More than Beard Envy

The man in the photo is Alexander Snider, my great-great grandfather. Born in North Carolina on 23 March 1826–I must remember to get a card in the mail!–he moved with his father, Philip Snider, to the hinterlands of southwestern Missouri in 1844, marrying Mary Ruth Wommack three years later. A history of Greene County, Missouri says that the Sniders arrived

when the county was sparsely settled, neighbors were far apart, game and wild honey abounded. He built a small cabin upon the farm where he now lives.

In fact, that sparseness of settlement was sufficient that other than Mary Ruth’s family, no one else lived within a mile of the Sniders for quite some time.

I admire Alexander, where some of my ancestors I simply tolerate. He wasn’t an exceptionally distinguished fellow, although his brief obituary describes him as “one of our oldest and most respected citizens.”

Alexander SniderIt’s not just the beard that I admire about this man, although you have to give him credit for a magnificent stand of whiskers. Instead, I admire him for some more significant character traits.

At the age of thirty-six in 1862, Alexander and his musket showed up for military service as he joined the Enrolled Missouri Militia where he served for more than six months as a corporal. Six months of militia duty is not extraordinary, but it demonstrates that this man, past his peak and with six children to support already, came when he was called. There’s no evidence that Company F. of the 74th E.M.M. ever saw any real duty, but we do know that he stood when summoned.

Similarly, he attended Mt. Comfort Cumberland Presbyterian Church in the years after the war until his death. Not only did he go to a church that was an inconvenient distance from his home, but he served that church as an elder, mentioned several times as taking on various lay duties for the congregation. In the church’s records, Alexander’s line does not give a date at which he “Ceased to Act” or moved elsewhere. Instead, a one-word note describes his separation from that body: “Dead.”

Alexander Snider would have presumably spent a good amount of time following a team and plow across his farm. By the time he shuttled off this mortal coil in 1900, mechanization of farming remained something in the future.

That history mentioned above describes him as “one of the leading men of Jackson township” while the obituary concludes by naming him “an old landmark in this part of the country.” Alexander Snider was not a man bound to appear in Who’s Who. But he was a landmark, a dependable figure who provided stability in the community.

We could all do worse than to be known as a landmark, a sort of living Ebenezer. In 1 Samuel 7:12, after leading the Israelites to a victory over the Philistines, Samuel raised a memorial stone:

Afterward, Samuel took a stone and set it upright between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, explaining, “The Lord has helped us to this point.”

Alexander Snider’s life, it seems, stood as such a marker, encouraging others and showing them the way. By and large, those who came after him seem to have followed that track. If I envy anything, it is that legacy. But the beard is nice, too.