Sarah Hubbard and Jane Conner
By Beverly Belcher Woody
When the responsibilities of being a “modern-day woman” seem overwhelming, my thoughts always go to one of the many pioneer women that I grew up hearing about. How did they manage to raise (on average) six to ten children, prepare three meals a day on a wood cookstove (365 days a year), tend a garden, preserve their harvest, do laundry in an iron wash pot (over an open fire), sew all the family’s clothing and the quilts they lay beneath at night?
There are so many talented, selfless, hard-working women in our community who had the ability to take (what would look to us now) as nothing and make clothes, meals, and a home. I have so much respect and admiration for these women and today, I want to remember two of them.
Sarah Elizabeth Belcher was born on March 14, 1854, in a hollow at Brammer’s Spur. Her parents were John and Nancy Brammer Belcher. Sarah was the fifth of eleven children. When the War Between the States broke out, Sarah recalled that many times the family’s food would be confiscated by the Home Guard. As a ten-year-old girl, Sarah would wade Rock Castle Creek to avoid leaving tracks in the snow and take what food the family did have to the soldiers in hiding. She recalled that some of the men had been wounded in battle and refused to go back.
Sarah was twelve years old before she had her first pair of shoes. When she was sixteen, she married John C. Hubbard, who was ten years her senior. John had fought with the 51st Virginia, Company H during the War. In 1874, the first of their ten children was born. Sadly, her husband John passed away in 1904, leaving her with 14-year-old Elijah, 10-year-old Pearl, and 7-year-old Ethel to raise all by herself.
Sarah lived in the Buffalo Ridge community her entire life, never remarrying. When she was 93 years old, she went to stay in Roanoke with a daughter for the winter. Before the trip to Roanoke, the longest trip she had ever taken was to Floyd, and she had only been to Stuart once in her life.
Sarah was not happy in Roanoke and insisted on being taken back home to Patrick County to live her remaining days. Sarah passed away at the age of 95 on the 22nd of July 1949. Enterprise columnist Ivalien Hylton Belcher Reynolds was one of Sarah’s great granddaughters and shared these stories with me before her passing. Ivalien was so proud that she was one of the flower girls at her great grandmother’s funeral.
Sarah Elizabeth Belcher Hubbard was laid to rest beside her husband at the Dave Wood cemetery in the Lone Ivy community.
One year before Sarah was born, Mary Jane Terry was born in the Rock Castle community on July 14, 1853. Her parents were Nathan Benjamin Terry and Exoney Pendleton. Mary Jane was only seven years old when her mother died; she had two younger siblings, Samuel, age 5, and Julia, a newborn.
Moving forward, I will refer to Mary Jane as “Aunt Jane,” as that only seems the natural thing to do. Aunt Jane was not my aunt; she was only a distant cousin. My Dad referred to her as Aunt Jane, as did everyone else in the community.
When Aunt Jane was nineteen, she married Daniel Robertson Conner. The couple lived in the Woolwine area and had six children, Rosey, Bettie, Susan, James, Euel, and John. Around the turn of the twentieth century, the family moved to Daniel’s birthplace on the mountain. The cabin they lived in was located behind what is now known as Woodberry Inn; many folks will remember it as Jack’s Archer’s store.
Aunt Jane’s grandson, Everett Searcy, recalls many wonderful visits to the cabin to visit his grandmother and provided the wonderful photo of her and a cousin.
On Halloween night 1952, 99-year-old Aunt Jane threw her false teeth and her shoes in the fire and told her daughter Bettie, “I won’t be needing those things anymore.” She retired to bed and woke up in Heaven. Aunt Jane is buried beside of her husband at the Jonathan Conner cemetery, in sight of the cabin where she spent the biggest part of her life.
(Woody may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)