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HISTORY OF THE TABERNACLE

The Tabernacle

At Waldrop Cemetery

 

It is unfortunate that a history of the tabernacle was not written while some of those who were there at the time could answer our questions.  But that didn’t happen so now we must rely on those who can remember something about those days.  Those who contributed from their memory of events were Lloyd Woods, Clarence (Bill) Brooks, Lorene Gentry and Margarette Young.

 

It is believed that construction of the Tabernacle was begun in 1928.  Some of the leaders in the community got together and agreed a building was needed at the cemetery in which to conduct funeral services and also for other functions.  We don’t know how it was decided on the size or design of the building or who drew the plans.

           

We do know that some money was collected and lumber bought to begin construction.  The men of the community joined together, donating their labor, to get the building erected.  Margarette Young sat down with Bill Brooks and made a list of all the men Bill could remember being involved in the actual construction of the tabernacle.  Those men were:

 

 

 

Andrew Abernathy                Grady Dunn               Clay Waldrop

Alton Belew                           Bob Gentry                Gray Waldrop

Edward Belew                        Ed Gentry                  Ray Waldrop, Sr.

Elmer Belew                          Turner Gentry           Willy Williams           

Josh Belew                             Will Gentry                Arthur Woods

Jess Brooks                            Mortie Holland          James A. Woods

Scott Brooks                          Dennis Jones              Jim L. Woods

Roy Brown                             L. D. Mangham          Thomas Seth Woods

R. D. Browning                      Harvey Twomey

 

It is possible there were other men involved that are not listed.  At this point, there is no way to know who they were.

 

The building was started and then apparently the money ran out and work was suspended for a time.  At that point the roof was on, supported by the walls and the same posts that are there now.  Openings were left for the doors and windows but none were installed at that time.  We don’t know when the building was completed, but we think it was within the next 3 or 4 years.  The building today, except for a composition roof being added, is as it was when constructed.  In 1991, it was decided that the tabernacle needed a new coat of paint and several were on hand to help with this project.

In the early days, almost all the families of the community were farmers.  The second Tuesday in July was selected as the time for everyone to bring their tools and come to the cemetery for a day of cleaning the graveyard and the grounds surrounding it, and for making any needed repairs.  Then a covered dish lunch that the women had prepared would be shared, probably called “dinner on the ground” as we refer to it today.  This day was chosen for it was at a time when the crops were in and “laid by”.  That meant no more working of the crops until harvest time so it was a slack time of year for the farmers.  This annual day was widely known as the “Graveyard Working” and many people still call it that today. 

 

Back then the tables for spreading the food for lunch were located in a line along the north fence.  There was a space of several feet between the tables and the fence, allowing folks access to both sides of the tables.  It is estimated that sometime around 1940 the tables were moved over under the trees where they are now located.

 

In the old days outdoor toilets were provided.  One for the women was located at the northeast corner of the plot and the one for the men was located at the southeast corner near the county road.  These were hard to keep in good repair, free of wasps, spiders and snakes and were generally unsuitable so they were finally abandoned and removed.   Now several Port-A-Cans are brought in for the Annual Day.

 

By the end of World War II, most of the farmers were gone from the farms and working jobs during the week as were some of the women;  therefore, attendance on Tuesdays became very difficult for those holding jobs away from home.  It was decided by the late 1950’s that it would be necessary to change the day of the Graveyard Working to Sunday.  And instead of a working day, it became a reunion of friends and family. 

 

To take the place of the “working” in the cemetery, it became necessary to hire someone to tend it.  For years, L. D. Mangham and later, Virgil Emmons, worked the cemetery.   Some can remember when Mr. L. D. would use only a hoe.    As there were no operating funds to pay the caretaker, the people of the community began donating funds to pay for the upkeep and repairs.  Trustees would go through the crowd and solicit donations.   

At the time the change to Sundays was being made, the trustees had set up a ballot box where families could vote and at the same time ask them for a donation to the cemetery upkeep.    Thus, began the tradition of having someone from the cemetery committee at a collection place for people to make their annual donations.  The trustees then built the small building we have now that is used for the collection of donations.

 

Other ways that families contribute to the cemetery is by special donations in lieu of flowers when a family member has passed away.

 

In 1998, it was voted to change the Annual Day, as many call it now, from the second Sunday in July to the last Sunday in September when the weather is likely to be a little more pleasant.  So in 2000, the Annual Day was held for the first time on the last Sunday in September.

 

Many would like to go back to those days when the concession stand did a thriving business of selling ice cream, soda water and cracker jacks, when the old Tabernacle rocked with the voices of the Sacred Harp singers,  when there were wagons with teams down by the woods and those wagons were pulled on narrow dirt roads, and when  water was hauled in barrels for the needs of the families attending.

 

What we have to ask ourselves is do we really want to go back to those days or just enjoy listening to the folklore about those days gone by.  As some of us get farther out from the old ways, we would find it a real challenge and have a hard time on our hands to go back to the way it use to be;  we find more pleasure in just talking about the good old days. 

 

Meanwhile, at least once a year, we gather there on those sacred grounds to reminisce and recall those wonderful memories of the past and of our loved ones who shaped us and taught us invaluable lessons of life, our roots, our culture and heritage. 
 
Written by Delores Washburn