Time Passages

For the past several weeks, months really, I have been researching figures that played an important part of history in western Pennsylvania’s Underground Railroad. They are long forgotten by most in their communities because of time passing.

As I transcribed my audio notes, I kept thinking about the people who partook in the Underground Railroad in this area. Most were not recognized, with fewer immortalized. As I kept thinking about these various people, Al Stewart’s song “Time Passages” kept playing through my mind. I read the lyrics and was surprised at how close their meaning was relating to my research.

…I felt the beat of my mind go
Drifting into time passages
Years falling in the fading light
Time passages…¹

I visited several cemeteries in this search about those that played a part of the Underground Railroad in western Pennsylvania. Two tombstones continue to disturb me. One was of Noah West. He was part of the Little Zion African Methodist Episcopal church, a leader in fact. According to the history book by Boyd Crumine

…Little Zion Methodist Episcopal Church, situated in West Pike Run township, was organized in 1844, under the ministration of Rev. Augustus R. Green… In that year the society purchased a building lot of Mrs. Mary Lewis and her son Charles, and upon it they erected a small log house and gave it the name of Little Zion Church…The present membership is divided into two classes. The first class, having Abraham H. Wallace for leader, has fourteen members. Class No. 2 has also fourteen members, with Noah West as class-leader.²

However, when I visited West’s grave site, I found the head stone was knocked off its pedestal, weeds and leaves entwining it. It was hidden, forgotten. Time passed in several ways for him.

Noah West tombstone

Noah West

Noah West

The other headstone that stands out in memory is that of Reverend William Ralph. Located in Monongahela Cemetery, it is barely legible. The only way I knew it was his was because I talked with the caretaker in the office and he produced a ledger that identified Rev. Ralph’s plot.

William Ralph headstone

William Ralph headstone - close up

There’s something back here that you left behind
Oh time passages…¹

This quest to find these individuals provoked me to wonder how people in the next 200 years will find individuals that made contributions to the civil rights movement, to the desegregation in the south as well as other types of assistance to make the world more humane. I am sure Martin Luther King’s memorial, a national historic site, will stand for a long time. However, what about others…others that were instrumental, but played lesser roles? How long before their tombstones become illegible? How long before their contributions are forgotten?

…Hear the echoes and feel yourself starting to turn
Don’t know why you should feel
That there’s something to learn…¹

UPDATE: This song reminds us just how important it is to document events and people as to not forget those that have helped us be they big names or just the average man/woman.

¹Al Stewart, and Peter White. Time Passages. (New York: Dick James Music, Inc., 1978), accessed February 18. 2011. http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/a/al_stewart/time_passages.html.

²Boyd Crumrine, History of Washington County, Pennsylvania with Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men. (Philadelphia: L. H. Leverts & Co., 1882), accessed February 18, 2011. http://www.chartiers.com/crumrine/twp-wpikerun.html. Transcribed by Helen S. Durbin of Greene Co., PA in March 1998. Published in March 1998 on the Washington County, PA USGenWeb pages at http://www.chartiers.com.

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Published in: on February 18, 2011 at 6:17 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Nicely written, Lou! I loved the way the haunting lyrics were intertwined with your narrative. It certainly makes you stop and think about the mark we leave on the world.

    • I was not trying to be sadden by my lack of contribution to the world, but rather it has made me focus on today. Today I will enjoy my life as much as I can for we are but a speck of dust in the cosmic world.


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