As I often do these days, I revisit my hometown of Clarksville, sometimes just to drive through it and occasionally to attend a specific event.
Though many of the buildings and older homes have disappeared, some of the significant landmarks remain.
The Clarksville United Methodist Church still stands in the same spot where it was first constructed 175 years ago. As a teenager, it was the center of many community functions.
The church recently had a service celebrating its 175th anniversary. I attended with my wife and sister, and though the crowd was not huge, I saw a number of old friends and acquaintances.
Like the church, we have all aged. As I sat in the pews, I learned that the church’s 14, now very antique, stained glass windows cost $300 in 1842. Based on their current value, the church is surely the most expensive structure in Clarksville.
The church pews have likewise been in their same location since the church’s opening, although padding has thankfully been added. I looked at the pew I normally sat in as a kid (there was no evidence of scorching from lightning strikes), and where I listened to the sermons of John DeYoung.
Recalling the many faces of those who always sat nearby was ingrained in my memory. Names like Wills, Hollingsworth, McVey, Schwamberger, Carlson, and Werner were just a few of the stalwarts that had their favorite spot.
The pews had the normal nicks, scratches, chips and cracks one might expect to occur over their lifetime of exposure to people. I wondered about the “who and how” of each imperfection and the story each might have told.
One scratch might have been inflicted by a man’s cuff links in 1865, another by a toddler in 1960 playing with a key. Other marks might have happened during a wedding over a hundred years ago or maybe during a Christmas Cantata last year.
If only those imperfections could talk, we might have a complete running history of the church and even of Clarksville itself.
All we really know is that each mark, scratch and nick is evidence that the church has served its community as a place of worship, as a place for weddings, baptisms, funerals, Cantatas, Vacation Bible School, choir practice, Twilight Workers, Clarksville Men’s Club, Cub Scouts, Boy Scout Troop 155, Girl Scouts, and hundreds of other civic and religious meetings and events.
Clarksville has changed a lot since I roamed the back alleys with Marion, Steve, Farrell, Mike, and many others. The school is barely recognizable. The old water plant looks like a scene from a horror movie. The baseball field is grown over and the “Slab” is just that. Even the alleys have disappeared from active use, as have the outhouses that used to dot the village.
We often played Wiffle ball in my back yard across from the church well after dark, thanks to flood lights strung up by my dad. Sometimes there were 10 to 15 kids playing, oblivious to the neighbors’ flowers being trampled while chasing a fly ball.
Clarksville was bordered by two creeks, both of which offered ample opportunity to drown. Fortunately, no one did, although diving off the old No. 8 bridge, or swimming behind Wofter’s or falling through the winter ice did lead to the occasional bruises, sutures or frozen feet.
To this day, I remember Dr. Kraeling warning me that I could lose my toes after being frozen so often. My mother’s reaction to my dilemma was less kind.
Like those church pews, we all show signs of being nicked, scratched and chipped from exposure to humans. We call it life experiences, or growing up, or the source of wisdom.
Likewise, we have all “trampled on someone’s flowers” when we were younger. For my part, I apologize to the Harveys, the Corwins, McVeys, Stanfields, Byrnes, and the many others.
Growing up in Clarksville was not without its drawbacks, but attending the Methodist church while there made our imperfections more tolerable and less noticeable.
And I suspect that John DeYoung’s sermons about forgiveness also kept us from getting killed after trampling all those flowers.
Dennis Mattingly is a resident of Sabina.