I have written and talked about my 3X great grandfather, Robert Hatchett quite a bit. He is the reason my family is in Arkansas. He migrated from Limestone County, Alabama in 1858 with his slave holder, W. H. Pickett, to Jackson County, Arkansas. He became a Baptist minister in Alabama and continued to preach and perform marriages once he was in Arkansas.
This side of my family has been having family reunions since the 1970s. I have oral history that was written down by my grandfather and his siblings in a reunion booklet. In that oral history, not only was Robert Hatchett a Baptist minister, but he was also one of the founding members of the church at Pickett Station, now known as Mt. Zion Baptist Church in Jackson County, Arkansas. I have had this information since 2015, but it never dawned on me until recently that I could find this land and visit it.
I recently looked up the coordinates to Pickett Lake, Mt. Zion Church original location, and Mt. Zion cemetery all in Shoffner, Arkansas. Since I’m directionally challenged and don’t know how to actually use the coordinates I had found, I sent them to my husband. He then went to Google maps because Google is our friend and located all of these places and how to get there. I decided then that the next time I was in Jackson County, I would make it my mission to visit this land.
It just so happened that the next time I was in the area was when I went to clean headstones. Mt. Zion cemetery is only a few miles from Auvergne, so it just made sense to stop by when we got done with the cleaning. We drove the few miles down the road and turned on a dirt road. It really seemed like we were in the middle of nowhere until we got around the curve and saw all the headstones in the cemetery. My hope was to be able to find the foundation or some resemblance of where the original church building was. But that had been long torn down and all that was there was the cemetery and many old trees.
We parked in the middle of the cemetery and started walking around first looking at some of the oldest headstones that dated back to the 1870s. Then we just walked around to see if I recognized any names, which of course I did, but none were family names. I must admit I was feeling a little disappointed in not finding any family there or the original church building. That’s when my husband mentioned how old the trees looked, and that these trees were probably around when my 3X great grandfather, Robert Hatchett, was living with his family. That’s when I realized that I was walking on the same land that my ancestors had walked on, and these were the same trees that provided my ancestors with some much-needed shade from the hot summer sun. We assume that the church was originally located close by the cemetery. Since there were headstones from the 1870s, I am certain that my ancestors had walked through this cemetery also. That’s when my feelings of disappointment faded, and a feeling of excitement started. It was then that I was able to recognize just how powerful this moment was. I looked down at the ground, and I could imagine my feet walking in my ancestors’ footprints from over 150 years ago, and that is a feeling that I will always remember.
My research has allowed me to identify the names, dates, and cities of my family and ancestors. But my journey has allowed me to get to know them and be able to connect with them in a way that I never thought was possible. And this is why my journey continues…