schedule and free to the public. We want you to know how much your continued support of the Historical Society is appreciated.
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