A Visitation by Sarah Faires Speak (1786 -1865)
Lola-Margaret Speak Hall as Sarah
Introduction by Roberta Estes
Lola-Margaret Speak Hall is the great-great-great-(great-)granddaughter of Sarah Faires Speak, wife of Nicholas Speak through their son Samuel Patton Speak and their great-great-great granddaughter through their daughter Rebecca Speak. Lola-Margaret’s ancestors, Joseph Hardy Speak, great-grandson of Nicholas and Sarah Faires Speak through Samuel Patton Speak’s son William Hardy Speak and Frances Rebecca Rosenbaum through William Henderson Rosenbaum and Rebecca Speak, daughter of Nicholas and Sarah, are shown in the photo below.
Nicholas and Sarah Faires Speak married in Southwest Virginia in Washington County on August 12, 1804. Their first 9 children were born there.
In 1823 they moved to Lee County, Virginia, purchased land and settled down to a life of farming. In 1828, Nicholas Speak founded the Methodist Church, now known at the Speaks Chapel Methodist Church, built the church and in 1839 donated the land and church to trustees to maintain the church after his death. One of those trustees was his son, Charles.
Sometime between their marriage in 1804 and 1828, Nicholas and Sarah had converted from being Presbyterian to Methodist. There is a record of Bishop Asbury visiting Sarah’s father’s home in Washington County, Gideon Faires, so that may have signaled the beginning of the Methodist conversion of the Speak(s) family.
I also descend from Nicholas and Sarah Faires Speak, being their great-great-great-granddaughter through their eldest son, Charles. His daughter Elizabeth married Samuel Clarkson/Claxton about 1849. Samuel fought for the Union in the Civil War. Samuel and Elizabeth are shown here, he dressed in his military uniform.
This means that Lola-Margaret and I are both 4th cousins, and 4th cousins once removed. She has a double dose of the Speak DNA. This explains why Lola-Margaret and I match on autosomal DNA tests while other cousins, about as distant, don’t. Lola-Margaret really isn’t that distant, she’s about half that distant, genetically. Endogamy, or intermarriage will make people appear to be more closely related generationally than they actually are and even one intermarriage can make a big difference. We find this repeatedly in groups like the Mennonites, Amish, Acadians and Jewish families, and of course, we find it in Appalachia too.
Lola-Margaret isn’t just any cousin, however. She is a very special one, and I’m sure greatly endeared to her great-great-great-(great-)grandmother, Sarah Faires Speak, who looks down upon her regularly, showering her with special blessings. Why is Lola-Margaret special? Lola-Margaret lived in Sarah’s skin, walked in her shoes, retraced her steps, visited her land, her church and her grave…..for a year….in preparation to become Sarah Faires Speak. And become her she did.
On October 10th, 2009, as all of us cousins gathered at the little white church at the crossroads of Pleasant View and Speaks Branch roads in Lee County, Virginia, Sarah Faires Speak visited us.
Sarah entered from the back of the church, greeting all of her descendants just as she had greeted her children, grandchildren and neighbors when she and Nicholas held church every Sunday morning more than 159 years ago, except when the entire church went to camp meetings in the summer. She made her way to the front and settled in her rocker.
Sarah opened her well worn Bible and leafed through it, recanting the details of her life as each entry brought forth memories…some cherished, such as her marriage, jubilation at the birth of her children and their marriages, and then of course, the grief and sadness that comes with death, especially her cherished husband, Nicholas, who died in 1852, 13 years before her own “passing over.” She saw too many of her own children and grandchildren die untimely deaths.
Lola-Margaret, as Sarah, shared Sarah’s life with us at the Speaks Chapel Methodist church on a beautiful, crisp, fall morning.
Sarah and Nicholas were with us. We could all feel them. They were no longer in the cemetery across the road where our ancestors are buried with their families, settled comfortably around them under the field stones that serve as headstones, they were with us, beside us, in the little white church on Speaks Branch road.
So come on in, sit a spell by me in the pew and share a few sacred minutes as Sarah Faires Speak touches us from across the years and shares her memories.
Listen closely as Sarah speaks from across the years…
My, it is getting so chilly outside. But it sure feels good to be right here on this hallowed ground. It always warms my heart to be right here on Sundays.
It’s nice to have that fire right there in the middle of the room, always burning when we got here. I can’t remember who it was that’s always built that fire, but he must have been a good man.
With winter coming on in these parts, I always seem to feel the loneliest. Seems like Sundays are the hardest. That’s when I miss my Nicholas so.
Sundays were busy days for us, with preaching and all. Oh – my Nicholas was a good man, and those were good years. He’s been gone now 10 – no, I believe its 12 years. One misses a really good man!
There were so many good times here at this little church. Of course, hearing the preaching of God’s word was the most important. And Nicholas Speak could do that like nobody else I ever heard!
And then, oh my, those dinners on the ground. Those are good memories, and one must learn to dwell on the good memories.
There was a lot of kin folks living in this area, and the kids always had such a good time playing with their cousins after services were over.
Our cabin, it’s just up the road a ways in that direction. Nicholas built that cabin for us and our 9 children when we settled here in Lee County in 1823.
We only had 9 then. They were all born in Washington County. Frances Jane and Rebecca, they were born right there in that cabin. Oh my the tales those old logs could tell!
The years of laughter as 11 children played on those floors. Well-10, Charles married the year we left Washington County.
And Sarah Jane, I shouldn’t count her – she was 16, nearly grown, hardly playing on the floor anymore.
Now there’s a whole new crop growing up here. Sarah Jane and James built that house just down that road back behind the church.
But at our cabin now, it’s just me and Fannie, we always called Frances Jane, Fannie. It’s just the two of us to look after everybody now.
Her William Henderson won’t be coming home from this awful war. The union soldiers captured him, horse and equipment, and carried him off to Federal Prison at Camp Douglas, Illinois.
My grandson, Samuel – that’s Samuel Pattons’s son, was captured, too. We got word a couple of months back that the both of them died there in that prison. The Union buried them up there.
My poor Fannie, she never even got to pay her last respects to William.
She’s got another baby coming next month that will never know its father.
And the 2 little boys, William and Alfred, they just don’t understand their Daddy being gone for good.
Then there’s Rebecca’s 4 children with us. Henderson was their Daddy, too. That’s seven children under 10 years old.
You see, Fannie married William Henderson Rosenbaum after her sister Rebecca died. Rebecca was married to him first. My dear, Rebecca. She was my baby. She passed from this life on her 5th wedding anniversary, February 9, 1859. She’d given birth to a little daughter only 5 days before. Our precious little Frances Rebecca. She’s 5 now – almost 6. Reminds me so much of her mother.
Yes, it is a terrible time now. So much going on. Sons and fathers going off to war. This terrible war has even divided our families. Most of the boys right here have joined with the Confederacy.
Our son, Jesse, and his son – they moved on to Kentucky – they fought with the Union. We don’t hear much from them since they left Lee County, but we did get word they were both wounded two times. I do hope they are all right. It tears a mother’s heart out, but still a mother loves them, whatever side they choose to fight on.
All this war and turmoil. The Union troops burned the courthouse at Jonesville. Earlier this year President Lincoln was shot and killed. You wonder just how long this can go on. It seems to me I’ve been mourning forever!
But, as I’ve said before, one should dwell on the good things – and the crops have been good this year. Maybe it’s enough to have a roof over our heads and plenty to eat.
This Lee County soil is rich and gives a good yield. The boys, Samuel, John and James have been so good to me. They helped me get the crops in and sold.
I won’t forget the first one after Nicholas died. He left me with crops in the field! If it hadn’t been for the boys, I don’t know what I would have done. But that is how my Nicholas raised his boys.
One should even be thankful for chilly Sunday mornings. It’s such a good time for recalling memories. A life time of memories. This old Bible holds a lot of memories. I love this old Bible. It belonged to my Grandmother Faires, on my Father’s side. She was of Scots-Irish descent, and quite proud of it. They lived near us where I grew up on the north side of the south fork of the Holston River.
There is a lot of family history recorded here in this Bible. Makes one want to go back over one’s life.
I remember growing up – the stories my Father would tell us – I had 5 brothers and 4 sisters you know – stories about the Revolutionary War. He had served as a private under Col. William Christianson on an expedition to lead a battalion of militia against the “Overhill” Cherokees in East Tennessee. Father said the British called them “Overhill’ because they were 24 mountains away from the lower lands of the Carolina Cherokees.
These Indians were being encouraged by the British to attack the frontier settlements. The Cherokees were a powerful tribe, but Father’s company subdued them on their home ground and forced them to sign the treaty of Long Island in 1777.
He told us stories about the ferocious Indian, “Dragging Canoe,” and about Nancy Ward. She was a wonderful Indian woman who married a white man, and she became a friend to the white settlers. She was a friend to Joseph Martin, an agent for Indian Affairs. Their friendship saved the lives of many white settlers in the lower corner of Virginia.
You see, the land between Rose Hill and Jonesville had been occupied by the Cherokees. Joseph Martin had built the first white settlement near there, so Indian attacks were a great danger. The settlers warred with the Shawnee in 1774 and again with the Cherokee in 1776. It wasn’t far from right here that Captain Vincent Hobbs killed Chief Benge and ended the terrible attacks on the frontiers of Virginia.
Our lower corner of Virginia was very important as an outpost for those preparing expeditions into the Cumberland Gap on their way to explore the West. Daniel Boone camped here many times.
Oh my! I seem to just be going on and on – but, I hope you will humor an old woman!
Here it is! Right here in this old Bible. The record of our marriage. Nicholas Speak to Sarah Faires, August 12, 1804, signed by Reverend Charles Cummings. You remember, we still lived in Washington County then.
I was so proud! My Nicholas was such a handsome man. I was 18 and he was 22.
This Bible was a gift when we were married you know. I’ve had this Bible in church with me every Sunday now for more than 60 years. The pages are thin and worn I’ve turned them so much. Why, I know it almost by heart. The ink is so faded I can hardly read it anymore. My Nicholas wrote every birth and death in the front of our Bible. I remember him sitting by the fireplace with his pen after each of our children was born.
Look, here’s where our first child Charles was born – November 11, 1805.
And here’s where Sarah Jane was born on May 23, 1807. And then came Samuel Patton, on January 29, 1809.
John was next – born January 2, 1812. Grandmother Faires, God rest her soul, died that same year. Joseph came along July 20, 1813.
There was another war going on. That was just known as the War of 1812.
Nicholas was drafted to serve in that war in August 1814. He was a private in the 7th Regiment of Virginia Militia in the Company of Captain Abram Fulkerson and served at Fort Barbour at Norfolk, Virginia.
When he came home 6 months later, we were all greatly relieved, though he had tales to tell of “being sick unto dying” in that war.
Next, came our son, Thomas on November 26, 1816. My father died in 1818, the same year Jane was born.
Two years later in July of 1820, Jesse was born.
Mother died the year after and we buried her beside Father in the old Rock Spring Cemetery behind the old church back in Washington County.
Our youngest son, James, was born June 18, 1822.
Seemed like I’d been pretty busy having babies. But they do grow up, and in February of 1823, our first born, Charles, married his lovely Ann.
Nicholas felt it was time to move on. My parents had passed on, and he moved our family to Lee County where he bought 520 acres on Glades Branch. We have been here ever since.
Oh yes! Here’s where Samuel Patton married Sarah Hardy in 1827.
Nicholas farmed this land with all his boys help, and then on Sunday we’d all come to church. We all loved to hear him proclaim the Word of God. One might say “Nicholas Speak was a tiller of the soil during the week and a tiller of souls on Sunday.” How we loved those dinners on the ground and ice cream suppers in the hot summer time. Nicholas loved this little church. He gave the very ground it’s built upon.
In the summers we’d all get in the wagon and go to the Jonesville Camp Grounds for revivals. People would come for miles around to hear those sermons and join in singing praises to God. Sometimes, if I close my eyes really tight, I can still hear that beautiful singing from so long ago.
Then in 1829, our Sarah married James Bartley and John married Mary Dean.
Next was Joseph’s wedding to Leah Carnes in 1832. I remember how proud Nicholas was to do that ceremony.
He also married Jane to George W. Ball in 1835. I know he was proud to do that one, too, but we sure did hate to see them move off to Kentucky.
Seems like there for awhile we were having weddings as fast as we’d had babies earlier.
Thomas and Mary Polly Ball married in 1837. Then Jesse married his Mary Polly Haynes in December of 1842.
Thomas died in 1843. He and Polly had only been married about 5 years. He was so young. Only 28 years.
The next year, 1844, James married Mary Jane Kelly.
We laid Charles and Joseph to rest, and Jesse moved his family to Kentucky.
Joseph’s widow and her children moved west to Kansas.
Seems like our family was getting smaller as quickly as it had grown.
And then I lost my Nicholas. Can anything be as hard as losing the one you love so dear?
But we had to carry on. My Fannie and Rebecca and me. There was so much to do and to think about. Things I had never handled before. The will – John took care of that. Then there was a land bounty grant that was due to Nicholas for service in the 1812 War. The boys have been such a help to me.
We were all so happy for Rebecca when she married William Henderson Rosenbaum on February 9, 1854. A fine man, he was.
In 1855 John had his own sorrows when his son, Reuben – he was only 21 – died at Martins Creek. Two years later John’s little Margaret passed away. Only 2 sweet year’s old. So little time to love her.
That same year Charles’ granddaughter, she was named Margaret also, died at 11 months old. And 3 years later Jesse’s 2 children, 5 year old Martha, and 1 year old Jesse died with the measles.
Oh, that a mother could spare her children of these sorrows.
Oh my! I have born 11 children – 7 are still living. I have some 75 grandchildren, and it will be 76 when Fannie gives birth. 68 of those grandchildren are still alive. These are my treasures!
You know, really when one comes to the end of a long good life, what does she have to pass on?
Many times I’ve looked around our little cabin. There’s an old clock, a looking glass, some books, an old table, a smoothing iron and a couple of old bells.
But the memories – oh the memories! They will always be there.
There is a time to live and a time to die, and life goes on for those you leave behind. It’s the heritage and those fond old memories that will forever remain.
I want to say a very special thank you to our wonderful cousin, Lola-Margaret Speak Hall for this exceptional gift. Because of you, Lola-Margaret, Sarah lives for all of us today, and through your gift, will continue to live for her future descendants
Index of Photographs
Normally in a article of this type, I label the photographs with titles, footnote them or describe them in the text, but I did not want to detract in any way from the flow of what Sarah Faires Speak had to say to us through Lola-Margaret, or distract from the continuity, so I’ve chosen to describe the photos here in the order they are displayed.
Lola-Margaret Speak Hall as Sarah Faires Speak in the Speaks Chapel United Methodist Church after her presentation on October 10, 2009.
Photo of Joseph Hardy Speak and Frances Rebecca Rosenbaum.
Photo of Elizabeth Speaks and her husband, Charles Claxton/Clarkson.
Photo of Speaks Chapel taken in the mid 1990s by Roberta Estes from across the road in the cemetery. Photograph of Elizabeth Speak with her husband Samuel Clarkson/Claxton. Elizabeth is the grandchild of Nicholas and Sarah Faires Speak through their son Charles and his wife Anne McKee.
Photograph of all of the Speak(e)(s) cousins assembled in the Speaks Chapel Church sanctuary on October 10th before Lola-Margaret’s entrance and before the service. Photograph of Sarah Faires Speak (aka Lola-Margaret) greeting her relatives from across the years as she enters the church.
Photograph of Sarah Faires Speak (Lola-Margaret) with her Bible. Photograph of the road sign outside the Speaks Chapel Church. Photograph of the headstones in the Speaks Cemetery directly across the road from the church. Sarah could see the stones of her family through the window as she spoke to us.
Sarah Faires Speak (Lola-Margaret) in prayer. Painting of the Speaks Chapel Church. Photograph of the Speak cabin believed to be that of Nicholas and Sarah before it was abandoned in the 1960s and subsequently dismantled and rebuilt in the 1980s.
Photographs of the old logs salvaged from the original Speaks Methodist church, reused in the barn of Jewell Davis, also a Speak(s) descendant. Photograph of Sarah Faires Speak (Lola-Margaret) reminiscing from her Bible.
Headstone of Sarah’s grandmother, Deborah Faires, maiden name unknown, wife of William Faires. Deborah was born June 10, 1734 and died March 22, 1812. She is buried in the Green Springs Cemetery in Washington County, Virginia and died at the age of 77 years, 9 months and 12 days. This church was established in 1794, but her stone is one of the oldest with inscribed dates, not just a fieldstone. It’s believed that her husband, William, who died in 1776 is buried at the now defunct Ebbing Springs cemetery. The church perished early, to be replaced by another church in a different location, and later, a farmer pushed the cemetery stones into the creek in order to farm the land.
Headstone marking the graves of Nicholas and Sarah Faires Speak set by their descendants in the 1990s. Sarah Faires Speak (Lola-Margaret) recounting her life. Early drawing of the Cumberland Gap as it would have appeared to early settlers.
Sarah Faires Speak (Lola-Margaret) reading through her children’s births recorded in the Bible. Civil War era drawing of a second fort, fort Norfolk, still in existence today and located in front of Fort Barbour in Norfolk Virginia. Nicholas was stationed at and dismissed from Fort Barbour, located at the present day intersection of Church Street and Princess Anne Road, but he surely was familiar with this fort as well and spent time in both.
The cemetery and church where Sarah’s parents, Sarah McSpadden and Gideon Faires are buried in Washington County, Virginia. The Rock Spring cemetery and church were established in Lodi in 1784. Other family names are found among the early burials as well. The 1824 Lee County, Virginia tax list is shown with Nicholas Speak’s name listed as a landowner.
Early photograph of Speaks Chapel Church taken by Charles Thomas in the late 1910s before the addition of the rear kitchen and bathroom area. The woman in the photo is probably his wife. Charles was the son of Nancy Bartley and Josiah Clemans Thomas. Amazing Grace from the bulletin for our family service at Speaks Chapel on October 10, 2009.
Speak family cemetery showing the family stone with surrounding field stones marking the graves of family members. The Speaks Chapel church bell, now mounted beside the church.
Signature of Nicholas Speak on his War of 1812 bounty land application and the later mark of Sarah Faires Speak. She was apparently unable to read and write, or she was too old and frail to sign her name.
Lola-Margaret Speak Hall outside the door of the Speaks Chapel United Methodist Church on October 10, 2009 in Lee County, Virginia.