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'Fat or lean, take him!' Mr. Law's adventure

Liberty lore

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POSTED: April 8, 2013 3:00 p.m.

On the long winter days when the bleak winds blew, the family would gathered around the fire in mother’s room to listen to her tell stories from her childhood in Liberty County.
The mother was Lydia Caroline Quarterman, who married Reuben King Walker. We especially loved for her to tell us stories of old Midway and the church, which was built in 1752. She told us how the teams were hitched up on Sunday mornings, and young and old with the servants drove 10 miles over the country roads to the church.
She was united with the Midway Church, was baptized and sang in the choir. Music was highly valued in the colony, and the choir was well-trained. The memories of the old church services were precious to our mother.
Elizabeth Walker Quarterman listened to all the stories told by her mother and how the Yankees had devastated so much of Liberty County in 1864. She recorded some of these in her book, “The Home at the Bluff.” Midway Church members scattered during the Civil War, and there were no church services in the old church for a long period of time after the war. Since there was no activity around the church at that time and little traffic passing on the dirt road, particularly at night, marauders picked the old cemetery as an ideal place to butcher their illegally acquired spoils. The cement slabs made a great place to place the dead animals and dress the meat.
The next day, they would peddle the meat around the neighborhoods and, more than likely, sell it back to the people they stole the animals from. The historical Midway Cemetery was a great place to corral animals, as it was enclosed with a brick fence. Daniel Stewart (1759-1829) was responsible for getting the fence around the cemetery; his was one of the graves that animals were slaughtered on. During the Revolutionary War (1775-83), the British used the cemetery in the same manner and burned the first Midway Church.
Elizabeth repeated the following story about the cemetery that she had been told. (I can find no proof that the names are accurate, even though these two men did exist. I just could not find the parents that the new tombstones were supposed to belong to listed in the records for the cemetery.)
John Law, living at that time in Flemington, 9 miles from the church, was so crippled with rheumatism that he could not walk a step. Members of his family — at great sacrifice, for there was little money  available in those dark days — bought and placed a modest granite marker at the graves of his father and mother in Midway Cemetery. Law was anxious to see this but was reluctant to speak of his wish to his friends, who, though solicitous to divert him and amuse him in his affliction, were busy every day trying to provide for their families. One day, his friend Joe Mallard came by to see him.
“John,” he said, “they have finished putting up that stone at your father’s and mother’s graves down at Midway. I bet you would like to go and see it.”
“You must be a mind reader, Joe,” John replied. “I don’t know of anything I want more to do. But all you boys are working so hard, I just haven’t the heart to ask anyone to take me there.”
“Well, I can’t take you there in the daytime, but if you feel up to it, I can come by tomorrow night after supper and take you down. It will be a full moon, and I’m not going to be using the pony tomorrow, so he won’t be tired. How about it?”
“You know what I’ll say! I can hardly wait. You are a very kind friend.”
Now, on the “tomorrow night,” two vandals were carrying on their nefarious business in the cemetery. One was hiding in the shadow of the big oak next to Dr. Abner Porter’s grave, while his companion went to capture and bring in a nice big sheep he spotted during the day.
Mallard drove up to the gate and — not bothering to tie the pony, which was too dejected and spiritless to do anything but stand — he took the small and light Law on his shoulders and started for the place where the Laws were buried just beneath the big oak.
A dim form rose from the shadows. A spectral voice asked, “Is he fat?”
Petrified with terror, convinced he had encountered the devil, Mallard stood rooted to the spot for a moment. Then, with one violent motion, he heaved Law over his head and threw him at the voice, yelling, “Fat or lean, take him!” and dashed madly to his buggy, leaving his friend to his fate. When he reached the buggy, sweating and breathless, Law, who had not walked a step for months, already was in the seat with the reins in his hands, eyes bulging and teeth chattering.
I doubt poor old Mr. Law ever wanted to go to that cemetery again and probably never saw his parents’ tombstone.

 

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