The above racing team consists of my paternal grandfather, George Washington Longenecker (1864-1951) and one of his American Standardbreds. Grandpa George may be considered an obscure poet; but he was far from obscure in Neillsville, Wisconsin where he served for decades as a preacher in the 1st Congregational Church.
Along with “pastoring” (actually Congregational preachers* are called “Reverend” rather than “Pastor”), Grandpa George raised American Standardbreds and competed in sulky races at local fairs. This activity raised a few legalistic eyebrows in the small Wisconsin community—probably due to the possibility of spectators gambling on the races. But Grandpa’s recreational passions involved horses and poetry, not money.
Having made poems ever since I can recall and pursued a lifelong study of poetry as fine art, I need to mention that most literary poetry aficionados would consider my grandfather’s verses to be doggerel. Although Grandpa was raised on classical literature, his course of study was theology—not the fine arts. Like many Congregational Reverends in his era, he graduated from Ohio’s Oberlin Seminary.
Grandpa George loved the Lord Scripturally, with all his heart and mind. His poems reflect his love, and that’s good enough for me! My grandfather also loved music, specifically the great hymns of the Christian faith which he played on his violin. Much of Grandpa’s poetry contains the cadence and meter of a hymn.
In 1947 Grandpa self-published a book of his work titled SUNSET POEMS—named after my grandparents’ home, “Sunset Point”, on a bluff overlooking Wisconsin’s beautiful Black River. Here is one of the poems:
George W. Longenecker
No feature concerning Grandpa George would be complete apart from mention of his beloved life partner, Emma Rosina Ernst Longenecker (1866-1952), my grandmother. In past blog entries I have celebrated Grandma Rose who was known for her abundant garden produce, homemade bread, and frequent litters of kittens generously shared with people around town.
Here is Grandma Rose when she was a young, Victorian era girl:
*A contemporary novel, GILEAD by Marilynne Robinson, centers on three generations of small town Congregational Reverends from the Civil War to Mid-20th Century. I was riveted to this book and want to read it again, as it reflects my roots. Potentially classic, GILEAD is a quietly-powerful piece of fiction. Marilynne Robinson’s storytelling gift is poignantly beautiful. Two more of her novels, HOME and LILA, form a trilogy with GILEAD.
Margaret L. Been — April 6th, 2016