They came from Midlothian and Hempstead in Texas and from as far away as New Mexico and Rhode Island. They came from a past preserved in the memories of old men and a future imagined in the smile of a baby.
The Collings family reunion last weekend returned to Glen Rose for at least the 62nd time…or maybe it was the 64th. The oldest family member, Elgin Blevins, attending the annual event at Oakdale Park said he’d been coming to Glen Rose for the reunion since 1946. Others couldn’t remember back that far.
Whatever the year, generations of descendants keep returning to the place where their ancestor, Elisha Collings, and his family settled in Paluxy and on Chalk Mountain. Wars, hardships and even death could not uproot them. They are here for good, if only in body once a year and in spirit every day.
On Saturday 80 family members showed up at Oakdale, but the biggest crowd arrived on Sunday for a lunch of barbecue, fried chicken, all sorts of vegetables and salads and a long table of desserts.
Guitars and harmonicas came out and singing echoed in the former skating rink, now a meeting room. The city renovated the building and reopened it earlier this year.
At a morning worship service, Gary Wadsworth, who’s been a pastor in Midlothian, spoke of how maintaining family ties is a lot like building a wall. He pointed to the skating rink’s old fireplace, where fossils, petrified wood, quartz and other rocks were mortared together decades ago to create a stunning wall.
“As you can see, the wall is made of many different kinds of stone,” Gary said. “That’s what this family is – it’s the making of, the solidifying of, the keeping intact of this wall. The question is what part of the wall do you want to be? All I want to be is the mortar of the wall.”
His brother Dale Wadsworth, a chaplain also from Midlothian, said that he’s thinking about writing a song called, “What’s in a Name?”
“We look back at our family history and see how little they (ancestors) had, but they thought they had a fortune,” Dale said. “So that’s what’s in a name – everything.”
Family members looked at old photographs and picked their silverware out of a wooden box made by Gary’s and Dale’s father. Children played with fossils a visitor had collected at Chalk Mountain. This family had come home, if only for a weekend, and would take a piece of it back with them.
And next year, they’ll return. The Collings clan liked all the changes at Oakdale Park so much that they plan to hold the next family reunion there again.