Over 150 members of the Veazey family gathered on June 11 through 13, 1993, for the beginning of what has become an annual event for the Veazey family. At that time I felt it was certainly a "one and only event" that would be a picnic by "Veazey's Cove," and a tour of "Cherry Grove." I knew that the cousins should visit St. Stephen's Episcopal Church and approached the ladies of the church about holding a light lunch fund raiser for the Veazey family in their fellowship hall. St. Stephens had been so important in the early life of the Veazey family in Cecil County. Their records allow us to know how we descend from the first John. The church members provided a delighful lunch in a memorable setting for the family.
As time wore on I thought about all of the strangers who would be arriving in Cecil County on Friday night and that we would certainly need a place to eat and get acquainted with each other. On that cold January weekend in 1992, Wayne and I had eaten lunch at the Kitty Knight House across the river in Kent County. We also learned the history of "Miss Kitty Knight." Kathrine Knight never married and was so proud of her single status that she had "Miss" inscribed on her tombstone, which I have seen and photographed. Later on we learned that we have a "Shirt tail" relationship with "Miss Kitty" in that her nephew, William Knight, married Ann Arrabella Veazey, who inherited Essex Lodge, another of the ancestral Veazey homes in Cecil County. In "Miss Kitty's" last years she lived at Essex Lodge and that is where she died.
While gathered for this dinner, the Veazey family made "honorary cousins" of the Wards, who so graciously offered to share our heritage with us. This was the first time that many of our cousins had met, and was to be a "once in a lifetime" event. Naturally we had corresponded and talked over the phone in the months prior to June 11, 1993. Even though we had not met, there were several that I knew the moment I heard their voices, due to our many phone conversations. Leroy in particular. Some of his comments about that event, I will remember always, "This event is the highlight of my senior years!" And, "John, we are HERE!" I also treasure the picture of he and Eleanor, and Darrell and Alice Siria wading in the waters of "Veazey's Cove," just like it was the River Jordan.
Rev. Terry Veazey opened the first dinner with a patriotic medley that truly set the tone for the entire weekend. A representative from each family group explained what we knew at that given time about their ancestors and their line. No one will forget Leroy's "parking" one of his three on the siding, while waiting for the next one to come along so that they could get hitched! Link covered the Georgia family, Margaret the Tennesse family, and I covered the North Carolina family. Ralph mentioned his Maryland ancestors, Ann the Arkansas family, Clare the Louisiana family, and our Canadian cousin the Smith branch of the family.
While it was very special to walk on the ground where John walked, the highlight of the weekend, by far, was the personal tour of "Cherry Grove." The house is built in three distinct sections, the first having been authenticated as being built prior to 1700. It was a log building with a second half story for sleeping rooms. The basement shows sleepers that are half trees with bark intact. Hand hewn beams are evident in the main first floor room of this older section. The second and middle section was built during the 1700's and consists of two large rooms downstairs and two upstairs with a large center hall. These first two sections do not share a common wall. At some point a shed room was built on the rear of the house to allow family members to enter the older section from the newer section without going outside to do so. A third and more modern section has been built by the current owners, but is architecturally in keeping with both of the prior constructions, both on the exterior and interior.
They also enjoyed touring the Veazey Family Cemetery in the front yard of the home, with the grave of Governor Thomas Ward Veazey and his three wives. I understand that when the family of the present owners first acquired this property nearly a half century ago, there was no evidence of a cemetery here. There was a large bramble of undergrowth in this spot. While working in this area one day, one of them spotted something that looked like a tombstone. They learned from a local worker that there was indeed a cemetery there and that a gentleman (possibly Duncan Veazey?) used to come out from Baltimore and pay him to clean it. The man stopped coming, and he stopped cleaning it. In that time frame it had almost disappeared.
After its discovery, it was cleaned and landscapped beautifully. Stones were set upright and in as nearly an accurate position as could be determined, all facing east. There is no marker here for the first several generations of the Veazey family. As was the custom in those early days, those graves had probably been marked with field stones or wooden crosses which have not withstood the test of time.
Another highlight of this day was a tour of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church, where records of the early Veazey family have enabled us to trace our early roots in Cecil County. There are a number of relatives buried in the church cemetery, too. Mr. Burt Morgan, member of St. Stephen's Church, gave an overview of the history of the church to cousins who traveled to this site for lunch. There is a silver tray displayed there that was a gift of a member of the Veazey family. An outstanding feature of the sanctuary is in the stained glass windows. The center window in the chancel area has as its focal point at the very top, an "Eye of God." Anywhere in the sanctuary that you are seated, that eye is upon you. This is a rare work, being one of only three in the entire world.
Cousins were furnished a county map and "floated" from one site to another during the day. In the afternoon family members were invited to tour Old Bohemia, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church which dates its beginnings to 1704. This is the site of Miss Kitty Knight's grave. Although Mount Harmon, that was the home of Dr. Thomas Broccus Veazey for eight years, was closed to the public, we were invited to drive down the long winding lane to the house and view the grounds and exterior of the building. (It is my understanding that this house is now open to the public once again, 1998.)
Later, I thought that those of us who would not be departing the area until Sunday morning, would want to get together on Saturday night to discuss what we had seen that day. I contacted the ladies at Chesapeake City United Methodist Church to inquire if they would consider a fund raiser dinner in their fellowship hall on Saturday night. Suddenly, or maybe not so suddenly, our weekend picnic had turned into an entire weekend affair.
It was at this final gathering that Cousin Link and Bates Bowers introduced their composition, "Veazey's Here and Veasey's There," which could almost be sung to the tune of "Kiss Me Once." This original has been fine-tuned and has become a tradition for each reunion with Bates's beautiful baritone leading us. Link told the group that he wanted this event to continue on an annual basis and that he was inviting all the cousins to come to Greensboro, Georgia, for a second event in 1994. When I told Link that I had thought maybe once every five years would be enough, he told me that some of us didn't have time to wait that long. A tradition had begun with 150 cousins who gathered in Maryland for our first reunion. The second and following reunions are covered on separate pages.
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