The Little Levels Heritage Fair draws to a close each year with a Vespers Service on Sunday evening at the McNeel Cemetery in Hillsboro. This year’s service was dedicated to the late Jacob Moffett “Mac” McNeel. Mac’s former pastor, Rev. Cameron Harkness, of Lewisburg, led the service.
The following is a transcript of his remarks from that evening:
“With this Vespers Service, we look at the life of Jacob Moffett McNeel in the context of Little Levels Heritage Days. So we focus on Mac’s life through the word “heritage.”
What is the heritage of Little Levels?
Certainly it traces to Native Americans, but for our purposes we’ll think of the early settlers, the few brave souls who crossed the mountains to find these level acres below us. No houses, no churches, no schools, no 219, no Taylors and no McCoys!
The early settlers found only level land, native timber, wildlife and ground littered with rocks – great and small.
Still they settled.
They would clear land, build cabins, hunt game, work the land – rock and boulders not withstanding.
They made progress. More people came. More cabins were built. Its most modest places to worship and learn were built.
There was, day by day, week by week, month by month, year by year, decade by decade, progress.
Mother Nature was at times friend, at other times, cruel foe.
A century and a half ago there was civil war.
Little Levels was no great prize. It was not Washington or Richmond or Atlanta, not even Lewisburg.
Still the war came.
Disruption to all life occurred, but life went on. Another half century would pass. Then came the steam engine, the internal combustion engine and suddenly the settlers had new tools!
Timber was cut. Mills created new jobs.
Enter the iron horse and life in Little Levels was suddenly very different.
And into the world was born Jacob Moffett McNeel, Jr.
Mac took into his life the nearly 200 years of Little Levels heritage and he moved it forward. As with the early settlers, he worked hard – long days, short nights. He learned what the land had to offer, and he learned how to make it better. He used machines, unknown to the early settlers, and learned that with them there was productivity – and peril.
Still Mac moved on.
The early schools taught Mac. The very modest churches were the bedrock of his life, and the positive outlook so present in Mac, we really know by a much older name – a pioneer’s spirit!
It guided Mac’s life to the very end.
Our task, it seems to me, is to carry forward in Little Levels, the pioneer spirit of Jacob Moffett McNeel, Jr., that is the heritage of Little Levels.
What of the next 50 years?
Only God knows, but my guess is that Little Levels heritage now includes the life witness of Mac McNeel.
Whether he touched lives through West Virginia farming, through being a student of history, through teaching Sunday School, or through simply bringing you eggs, Mac’s heritage will inspire us to move Little Levels heritage forward.
The sun may be setting on this day, but at sunrise tomorrow, we will be reminded of Mac and so many before him who were always up before the sun – moving life forward.