John Malcom Delzell's Book

Early American Dalzells and Delzells

John Malcom Delzell's Book

The Dalzell Survivors of Ancient Scotland
by John Malcolm Delzell

No people can look forward to posterity
Which does not look backward to its ancestors.
—Edmund Burke

Note: The following excerpts are from the Forward of John Malcolm Delzell’s outstanding book which is available from JoDell Publications, 265 River Drive, East Palatka, FL 32131

“Like the unlearned ancients who thought the earth was the center of the universe, in my youth I though the center of the Delzell family was our farm near the small town of Dechard, in Franklin County, Tennessee
“I suppose what actually convinced me to write this family history was an event that occurred when my son, John, was a young lad. He was born in Florida but we often traveled to visit relatives in Tennessee. I had purchased some mountainside land in my home county there and had obtained a geodetic survey map which covered the area, plus much more of Franklin County, including the farm where, and my two brothers and three sisters, lived during the Great Depression. My son noticed a place on the map marked Delzell Cemetery, and inquired about it. I explained that it was a small plot located near the original property my great-grandfather had purchased and someday we would go visit it.
The opportunity finally came when I retired. I recalled that we had buried my great-uncle in that little family cemetery when I was a young lad. He was perhaps the last of the family to have been interred in the small plot located in the red clay knoll in the corner of the original 280 acre farm. No one on my father’s side of the family lived in the area any longer. The older family members had all died off and the younger generations had scattered across the continent.
We located the little patch of ground, which had seen n o upkeep for many years, crawled around among the sumac bushes and blackberry vines to read the names on the old headstones. To my surprise, and delight, I discovered the grave of my great-grandfather there, marked by a headstone bearing the insignia of the Sons of the Confederacy. I knew something of his valorous service in the Civil War, or as my grandfather referred to it, The War Between the States, and I held great respect for his courage.
There, also, were the graves of a dozen or more past relatives, their family connections obscure bu their presence causing me t realizer how very little I knew of my ancestors, especially those of more than two generations back.
As we took our leave I paused at some distance to look back at the little cemetery in the middle of a stranger’s soy bean field. It had been fifty years since we buried Great Uncle Bob there on a rainy day in August 1939. The years had slipped by quickly and I realized that a half-century is but a blink of an eye in the timeline of history and another fifty years would pass with the next blink. My own generation would be gone and perhaps forgotten like those family members buried in that little fenced plot. As I took in the scene, the headstones seemed to stand at silent attention; lonely and unmoving sentinels, marking out the past, watching the present, awaiting the future. They seemed to call out, ‘Stop,there! We are your past, please don’t forget us.”

A haunting need came over me to know more about the people buried there. I wanted to understand about their lives, their hopes and fears and ambitions. What a wonderful legacy it would have been had my great grandfather left a diary, or a journal—anything at all that would tell me something of his life. The fact that he lived and died and the dates of his existence chiseled on a piece of granite was not enough. Between those dates had been a long, eventful which must have been interesting but I knew little of it. I think it was at that moment that I knew I must write something about my own life and generation and attempt to resurrect whatever I could about the Delzells of the past for the Delzells of the future.



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