From the time I was a child, my parents took my brother Doofus and me to the dinner-on-the-ground each third Sunday in May at Goshen Unite Methodist Church in Tennessee. It’s the church where my grandmother sang as a child and where my mother attended until the family moved to Georgia when she was 11 years old. The adjoining cemetery is also where my maternal grandparents and my parents are buried.
When I was a child, the little white clapboard church consisted of one room, the sanctuary. These days, it also has a room at the rear of the church and a fellowship hall, added sometime in the 1990s. I’ve spent many hours walking through the graveyard, reading names and epitaphs on the old headstones, which date to 1813.
I was always fascinated by the three headstones, attached by a stone bar across their tops. They were the graves of the Fly children – Fly was a common surname in the area – who died when their home burned on March 22, 1914. The siblings were Lura Eunice Fly, age 6; Margaret Virginia Fly, age 8; and Eldridge Horace Fly, age 11. The stone says, “Our Darlings together in Heaven.”
Someone once told me that the family lived in a two-story house, which was why the children couldn’t get out. After that, people built homes with upstairs windows leading to a porch roof to allow for escape in emergencies. I don’t know if that was true or legend but it added to the tragic tale.
Another intriguing grave in the cemetery is that of the Rev. John Crane, who was reportedly preaching the gospel by age 12. He was the first person buried at Goshen in 1813. Crane was born in 1787 at Eaton’s Station near Nashville and, at age 20, became a circuit preacher for the Methodist Church.
According to church historian Jewell Shouse, as reported on SantaFeUMC.org, “during the six years of his active ministry, he served circuits in North Carolina, East Tennessee, Ohio, Louisiana, Missouri, and Kentucky. Of these early ministers it has been said, ‘no chance of weather or climate, no swollen stream or lofty mountain hindered them.’ Crane continued to travel and preach until about two weeks before his death, when he was forced to quit from fatigue and a severe cold, which developed into inflammation of the lungs.”
He died on February 14, 1813, at the age of 26 at the home of a local family, the Mitchells, which was located a mile from Goshen Church. Shouse said, “After his death, his purse was opened and found to contain 25 cents and his parchment of ordination. This confirms that he was a dedicated Methodist circuit rider.”
The etching on his original marker was fading so the Tennessee Conference Historical Society erected a large monument on his grave in 1964. It is made of Stone Eternal Georgia Granite. In 1979 Tennessee Annual Conference, his grave site was named a United Methodist Historic Site.