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MEMORIES OF WALTER TALBURT
(Excerpt from the memoir of W. A. Ridgway,
contributed by Peggy King Truesdell)

My great-great grandfather, William Alexander Ridgway, in an account of his life, related this about "Wat" Talbert [born 1802]:

"Uncle Billy" Ridgway, who lived at Shady Grove near Buford until his death there in 1917, is giving information on people he knew through the Primitive Baptist Church:

. . . "There has been two excluded and eight deaths up to this date, 1907. Since I have been a member of Salem Church, four of the members that belonged when I was united have passed away. Elder Joel Sinor, age 84; Sister Carroll, age 94; Sister McCormack, over 60 years; and the most remarkable man I ever met, Old Brother Walter Talbert.

He united with Salem Church soon after its organization and was one of its deacons. A more faithful man, I never met. He was in his 94th year when he died. He got a fall about a year before his death. He had come down to a kinsman's to be at meeting, as he never failed. He walked out on the porch that was three feet from the ground. There was a sapling, two feet from the edge of the porch that he mistook for the post; and fell; broke his hip from which he never recovered.

Brother Talbert moved with his parents to this County, when [he was] nine years old, from Illinois, though born in Tennessee. He never lived anywhere else after he came to Arkansas. It was then a territory and but few people lived here, mostly Indians.

He never had the opportunity to go to school but very little, just enough to learn to spell a little. He could quote whole chapters of the Bible. But few people had any business with him in an argument. He could repeat nearly all the book of the life of General Marion (Rev. War), as he said it was the first book he learned to read. He could repeat long pieces of poetry--the piece that was recently published in the Primitive Baptist paper. To write a few things that have passed through my mind, was his favorite piece.

Brother Talbert made his home with his son ten miles from Salem Church. The weather was hardly ever too severe for him to attend.

My wife would, on Fridays before our meeting time, would say, we may look for Uncle Wat (as he was familiarly known) this evening. He would come riding up just before night. I was always glad to see him and sorry to part with him. He was always interesting. He would tell of how many bears, deer, and turkey he had killed, and how many bee trees he had found. He would talk on the scriptures. I liked to be with him.

Not many years before his death, we took him to the association 35 miles away. We went in a hack there and back. When we got back to Brother Arrn's, I asked Brother Talbert if he was tired. He jumped up and knocked his heels together and made me no answer!

There was two incidents that I want to relate to show Uncle Wat's faithfulness.

He was at my house on one occasion when it seemed that we would all be blown away by a dreadful storm that was raging. There was a peddler stopping with us also. My wife, the peddler, and I became alarmed. Uncle Wat says: "I will lie down. The same God takes care of me that takes care of me in a calm." He was soon asleep. O, for such faith.

Nearly the last time he was at my house, he says: "Brother Ridgway, I want you and Brother Arrn to keep this church together. I will soon pass away. I have helped to keep it together for many years. I now turn it over to you." Thank the Lord for such faithful servants.

Uncle Wat (as everybody called him) had accumulated good property when the war came up. He had a good mill on Big North Fork and several slaves. The Federals burned his mill. His slaves were set free. So, when he died he had nothing of this world's goods. Still he was rich in faith and friends--as was witnessed at his funeral.

His funeral was preached by Elder G. G. Davis, at Salem Church. His text was: "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord." The largest congregation that has ever assembled at our church, only [as large as] at associations. Brother Davis had never preached a funeral sermon before, nor since. It was his first funeral sermon and he had never been where a funeral sermon was preached. Most all denominations were present. All acknowledged that it could not be beat.

O, that the Primitive Baptists had more such men as Uncle Wat. Farewell to the memory of Brother Talbert. I, too, will soon have to follow. I have a hope that we will meet again some sweet day."


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