The word “neighbor” took on new meaning for me and Homer and our family on that June day in 1965. It could have been just a repeat of the first day in a new town, an occurrence we had already experienced a few times as a family which then included three daughters ages ten, almost nine and almost eight. We had neighbors before, in Dalton and Rome and Canton and Bremen, but this time would be different. We would never again live elsewhere. We settled into the big 1909 house on the northwest corner of Woodstock’s Main Street and Barnesdale Terrace, one of only two available rental houses in the town at the time. It proved to be our lifeline to Woodstock’s heartbeat.
The street name, Barnesdale Terrace, was no accident. From “Miss Emma” Barnes and her sister Carrie Rusk, on the southwest corner, to Miss Emma’s son Miller Barnes and his family, the entire southern side of the street would eventually become the Barnes compound. We met Miller’s wife, Bertha, almost immediately. You had to love her, along with her children, Alan and Cathie. Daughter Millicent was married and lived in the McAfee House, Bertha’s childhood home, a space occupied today by the gazebo.
Barnesdale was, and is, a dead-end street. The families whose homes were on the north side of the street were great neighbors as well. I’ve thought often of how I took most of this for granted at the time. Later I would come to realize that those associations were so special. The ties that bind have held for over 50 years, even though we were in that house only a short 16 months.
Millicent’s death last week caused me to reflect on those days, the “Days of Our Lives.” A little research uncovered a fact that seems almost uncanny. The soap by that title debuted that fall on November 8, 1965, on my 31st birthday. Not much of a coincidence, perhaps, but enough to make me sit up and take notice of another personal connection to the date. It was the very day that Homer purchased a lot on Dobbs Road from Linton Dean, Uncle Linton to Bertha Barnes. The lot was bordered on the east by Dobbs property which eventually became the development known as Dobbs Estates. And much to the delight of our daughters, our home would be built in the back yard, so to speak, of Woodstock Elementary School. We suddenly had an abundance of neighbors, almost too good to be true. The days of our lives were good, and only got better as we came to know and love the community and its apparent appreciation of the town’s history and heritage.
Millicent was buried on Sunday at Enon Cemetery beside her husband, Tom Fox. They are surrounded by numerous Dean family members, including the patriarch, William Hiram Dean. He was the first Dean to settle in Woodstock, around 1850. He was a medical doctor, and later came to recognize his calling to the Christian ministry. He would later serve at four different times as pastor of the Enon Baptist Church, predecessor of First Baptist Woodstock, and much of his story can be found on the narrative at the Enon Chapel on the cemetery grounds. He would take care of Woodstock’s citizens, body and soul, throughout his life. His son, Will Dean, became a doctor as well, and it was through Will and Lou Boring Dean’s daughter, Eva Dean McAfee, that Millicent’s story comes to life. Eva, the oldest of Will Dean’s children, was married to Hubert McAfee, Sr. and they had a son and a daughter, Bertha. Their home stood next door to the home of Eva’s parents, the 1875 Dean House, Woodstock’s oldest home. In 1945, Eva and her mother, Lou, widow of Dr. Will Dean, died on the same day. Millicent was nine years old. What a legacy for her. She cherished her memories of these ancestors, and instilled in her family the importance of the preservation of their shared heritage.
I will miss her. I am so thankful that her sister, Cathie, brought her to visit with me during the early days of the pandemic. We had such a great visit, going over old times, living for a few precious moments in a past that only our generation can truly treasure.
I never tire of telling the Dean story. The footprints of these families, literally and figuratively, can be found throughout the town, from the stately beauty of the Dean House to the Woodstock Visitors Center at Historic Dean’s Store. The story continues in the lives of those W. H. Dean descendants who chose to remain in Woodstock and in those who might live elsewhere but take every opportunity to come home again. Minister Dan Parker asked me at Enon if I was a member of the Dean family. I said, “almost.” That may be stretching the truth a bit, but I felt very close since I had just learned that a 7th generation Dean will be in next year’s 6th grade science class taught by my granddaughter! And these are the ties that bind. And these are the days of our lives. We have been blessed by knowing and loving Millicent. We’ll honor her life by sharing precious memories. There are so many.