Heartland family celebrates 100th family reunion

Pope County 100th family reunion
Published: Jun. 26, 2022 at 6:33 PM CDT
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POPE COUNTY, Ill. (KFVS) - A Heartland family is celebrating a feat of 100 years of gathering together on Sunday.

The Wasson family met for their 100th family reunion at the Bethesda Baptist Church in Pope County where they had food, fun and plenty of stories to share with each other from throughout the years.

“How many families can say they’ve actually been in one place, meeting every year for a hundred years,” Dr. Jennifer England said.

“You don’t hear of it very often,” Janeine Wasson Mitchell said. “You hear of reunions but they don’t last. This one has endured and I am very thankful for that.”

They first held a church service, followed by a family meeting to discuss any new or old business from the past year.

They even captured a family photo to commemorate the century long tradition.

“Fortunately, we’ve been so lucky,” England said. “There are so many people just trying to find out their family lineage. It’s all here for us. We can see it in each other. We’re all the descendants from one couple who were here about 150 years ago.”

T.R. Murphy said it’s important to come together, to catch up with one another, and keep the younger generation informed on what the reunion is about.

“To keep awareness of our past and where we’re going and to also develop an appreciation hopefully among the younger people that they need to keep it going and to maintain our cemetery where our ancestors are buried,” T.R Murphy said.

Family members came from various parts of the country for this event.

“We have so many generations now,” England said. “Honestly, this year we have so many young people. We don’t even know them all. We’re just thrilled and blessed that we have so many who want to come back and want to be together.”

The reunion started back in 1922 where ancestors, including England’s great grandfather, first held a picnic on the church grounds.

“They would bring picnics to this hillside and he decided he wanted to be buried there and when he passed away, this is where they buried him and then they built the church,” England said. “It burned down in the 50′s and then we rebuilt it.”

“I’ve been coming to this since I was a very small child,” Wasson Mitchell said. “I remember when I was in high school, I was in my junior year and we came for Saturday night service. The man came to build a fire to heat the church, it caught on fire and the church burned. That same night they determined they were going to rebuild. This happened in the winter time and by summertime, by the next reunion, this new building was here. It was designed by my father, James Alfred Wasson.”

Family members also discussed expanding future reunions to include more fun items such as bouncy houses and more games.

“To have a family that has gathered every year and for a hundred years and to have these kind of numbers is pretty special,” Murphy said.

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