Friday, March 18, 2011

Chapter Two

Chapter Two of the Rules of Widowhood would include how long to wait before getting a headstone for the grave.  Since I didn’t have a book, I only had life experience to base this on. My life experience is rather strange considering my husband’s family.

The Roszel family is an odd lot.  Rick’s dad’s family came from right here in Virginia in a place called Welbourne.  I had no idea that I was marrying into a family with such a colorful and significant past.  My relatives were all in Ireland trying to make it through the potato famine.

In the spring of 1995, I was quite pregnant (7 months) with Michael. The family heard from a distant Roszel relative who was into genealogy.  I am not sure that the family had ever heard of him before and to be quite frank, I’m not sure how he is related.  I will, no doubt, have the details wrong but I will paint the picture of what happened.  There is a small town out in the country called Philomont.  It is north of Middleburg if that helps you place it.  There is a very small church called the Roszell Chapel in that town.  The story goes that Stephen George Roszel came over from France in the mid 1700s and established the church.  An actual history can be found on its Facebook site Roszell Chapel.

Well, in 1995 the church was celebrating a big anniversary of the chapel and wanted to invite descendants of the Stephen G. Roszel.  The family was invited along with relatives near and far to come to the service and to a small luncheon afterward in the town hall.  We attended and it was very interesting, not the kind of family reunion that came to my mind.  Many of the Roszels (Roszells, Rosells, Roszelles) had their family trees with them and they were checking and verifying their information with the next.  It was not exactly a “huggie, huggie, kissy, kissy” kind of family gathering.

The matriarch of the clan was a Janet Roszell Turner who was a Southern Belle with a Southern drawl and a booming voice.  She was an intimidating character, tall with beautiful white hair swept up on her head.  She approached me and asked me which part of the family I was from.  I told her I was married to Rick and the family connection.  She raised an eyebrow when I told her we were Catholic. 

Janet asked if people would like to go to the Roszell cemetery at the original homestead.  We drove a short distance down the road and assembled on the property which happened to be unoccupied and for sale.  The cemetery was in the rear of the property; it was overgrown and derelict with some of the stones toppled over.  Although we were dressed for church, some of the men trudged through the overgrowth and tried to right the stones.
We walked around the property, saw the slave quarters and tried desperately to peek through the windows for a glimpse of the inside of the building.  Next, Janet announced that we could go over to the original homestead which had the Welbourne cemetery next to it.  We all hopped in cars and traveled down a dirt road past horse farms and farms and turned into the drive of a sprawling farm with cornfields.  About halfway to the door to the farm the lead car turned left and drove right into the field and then stopped near a stone fenced graveyard.

Janet hopped out of the car and led everyone through the gate to the Welbourne family cemetery.  She walked around proudly explaining who each ancestor was.  “And ova he-ah lies Colonel Richard Henry Dulany of the Confederate Army… and ova he-ah lies  lies Sarah Debutts Roszell who married Stephen George Roszell  after the death of her first husband"… (See theUpperville  Colt and Horse Show for references on Colonel Dulany).

Rick and his brothers were fascinated with the rich history of their father’s family.  After the twentieth grave explanation, I headed toward the gate and found my mother in-law there under a tree.  We looked at each other and rolled our eyes.  I said, “You’ve seen one grave; you’ve seen them all.”  “Exactly!” she replied.

After the tour, Janet invited the family back the next summer for the Roszell Graveyard Picnic.  “How exciting,” I thought, “NOT!”  It is held every two or three years in the graveyard at Welbourne.  Rick was all excited about it.  It is literally a picnic (bring a dish to pass) in the graveyard, just the right spot for eating lunch, swapping genealogies and cleaning up the graveyard.

During this surprising day, while walking around the cemetery, Janet badmouthed several of the Roszell relatives for having failed to put a gravestone up on a relative’s grave.  This crazy story is what influenced me so greatly to get a gravestone ordered before fall.

1 comment:

  1. Ha, ha, ha! Very funny and entertaining! A graveyard picnic.

    My mom's family has a graveyard too. My grandma is buried in it. We've had sing alongs at the old homestead but you've got me beat with a picnic at the graveyard.