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They trace their lineage to the 17th century

The old trees that surround Fishing Creek Presbyterian Church shadowed the faces of the women who were celebrating the lives of their forefathers -- the ones who came to North America and became a part of the people who populated the 13 colonies before the 1700s.

A soft breeze rumpled some of the gray-haired ladies, but their youthful smiles let everyone know that this assemblage was one of importance, because it was here the Colonial Dames of the XVII Century would gather and talk about some of the ancestors who helped form their personalities and the type of lives they have led.

One great-grandfather was remembered for the way he swallowed words and raced through the blessing three times a day for more years than it was possible to recall.

Finally, someone summoned to mind the very words that he muttered, and the blessing was recited as it was meant to be.

Mary Ann Hoffman of Rock Hill, a gentle woman, smiled happily as she remembered the legends of her grandfather and then launched into the prayer that opened the meeting. At the end, she remembered a poem learned in childhood, brought to mind by the magnificence of that bright October Saturday, written around 1899 by Helen Hunt Jackson.

O suns and skies and clouds of June

And flowers of June together

Ye cannot rival for one hour

October's bright blue weather

Then, serious voices joined in saying the Pledge of Allegiance, each word enunciated with care, for it is a pledge that is taken very seriously. The women consider it to be a covenant between the speaker and the promise.

The Oath of the Dames was then said, and that piece of marvelous writing made it clear that rules of this nation are to be followed and the tenants of our government honored.

The beautiful day, the sincerity of citizenship and the marvelous history that everyone was a part of was no less than thrilling: a moment of pride for those women whose ancestors gave so much to make this day possible for those who were to follow.

Everyone walked leisurely into the little church, were seated and treated to a PowerPoint presentation of the church and its rich history by Gail Carpenter of Chester. She moved through its story with ease, showing pictures of what a brush arbor looked like and then on to old photographs of the building and the surrounding land. She told about things and people, memories of wars, fires and stringent preachers. She spoke at length about the Rev. James Hodge Saye, whose family still attends some Sunday services. It was the church that guided Mary Saye Gaston for a little more than a hundred years. She met Porter there, whom she married, and it was there that all of their children were baptized and raised.

Fishing Creek was the religious home to the Rev. Wilson Busick and his wife, Jessie, who have brought so much pleasure to so many of us.

That bright sky was simply a backdrop that added to the pleasure we all enjoyed as we listened to women, from New England to the deep South, talk about the rewards of friendship and sisterhood in an organization that treasures the history of our land and its citizens. Women who are proud of their birthrights and delighted to share stories of families that contributed to their personal history and the events that brighten their lives.

At the end of the program, Gail called out the names that are proudly engraved in the legend of the old cemetery. Names that many of us recognize, names that came down that Great Wagon Road and built indelible memories in the story of Chester County: Hicklin, Neely, Saye, Simpson, Poag, Gill, Gaston, Drennan, Millen, Kelsey, Reid, Porter and many more. Names that stood the test of time, names of people who made huge financial, social and physical contributions to our religious and political freedom.

Indeed, October's bright blue sky made that Saturday more beautiful.

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