The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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Arta Lockridge Nottingham Chappius - The Spirit Of Eternal Youth

By Paula A. Kerns © 1987

Issue: June, 1987

A photo of Arta when she was about 25, around 1919.A photo of Arta Lockridge Nottingham Chappius when she was about 25, around 1919."Arta, you are the spirit of eternal youth," her husband told her, even as she aged. Indeed, she remained a youthful spirit until her death on December 30, 1980. Arta lived in our world for 86 years and touched many; left her mark. Arta was occasionally disappointed to find that human beings were not all they should be. But she had great compassion and understanding of human weakness, so she accepted. She never embraced any particular church doctrine, yet she had a deep faith – in God and mankind. Although she did attend formal church services, she also held a broader view, as shown in her poem:

I Go To Church

I have a window and a tree,
These typify a church to me.
For birds sail by on silver wing;
Sit in the tree at dawn and sing,
And dipped in twilight's eerie rose
They swing as day draws to a close.
And even when the stars are lit,
There in the tree they often sit,
Saying, I sometimes think, to me:
"Be of good cheer, God made this tree;
Taught us with joyous note to sing,
Though skies are gray, winter and spring,"
If He who is king of all
Watches and notes a sparrow's fall,
He will not think less of me
If for a church I choose a tree.

If it appears I am trying to paint a picture of a "saint", I do not intend to. If you're seeing a picture of one just "a cut above," that is my intent. Arta was not a saint; just a wonderful human being – with a sense of humor and an occasional flare of temper.

Arta enjoyed practical jokes. Once while shopping with her sister Ruth, they stopped into a ladies' room. Arta picked up her sister's handbag and put it over her arm with her own. Ruth could not recall where she left her handbag, so finally they continued on their way, Arta carrying both handbags. They were well on their way again before Ruth discovered Arta's "trick."

On another occasion, an aunt of Arta's came to Ohio for a visit from Virginia. They went shopping and out to lunch. Arta ordered Limburger cheese sandwiches for both. I am told there is a secret to eating Limburger – a secret to which Arta was privy, but which she failed to share with the aunt. I am told that if one inhales or exhales at the appropriate time while eating Limburger, one can consume the nasty smelling stuff with a minimum of displeasure. The poor aunt, not knowing this, took a bite, then sat as though paralyzed, with mouth half–opened, shocked – to Arta's delight. No, Arta was no saint, and on practical joke days, perhaps not even "a cut above." I can accept that, she was just another human being delighted with life and having fun.

Arta was born in Pocahontas County, West Virginia on September 29, 1894 of impressive lineage. She became a member of the D.A.R., but never flaunted her heritage. Please allow me to do a bit of flaunting on her behalf. Her maternal great, great, great, great, great–grandfather was Squire Kincaid. Squire Kincaid donated the land for the Rocky Spring Presbyterian Church in Goshen, Virginia which was established in 1746. Squire Kincaid's daughter Isabelle married James Lockridge. They were the parents of Andrew Lockridge, who was Arta's great, great, great–grandfather. Captain (later Major) Andrew Lockridge fought in the Battle of Point Pleasant, October 10, 1774. This battle was later recognized as the first battle of the Revolutionary War (in 1908 when the U.S. Senate passed a bill in that regard). The name of Captain Andrew Lockridge appears on the monument erected at Tu–Endie–Wei Park at Point Pleasant, West Virginia. Colonel Charles Lewis was mortally wounded during the first shots fired and died about noon that day. He was replaced by Andrew Lockridge, who was familiar with the territory, having previously scouted for the Virginia government. And Major Andrew Lockridge had command of the outpost, Fort Dinwiddie.

Arta also descended from Adam Nottingham, her paternal grandfather. Adam Nottingham was once sheriff of Pocahontas County and was a member of the House of Delegates in Richmond. It was he who introduced the legislation which resulted in the Staunton–Parkersburg turnpike. And was the subject of Arta's poem:


My grandfather loved each stick and stone,
Upon the lands he called his own.
The little paths leading up the hill,
And the wooded land, where the whippoorwill
Called, as twilight mauve and grey,
Dropped a mantle at close of day.

The little stream, quick–silver bright,
that sang a song by day and night
And the house, how many tales it told,
Up to the day when he was old,
And looked his last on the fields of green,
The fairest land he had ever seen.

My grandfather sleeps upon the hill,
But he watches the woodland and meadow still.
It is his breath that stirs the wheat,
So if you watch you will see his light,
As he roams the hills, in the dark of night.

Arta's father was Robert Lee Nottingham who was also born in Pocahontas County, West Virginia. He once owned a grocery about 150 yards from their home. Arta may have inherited her enjoyment of the practical joke from her father, who at the railroad station one time told the crowd, "You'll all have to get back now; we're going to turn the train around." No one recognized the joke of it and he enjoyed watching everyone scatter!

Stephen Lockridge was Arta's maternal grandfather. He served well in the Confederate Army, but brought home the deadly gift of tuberculosis. His daughter, Alberta (called Bertie) Nottingham contracted it. Bertie was Arta's mother. At age 16, Bertie had taught school. She was also an avid reader. Before Arta entered school, Bertie taught her to read and write and had instilled in Arta the love and appreciation of the English language. When Arta's mother was so ill with tuberculosis, Arta would sit with her out on the verandah and would also carry water to her in her child's play pitcher. When Arta was only six years old, death claimed her mother. Arta was then sent on a round of visitation with various Lockridge relatives – not a good thing at a time when a child needs stability and consistency. Perhaps that is one reason Arta grew to be so quietly independent. Arta's father described her as a "gentle little girl" and indeed she was a favorite niece to more than one. Arta poignantly remembered Bertie in the poem


Just an old fashioned picture
in a little gray frame,
But you mean more to me than
fortune or fame,
others are grim,
And I see your sweetness with
eyes that are dim.
Just an old–fashioned maiden
with old–fashioned grace,
You pose for this picture
which now fills your place–
And you could not guess then, how
sweet you would seem,
To us who remember you now as
a dream.

Arta left Pocahontas County in approximately 1916 to become a nursing student at White Cross Hospital in Columbus, Ohio. She became a registered nurse, competent and conscientious. Doctors would ask specifically for Arta to care for their patients and their own family members. Her expertise did not earn her an easy way of it though. She worked twelve hours a day – seven days a week – for $25. That works out to thirty cents an hour! Not bad during the depression, I suppose, but she did earn every cent. Arta also displayed a great deal of compassion and understanding in dealing with those entrusted to her care. She wrote of one dear lady:


She watched the shadows on the wall,
This little old lady of mine;
Watched them grow and rise and fall
Or wildly dance or brightly shine.
She didn't notice the fragrant breeze
That drifted across the sill –
That quivered and then grew still.

She didn't hear the lilting song
Of a bird on the great outside.
No, with the changing shadows
She was pleasantly occupied.
The sun hung low in the western sky,
touched the clouds with rose and gold;
The shadows played on the empty wall
And I have no doubt a story told.

For she is beyond the things we see,
I am sure she sees much more.
Perhaps through those shadows flitting there
She glimpses Heaven's door.

Arta probably began writing poetry in the early 1920's. We can not know for certain because Arta was quite closemouthed about her talent in this area. In fact, her husband did not know of her published poetry until quite some time after they were married. She was not secretive necessarily, but rather shy and modest. Her poetry, though, was published and reprinted, and read on various radio programs, including Cincinnati, Ohio WLW–C's "Moon River." Her poems appeared in at least five books between 1929 (Contemporary American Poets printed "Ashes") and 1937 (Christmas Lyrics of 1937 printed "The Chimes"). Arta's poem to the Grand Army of the Republic was printed in "The American Legion Magazine", August, 1949 issue, and was featured in the brochure used for the GAR's 83rd and final encampment in Indianapolis in 1949. The poem bears repeating:


There will be a great encampment
In the land of clouds today.
A mingling and merging
Of the men in blue and gray.
Though on earth they are disbanding,
They are very close and near,
For these brave and honored soldiers
Show no sorrow, shed no tear.
They have lived a life of glory,
History pins their medals high,
Listen to the thunder rolling,
They are marching in the sky!

During World War II, Arta was one of the many left behind (in her case, the husband) went off to war. The separation was agonizing, but she vented some of her pain in a poem one person called "the shortest love story I've ever read":

Just A Hat

Here is his hat, a worn old hat,
But I can see the mood of him,
In the shape of the crown
And the droop of the brim,
Just a hat,
but I see his eyes
Glint with a smile
That his mouth denies,
I see his chin, strong in repose,
And the little dent in the end
Of his nose.
I see these things, but he is away,
And I have only his hat today.

The letters fairly flew back and forth between Arta and her husband, Lt. Comm. (U.S.N.R.) Maurice Kistler Chappius. Her husband, nearly her equal in his command of the English language, poetically described for Arta some of the scenes of war, not all of which were ugly. She included part of one of his letters from North Africa in:

Excerpts From A Letter From Africa

"The wind blows a merry gale down the coast
An orange sun in a dark red sky.
Ships bob and tilt like corks, on the sea,
And another day goes by."

"The arresting beauty of taps at night,
Dancing stars, and a brilliant moon.
Dreams of the quiet lanes at home,
And then the dawn, too soon."

Winging across the blue waves,
Come the thoughts and hopes of homesick men.
May the sea be calm when they return,
May they never go to war again.

After the war, life went on. Arta's husband returned safely, but she was not one to forget the pain of others. For those whose loved ones were not returning, Arta wrote:

Gold Stars

I fashion here a small bouquet for those
who sit alone,
Who cast their all upon a wave, and had
returned a stone.
Pansies for remembrance, for–get–me–nots
and roses,
Upon some fair Elysian plain, the one
you lost reposes.
Brighter fields are his to roam, he will
be young forever.
Remember neither time nor space your
love can sever.
Lillies of the valley for the tears you shed,
Sweet arbutus flower, and poppie gold and red.
Words on a golden tablet small comfort can impart,
And so I send you flowers for the memory
in your heart.

Arta loved Virginia. Among other things, it was the place of her mother's birth (Augusta County). Arta and her husband visited the state each spring and autumn. Both found Virginia to be warm (the people) and relaxing (the atmosphere) and splendidly arrayed (anyone who has seen Virginia needs no parenthetical explanation of this one!).

Arta lived a long and rewarding life; for the most part pleasant. Of course she had her share of suffering, and in the end, she could not be so totally independent. She was fortunate, though to have a completely devoted husband who allowed her independence to the greatest degree possible, but who was by her side to assist whenever assistance was necessary. I am certain she did not want to leave her husband to suffer her loss, and yet her profound understanding of life included the inevitability of death. Her knowledge was simply stated in her poem:

Old Cemetery

The dead sleep in this little plot,
Serene and quiet; by most forgot.
Peace dwells here, the stream of life
Has ceased to flow –
Peace of which the living do not know.

Arta, I salute you, and I thank you.

Editor's Note... For those of you who enjoyed the poetry of Arta Nottingham Chappius, please read on. Mr. Chappius has published a lot of Arta's poetry in three small volumes. He would like to share them with anyone who wishes to write to him and request them, at no charge. Address your requests to: Maurice K. Chappius, 262 West Henderson Road, Columbus, OH 43214.
The poetry is as vibrant, alive, full of beautiful thoughts and observations as Arta must have been. The majority of us never had a chance to meet her, but reading her poetry is like making a new friend. Thank you Mr. Chappius for your generousity in sharing Arta's poetry with us and our readers, and thank you Paula Kerns for introducing Arta to our world.

Author's Note... There are some folks who feel "guilty" about taking something for nothing. If there are those who want the books, but want to give something in return, then my suggestion would be a donation to The Laurel Foundation in honor of Arta's wonderful work.