Family stubborn streak traced to woman who sat in chair 17 years and was buried sitting up. southern funerals by Jennie Helderman

The Mother of All Stubborn Streaks

Who says I'm moving?
I’m not stubborn!

This story isn’t a funeral story, not exactly, but stubborn to the death is close enough.

A stubborn streak runs through my husband’s family. If he or certain of his forebearers take a stand, the crash of all the techtonic plates of the Pacific Rim won’t budge them an inch. The mother of all stubborn streaks and there’s indication the stubborness may be intensifying. I know where the streak came from.  I can trace it back to a certain ancestor in the early 1800s. Actually, she did budge. But she took a lasting revenge.

The Rev. W. D. Huddle, a family historian, compiled a thorough geneology of the Hottels and Kellers, beginning in 1732 when they disembarked in Philadelphia from Germany. Nearly every descendant of the original five children of John Hottel is accounted for, and most are identified by profession, nickname or some personal fact or vignette.

As the story goes, one Hottel ancestor was ready to leave his parents’ holdings and move his wife and family further south in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. So, he bought some land and built a house. His wife argued that the plaster wasn’t dry and she refused to move.

They went back and forth with the man insisting he needed to get his crops planted, so they had to move. She relented.

But—she sat down in her chair and didn’t get up for seventeen years. It has to be true—it’s in the book.

When she died, her bones had so calcified in the sitting position that a special coffin was built and she was buried sitting up.

And that’s stubborn.

The book isn’t one to read, but I figured out its code and traced the ancestors of my children:  Snitz, a Mennonite who ate dried apples while hiding to escape being forced to fight during the Revolutionary War; Frederick, who fought in the War of 1812, freed his slaves in the 1830s and moved to Ohio; cousins fighting cousins during the Civil War; Jacob Hanger, who organized the only regimental band in the Confederate Army that could play on horseback while marching through the country; and so on through World War I.

It’s amazing how alive history becomes when you put a name to the people on the pages.

After scanning the thousand pages, I know I want Rev. Huddle to represent me when it’s my time to stand before St. Peter at the pearly gates. That man managed to find something admirable, or at least neutral, to say about every name in the book:

“Mary Huddle, a splendid homemaker who set a beautiful table, an excellent breadmaker, but a little peculiar in many way, yet generous, open-hearted, honest and true.”

“A skilled rifleman, a dead shot, industrious, brave, truthful, and unflinching character…Samuel Benjamin Hottel.”

“Catherine was a useful woman in administering kindness to others…”

That was truly a feat.