The bishop

I’ve long sensed that Grandpa had two best friends. The first was the farmer Arlie Binkley, his wife’s brother-in-law and the father of Wilma, Orpha, and Kenny.

The other was David Thomas Gregory, for a decade the pastor of Euclid Avenue church, where much of their social life was centered.

In a way, they embodied two different identities for Grandpa: one, with rural life and its older values, and the other urban, accompanied by prestige, learning, and no doubt the political skills to maneuver through the denomination’s hierarchy, including its merger with the Evangelical Association a couple of years before I was born, to form what would be known as the Evangelical United Brethren, or EUB, church.

One was a Midwestern native who stayed close to his roots; the other, from the East Coast side of the Allegheny Mountains, albeit from the easternmost tip of West Virginia.

Both of them were a decade older than Grandpa. Arlie was born November 30, 1891; David, July 16, 1889. Perhaps growing up as the youngest of three boys in his family inclined Grandpa toward older males. In turn, his two comrades died within eight months of each other – David, in a late-night collision on December 27, 1956; Arlie on August 9, 1957, after a long decline to Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). The dislocation and grief he must have felt in these two losses so close together must have been overwhelming.

The admiration was apparent for Bishop Gregory or Doctor Gregory, the two terms by which I always heard him referenced. Grandpa spoke often of the man and was proud of the cedar-wood-cover New Testament gift (along with a small vial of Jordan River water) bought back from the Holy Land – but I had no idea of Grandpa’s idolization, as TJ put it, to the point he would do anything the bishop asked. So was Gregory the one who moved Grandpa into the Masonic circles? Or was it his own brother, Leroy? Considering how much Grandpa treasured that identity, I’m surprised Dad never joined – or was encouraged to become one.

From denominational records Henry E. Gable posted online, a sketch  of Gregory’s career emerges.

Continue reading The bishop


Turning the spotlight on Grandma, if we can

As I think of them, the spotlight is usually on Grandpa. He was, after all, the outgoing one. Grandma – quiet, reserved, shy – apparently preferred to stay in the shadow. Now, as I reexamine, I sense she may have been frail but held a strength that went unseen. If their dynamic wasn’t precisely mutually complementary or harmonious, she still found a way to survive within its bounds, sometimes even playfully.

For example, in summertime when I see fireflies – a rarity in my part of New England – I think of Grandma. She was the one who handed us cousins glass jars with lids that had air holes punched in and told us to collect “lightning bugs.” And she must have pointedly admired our results. In contrast, I know we found our own jars and pounded nails through the lids when we repeated the process on Oakdale Avenue, but for whatever reasons, those memories aren’t nearly as vivid.

I’ve often thought of Grandma as simple-minded but devout. Perhaps a closeness to the divine can exist in such a state, which could explain the ministers who filched from her religious experiences rather than their own. On another level, she proudly displayed her salt-and-pepper shaker collection in a breakfront in the dining room, insisting “it will be valuable someday,” which never materialized. I see her as slight, with weak eyesight, quiet, humble to the point of self-effacing, and yet, in her own way, stubborn – or faithful in whatever essentials.

Continue reading Turning the spotlight on Grandma, if we can

Salem Church of the Brethren

This house of worship sits across the road from Bethel Cemetery.

Salem, the original name of the town now known as Clayton, was changed by the federal post  office to avoid confusion with at least two other sites in Ohio – Salem, diagonally across the state, and West Salem, in the north-central part of the state. I’m currently unable to date the switch, sometime before 1891.

The naming does, however, create confusion for genealogists combing through early records.

Additionally, the church sits not the small city of Clayton, but in the countryside at the corner of Phillipsburg Union Road and Diamond Mill Road … just north of the Binkley farm we used to visit, actually. It’s also in Clay Township, not Randolph, in Montgomery County, Ohio, and is now incorporated in the city of Englewood.

My ancestors Jacob and Caroline Ehrstine were apparently members of this congregation.