West Virginia Review
Lydia Kimble Graham
by J. M. Bennett
Lydia Kimble Graham
Up among the beautiful hills of Pendleton County, West Virginia, there dwells an aged lady, who has the unique distinction of receiving a pension from the National Government because her husband fought on the American side during our Second War for Independence.
It was on a pleasant spring morning, not long ago, that I first wound my way to her little mountain home, situated amid majestic scenery, some miles north of the picturesque little town of Franklin.
I truly expected to see a woman badly worn with years, for was she not a widow of a soldier of that long-ago-war, and had I not been informed that she was nearing the century mark? So, as I followed the byway that led from the main highway up the little valley and around the foot of the hill, I found myself fearing that perhaps it would be impossible after all for me, a stranger, to get an interview with this old, old woman. And, if I were successful in this, would not her sense faculties be dimmed by years and her memory blurred with age?
Imagine my joyful surprise when a dear old lady, erect and nimble beyond all expectation, possessing a pleasant countenance, and charming manner; with keen sight and acute hearing, met me at the door of her modest but snug little home, half hidden among the flowers and bushes, and informed me that she was Mrs. Graham.
"Come right in," she said pleasantly, "but you will have to excuse my appearance, as I've been working in the garden - . .. Oh, yes, I still work in my garden, 'tend to my flowers, and do my housework," she added in answer to my expression of surprise. "My son and his wife," she continued as we seated ourselves, "are very good to me, and they want me to stop working, but you see I was never used to being idle, and I'm afraid I wouldn't like it."
Her son and daughter-in-law, of whom she spoke, are thrifty people, who live near her and never let her want for anything.
As we sat talking, she related to me in a very interesting way the story of her life and that of her former husband, the late Isaac Graham, who entered the War of 1812 at the age of nineteen, and served in Bodkin's Division of the Virginia Militia.
"My husband," she went on, "was born on May 12, 1793. This was during Washington's administration, you know, and the year that the cornerstone was laid for the National Capitol. I remember my husband used to smile, when asked his age, and say that he was as old as the National Capitol. He had a vivid memory, and enjoyed talking about the war, the gold rush, pioneer days, and so forth, right up till the time of his death, which occurred on November 10,1881."
Mrs. Graham said that she was born during Van Buren's administration, near the place where she now dwells.
"Though I have always lived in Pendleton County," she smilingly said, "nevertheless, I have been a resident of two states. I lived in Virginia until I was twenty-five," she explained, "at which time this part of the state separated from the Mother State and became West Virginia. I never had a desire to live elsewhere. I love my hills and my mountain home. Though I have lived to see this country pass through four victorious wars, and was united in marriage to a dear old soldier who had served his country faithfully in another, I have no desire to talk about wars. I have seen and heard too much about them, I suppose. I trust we never have another war. I would much rather think about the beauties of nature." Her eyes brightened as she glanced through the open door at the distant hills. "And here, stranger, nature is at its best. The beautiful sunsets, the towering mountains, the cooling springs, the green pastures, the crystal rivers, the shady forests, all help to make this one of the most charming places that can be imagined."
Beckoning me to follow, she led the way to a cool spot beneath the trees. From this pleasant location we could see far across the hills to the distant mountains, which faded to a hazy blue mist and blended with the smoky rim of the sky on the far-away horizon.
"When I was young," she continued without taking her eyes from the scene at which we had been gazing for some time in silence, "I dearly loved to climb those rugged mountains to their summits. The view from those advantageous points never fail to awe, silence, and inspire me. I am no longer able to go up there, but, like the Hebrew poet of old, thank God, I can still 'lift up mine eyes to the hills, from whence my strength cometh.' I have dwelt among these hills all my life, love them dearly, and desire that others may see and love them and benefit from them as I have. To me they are always a source of inspiration."
Mrs. Graham, who has just celebrated her ninety-sixth birthday, possesses such a keen aesthetic sense and such a tender poetic nature that she cannot fail to hear and understand the call of natural beauty after having been reared amid the fascinating splendor of Pendleton County.
Mrs. Graham, like most of the people of Pendleton County, has come down from generations of people who were reared in close communion with nature. Hers is a love for her hills that amounts to an obsession. As long as she lives she will retain that tender and deep-seated affection for her hills, and her little home among them.
Military and Wartime