Suddenly a memory pops into your head. It isn’t a smell or an image provoking it, it is just a thought. A thought popping up much like those annoying ads on websites you go to. The site loads and up pops this little box trying to force you to sign up for something. This has been happening to me a lot lately. My sister’s face comes up in dreams and in thoughts. Yesterday it was my sister and my dad. Last week it was my grandmother on my mother’s side. They are bringing with them remembrances that are sweet and make me smile. With it comes a huge ache in my chest. I miss them all.
I think it is because in researching my ancestry I have made some very interesting and exciting discoveries that I would love to share with them and I can’t. It seems those around me are not as excited about the pieces of treasure I have uncovered. I want to call my sister and tell her what I found. I want to call my dad and share with him the stories that I have read. I would love to sit down with my grandmother and share with her the history of her family. I wonder if she knew that her family founded the very town she raised her children in. Both my mother and my aunt had no idea so I believe she did not. What a shame to not know how your family staked a claim that future generations would call home.
I learned that three men, a father and two sons, set out from Tennessee to go West. The father, William Murphy, was from Richmond, Virginia and was a Baptist minister. He and his family had settled in Tennessee after the Revolutionary War for a short time. The three men decided go a little to the south-west into what was known as the Louisiana Territory. They were adventurous to be heading into the unknown. Reports say this was in the year 1798, which means the territory was under Spanish control, having been previously owned by France some 35 years before. The men arrived in what was known as Ste. Genevieve (Upper Louisiana) or later to be known as the south-eastern part of Missouri.
While everyone in the area was french and said to be very hospitable, no one spoke English. They had to send out for a man who could interpret for them. The man took them to his home and spent the rest of the night telling them about the area and where the good land was. The next day with the assistance of an indian guide each of the men found land to claim. They filed their claims and the land was granted by Spain. They headed back to Tennessee to retrieve their families, however the father did not make it home. They had stopped at his son’s house in Kentucky and it is told he died there. The brothers did however make it back to Tennessee and soon started back to their claims along with another brother who would work their father’s claim. Later their mother, a woman named Sarah Barton Murphy, followed with the remaining family.
Sarah was a woman of faith. And fearless it seems. She took her remaining household on a trip in a keel boat that began on the Holston River, to the mouth of the Ohio River and eventually up the Mississippi River using ropes and poles. She and her traveling companions managed to pass in the night the areas inhabited by hostile indians. They stayed close to the bank during the day for some concealment. At the end of the trip on the river they walked another 28 miles over land to the final destination. It is calculated they traveled over 1000 miles and when they arrived, those greeting the party gave them a standing ovation. They arrived June 12, 1802.*
Even though France took back the Louisiana Territory in 1800, it was done in secret, so it was still under the Spanish law until 1803. During the time of Spanish rule, it was against the law to worship God as a Protestant. So those who had lived there spent many years without corporate worship or fellowship. That did not seem to stop Sarah. Being a Christians lady, she would not have the men doing such things as fishing on the Lord’s day so she began a bible study. The first one west of the Mississippi. There is a monument to her today in the town of Farmington, Missouri to attest to the fact.
“On this spot the first Sunday School west of the Mississippi River was organized and taught by Sarah Barton Murphy in the year 1805 in the Old Log Meeting House, which was the first Protestant Church west of the Mississippi.”
I have spent some time reading and re-reading the accounts of this family. The family who worked the land and created what was known as the Murphy Settlement. And then later called Farmington, Missouri. There are many more stories I want to explore and search out. But just gaining this knowledge has inspired me. It has given me encouragement that each one of us has an opportunity to stake a claim for our family. We may not head out into unknown lands or have to travel under dangerous conditions to get there. Maybe it is staking a claim for the Lord. A claim to His promises to bless those who serve and honor Him.
I made such a claim years ago when I came to know the Lord Jesus as my Savior. I wanted to raise my children in the ‘nurture and admonition’ of the Lord. My desire was to make a change in the way my family had lived. It now seems my family had grown away from the Lord in the generations since the Murphy’s. While it is exciting to learn of the Christian heritage I have, I did not learn of it until about 7 or 8 years ago. I had already made the claim years before when my life was falling apart around me and I turned to God for help. The heartache and destruction of alcoholism and drug addiction had been passed down in my family but can not be sure of who it started with or when. I take comfort in knowing that there may have been one, two or more Christian men and women praying for their descendents. And those prayers found me when the bottom fell out of my life.
Finding Jesus and learning more about Him literally saved my life. It impacted my life in such a way that it changed the lives of those around me. My children know God, my father came to know God, my 1st husband came to know God and now my grandchildren are learning of God. Like finding an ancestor that made a difference in their time, changing the course of the lives around them by pointing them to Jesus. What a treasure to have knowledge of this. I know our focus should not always be on the past. I know God is wanting us to keep our eyes focused on Him in any and all endeavors. So I praise Him for showing me these new things. How good of Him to reveal the little details of our past weaved together for His glory!
God has been speaking to me about serving in the moment. Not waiting for an event, or planning a program or praying about it….He wants me fully engaged NOW! Moment by moment being Christ to the world. Serving Christ in my church daily not just on Sunday. In my workplace, in my home and even in my commute. But most importantly serving Him in my relationships.
As I get older I am understanding more the loneliness of age. When we are young, we set out to connect with others in the world. Our lives are weaved with relationships that either bring a balance to our lives or ones that knock us off course. While we alone choose the people we keep in our life there are times when we have no choice whatsoever on who is in and who is out. We can try to keep some in but if they want to leave we have to let them go. We can try to leave some but they won’t let us. As we get older the relationships seem to thin out. People die or move away. Our kids grow up and have their own lives to attend to. Those connections I have to my childhood are getting fewer and fewer each year. Maybe that is why Facebook is such a novelty to some of us. It has allowed us to reach back to the years through friends and acquaintances we had during that time. I think in some ways it validates a time stamp. “See, we were there.” “I lived there.” “I was connected there.”
I believe the desire to search out the stories of my ancestors is perhaps a tug of my heart to find a connection to destiny. Or maybe it is the words of my great-grandparents prayers they offered up to God, to Jesus that someday their descendants would see that they were there. That they lived and they served Him. That we would be connected to the very same God they were connected to. That their worship and service was not in vain. I want to know that too as I offer up prayers of my own.
The thought overwhelms me that the Murphy’s looked at the same moon & stars, warmed their faces under the same sun and kneeled to the same Lord of Lord and King of Kings and some day when I am present with the Lord I pray my great-grandchildren will do the same!