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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Poetry  |  House: Booksie Classic
The true story of one couple's devotion to each other and their struggle to create something valuable and lasting for their children during the late 19th century.

Submitted: June 25, 2008

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Submitted: June 25, 2008



Until Death Do Us Part
by Wanda Harrell
Written 25 January1998*
“Until death do us part,” were the words William Herrell and Celia Garland said,
On the day after Christmas in 1872, the day that they were wed.
Near Big Rock Creek, beneath the mountain called “The Roan”,
Is where they reared their family and made their home.
They would, in time, own about a thousand acres of land,
But the original tract was bought from Bill’s parents, Jane and Sam.
They worked from before dawn to after dark, with ever so little rest,
To make the Herrell farm, of Mitchell County, one of the very best.
They increased their acreage, by buying adjoining small farms,
While they lived in a log cabin, they built outbuildings; three barns;
A smokehouse, to cure meat, with a dry second floor,
Where the onions, leather britches and dried mountain herbs were stored;
A springhouse where, from the mountain rocks, flowed water cold and sweet,
Into troughs where perishable things were cooled like milk, butter and fresh meat;
And fences, of which some were built of wood and some were fashioned of rock,
To section off areas, for the fields and all of their livestock.
On the sunny side of the mountain, Bill grew crops of rye, oats and wheat,
While Celia grew, in her garden, things like corn, ‘taters, beans and beets.
Bill was recognized by the black, broad-brimmed, hat that he wore,
When he road to town or just down the road to the general store.
Meticulous was he, with the ledger that he dutifully kept,
Recording the barters and the money he saved, made or spent.
Bill wasn’t trusting, where banks were concerned, and ‘twas said,
He kept money in a sock ‘neath the mattress of their old rope bed.
Celia made quilts, from scraps of fabric, to keep her family warm,
When outside there raged wind and snow from a Winter storm.
When she washed their clothes to rid them of stains and dirt,
She scrubbed away on a washboard until her poor hands hurt.
Celia had blue eyes and thick tresses of curly, red hair,
A fair complexion, and a jawline that was square.
Everything was from scratch that Celia had to prepare,
When the large table she laid, with hearty country fare.
It was a big task to keep her family well-fed,
But she did it daily with iron skillets of fried chicken; pones of cornbread;
Country ham with red-eye gravy on biscuits as big as your hand;
Tall jam cakes smothered with apple butter or wild strawberry jam;
Freshly churned butter; wild honey; big pots of beans and ‘taters;
Fried apples; sawmill gravy;and in the summer, fried green tomaters;
The children and grandchildren just loved it when Celia baked,
Their favorite, a big old-fashioned gingerbread cake.
To wash it all down, there was coffee, hot and robust,
Or a glass of cold buttermilk - one or the other was a must.
To obtain security, for themselves and their children, was their goal.
So, Bill and Celia labored each day, with body, heart, mind and soul.
Twenty-five years passed - the farm prospered and their family grew,
When they decided to build a big house, brand spanking new.
It was built to last for years and Herrell generations to come.
“Best built in the county,” was the boast when the work was all done.
They used clapboard of sturdy poplar and wood shingles for their new home.
As a foundation, under each corner of it, they laid stacks of fieldstone.
There was a front porch, where mud and snow could be stomped off boots ‘n shoes,
And older folk could rest a spell, tell tall tales and swap their news.
It had narrow window lights, one on each side of the heavy front door;
A wide hallway, where company could hang the coats that they wore;
A kitchen porch, where the womenfolk could each take their turn,
At dashing fresh cream into butter, in an old wooden churn;
Three chimneys; fireplaces in each room to provide warmth for everyone;
Large windows, through which came light and warm rays from the sun;
A sturdy staircase that led to the rooms on the second floor;
A deep cupboard that held dishes, pottery and canned vegetables galore;
A desk rigged on pulley, where Bill could record transactions of the day,
Then when finished, lift everything up and out of harm’s way;
A cast iron Home Comfort range with chrome trim, all shiny and bright;
Kerosene lamps and lanterns to illuminate the night;
And a meal room where cornmeal and flour were stored in large bins,
There also, were shelves for spices like cloves, nutmeg, ginger and cinnamon.
Neither Bill, nor Celia, was ever known to shirk
From the responsibilities of family or tedious, hard work.
When the grain was thrashed, or there were fields to plow or till,
Celia carried heavy baskets of food to the hired hands working with Bill.
The children they had, before building the big house, numbered ten
They were all born within the walls of their little log cabin.
Then one more was added, their family once again grew
When the last child was born in the big house, when Celia was forty-two.
The clock on the mantle tick-tocked away the time - day in, day out.
Each day was busy and full, about that, there is no doubt.
Then four days before Bill would have turned sixty-one,
He breathed his last breath--his hard work on earth was done.
Over his final resting place, stood a shed, to protect his grave from rain,
And a simple granite tombstone, upon which was chiseled his name.
And an epitaph which read, “Rest Father, in quiet sleep,
While friends, in sorrow, over thee weep.”
The homeplace was passed down to son Wilder and then in 1942,
He sold it, and moved to Pennsylvania with his wife, Martha, their children, and Celia too.
The skeleton of the big house now stands empty and still.
There’s no company, no children, no Celia, nor Bill.
The front door lays rotting on the damp, cold ground,
Where the wind will never again catch it to make a slamming sound.
No one rests or stomps their feet on the front porch, for it is no longer there,
And dangling, without purpose, are the well-worn stairs.
In what was the kitchen, there’s no longer the fragrance of gingerbread or noisy clatter.
Gone, forever, are the voices of the grown-ups and the children’s constant chatter.
Standing yet are thechimneys and fireplaces, with their bricks now cold and stark,
For never again will they witness a warming blaze, not even a spark.
As for the smokehouse, the rock foundation is all there is left to see.
Gone is the first floor and hams, also, the second floor and the catnip dried for tea.
Never again will visitors or kinfolk hang their coats in the hall,
Nor will photographs of family hang on the parlor’s walls.
The roof is still there, but has begun to bow
From neglect and the weight of a hundred years of Winter’s snows.
The big windows are shattered much like Bill’s and Celia’s plan,
For their children, and their children, to live upon their beloved land.
The farm that once flourished is now so ghostly quiet.
As time passes, night turns into day and another day becomes another night.
The years have come and gone, seventy-six, since Bill Herrell died,
Believing that his dear Celia would be buried by his side.
Neither one of them ever dreamed the words they said in 1872 would truly come to pass,
Or that the plans they so carefully made for their family, wouldn’t last.
In 1945, Celia was laid to rest in Maryland, far from her Bill and the home she knew,
So those words they spoke so long ago really did come true.
“Until death do us part,” were the words Bill and Celia said,
On that day so long ago, when they were wed.
Now, is that the wind from the mountains, or is it the sighs of Celia and Bill,
As they look down upon their land and their home place, now forever still?
*This story in verse is dedicated to my great grandparents, Wm. M. Herrell and Celia Garland, and my father, Billie Harrell, who was born in the big house on 25 January 1926, 72 years ago today.
It is interesting to note that a complete generation of Harrell’s was never born in either the log cabin, nor the big house. With the exception of their last born child, a son, all of the children of Celia and Bill were born in their log cabin.Then all of the children of Wilder and Martha Street Harrell, with the exception of their last born, a son, were born in the big house.
Another interesting fact is that the last name on Bill’s tombstone is spelled with an “E” - Herrell.On Celia’s tombstone, the last name is spelled with an “A” - Harrell.All the descendants of Bill and Celia Herrell spell the name with an “A”.


Leather britches:Dried green beans, usually strung on a string and hung up to dry.

Sawmill gravy:Thick gravy made with milk and flour.

Red-eye gravy:Clear gravy made with water after the ham is fried.



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