Sid was heading to work when the Newton car stopped for a moment. Nathan gave him a wave.

“Where are you going so early?” asked Sid.

“To the prison to see Jake.”

 “Does it make any difference to him?”

“Doesn’t seem so,” said Nathan. “But he likes Charlotte’s pie and cookies.” He gestured to a large package beside him on the seat. “And I saw him sneak into the service last time. He thought I was too busy playing to notice, but I saw him there in the back row. George Bethayre is always there, too. He’s really thinking about spiritual things.”

The rich politician from the city! Sid couldn’t believe that he was getting into religion.

 “I have to go,” Nathan said, “or I’ll be late. They meet before their workday starts.”


Later that day, Sid hurried across the street.

“Hope! Hope!”

The girl, who was sitting on a boulder, pulled her line from the pool, wrestling a fish to the ground.

She turned to greet him. “Hi, Sid. I have plenty for our supper. Charlotte’s going to show me a new recipe, and Nathan will be back in time to eat with us. Charlotte and Lyddie have the new dress almost done.

Lyddie hasn’t had a pretty new dress in so long. I’m so glad she’s coming to Easter service. I’m so glad Easter’s late this year and I got home in time! I do wish you’d come too, Sid!”

Sid quite disregarded this entire recital. “I’ve got my machine! It’s official! Mine and Andy’s.”

“Sid. That’s wonderful!” She gathered up her fishing paraphernalia, and Sid gave her a hand up. They started walking back along the creek toward home.

He watched her and helped as needed, but she was doing fine. She was going to school now, of course. She’d never work at the mill again. And yes, she was disfigured and would always move a little crookedly due to losing two ribs. And she’d always have some lung problems. He hid her rod and string under the usual bush and carried her fish, as well as her books.

He had to admit that school and learning suited her much better than mill work. And when she taught him his letters and numbers, he realized that her new dream of being a teacher would be fully successful. She seemed to be able to make the knottiest problem easy to understand. 

Lyddie was doing better, having acquired the position of maid at one of the big Victorian houses, due to Mr. Simmons and Charlotte’s help.

As they passed the church, Hope enthusiastically chatted about all of life. School, Easter, the coming of summer.

Of course, Sid liked summer, too. It was more hot and humid than ever in the mill, but there was the baseball team, and band concerts in the park, and the annual Fourth of July fair. This year, that included, for the very first time, chowder and clam cakes at the fire station. And they’d be showing off the fire truck

and letting kids get their pictures taken in it.

Hope was looking forward to summer for another reason. A camp some distance away in Greene would be having tent meetings and revivals going on. Whatever they were. He wished the rich people would get religion. It might make things easier. Look what had happened to their mill once some of the Christians at their church had gotten involved in people’s lives.

The threat of strikes had died down and conditions improved. They heard talk of cotton mills still going out and even vague ideas of nationwide financial problems in the future. But for now, life was good.

In spite of it all, Sid had to admit that when he was alone, or in the wee hours of the night, he knew something was still wrong. He didn’t like to think about it. During the day, what with his new responsible position, he was usually able to forget the strange void in his soul. But he often sensed deep down what it was and what he needed to do about it.

Hope was missing the fair! The whole town was there to celebrate the Fourth of July. Sid had a little cash that he had saved just for this. Though he and Hope had enjoyed the excitement of the fair other years, they’d never had money to buy popcorn, or ice cream, or cotton candy.

They hadn’t been on the rides since they were very young—when Mama was alive and they had money to spend on special things now and then. As he enjoyed the fair with his new older friend Andy, he suddenly saw Nathan and Charlotte strolling down the main lane.

That meant Hope was home! He had money, and he wanted to show her the sights!

“It was wonderful, Papa!” She sat on her stool by Papa’s chair, pouring out her adventures at Camp Meeting.

“Charlotte gave money to fix up some of their cabins and we had such fun with the little children. She teaches just like in Sunday School—but these classes were all outside under the trees or in the big tent!

Oh, here comes Sid! Please come to the fair, Papa. We’ll go slow. You must! You haven’t been to the fair in years! There’s chowder and clam cakes at the fire station and then fireworks tonight!”

“Three kinds of chowder!” exclaimed Sid. “You should see the huge kettles. And corn on the cob! Everyone’s there!”

“Well, all right. It is the Fourth….” Papa grinned at them finally, and Hope squeezed his hand excitedly.


The summer was passing by and Hope was ecstatic about Camp Greene. Sid was still not sure about this.

When he asked what she was doing, he thought it sounded like kitchen work and housekeeping—and she shouldn’t be doing that! Not with her recent health problems. She would never be able to do heavy work, and was he always going to have to keep tabs on his sister?

But she insisted it wasn’t all cooking and dishes. It was ministry—children’s ministry, she called it. Taking care of the kids while the adults listened to sermons, he supposed.

“Oh, but it’s wonderful, Sid. It’s so fulfilling. And really, it will help me in my teaching. I’m learning so much!”

Sid just shook his head in confusion.

The family saw her now and then. Nathan went over every couple of weeks to play the piano in the little log chapel during the evening meetings. He always brought Charlotte and Hope back to town to buy supplies and visit.

And no, Sid was not interested in going and seeing it all. Camp Meeting. Bah. He had more important things to do.


But he was more and more afraid, for rumors were going around again. Tough times coming? No, nobody really believed it. This was a time of foolishness and fun and searching for new thrills anywhere people could find them. Illegal drinking, smoking…reading movie magazines—that’s all the older kids cared about these days.

Sid had no respect for any of them—he had a family to take care of!

But in spite of all the teenage craziness, Sid’s adult friends seemed a little more subdued than usual.

Mr. Simmons sat down with him sometimes and talked about it.

After work, the man often strolled over from the mill and joined Sid on his rock while he was fishing.

“Sid. No matter what happens, God is in control.”

“I don’t get that.”

“Whether rich or poor, we can’t control the world or our circumstances, even our health—as you know. But whatever goes on in this world, God can help us through. My son discovered that in the war. He saw terrible things over there. Bad times come and go, and the only way to really get through is to trust Christ. You have a little more money right now. But it’s not good to trust in money—or anything except God.”

Sid wondered sometimes when he talked like this. Would bad times come again?  God had done some pretty good things for his family lately. They had a little money saved—they still weren’t keeping it in the bank. They had a good little hiding place in Mama’s old trunk. But could God really be trusted through—anything?

Then he would shake his head again. He didn’t understand any of it.

Two Months Later…

Camp Meeting was over. School had started for Hope, and the days would soon cool down as autumn approached.

But the preacher had not left the area. Instead, he was to be preaching at their very own church. Hope was more excited than he’d ever seen her as she talked of “revival meetings” for a whole week. She was baking all kinds of refreshments with Charlotte, and suggesting music to Nathan.

He laughed at her. “We’ll do some of your favorites, I promise.”

“All right,” she beamed.

When revival week came, Sid wanted to stay away. Every time he looked at Hope, she seemed to be pleading with him to come. She loved it and had put so much into it. She greatly admired and respected the speaker, Mr. Elisha Stanhope.

“He’s wonderful, Sid!”

How could a preacher be wonderful? He shook his head, and went off to Mr. Simmons’ orchard to do something useful, like stock up on apples for the winter. More rumors were being heard everywhere, and he wanted to bring back as much as he could. Lyddie would make applesauce, apple butter, and dry the rest.

Back in the spring, Mr. Simmons had suggested that he start a little garden, and had given him a small patch of land alongside the large garden that his own servants were working. Now Sid was harvesting squash, pumpkins, turnips, and potatoes, enough to give away to Ted and the neighbors, as he’d been doing with tomatoes, beans, and corn all summer. It felt good to give to people.

“Have Lyddie can as much as possible,” Mr. Simmons had told them. “You never know when you might need it.”

“Do you know something?” asked Sid, suspiciously.

The man shook his head. “Not really. But sometimes God gives me a sense of—I don’t know—not danger exactly but….I don’t always know what it means, but He usually gives me guidance on how to prepare. It’s always good to have several irons in the fire.”

“You mean like more than one way of making money or getting food?”

The man nodded. “I just want you folks to have enough for winter. You’ve done well with your garden, Sid.”

The year 1929 had been good so far but…who knew….

This Saturday, Hope did more than plead with her eyes. He was about to be off for the afternoon with his borrowed wheelbarrow

to bring back another load when she said, “Please, Sid. This is the last night. Mr. Stanhope must get the midnight train for the West tonight. He has other meetings to go to. Please come.”

“I don’t know,” Sid growled, and went off down the road toward the orchards.

He was tired of sitting at home with just Papa this whole week. Yet wandering the neighborhood, he could hear the singing. The church windows were open, for it was packed with people and they needed the cool air. He could have wandered anywhere, but for some silly reason, he stayed nearby.

Perhaps God spoke to Mr. Simmons in his heart sometimes, but this afternoon, Sid seemed to understand what he meant. He could hardly stand the incredible sense that he needed to get home. Needed to go to that meeting. Not for Hope’s sake, but for his own. Finally at sunset, he headed back with his full wheelbarrow.

Sid came in and glanced at his father. “I’m going to the meeting.”

His father looked up, surprised, but Sid went off, pouring water into the washbowl and scrubbing his face and hands. He changed his shirt and figured he was ready.

And when he came out, there was Papa, pushing himself out of his chair. He didn’t say anything, but the boy knew that he was going, too.

Sid silently took his arm, helping the man into his old sweater, and down the street they went. Others were hurrying along. The music was wafting out over the neighborhood, as usual. Sid shook his head in disbelief. He—and his father—were going to a revival meeting!

The little church on the corner was full of people, even in the balcony. There was standing room only. But just as they got in the door, Sid miraculously saw a seat a few rows from the back, on the end.

His father hobbled along and they squeezed in. Sid relaxed, suddenly feeling like he’d done a day’s work just to get here—but that awful sense of urgency that he’d felt all day was gone.

 Nathan was up and down the keyboards, leaving Sid breathless with a new and glorious song that he had never heard before.

There were some other people playing instruments. Even somebody with a trumpet! Then, as the people started to sing joyously and loudly, Nathan’s playing seemed to be all the greater. Sid wondered if the music in Heaven could be any better than this. And though Sid didn’t sing and certainly couldn’t read the hymns, he realized that again he seemed to know a lot of the words by heart. He knew they must be songs Mama had sung around the house.

But he just couldn’t understand why these people seemed so happy?

Finally Pastor Eldridge introduced the speaker.

He didn’t look much like a preacher. He was short and very plain looking.

Yet when he spoke, Sid was taken up with every word. Mr. Stanhope talked, and flipped the pages in his Bible, and told what things meant—sin and salvation and crucifixion— and Sid found himself transfixed with the man’s quiet, simple, urgent voice.

And then the man asked them to make a choice. To follow God—to give over all control to Him, or go on in sin and pain and darkness. And Sid realized that there was only one answer, only one path. He suddenly didn’t care if God was in control. He realized that must be the best way, after all.

The preacher invited them to come forward if they would like. He said they didn’t have to. He said this was between them and God. But Sid rose from his seat. He wanted to go up. He had to make things right between him and God, and he wanted others to know he meant it. As he slipped out of the pew, he felt a hand tugging his sleeve.

It was his father. Papa didn’t want him to go up there…perhaps he thought Sid was disgracing the family with such nonsense. He looked into his father’s face to tell him he had to, when he realized his father wanted to go, too! Papa gripped his cane. Sid lifted him up, and together they slowly made their way down the aisle.

They were almost to the front when Sid saw Hope sitting next to Charlotte, both beaming. And there was Lyddie, much happier these days, her face turned up to him, smiling, Claude next to her.

Over on the other side, was his new friend Andy, giving him a wink and an encouraging nod.

Nathan was playing a quiet, beautiful song.

Together, Sid and Papa reached the front and stood with many others, ready to give their lives over to God.

Later, downstairs, the crowd spilled outside as people enjoyed the cool autumn air and chatted excitedly.

And for once, Papa seemed happy. Maybe, thought Sid, it was peace that he saw on his father’s face—for the first time ever.

They were hobnobbing with all kinds of people.       

Nathan and Charlotte came to greet them, of course.

Rich or poor, it didn’t seem to matter. Millworkers and maids, the doctor and Hope’s school teacher, some local farmers. Even Mr. Owens, the mill owner, was there.

They ate cookies and drank little cups of punch as Nathan introduced Papa to everyone.         

The crowd started to leave, finally, calling good byes to each other. Nathan was suggesting that he run Papa and Hope the short way home in the Newton car, since both were rather tired by now.

But first Papa looked around at them all. Pastor Eldridge stood there, and Charlotte and her parents. And Mr. Simmons.

“I think,” said Papa shyly, “that over this year or two I’ve seen something. This church, overshadowing our street, our house—why, it’s a beacon—a light of hope for the mill and for this town. If not for you, my daughter would not be here. You’ve brought hope to us all!”


October 24th (Black Thursday) in the year 1929, the Great Depression hit, plunging America and other countries into times of great poverty and hardship but Sid and his family were prepared and trusting God to bring them through.

The End

By Carol Bennett

Dear Parents: This story is in honor of my church, which really was built in the 1800’s for the mill workers in the nearby mill and village (called Hope Village). The local fire station  acquired their new engine around this time.  They actually did start serving chowder and clam cakes at the fair  and started the practice again a few years ago for the night before the Fourth. The lower floor of the church really was the town library until a new library was built up the street. Hope mill, Harris Mill, Awkright Mill, and the waterfalls and pond really did exist and are still there, though  some of the mills aren’t being used and one is an apartment complex. Camp Greene is still in existence as well.

However, all characters—and the story—are entirely fictional. It was written for one of our anniversary celebrations and dedicated to two of our pastors who were very interested in the history of our church and the area. It is also dedicated to the generations of Christians who came before us, sharing the light of Christ with the community.

Saved, Saved   Lyrics and music by Jack P. Scholfield,  1911  Public Domain

Standing On the Promises   Lyrics and music by Russel Kelso Carter, 1886  Public Domain

All images are from Open Clipart or are public domain

Many thanks to my good friend Anne Biernacki for the photo of the mill.