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Strawberry Capital of the World: Pittsville, Maryland
John Raymond Sheppard

Image: Rug 4 - Strawberry Capital of the World, Pittsville, Maryland
Strawberry Capital of the World, Pittsville, Maryland (John Raymond Sheppard)
Tell Me ‘Bout Series, 1994-1995.
Dimensions: 62 x 43 inches.
Hooked on twelve-thread-count linen
Views: 800px - 1024px - Zoom

Commentary by Mary Sheppard Burton

I want to "tell you 'bout" your Granddaddy John Raymond Sheppard. He was my Daddy, and I was crazy 'bout him. He was both Mother and Father to me when I was a wee little girl; my mommy was gone.

John Raymond was a beautiful, mischievous little fellow. Only Grandma (Emma Smith Sheppard) called him John Raymond, 'cause he played boyish pranks. Most people called him Raymond. His Daddy, John Gillis Sheppard, and my Grandma had two boys: Chester, the oldest, who was redheaded and freckle-faced, and John Raymond, who was so pretty. He had blond corkscrew curls and big blue eyes. Then there was Anna, who was always accusing the boys of picking on her. They probably were.

Raymond and Chester lived in the little house next door to the Methodist Church. Grandpa had helped to build that church. He built the house, too. Chester and Raymond had the job of ringing the church bell -for that was how everyone in the village knew what time it was. They loved to ring the bell for services, weddings, and funerals too. The bell worked on a rope. When one boy pulled hard, the other boy flew up in the air. When that one came down, the other found himself airborne. This was quite like flying. On occasion, they rang the bell because they just "had to do it." It was great fun until reckoning time.

The "Strawberry Special" was one of the many engines that pulled the "Baltimore, Chesapeake, and Atlantic" cars between Salisbury and Pittsville each day. Across the tracks from Grandma and Grandpa's house was the train station. Every week a lady from the eastern shore of Virginia rode the train a hundred and fifty miles to take a rug hooking lesson from my Grandma.

In this rug she proudly shows the conductor how much progress she's made on her own rug. (History repeats itself.) Down the street you'll find Minas Davis's bank, the barber shop, the milliner's, the packing house and Grandpa's wonderful store. People could enter the front door while the train unloaded dry goods through the back door. Neat, wasn't it?

And the children went to school in the four-room schoolhouse where your Granddaddy stuck a girl's pigtail in his inkwell in his desk. It was hickory stick time around there. In the school yard are pictured five little girl cousins. In small villages everyone knows, and is often related, to everyone else. Beyond the Methodist church is the old cemetery. There, your Great Grandparents, your Grandparents (on my father's side), and all their cousins, my cousins, and some of your second cousins are buried. It is a beautiful peaceful spot. I love to read all the information on the tombstones. The saddest thing is to see all the graves and stones of precious babies. Life was truly hard but love was abundant.

The railroad track was the center of town. Everything was built on one side or the other of the track. Dr. Lawrence Freeny took a mad gallop down Main Street to the end of the train. There the mule had panicked and upset the load of strawberries. The driver was on the ground and Dr. Freeny was frantically trying to mend him.

Now, children, I could (and should) go on and on, but I'll have to tell you 'bout more stories in another rug and on another day. I have many precious stories in my heart and head. Time is fleeting and I want you to know all these treasured things.

Pleasant dreams, Mom

"Footsteps on History: Tell Me 'Bout Series"
Family Portraits by Mary Sheppard Burton. Undated

 

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   May 15, 2015
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