Last time, in my account of our trip to West Virginia, the scene ended as we headed for the lodge in Blackwater Falls State Park. I’ll hold the story there, again to go back to a bend on U.S. 219 near Thomas, W. Va., where we paused to appreciate the graceful miniature charm of Our Lady of the Pines.
Proclaimed the smallest church in 48 states, the tiny sanctuary measuring 16-by-11-feet inside, has six pews and can seat 12. Its history is revealed on the postcard I purchased via an honor system in the miniature post office located behind the church. The history, written in the first person, makes the place come alive as the church tells its own tale as follows:
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“the child of a childless couple, Mr. and Mrs. P.L. Milkint, … I was born … because of their great love for their departed parents. … I was built in 1957-58 … [as] a lasting memorial to honor and remember them … All my fixtures are handmade. … The altar linen cover was woven by my grandmother in Lithuania over 90 years ago.
“I think my parents selected a beautiful spot to give me birth. My lawns and surroundings are well kept by their hard labor. I have flowers blooming around me from early spring until late fall. In fact, it seems to me that my life of usefulness is like the flowers and trees around me. I awaken to life and service when the spring flowers bloom and the hills turn green again. It is then that mission priests come and Mass is celebrated. People come and kneel to worship and go on their way with blessing and peace of mind because of me. I have known the pleasure of having been a part of uniting happy youths [in] Holy Matrimony.
“More than 37,000 people, from 48 states and 17 foreign countries visited me in 1972. Each year the visitors have increased by great numbers. Some of the bus lines have me listed as one of the attractions and stop here when they are on their scenic tours. These tours bring visitors to our lovely mountains from early spring, when the sarvis, wild cherry and the dogwood deck the mountains in white, to the time when brighter and more vivid colors come with the azaleas, the laurel and the rhododendron, until the autumn foliage turns red and golden. When the last flowers freeze and fade and all the leaves come down, and the snow sifts through the pines to cover my roof, my door is closed, for no visitors come.
“But I am never lonely, because the winds in the pines above my cross are of many moods. They sing, sigh, moan and whisper to me. Winter birds seek shelter in my bell tower on nights when the cold winds blow. The fingers of the friendly pines caress my cross, and then during the Christmas season the trees are beaded with lights of many colors that glow and sparkle under the winter stars. Then I know that it will soon be spring and many friends will come again.
“I love to see tourist season come, for then I have many visitors and admirers. I fear that if I were my parents’ child of flesh, I would be a spoiled one, for the endless praise bestowed on the beautiful stone work, stained glass windows and the historic little bell in the bell tower. Sundays as many as five and six hundred visitors stop in to visit me, walk around the beautiful surroundings, see the flowers, the nursery and other ornaments of intgerest, where folks can really enjoy the use of camera.
“Did you visit the Timpinogos Wishing Well? … Timpinogos is an Indian name … [from a] legend … brought from the state of Utah. Timpinogos lost her lover, and for a long time she searched for him, but in vain. Then one day she looked into the well and wished that she could see her lover again. Suddenly, there appeared his face beside hers in reflection, and for the last time. Thereafter she spent the rest of her life working to support the orphans and the poor, and teaching the Indian children. As you look into the well, you see the heart of Timpinogos. … The coins you drop go to the orphans and the poor. … I will make a wish, too, and it is this: I wish you would tell all your friends to come to visit me.”
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I had visited before, but nearly 20 years had passed, and since it was my girls’ first visit, I took a fresh look at the scene. We did “enjoy the use of camera”. We took several pictures of our group beside the little church and around the beautiful grounds. After piling back into the van, we headed toward, first Thomas, then Davis, W. Va., where I’ll resume my story next time.
(continued in future issue)
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