Day 05 - Fithian Illinois

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The morning of day 5 we got up, had some quick breakfast and prepared for the short drive into Fithian. I have been wanting to travel to Fithian for years. I really wanted to go with my mom but she just didn't want to make the journey. I had been hearing stories of this tiny town for years.

At first when we saw the sign for the town, being from California your first thought is that it is 550 feet above sea level but then you realize that the 550 is indeed the population. In reality, it is probably less than that. 

When you drive into town on from the west the first house on the left is what we have always called, "The Fithian House". I'm sure everyone one who lives in Fithian calls their home by the same name but this old brick house is OUR Fithian House. It was built by my Great Great Grandfather Benjamin Franklin Meade. Ben was born in 1848 and finished the house in 1905. As a young girl my mother went to live in the house with her mother and has always told the most wonderful stories from those times. She moved away in 1940.

As the story goes, when interstate 74 was built there was a big town meeting and they decided that allowing an exit off the interstate that went directly into Fithian would just bring a bunch of crime so they opted to NOT build an exit off the freeway. The result however is that the town is shrinking. These days one of the only businesses left in town is the barber shop on the site of the old Cromwell's Grocery Store, still owned and operated by the son of the Cromwell's, Gary Cromwell. 

Juanita Renfro

Jim Scott (Scotty)

Telling old stories.

Its not every day you run into a street named after your family.

After the barber shop story in the video above, we headed further east to Oakwood Cemetery. I knew the plot number for Benjamin Franklin Meade, A-79-B, but had no idea where to look for it. There was a grave digger guy there and I asked him and although he didn't know the answer he was able to give me the phone number to Tim Lee. Tim managed the cemetery and would be able to give me more info. 

Tim was at home and the best info he could give me was that Section A was on the far east side of the cemetery. So we headed for the tree line and began looking around.

If you go to the Oakwood and are looking for Meades you'll find a lot, we stumbled across at least a dozen Meades and those are just the ones we saw. If you want to find Benjamin Franklin Mead and Loyal Tipton Meade you have to walk as far as you can away from the "Casey's General Store" behind the hedge, and under the peaceful tree and you'll come across a small quiet area where Benjamin Franklin, Loyal Tipton and Mary Elizabeth (Smoot) Meade are buried. 

I found it interesting to see the way they would abbreviate the names. 

Benj. F. Meade

Tipp L. Meade

Of course everyone called him Tipp, even Scotty. 

While on the cell phone walking around the House shooting video and taking pictures, my mom told me a story about Tipp that I had never known before. Tipp, was a designer. He did paint and wall paper and in those days, mixing paint was something that was a LOT more difficult to do and it was one of the things that Tipp did all the time.

Perhaps the thing that affected me the most was that Mary Elizabeth's head stone had fallen over. Which got me to thinking. Why was that? Not the physics of it but, what caused it to happen and why had it never been fixed? Does it have anything to do with my mother moving to California? Are there other Meades near by that can fix it? But wait. My Grandmother had 3 sisters. Tipp had 4 girls. That means that there are no more Meades in the area. 

I'm seriously thinking of paying to have that fixed. I think we may need to step up and take care of it.

Beth took the time to write down what the inscription said on Mary's headstone.

Remember friend as you pass by:

As you are now so once was I.

As I am now so you must be:

Prepare for death and follow me.

I sat there for a long time. It was hot and we had hiked all over this cemetery looking for the headstones and did I mention it was hot? I sat down on Mary's base stone and looked at Tipp's headstone for a long time. I realized that my entire life, for stupid vane reasons, I had completely shunned my heritage. Not to many people know my middle name. I had always kept it a secret and even lied when I was 16 to avoid it being put on my driver's license. But back in 1962 my mother chose to name me after Loyal Tipton Meade, Christopher Tipton Fenwick. 

I had always wanted a "normal" name but I can honestly say that today, at 47 years old, I can't be MORE proud of my family, my heritage, and my name.

I'm sitting on Mary's base stone and you can almost see her fallen head stone behind me, in the foreground is Benjamin's headstone and the raised stone on the right is Tipp's headstone.

And then, like Christopher Reeves discovering a penny in his pocket, (does anyone even KNOW that reference?) all of a sudden I get snapped back into the 21st century by a business call. With Beth driving (and shooting) we are headed back down Interstate 74 toward Bloomington, talking on my iPhone, logged on thru the MiFi and fixing a presentation for a client back in California.

Tomorrow, we'll head for Springfield Illinois. 


« Day 04 - Start of Route 66 | Main | Day 06 - Bloomington, IL - St. Louis, MO »

Reader Comments (17)

I am always ready to go to heaven - you know that - right? But I am so glad "they" did not send for me before this happened to you and Beth. What a thrilling thing it was for you two and for me. Not to mention - it is one of the biggest things to happen in Fithian since the town voted out the exit from the highway. Kidding about that, of course, but it must be fun for them, too.

Aren't they good people? They are "my" people.

GOD is Good all the time but things like this make us know the world is small but GOD is huge!

Beth your pictures (the 7 of Fithian) were a delight to my soul. I hope everyone goes to see them and see the beauty of the Fitihian house. Love you guys and I am making the trip most of the way with you but nothing will be like Fithian.

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Fenwick

ONE OTHER THING - I keep wanting to ask if you see how flat the land is there. I just noticed, at the beginning of this video how flat it is and remember my first trip home after we moved to Santa Barbara how I was almost dizzy with the flatness.

Keep noticing the corn growing - because the saying is, "the corn is as high as an elephant's eye" by the 4th of July. It will grow before your very eyes -

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Fenwick

One more comment - the Harrolds bought the home in the 40s - it was sold as the Meade estate - had property and they still live there. The daughter of this family is living there now with her father - her mother is gone now. So it is a home with only 2 families who have owned it. For over 100 years? find me a home like that.

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Fenwick

Hi Chris. You don't know me but I'm one of your Mom's million or so friends. And I am LOVING watching your videos of your trip. Its like "Travel's with Charley" or "A Walk Across America" but done through today's technology AND best of all, having heard Terry tell about these places and people too. Its GREAT! Praying that your whole trip is WONDERFUL. I feel like I'm taking it with you and Beth, vicariously. Looking forward to your next post, Karen

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKaren Burrell

This video reminds me of that show on NBC where the celebs go and find their's soooo cool that you are doing the same to some extent!

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle Norton

Your video are very nice... I just love it

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterStan

Chris: what an awesome experience for the three of you. My Dad's side of the family is from small town Georgia and there is a very rich and long history there that I have been experiencing, mostly secondhand, for years. I can empathize with some of the emotions that come from meeting people who know so much of your family history.

You and Beth are quite the documentary crew! Thanks for sharing.

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrad Seals

OK... that's awesome!!! Having done a bunch of genealogical work on my family, I would LOVE to have that experience. It's great that you have such a great video memory to go back to for many years down the road. BTW: Scotty is awesome!! Very cool!!

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Stennet

incredible story! You've inspired me to plan a trip like this. But for now I'm going to enjoy your discoveries!

Thursday, June 3, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterMark Jensen

Ahhh and we even thoought about naming you Tipton as a first name - We were going to call you Topper. That part did not last long because I never wanted a name that people would razz about and Topper might not be that great. Then when we saw you? You actually looked exactly like Christopher.

You know tomorrow your baby brother will be 44, right? Good Old Jonathan Ward Meade Fenwick

Friday, June 4, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Fenwick

Keep doing what your doing.this is a blast to listen to and even read

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJon

Watching listening and commenting in mt view on my IPad . Cool huh!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJon

RE: penny in the pocket
Your reference to "Somewhere in Time" was not wasted. Very fitting...

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom

Wow. This piece is great. To find connections to your past like that is awesome.

Thursday, July 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterOscar Camejo

What a day! Tipton ts great name.

Friday, July 30, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrad Smith

Excellent, very well done. Pictures and commentary bring back many fond memories. I lived in Fithian from birth(1932) till departure into the U.S. Airforce as a ROTC 2nd Lt.(1955)...Another Fithianite..Richard(Dick) Cannon..who was a good friend and U of I compatriate has published a great history of Fithian.."Fithian-A Diary of a Small Town"..2002..HERITAGE BOOKS, INC.1540 E. Pointer Ridge Place, Bowie, Maryland 20716...1-800-398-7709...Book is also available in the Vermilion County Historical Bldg. in Danville, Il...

Friday, August 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn(Jack) Perry

For Jack Perry above - I have these books, Jack. I have been in touch with the Cannons. Wonderful families from Fithian!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTerry Fenwick (Mother)

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