The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Bell Spur Baptizing, 1901

By Imogene Turman © 1984

Issue: May, 1984

Bell Spur Baptising 1901A 1901 baptizing at Bell Spur, near milepost 185 on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Those in the water are: Elder Matt Blancett, his son Willie, Elder Elisha Barnard, Yancy Jessup, Amborn Jessup, Emily Jessup, Mollie Jessup Stanley, Prisalla Jessup Bowman, Ludie Quesenberry & Isabelle Bowman Turman.
(Click on image for larger view.)

The pool is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway on a road leading to Squirrel Spur Mountain and known as Bell Spur. The night before the baptizing in the photograph, a meeting was held at Willie Blancett's home. He was bed ridden with TB; he had a wife and two small children. He called his father to preach and he asked to be baptized. The next day men carried him on a pallet to the baptism.

The people in the photograph were settlers of part of Carroll and Patrick Counties; most were farmers. We can imagine this event as a solemn and serious time, yet it was exciting, especially to the young folks. It was a time for them to get dressed up and go someplace and meet others. They were in their best clothes and on their best behavior.

The young ladies had new hats, while older women wore their black bonnets.

The day began early. They all had chores to do. The irons were heated for last minute pressing. The men hitched up their teams. Some had horses, some mules, and some oxen. Some rode buggies, some rode in wagons and picked up those walking along the way, while some young men rode their saddle horses and felt proud to see the young ladies eyeing them.

The folks met at the church, tied up their teams, exchanged greetings, then all made ready to walk the short distance to the baptizing place. When all had arrived, the song leader began. They sang as they walked the wagon trail through a wooded lane. There was little need for song books. Most knew the songs by memory. They sang these songs as they rocked their babies and as they tilled the fields. But now it was Sunday and the different parts came through - the bass, alto, tenor and lead. The children walked along taking in all of the events. This would burn into their memory as long as they lived.

On this day, after a short walk, the old elder called a halt. Another young man had asked for a home in the church. This was Ambourn Jessup. His wife, brother and two sisters were to be baptized and he wanted to be with them. The folks gathered around and he told his experiences of what the Lord had done for him. He was received into the church by vote. Then the song began again, even more beautiful as the voices rang through the hills, giving God praise.

They arrived at the pool that nature had formed in the shape of a heart and found by a young man growing up in these mountains.

When this area was being cleaned and tended by early settlers, this spot was all in trees and laurels. They needed a spot for a church. A log building was erected. There, members of other churches formed this body. As yet, they had no baptizing spot.

A Smith family lived nearby. One night, one of them, a young man, dreamed he found a place for baptizing. It was a beautiful spot. A small stream ran gently over a rock cliff into a small waterfall. The water was clear. The bottom of the pool had small white rocks and it was shaped like a heart.

The next morning, he told his family about the dream. He couldn't get it off his mind. His father noticed his restlessness so he said, "Son, if it's bothering you so, let's drop our work and we'll go find the place."

They didn't search too long for it seemed the son knew where to go. They came to an ivy and laurel thicket so thick they had to crawl. In the midst was the pond, just like he had dreamed. The land around was all covered with mountain laurel and ivy, but it sloped just right for people to see the baptismal events to take place for many years, even unto this day.

Word spread around the community and men cleaned the area. But the young Smith man had to go away. (Some say to the Civil War.) He was killed and never had the privilege to be baptized in this pool.

In the 1901 baptizing, young Willie Blancett was lead out into the pool, baptized and led back to his pallet, before the others were baptized. He died a short time later.

Today, our modern farming has taken a toll on this beautiful spot. The cleared land washes silt into the pool and a drainage pipe didn't let the silt wash out easily.

The scene of the past is gone but the memories are sweet and the land has profited by the descendants of those in the past who braved life's hard battles and left us a picture of their walks and works.