2005 Shirley Gathering in Ringgold, Georgia
By Betty Shirley
I flew alone from San Jose, California to Atlanta, Georgia. I rented a car and drove to Ringgold, Georgia to stay with Jemima Shirley. She was our host for the Shirley meeting scheduled the next day, Saturday June 4th at the Old Stone Church - Ringgold, Georgia.
The church was built in 1850 and is now a museum owned and operated by the Catoosa County Historical Society. The original pews remain in the church and seats more than 100 people.
We were a small group but we had a great time. Jemima had packed a luncheon to bring to the church as there was no where nearby to get anything to eat. We made sandwiches in a small kitchen, had chips, fruit, cake etc. with plenty of cold sodas and water as it was hot.
I was pleased Ken drove up from Alabama to be with us at this meeting as I had never met him. We had corresponded for years by email so it was great to put a face with his name. After the meeting he came over to Jemima's house and chatted for awhile and then we went to dinner and back to Jemima's. We tried to get him to stay the night and go with us to Tennessee the next morning for a Shirley family reunion for branch #24. He couldn't as he was working on a project at home and had to get back.
NOTE: Ken is the one now in charge of the Shirley Association.
Jemima and I left the next morning for a drive into Tennessee to the Shirley reunion being held in a park. We met up with Paul Shirley who was in charge and set up a few things on display on one of the picnic tables under a roofed picnic area. As the people arrived and brought their food and placed on the main table, they would find their way over to where I has set up this display to share with anyone info about their family, etc. The reason why I wanted to be at this reunion was to share about our new DNA discovery for their group. They were our first DNA connection of Shirleys from the USA with Shirleys to those of another country, Australia. The Australian Shirley group that matched with branch #24 knew where they came from in England, so this is why this was huge news.
Note: I might clarify that we do know of Shirleys in the New England states and their family in England. But we knew this because of family info and not because of DNA.
Jemima and I drove back to her house that evening. The next morning I was headed back to Atlanta to catch a flight home.
Arrangements had been made to meet up with Edward Shirley at a restaurant near the freeway so it would be convenient for me on my way to the airport. Edward, his wife and his daughter arrived just minutes after I got there. What a delightful and friendly group they were. After chatting over dinner, Edward pulled out a check book. I thought he was perhaps going to pay his dues to Shirley Association. As he wrote out the check, he said he was making a donation. I said how thoughtful that was of him, and I thought it might be $50 or $100. When I looked it was a $1000 and I about fell over. I had mentioned earlier about wanting to go back to England one more time. He said they would help me make that trip.
While he took a break to the restroom, his daughter and wife told me about an upcoming surgery in 2 weeks and that he may not make it. He had had this surgery once before and how difficult a time he had.
I am sorry to say he died a few days after surgery. This was about 2 weeks after we had met in the restaurant. He will be missed!
That is my report of this trip.
The Church/Museum is at the fork of Georgia Highway #2 and U. S. Highway #41 about 2 miles south of Ringgold on #41. The I-75 is within two miles, turn at the Ringgold Tunnel Hill
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