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The Heritage of Family Land

My Friend Debbie - Family Land

     For as long as I can remember, we have visited my family’s homestead in the southeastern part of Mississippi and spent time taking in the serenity of the rolling stretch of peaceful, countryside, as far as the eye can see. 

     My mother remembers spending Sunday afternoons there as a child, visiting her grandparents. My grandmother was born there and grew up on the land. My grandfather farmed the land and built a home for his family from the timber that grew on the land, that is still standing today and that is still inhabited by my great aunt, who is 96-years old. There is a wood-burning fireplace, butter churn, and pickle jars. The hallway has an antique hope chest full of family heirlooms and photographs. Cast iron skillets are on the stove with warm home-made cornbread and peach cobbler.

     The Dyess Land is about 200 acres of undisturbed natural beauty of long-leaf pines, blooming magnolias, and towering oak trees. The blue-jays, the striking red cardinals and the yellow-hammers all signal their flying friends to stop and pay a visit. The hand-carved, hollowed-out gourds with small holes are nesting shelters for their visits. The weathered wooded fence posts provide a scenic place for their colorful perch. The hummingbirds also sing a melodic tune, while the scuppernongs are a sweet burst of nature’s taste. Rows of corn and rolls of hay bales line the fertile fields. Summer gardens grow vegetables to last all year. 

     Friends and family are always welcome to visit and gather around and sit a while on the wrap-around porch where the gentle, cool breezes blow through the breeze-way. The porch swing on the corner is always full of people sharing pleasant laughter, friendly conversation, and well-wishes. Hope, faith, peace and love are alive and present for all of God’s handiwork—for plentiful rain, for the crops to come in and for all the family members, neighbors and children to be blessed with all God’s goodness in this life and the eternal life to come.

     It is a living testament to the significance of generational blessings—God’s truth and Living Word—passed from generation to generation, to generation, to generation. The land and the people flourish.

     It’s a heritage of family land, about eight miles outside of town in Wayne County, that’s been in our family line since Mississippi became a state about 200 years ago (1817). The Dyess family built the first bridges and schools in the area and cultivated the farm land. Historical markers stand to pay tribute to their historical contributions.   

My Friend Debbie - Family Land

   The land deed from my great-grandfather is framed and hangs on the wall in the hallway and is dated 1889, signed by United States President Grover Cleveland. The land was inherited from his father, my great-great-grandfather. A framed heirloom black and white photograph hangs in the living room of William Christopher Dyess and his wife, Vivian, holding a Bible from Wales, seven generations back—my grandmother’s great-grandparents. I have my own copy of the photo framed in my home to share with my children that my grandmother gave me when she was still alive. 

     There is also a copy of the letter from my great-grandfather, Benjamin Dyess, asking for the hand in marriage of my great-grandmother, Dura Cooper. The letter was written to her father, who gave his permission and blessing. The road sign to the property now reads, “Dura Dyess Lane,” named after my maternal great-grandmother, who also served as the Mayor of the Denim community where the property is located.

     Last weekend, we had the opportunity of visiting my 96-year-old great aunt, Alvis Long, at the Dyess Homestead, on the Dyess Family Land, and enjoying the beauty as we have done many times in the past.

We have many great memories over the years. It is a joy to take my children now and enjoy the same family traditions with them, as those I grew up with. What fun it was to see six of our sons, and daughter gathered on the porch with my husband and father, enjoying the same tradition I have grown up with. 

    Aunt Midge enjoyed our visit. She talked about the Sunday service she had attended that morning and said the sermon that my Dad had preached at the home-coming reunion was a “masterpiece.” She talked about the chicken and dumplings and cornbread dressing, and about all the friends she enjoyed seeing. She asked about each of the children and encouraged them all to learn their studies well, because it was something no one can take away.  We sang a few songs from the hymns that we all recalled from memory regardless of age, part of our family tradition.

     As we sat enjoying the natural beauty of the present world, she reminded us of the reality of a world to come. She confidently pronounced that the most important thing in life was to be ready to see Jesus! 

That, we have determined to do! We have made a declaration for our family like Joshua did, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” 

Author Note:

     For your own family, whether or not you have an earthly inheritance like the one described, you have an eternal inheritance and a rich reward, and you can still, “Commit your ways to the Lord and He will make your ways prosper,” Proverbs 16:3. You can begin to make new legacies and traditions for generations to come and prepare them for the coming of the Lord Jesus.

Copyright © 2008-2015 Debbie Reynolds Harper

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