Eliza Myrtle Farmer (Elkins) 13 Jan 1894 - 29 Dec 1992 Buncombe Co NC Buncombe Co NC
"Ms. Myrtle", as we called her, was a faithful presence at Piney Mountain Baptist Church for several decades. In her gentle and diligent way, she fulfilled very important responsibilities in the life of the congregation.
She made the arrangements for the pastor's visits to homes for Sunday dinners. (As the church could afford only half-time pastoral service in those days, usually from a Mars Hill College professor who lived outside the community, these Sunday dinners among the members were an important means of engagement with the church families.) Not every family participated, so she and husband Jim Elkins hosted him far more than their share of the time, but she still managed to quietly cajole and encourage others to join the circle of those who would entertain the pastor at Sunday dinner.
Ms. Myrtle accomplished her tasks in the background. I think I never heard her "speak up" in church meetings, and even in private conversation she always spoke softly. She was a small, slender woman, and by the time I came to know her in the early 1950's, she was already a bit stooped with age. She wore her graying brown hair in the plainest possible manner, pulled back into a small bun behind her head.
She and Mr. Elkins lived west of the church, up a long dirt driveway, in a nice old weathered house with big porches set in an open area, a hilly pasture rising above on one side and a little valley below on the other side. As they did not own an automobile, they walked the half-mile to church twice on Sunday and again on Wednesday for prayer meeting.
When it was time for the seasonal communion observance, it was she who brought out the well polished silver communion service, poured the communion wine into the thimble-sized glasses arrayed in the little velvet-lined pockets of the big round tiered tray, and plated the small cubes of unleavened bread on the two silver plates. The deacons would then serve the communion elements to the congregation at their seats in the pews. Afterward she and a few helpers would gather all the little glasses and pack everything up to be washed and stored at her home until the next communion.
One of her most solemn duties was to co-author the church's traditional elaborate, formal obituaries for deceased members. She wrote, with Mrs. Daisy Hipps, one of these for my own grandmother, Margaret Jane Shepherd, and another for my great aunt, Eugenia Shepherd Myers. These formal documents became part of the official church records, contributing to the congregation's rich history.
My fondest memory of her was away from the church. Once, in autumn, the church boys' group called Royal Ambassadors (the "RA's", for short), gathered on a beautiful cool evening in a cove of the Elkins' pasture for a wiener and marshmallow roast. We had the fire going and were well along with the roasting and feasting when Ms. Myrtle appeared in the distance coming our way, carrying an enameled metal pail. She set it on a rock near the fire, and, when the roasting of marshmallows was underway, removed the lid and ladled out sweet hot chocolate for each of us. Served from that beautiful old pail, it was the most delectable dessert imaginable to end that humble feast.
It is worth noting that, in contrast to her solid and productive adult life, Myrtle Farmer had suffered a rather unsettled childhood. By 1900, when she was about six, her father was away; she, her brother and her mother all resided with Myrtle's maternal grandmother, Sarah Miles Brown. Then, in 1906 when Myrtle was about twelve, her mother died, so the 1910 census found her living with the family of her aunt, Elizabeth Brown Foister.
- Dwight Childers 15 September 2010 rev 10 June 2012