Writing Jubilee’s Journey was somewhat of a trip down memory lane, not because of my own memories, but the memories of my mother, who so generously passed them down to me.
My mom was born in Coal Fork, West Virginia; as was her sister Ruth. They were two in a family of eleven siblings. Times were hard and the family didn’t always have the luxury of living under the same roof. Once the girls were old enough, they were sent to live with relatives who needed house help; the boys went to work in the mines or became farm hands for neighbors.
When my mom was not yet twenty, she married a city boy from Charleston and moved away. Her sister Ruth married one of the men who worked in the mines. The part of Jubilee’s Journey that tells of life in the mining community is based on the truth of how it was.
After Ruth was married, she and her new husband moved into a tiny four room house wedged into the side of the coal-mining mountain. Did they own the house? No. Did they rent the house? No. In the little community of Coal Fork, there was no owning or renting; if a house stood empty and you had need of it…you simply moved in. Of course the house was little more than walls and a floor, there was no plumbing, no electricity, just a cast iron coal stove used for both cooking and heat. But it was a house and it was free. It had a stretch of land suitable for some farming and a well that had a plentiful supply of cold clear water – water far better than anything you’ve ever tasted.
In Jubilee’s Journey, Ruth’s husband is named Bartholomew but in real life his name was Clifford. He was a miner who lived a life very similar to Bartholomew’s. He and Ruth had four children, the eldest of which was my cousin Paul. And the Paul I knew was my model for the one I created. He was wise, strong, loyal beyond belief, and filled with love and Faith.
I spent many summer vacations visiting my cousins and the memories I have are truly treasured ones. Despite the fact that Ruth’s family had very few material possessions, they were wealthy beyond compare. They were rich in the things that no amount of money can buy—love, faith, trust and hope. Like Bartholomew, Clifford hoped his boys would never see the inside of a mine…and they didn’t. All four of my cousins earned scholarships and went on to become professionals in the fields of education and ministry.
I have always been inspired by the goodness in the life they led, and that inspiration is what led me to write Jubilee’s Journey. I hope the book inspires others as the truth behind this story has inspired me.
Bette Lee Crosby
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