No one knew the date the wrought iron fence was installed on the east side of the Stephens City United Methodist Church (SCUMC) cemetery grounds. It is believed the iron gate served the third church as the entrance to the SCUMC cemetery. Eighty feet of the iron fence remains today and church elders wanted to ascertain when it was manufactured. We do know that an American wire fence bordered most of the cemetery in the 1930s through the 60s and still exists on the north side.
On this site, construction of a log meeting house began in 1788 and was completed in 1789. The cemetery was established in 1790 and the oldest tombstone dates to 1809 and the newest to 1906. The log meeting house served until 1827 when it was torn down and replaced with a brick one on the same site. During the Civil War, the church suffered considerable damage as the sanctuary was used as a hospital to treat both federal and confederate wounded soldiers. The 1827 church sanctuary was repaired after the war, but eventually the church was considered “unsafe” and “uncomfortable” for worship. In 1882, the congregation replaced the 1827 building with a more spacious facility on the same site. It was noted at the time that the foundation of the old log church could be seen when the 1827 building was demolished.
I discovered two ornate old wrought iron corner fence posts (in the photo above) buried near the 120-year-old elm tree that was cut down in February 2020 to make way for an expanded children’s play area. Fences around cemeteries, especially wrought iron fences, served both practical and otherworldly purposes. In terms of practicality, wrought iron fences were placed around a cemetery to prevent wild animals from entering the grounds and digging up recently buried human remains. Our Colonial ancestors wanted to be assured that the remains of their loved ones would be well intact for their resurrection on Judgment Day, so they erected sturdy and gated wrought iron fences with spear tipped bars.
Wrought iron fences were also placed around cemeteries to protect the living from the spirits of the dead. People believed that the ghosts of their dead loved ones could follow them from the cemetery if preventative measures were not made. Iron was believed to ward off both benign and evil spirits. Just as it was believed that spirits could not cross water, so it was believed that they could not move through or past iron. If you have ever seen an iron fence that has the upper portion of its bars pointed in towards the cemetery — rather than away from the grounds — you can be assured it was constructed that way to ward off spirits.
Wrought iron (sometimes called puddled or charcoal iron) is the traditional material of the blacksmith. It is a mixture of nearly pure iron and can resist corrosion, is not brittle and seldom breaks. It is soft, relatively malleable and easily worked. As a result, it is often found as delicate artwork.
According to Sandra Bosley, executive director of Preservation of Historic Winchester, the gate decoration appeared to be similar to the 1880 “Buckeye” wrought iron fence. Bosley virtually visited the remnants of the wrought iron fence for some historical investigation. The eighty feet of fence fortunately retained the gate, which is one of the most likely places to find a manufacturer’s mark or other distinguishing maker characteristics. This gate was by far the most distinctive Bosley had the pleasure of examining, with an elaborate crest on the top with crossed halberds, heraldic sea snakes, and scroll-like decorative flourishes around the central finial. Although the label where the maker’s mark should be was long worn away by time, the gate design alone was unique enough that Bosley could say with relative certainty it was a “Buckeye” wrought iron fence from the 1880s.
Naturally, having found such a distinctive architectural piece but never having heard of it before, it seemed like a good time for Bosley to do a little more investigation into the parent company. Buckeye fences were just one of the products produced by Mast, Foos & Company. Although founding dates have been contradictory, Bosley was inclined to believe the company was founded in 1876 by Phineas P. Mast and John Foos in Springfield, Ohio, after Mast had undertaken earlier ventures in buggy and farm implements. In addition to the Buckeye fence, the company also produced wind engines, force pumps, lawn mowers, and lawn sprinklers. The company existed for almost 100 years after various acquisitions and remains well-known in Springfield, Ohio, particularly as Phineas P. Mast helped to found the local historical society.
The late historian Mildred Lee Grove’s grandfather, Milton Boyd Steele was a Stephens City resident and a devout Methodist and Sunday School teacher. I am speculating that Mr. Steele, who was in the mercantile trade, had a long-time business relationship with Mast & Foos and recommended that the Methodist church purchase their fence from that company in 1882.
Eight tips for a safe holiday season
1. De-ice outdoor steps and walkways
To prevent holiday guests from slipping, falling, and injuring themselves while walking to your front door, clear snow and ice from your walkway, stairs, and porch. Using anti-slip products like sand, road salt, and stair covers is also a good idea.
2. Protect your pets
There are many hazards your pets may be exposed to during the holidays. Beware of candles, decorations, poisonous plants, and human foods that could make them sick. Additionally, keep pets away from the front door during the festivities.
3. Take care of your teeth
Around Christmas, candy canes, cookies, chocolates, and other sweet treats are routinely available. To prevent cavities, maintain a flawless dental hygiene routine. Be sure to brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes and floss daily.
4. Focus on eating a balanced diet
Overeating several days in a row can cause bloating, stomach aches, and fatigue. Opt for healthy and nutritious foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains in between decadent holiday meals.
5. Protect your home while you’re away
Break-ins frequently occur during the holiday season. If you plan to leave town for a few days, make sure your home looks lived in while you’re away. Put your lights on timers, keep a vehicle in the driveway and arrange to have your walkway cleared of snow. Additionally, consider installing a security system.
6. Put together a car emergency kit
Before driving to and from holiday celebrations, make sure you put together a car emergency kit with essentials like jumper cables, traction aids, a shovel, and a full jug of windshield washer fluid. Additionally, schedule an inspection with a mechanic to ensure your vehicle can safely handle winter road conditions.
7. Take steps to reduce the risk of a fire
To avoid accidentally starting a house fire during the holiday season, keep all flammable objects away from heat sources. Moreover, ensure your portable fire extinguisher is in good condition and your smoke alarms are working. Never leave lit candles unattended.
8. Be prepared to treat minor ailments
The holiday season can be hectic. To mitigate discomforts caused by overindulging or not getting enough sleep, stock up on over-the-counter products like pain relievers and antacids in advance. This will allow you to enjoy every celebration to the fullest.
What you should know about young caregivers
Not all caregivers are adults. In fact, as many as 1.4 million children in the United States between the ages of eight and 18 are caregivers. Providing support for a sick or disabled family member is a difficult and demanding job. Moreover, if a parent becomes incapacitated, many minors will also shoulder the responsibility of raising their siblings.
They face difficulties
Dealing with the obligations of being a caregiver while attending school can be challenging. Young people often aren’t seen as caregivers, forcing them to face numerous obstacles alone and in silence. Many become physically, mentally, and emotionally drained, making it difficult for them to concentrate in class. Additionally, engaging with their peers can feel overwhelming.
They need support
It’s important to support young caregivers as much as possible. If you know a young person caring for a family member, here are a few things you can do:
• Discuss the situation with their teachers
• Lend a hand with school assignments
• Arrange for them to have help at home
When supported by those around them, young caregivers can feel empowered and avoid burnout.
10 gift ideas for your Christmas exchange
Organizing a gift exchange is a great way to kick off the holidays. However, it can be difficult to buy the perfect gift when you don’t know who will receive it. This is especially true if your group has folks of various ages. Here are a few things that will please most people.
1. An insulated water bottle or coffee mug
2. A locally made spirit, beer, or wine
3. A unisex beanie or scarf in a neutral color
4. Nut-free chocolates
5. A recently released board game
6. A warm, cozy blanket
7. A nice set of wine glasses
8. A set of reusable straws that includes a cleaning brush
9. A sturdy apron with several pockets
10. A wrist or cell phone strap
If necessary, ask the gift exchange participants what they like so you can buy an item related to their common interests.
Five excellent reasons to visit a Christmas market
Every December, Christmas markets start popping up in towns across the country. Here are five great reasons to visit one in your area.
1. To find holiday gifts
Christmas markets are a great place to go if you’re looking for unique items for your friends and family members. You can find an assortment of handmade toys, crafts, baked goods, jewelry, and more.
2. To discover new products
Christmas markets typically gather hundreds of vendors in one place. If you decide to attend, you’re sure to discover new products to try.
3. To support local makers
If you want to support the artisans and producers in your region, visit your nearest Christmas market. By buying locally made goods, you’ll help stimulate your region’s economy.
4. To stock up on needed items
Christmas markets typically feature a wide range of exhibitors, so you won’t have to visit multiple stores to find everything you need for the holidays. You can load up on gourmet foods, handcrafted soaps, unique clothes, Christmas decorations, and much more.
5. To enjoy complimentary entertainment
Christmas markets frequently provide free entertainment. You may be able to enjoy a play, concert, or food tasting. In many cases, children’s activities are also offered. You can even bring the whole family and make a day of it.
This year, find out about the Christmas markets in your area and schedule a time to visit them.
December Celebrity Birthdays!
Do you share a birthday with a celebrity?
1 – Bette Midler, 77, singer, actress, Paterson, NJ, 1945.
2 – Nelly Furtado, 44, singer, Victoria, BC, Canada, 1978.
3 – Daryl Hannah, 61, actress, Chicago, IL, 1961.
4 – Jay-Z, 53, rapper, and music executive, born Shawn Corey Carter,t Brooklyn, NY, 1969.
5 – Margaret Cho, 54, actress (All-American Girl), comedienne, San Francisco, CA, 1968.
6 – Janine Turner, 60, actress (Northern Exposure), Lincoln, NE, 1962.
7 – C. Thomas Howell, 56, actor, Los Angeles, CA, 1966.
8 – Dominic Monaghan, 46, actor (Lord of the Rings), Berlin, Germany, 1976.
9 – Judi Dench, 88, actress, York, England, 1934.
10 – Melissa Roxburgh, 30, actress (Manifest), Vancouver, BC, Canada, 1992.
11 – Gary Dourdan, 56, actor, Philadelphia, PA, 1966.
12 – Sheila E, 63, singer, born Sheila Escovedo, San Francisco, CA, 1959.
13 – Emma Corrin, 27, actress, Royal Tunbridge Wells, England, 1995.
14 – Vanessa Hudgens, 34, actress (Spring Breakers), Salinas, CA, 1988.
15 – Adam Brody, 43, actor (The O.C.), San Diego, CA, 1979.
16 – Theo James, 38, actor (Divergent), born Theo Taptiklis, Oxford, England, Dec 16, 1984.
17 – Sean Patrick Thomas, 52, actor, Wilmington, DE, 1970.
18 – Billie Eilish, 21, singer, born Billie Eilish Pirate Baird Oâ€™Connell, Los Angeles, CA, 2001.
19 – Kristy Swanson, 53, actress, Mission Viejo, CA, 1969.
20 – Uri Geller, 76, psychic, clairvoyant, Tel Aviv, Israel, 1946.
21 – Kiefer Sutherland, 56, actor, London, England, 1966.
22 – Ralph Fiennes, 60, actor, Suffolk, England, 1962.
23 – Susan Lucci, 73, actress (All My Children), Westchester, NY, 1949.
24 – Louis Tomlinson, 31, singer (One Direction), Louis Austin at Doncaster, England, 1991.
25 – Rachel Keller, 30, actress (Fargo), St. Paul, MN, 1992.
26 – Beth Behrs, 37, actress (Two Broke Girls), Lancaster, PA,1985.
27 – Olivia Cooke, 29, actress, Manchester, England, 1993.
28 – John Legend, 44, singer, born John Stephens, Springfield, OH, 1978.
29 – Iain De Caestecker, 35, actor (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.), Glasgow, Scotland, 1987.
30 – V, 27, singer (BTS), born Kim Tae-hyung, Daegu, South Korea, 1995.
31 – Tim Matheson, 74, actor (Bonanza), Los Angeles, CA, 1948.
How to become an early childhood educator
If you love working with children and want to contribute to your community, consider becoming an early childhood educator. High school graduates, retirees returning to the workforce, and anyone seeking a new profession may want to pursue this career path. After all, these experts are in demand.
A skilled professional
Early childhood educators are often misunderstood. They’re not babysitters; they’re hard-working, qualified individuals who are responsible for the following:
• Creating educational programs to promote children’s development
• Assessing the abilities, interests, and needs of toddlers
• Preparing various documents, including evaluation reports
• Helping children develop good habits
There are a number of university and college programs you can take to acquire the skills you need to pursue this profession. In some cases, scholar¬ships and work-study programs may be available.