The fiddlers contest only had two entrants — Donnie Collings, and his son Nick Collings. Donnie was in the adult division; Nick was in the children’s division. Each walked away with $100 in their pockets. Jake Brown played guitar with them. Children played cornhole with sponges, (Photo by Connor Jacobs)
The fiddlers contest only had two entrants — Donnie Collings, and his son Nick Collings. Donnie was in the adult division; Nick was in the children’s division. Each walked away with $100 in their pockets. Jake Brown played guitar with them. Children played cornhole with sponges, (Photo by Connor Jacobs)
By PEGGY VLEREBOME

Special to the Courier

Drizzle and a downpour followed by more drizzle had little effect Saturday on the main day of the Neavill’s Grove Old Settlers Meeting. Old friends sat and chatted in the open-sided shelter house attached to the kitchen, the cooks kept cooking, the children played games in the drizzle, vendors covered their wares and singers entertained in the covered auditorium.

Friends gathering in the grove of mostly beech trees has happened the last Saturday in August since 1885. It is, as the official history proudly describes it, “the oldest continuous civic event in Jefferson County to meet in the same location under the same name.” Neavill’s Grove is on Deputy Pike near the Volga community.

Charles Hand of Dupont has been at many of the Old Settlers Meetings over the years. A World War II Army veteran, he has lived in Jefferson County most of his life, and his parents grew up in the county. His great-grandfather Hand lived in Jennings and Jefferson counties.

In his younger days, Hand was a farmer, raising milk cows, chickens and a garden, and he worked for the Farm Bureau delivering petroleum. At 95 1/2, he won the prize Saturday for the oldest person present.

He doesn’t live on the farm anymore, but he still drives himself in his truck.

He checked out the antique and vintage tractors on display, including one like he used to own. He has a story about his tractor.

It had been sitting in a field behind his cousin’s house for more than a decade. The tires weren’t even flat. He paid $600 for it. The tractor required only minor repair and some paint and different tires. “It ran like a top,” he said.

Later, he learned that model of tractor had been recalled because the radiator was too small, causing the tractors to run hot. Not all were taken back to dealers, though, and those that weren’t became a collector’s item. His tractor was one that wasn’t returned. He sold it to a collector for $11,000.

Fourteen-month-old Esther Stoltzfus was the youngest person present. She was at Neavill’s Grove with her parents, who sold homemade ice cream, root beer floats and other ice cream treats from their food trailer.

The couple married the longest were Ernie and Judie Crawley of Dupont — 61 ½ years. The couple most recently married were Carolyn and Glen Spicer of Dupont — five years.

Johnny and Sarah Stewart of Owenton, Kentucky, traveled the farthest to the Old Settlers Meeting.

To find the people with the most children and the most grandchildren at the gathering, Neavill’s Grove Inc. president Sara J. Minor had to go out in a drizzle because that was where parents and grandparents were while the children scrambled for coins tossed onto a plastic sheet on the ground.

Beth Jones of Madison-Hanover was there with three children, while Kay Dunham of Lancaster was present with two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

One of the contests at the meeting took an unexpected turn. The fiddling competition previously had been on Friday night, but this year was moved to Saturday afternoon. Only one fiddler entered each of the two age-based categories, and they were a father and son. They each won the $100 for their age group.

Vendors sold children’s books, needlework, home decorations made from horseshoes, baked goods, and other items. Charles Davis, with Fur Takers of America, had the most unusual display — pelts of animals hanging from a line next to his table.

He was there to tell visitors to his table about the Fur Takers’ educational programs about such topics as wildlife management and safe trapping.

The Neavill’s Grover Old Settlers Meeting wrapped up Sunday with a church service followed by chicken dinner. It started Friday evening with flag-raising, spaghetti dinner and live music. Saturday’s events also included a baking contest, ham, beans and cornbread dinner and live music.