I found this tombstone in a little graveyard at the Old Zion Cumberland Presbyterian Church outside Sparta, Tennessee. I don’t know why this one headstone caught my attention out of all the others that adorn the cemetery. It reads “In memory of Sarah A. Brock.” She lived 14 years, 9 months, and 25 days.
Most likely, she was a farmer’s daughter, growing up in the hills of Tennessee. Sarah probably had the same dreams as most 14-year old girls from that era. Dreams like “when I get older I want to catch a train to California to see the faraway lands,” or “I’m gonna hop a ship and experience the cultures of the Middle East and Europe.” Maybe she would have been satisfied being a storekeeper, or a loving wife to a farmer, raising a passel of children.
As did most families of the 1800’s in Tennessee, Sarah most likely had a large family with several brothers and sisters. They all probably piled up in a big feather bed at night and laughed and giggled until their father told them to quiet down and get to sleep.
In the mornings before going out and doing the chores, Sarah’s mother probably had a big spread of bacon, eggs, and homemade biscuits for breakfast. Chores might have consisted of feeding the chickens, slopping the hogs, or milking the old dairy cow to get their daily supply of milk. Back then, most folks had large gardens and I imagine Sarah and her siblings did their share of hoeing the rows, sticking the green beans, or picking the vegetables to “can” so the family could eat through a long winter. After chores, Sarah and her siblings may have run through the fields playing tag, hide-n-seek, or maybe they headed down to the woods to swing on the vine hanging from a big oak tree. If there were a creek nearby, I’m sure the gang took a dip in the cold, clear water so they could tell “Mama” there was no need to take a bath in the wash tub on Saturday because they were “clean now.”
On Sunday mornings, no doubt Sarah and her family loaded up in the mule wagon and made the short journey to some old country church, most likely the Presbyterian Church where she is buried.
As a little girl sitting and squirming in the hardwood pews, did she flip through an old, tattered Heavenly Highway hymnbook to pass the time although she had not yet learned to read. Maybe she was clinging to her mother’s arms, scared to death, because the old preacher screamed “the end of time is near.” Sarah didn’t want it to be the end of time because she had some growing up to do. As a young teenager, was she cutting her eyes across the aisle to the cute boy she had a crush on, hoping he noticed her new blue dress.
Like most families of that era, all the kinfolk would get together after church on Sunday and have a big home-cooked meal. Was she hanging on every word from her grandma, telling her the ingredients to make an apple pie? Or was she out playing with her cousins, brothers, and sisters waiting for the dinner bell to summon them to the table?
Did she have long, flowing red hair? Or maybe it was brown with little curls? I don’t know. There are many things we’ll never know about Sarah Brock. I know she was never famous, nor was she ever written about in the annals of history. We will never know her hopes and dreams. Why was Sarah’s life cut short at the young age of fourteen? I will never know the answer. But, I do know this… If you have read this story, then I have at least put Sarah Brock’s name all over the world in a matter of seconds.