A funny thing happened along this journey of mine

Is it fate or is it destiny or maybe a coincidence. Better yet, could it be our Ancestors have led us back to where our roots began to grow in this country?

Please read and make up your own mind!!

My research has taken me first to Liberia, Canada, then back to Charles Town West Virginia.   I have uncovered the following information that draws me back to St. Philips in Brooklyn NY:

  • Franklin D. Hatter enslaved by Andrew H. Hunter (prosecutor of the John Brown Trial) somehow convinced A. Hunter to sponsor his four (4) children in Mt. Zion Episcopal Church for baptism. This took place in 1855.
  • After the Civil War, the white congregation of Mt. Zion donated enough money to have the colored erect their own Church. St. Philips Episcopal Church, Charles Town WV (first Sunday school was taught by Bushrod Washington (nephew of George Washington)

Which is still an active church to this day.

  • Franklin Hatter’s father was James Hatter (his enslaver not known for sure) his brother Ruben Hatter was enslaved by Samuel Walter Washington (Brother of George Washington)
  • James Hatter’s Mother Charlotte, Aunt Sarah and grandfather Frances (b.1735) were enslaved by John Ariss the architect for “Harewood Plantation” in Charles Town, WV  he freed them in his will (1802) with the condition that they stay in serve to his wife until she dies… but not the children (two for sure; James and Ruben).
  • Harewood Plantation is the original home of Colonel Samuel Walter Washington erected in 1773.
  • His descendant S.Walter Washington added on modern living quarters and continues to live there presently.
  • The Hatter name first arrived in Loudoun County, VA in 1702. England King William in an effort to repay his friends (Huguenots) who had supported his war efforts paid for their passage to the Virginia colonies.

How ironic

  1.  I now live in the same county (Loudoun) as the first known ancestor arrived.
  2.  I now live 45 minutes from Charles Town where my ancestor lived and worked.
  3. They went to church at Mt Zion and St. Philips; Methodist-Episcopal churches.
  4.  So many years later I was raised in St. Philips (Episcopal) Church in Brooklyn, baptized and confirmed.

In Honor of the Fathers of DeWitty – Audacious


Published in the Valentine Midland News June 17, 2015

Father’s Day




Indeed, Father’s Day is here, so we make a special effort to let them know how much we care. We make a special effort to honor them.

I think the best way to honor them is to acknowledge that their struggles and efforts have not gone in vain.

Dear Dad,

We watched you those days in the bitter cold working to secure the animals on our homestead.

We saw you sweating as you worked to plow those unyielding sandy fields in the blistering heat of the summer.

We heard you moan as that nail bent, and it was your last.

We remember hauling the heavy water pails so you could soak the pains and bruises away.

Daddy, indeed we did hear you and Momma whispering in the night about how you wanted each of us to have the best education.

You planted a seed that had sprouted.

Daddy, we haven’t let you down, we went our different ways and did big things with our lives. We became; teachers, doctors, lawyers, politicians, civil rights activist, mothers, and yes fathers too!

We produced strong, intelligent children to carry on your legacy, and we kept watering that seed you planted. We have sprouted writers, poets, yes more educators, chaplains, historians, carpenters, engineers, soldiers and real estate entrepreneurs. That seed is still growing,  more beautiful babies every year are arriving to carry on your legacy.

We pass down the stories of your strength and tender heart. We remind our young of your struggles so that they might have a chance at the American Dream too!

So Thank You, Daddy, we love you always!


Thanks to all who have sent checks to help in celebrating the homesteaders of DeWitty-Audacious and their legacy by donating to our Historical Marker Fund:

the most successful rural African-American Community in the state.



What A Moving And Encouraging Afternoon!

The gathering

We met, offered our stories, tried to make genealogical connections and shared a meal. We hugged and laughed and continued to fellowship until late in the afternoon.  We shared and ate all under the gaze of the Washington’s in portraits around the hallways and rooms. Oh yes, the times have surely changed!

Finally We meet! Sarah & Joyceann At Harewood, WV
Finally, We meet!
Sarah & Joyceann
At Harewood Plantation, Charles Town, WV

How do I explain the emotions as I sat at the very dining room table my ancestors served under the gaze of Samuel W. Washington in the painting hanging high on the wall? I wonder what he was thinking…..And sat eating a meal prepared by his descendant and that of his brother John Augustine Washington’s too?

How to explain what I was feeling, walking up the steps and welcomed in through the Front doors. The doors of the very home that my ancestors helped to build and service, (there was a gentle whispering (Oh my Oh my).

Front Steps of HarewoodThe home of Samuel Walter Washington,(built in 1773) that his brother, George Washington visited and to stand in front of the fireplace where Dolley Payne married James Madison.  Bushrod Washington

To climb the staircase, our ancestors swept and mopped clean each day? To hold on to the banister, they carved and polished? I felt as a gentle breeze on my neck (was that a kiss from the past?).  Just imagine, I was standing near the grand hearth where people spent their entire lives day in and day out, keeping the fire going and cooking!

The Hearth 2@ Harewood

We learned a great deal today. (Since we can’t choose who our are parents we can’t hold to their deeds or misdeeds. We must learn from them. – Some say yes some say no)  I vote yes learn!…So realizing that we need to take any negativity and turn that energy into focusing on honoring our ancestors, their legacies to move forward in full support of discovery and peace.

James Taylor, one of the founders of the Jefferson Black Historical Society said it was high time for the young folks to come aboard to help keep us going! Will you help?

Our focus should be to  discover who our ancestors were. What of their characters and their struggles? Learning this, we will know who we are and prepare will be better to face our struggles with peace in our hearts.  

  harewood gathering 1 - Version 2

The gathering at Harewood

Top row: James Taylor, James Tolbert, Walt Wojcik, Mary Doaks, Maurice Ballard, Linda Ballard, George Rutherford (members of Jefferson Black Historical Society)
Middle row: Scott Casper,(author of Sarah Johnson’s Mt. Vernon) Joyceann Gray, (Descendant of Harewood Plantation Hatter slaves & Family Historian) Dolly Nasby, Dot Taylor(members of Jefferson Black Historical Society) Bottom Row: S.Walter Washington,(direct descendent of Samuel Walter Washington) Marilyn Morton,  & Leah Ferrell, (Hatter descendants) Sarah Brown, (direct descendant of Samuel & George’s brother John Augustine Washington).

In Honor of National Soul Food Month: The Roots of Soul

Wonderful History in Pictures of Soul Food!


It’s National Soul Food Month. Yes there is such a thing! I thought I might take you on a tour of one of the sources of soul, the early Chesapeake. I’ve written frequently about the Chesapeake being the first “Creole cuisine,” in mainland Anglo America.  That is, it’s the first in which Native American, West and Central African, and European foodways linked in the context of the larger Atlantic world and with it, an even larger African diaspora.

Soul Food is the memory cuisine of the great grandchildren of the enslaved, not the food that the enslaved ate.  The “proto – Southern” food, to borrow a phrase from Dr. Leni Sorensen, was breaking away from its British roots while acquiring carefully laced layers of other cultures, all negotiated in the hands and minds of thousands of diverse cooks. Some 80 plus different peoples made up this exchange…they were Pamunkey and…

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