“There’s a land that is fairer than day, And by faith we can see it afar; For the Father waits over the way; To prepare us a dwelling place there.”

– “In the Sweet By and By,” by Sanford Fillmore Bennett (1836-98)

Ladies and gentlemen, the old Gossett family who lived in the old homestead at Fort Salem near Pricetown sang a whole lot of songs about the next world because for them, this world oftentimes wasn’t too pleasant.

The old homestead on Certier Road is a real showplace today, thanks mostly to the late Bill Bear, who totally restored and renovated the abode over the past decade – but back in the 1800s and early 1900s, life was sometimes pretty tough for the family who built the home in the 1880s.

There was no indoor plumbing and no central heat for the cold and snowy winters in the home of my great-great-grandparents, James Worth (born in 1847) and Sarah Ann Roberts Gossett (born in 1843). On their approximately 200-acre farm where they raised cattle and hogs and planted crops, there were no tractors or the kind of equipment we have today – or even the type of equipment my great-grandparents used later in life.

The youngest of the eight Gossett children, Lavina Gossett Roush (born in 1887), is my great-grandmother and married Ted Roush (born in 1882) in the year of our Lord 1906. They also owned and operated a farm in Highland County, but they didn’t get their first tractor, a Ford 9N, until around 1940 because Lavina preferred horses.

Speaking of horses, “Grandma” and “Grandpa” Gossett never had any automobiles. Since there were 10 in the family, they used a horse and wagon when they’d go to church or if they wanted to visit friends or family or travel anywhere. The old road back in those days was a dirt (or mud) byway, which had to have made travel difficult during and following inclement weather.

Of the roughly 200 acres the Gossett family owned, part of their property was the Fort Salem earthwork. Today, The Archeological Conservancy owns the site. If you didn’t get a chance to see my recent offering on the Native American settlement, here’s a quick recap from The Archeological Conservancy:

“The Fort Salem earthwork, also known as the Workman Works, was created by a group of Ohio Valley Indians (with both Adena and Hopewell cultural influence) sometime between 50 B.C. to AD 500. It is a circular enclosure about 450 feet in diameter that surrounds a conjoined mound.

“Due to a long period of the property being used as a simple pasture, and the presence of beech trees up to 10 feet in circumference, the site has been described as one of the best preserved earthworks remaining in private ownership in America. The Ohio Historical Society nominated the site to the Historical Register of Historic Places.”

One of the old stories I’ve heard more than twice is that “Grandpa” Gossett had a big rock in one of his fields. He apparently didn’t like the rock being in his field and he tried to move it with his horses, but it was too heavy, so he dug a huge hole and buried the boulder. As the story goes, apparently many years later three similar rocks were found around the Salem Township area, so it’s speculated the four rocks were strategically placed by the Ohio Valley Indians who lived there centuries earlier.

But one tradition that has been handed down through the years is the Gossett family’s love of music. The family had a book of favorite hymns and popular songs of the time. My great-grandmother Lavina had compiled the collection after her father, James Worth, asked her to copy the words of those favorite songs they sung each evening after the animals were bedded down for the night and the supper was over and the dishes were cleaned. He told his youngest daughter, “You will remember the tunes, but the words will get away from you.”

When my great-grandmother Lavina Gossett Roush was still alive in the 1970s, she still had the old book of the favorite Gossett songs, and using technology that wasn’t available when she was a youngster, she sang the old songs into a tape recorder.

I’d really like to know where they are today – if they still exist.

Let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next week.

Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at roush_steve@msn.com.