Monday, July 16, 2007


(Photo right: Part of today's crowd at the Pike/Folsom Family reunion. Shelba stands on the end of the front row left in white pants. Her husband Ken, in pale yellow shirt, stands behind her. Photo by V Jon Nivens.)

(Photo left: Grandma Brown's birthday celebration, July 1918.)

It's been two weeks since Ken and I went to the annual reunion of his maternal grandmother's branch of the family. During this time, we have looked again and again at the pictures from the reunion, and still have trouble figuring out who belongs with whom. That's probably to be expected, though, since over 200 people come, and we see most of them only once a year.

The annual gathering began around 90 years ago with Ken's great-great grandmother's 82nd birthday party. Although she died three years later, the celebration continued. Today, people gather from across the country for the two-day event now known as the Pike/Folsom Family Reunion.

"Grandma Brown" (Jemima Adaline Pike) was born on July 10, 1836 in Heard County, Ga. to William T. Pike, Sr. and Bethenia Reeves Pike. She maried Hillary H. Brown, who was born in 1830 to George Brown and wife Keziah.

By 1850 Jemima Adaline and Hillary were living in Randolph County in East Alabama. Sometime before the Civil War they built a home near Roanoke at a place called Rock Mills. This is where they raised their three children. Or rather, it's where Jemima Adaline raised them. Hillary was killed in the Civil War when their youngest child, Bethany Talitha, was less than two years old. He died in Elmira, New York December 13, 1864 and was buried in the Woodland National Cemetery.

Bethany Talitha married John Franklin Folsom, son of Floyd Fretwell Folsom and Elizabeth Mary Sanders Folsom. Floyd Fretwell, son of Rachel and Benjamin Folsom, was also in the Civil War. Bethany and John lived with her mother, Jemima Adaline, in the Brown home and they, too, raised their children in this house. Later, Floyd, a son of Bethany and John, made his home here. Thus, the place became known as Uncle Floyd's house.

For many years family reunions were held at Uncle Floyd's house. Today the house stands vacant and is in need of repairs. Reunions are now held across the hollow at another old family homeplace.

Children of Bethany and John Folsom also included Ken's grandmother Jemima, who married Elra Kendrick of Shelby County in Central Alabama. Ken recalls many trips across the mountains and streams (many times crossing Coosa River on a ferry) as a child, to visit the people at the old homeplace in East Alabama. He has many fond memories of family reunions at the old Brown/Folsom homeplace, where he climbed a chinaberry tree near the long dinner table so he could see all the dishes of delicious fried chicken, homegrown vegetables and desserts and point out to his mother what he wanted to eat. The first time I went to one of these gatherings it was at this house the summer before Ken and I married.

The place where we meet now was once the homeplace of one of John and Bethany's children. One of their grandsons, a veteran of the Viet Nam War, owns the place and has made renovations and additions to accommodate the many friends and family members who visit. Each summer before the reunion, he mows several acres of grass, making room for camping, parking, games, tables and chairs.

Family members bring guitars and sound equipment for "pickin' and grinnin'" sessions on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. One cousin who owns a recording studio, and writes and sings his own songs, composes songs commemorating the lives of deceased family members and past reunions. He makes DVDs of music and photos of ancestors and past reunions for people to watch on TV while sitting inside to cool off. And they can thumb through picture albums that other people bring to share.

The little kids and teenagers seem to enjoy the reunions as much as the older folk do. They ride horses, wade in the branch, go on treasure hunts, join the singing, play softball and horseshoes and romp in the weathered barn.

The day of the reunion always seems to be the hottest of the summer. As we sit on the long front porch or under a century-old tree fanning ourselves, we think and maybe even voice aloud, "I don't think I can do this another year."

But the next summer, as July rolls around, we think about all the hugs and smiles, good country cooking and music, and the folks who may not be around to make it to the reunion next year. So we cook, pack lawn chairs, guitars, cameras, photo albums and food in ice chests and hampers, and head out again. In the long run, we know it's worth it.

I just wish I had remembered this while my children were growing up, and taken them to Pike/Folsom Family reunions.


Jerry said...

I loved your comments. My Grandmother was a Pike and I have Folsom grand mother (several generations back on my mom's side). Your comments really brought back memories. I would like to join you on your family reunions. We live in Utah now and it is really difficult to get back there. We are trying to go on a family reunion tour starting in Louisiana ending in North Carolina.

Again, Thanks

Jerry Cranford

shelba Nivens said...

Thanks for the comment, Jerry. It's good to hear from you. The Pike/Folsom Family Reunion is held on the first Sunday of each July in Roanoke, Alabama. We usually have people there from several states. Are your Pike and Folsom ancestors the ones from the Roanoke, Alabama area? Have you ever lived back here? If so, I guess you are familar with this area. We live in Shelby County and usually just drive over early on Sunday and come home in the afternoon. I hope youall can come this year. If I can be of help, let me know. Shelba