Donation Of Land To Church A Wise Choice
Posted: October 23, 2012
Four members of the Michael Wise family descendants worked to bring about a commemorative bench at the St. Michael’s United Church of Christ, for the land Wise gave to the church: Harvey Wise, Norma Landes, Nancy Gum and Lucretia Lane. (Photo by Candace Sipos)
That’s when they realized that they, along with two women Landes has known for years – Nancy Gum, of Churchville, and Lucretia Lane, of Bridgewater, – are fifth-generation grandchildren of Michael Wise, a Revolutionary War patriot. And they’re all less than 13 years apart in age.
“That just never happens,” Wise said Friday at St. Michaels United Church of Christ, which stands on grounds their ancestor donated hundreds of years ago for the church building and adjoining cemetery.
The meeting of the four Wise descendants came after Harvey Wise, who published a chronicle of his family’s lineage in 2009, sent out a notice in the February Harrisonburg-Rockingham Historical Society newsletter searching for other Wise descendants for another project.
Gum saw the request and quickly got in touch with Landes and Lane.
Less than a year later, the team of four, with help from Norma’s husband, Hugh, and other relatives, raised enough money to erect a bench in commemoration of Michael Wise at St. Michaels UCC in Bridgewater.
The name is no coincidence.
“Where you think this may be named after the saint, Saint Michael, it’s named after Michael Wise,” Harvey Wise said, explaining that the church was originally referred to as “Wise’s Meeting House” but leaders wanted a more encompassing title to honor all the families who had joined.
In fact, S.N. Callender, pastor of St. Michaels from 1871-1886, explained that name change in an 1877 issue of The Rockingham Register.
Callender’s great-great-great-great-great granddaughter, Ann Callender, will read those words at an upcoming dedication service.
The granite bench was put in Oct. 17 and will be dedicated at noon on Oct. 28. It’s engraved with Michael Wise’s birth and death dates – 1730 and 1799 – and the words “pioneer, patriot, presbyter, patriarch.”
The four descendants were able to raise enough funds for the project in a matter of months thanks to much determination and a recent Wise family reunion. Though the numbers have dwindled significantly from previous reunions, evidenced by a black-and-white photo in the church’s narthex of a 1913 gathering, more than 50 descendents and their family members showed up to the August meeting.
Those descendants – and contributions toward the bench – came from as far north and south as Maine and Florida and as far west as California.
The extended family wanted a physical reminder of the rich Wise history in the area. The bench will add to evidence of the patriot’s influence all around, including Wise Hollow, Wise Hill and much farmland remaining in the area that he owned during the time of the Civil War. More than 2,000 of his descendnts are living across the country.
“It’s amazing how we’re connected,” says Gum.
Contact Candace Sipos at 574-6275 or firstname.lastname@example.org