Life in western Virginia during the 1800's was grim. In addition to the everyday hardships, the Civil War created a unique set of problems for the families in that particular part of the country. The land was not
conducive to supporting slavery as it was in eastern Virginia. Some families did own slave but by the large majority, slavery was not
popular. When Virginia seceded from the Union, the rugged individualists of the western part of the state decided that they would not support the South in their commitment to the Confederate States. Neighbor fought against neighbor and brother against brother. When the war was finally over there were many rifts to heal and many fences to mend. But the result of the struggle produced a singular group of men and women who formed the state of West Virginia.
Johann Sabastian Lang
August 23, 1823 - November 27, 1893
It was during the year following the war that my great grandmother, Sophrona Hall met and married Sebastian Lang, a widower with two children and a veteran of the Union Army. He was 45 and she was 31, an old maid by the standards of the day. Sebastian was born in Germany and Sophrona was of German ancestry. Both had inherited a stubborn nature that led to some grand battles according the their daughter, Resa. Their redeeming trait was the sense of humor that they shared.
The family homestead consisted of a little over 100 acres and encompassed the land that we know as "Aunt Mary's home",and across the highway, to the top of the hill above the cemetery. I have been told that it also included the land on which the Tenmile Baptist Church was built.
Sebastian and Sophrona had five daughters, Sarah Regina, Theresa Chrisenthia, Mary Anna, Charlotte Rose and Eleanora who died at an early age when she fell into a water-filled posthole and drowned. As each married they were given a parcel of land. Aunt Resa married George Williams and chose the land half-way up the hill behind the family cemetery. Charlotte Rose married George's brother, Frank Williams and chose the land at the very top of the hill where my mother was born. Mary was the last to find a husband (as an old maid, nearly 40) so she remained at home with her parents and was given the original house as her inheritance.
After Sebastian died, Sophrona, who disapproved of Mary Anna's of Jim Holland as a husband. Sophrona moved across the road to live with Resa and George. One of my earliest memories is of visiting Aunt Resa and sitting on a huge bed with a thick feather mattress that had belonged to Sophrona. The headboard of the bed covered nearly the whole wall and was much taller than Uncle George. it was a light wood and carved with ornate designs. I remember trying to trace some of them with my finger while Aunt Resa and mother cooked lunch and talked of family history.
I especially remember stories about Aunt Rasa's father, Sebastian-how he had escaped from a German prison, fought in many battles of the Civil war and how, near the end of the war, he had been a nurse in a smallpox hospital. When he was discharged, he returned to Rosebud carrying his personal belongings in a crude wooden chest that was reportedly fashioned from the boards that had been used to make the stage upon which President Lincoln made his Gettysburg Address.
Aunt Resa eventually gave the chest to mother and it stood in our upstairs hallway housing extra blankets for many years. My brothers convinced me that it was a coffin and there was a body underneath the blankets. Once when we
were playing hide-and-seek they tried to get me to hide in the chest but there was no way I would go near it. Finally when my parents moved to Arizona, I was stuck with what I considered to be a monstrosity. When I finally got up nerve enough to dispose of the unwieldy piece of furniture, I rationalized my actions by saying that since there was no historical provenance for its origin, the darn thing was just nuisance. But whenever I visit the old family cemetery, an look at the headstones that he carved, I apologize to Grandpa Lang. I wish I had kept his chest, ugly as it was.
Great Grandma and Grandpa's story is told in an interview by Wilbur C Morrison that appeared in the Clarksburg Exponent-Telegram newspaper in February 1931. A copy of the article follows in the next
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