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Coming soon:DeWitty Historical Ceremony

Descendants of Nebraska African-American Settlement to Attend Historical Marker Ceremony on Highway 83

 Marker location
Turn off for the DeWitty historical marker

Descendants of the largest African-American settlement in Nebraska, located in the Sand Hills are expected to arrive in Cherry County on April 11 to celebrate the unveiling of a historical marker on U.S. Highway 83. DeWitty, also known as Audacious, was a series of homesteads scattered along the North Loup River west of the present-day town of Brownlee, Nebraska, and lasted from about 1906 until the last of the homesteads sold in 1956.

The Nebraska State Historical Society marker is erected on Hwy 83 just south of the Brownlee turnoff. The dedication ceremony is slated to take place at 10 a.m., Monday, April 11th at the marker site. The public is welcome to attend.

“So far, descendants are coming from as far away as California, Kansas, Florida, Delaware, and Virginia. Descendants of the town’s first postmaster, Jim DeWitty, are expected to come from Oklahoma. Other descendants of the DeWitty and Brownlee communities may attend from Valentine, Omaha, Colorado and the Minneapolis-St. Paul areas” said, Stew Magnuson, author of the book, The Last American Highway: A Journey Through Time Down U.S. Route 83, which has a chapter about the settlement. Stew has spearheaded the drive for the Historical marker and the installation ceremony.

After the ceremony, Humanities Nebraska lecturer Vicki Harris will give a presentation about DeWitty at the Brownlee Community Hall, which will be followed by a potluck lunch.

“There are not many residents left in Brownlee and the surrounding ranches, (the two communities were very tight back in the day) but they are going all out to welcome the DeWitty descendants and the other celebrants,” says Magnuson.

 Browlee Community Hall
Brownlee Community Hall

“I am glad that the marker mentions the close bond between the black settlers of DeWitty and the white residents of Brownlee. The two communities were both isolated and on their own in the depths of Sand Hills back then. Here we have the story of a mixed-race couple, integrated schools, neighbors helping each other when they needed it, and two communities coming together to celebrate the quintessential American holiday, Independence Day. This should be remembered,” says Magnuson.

Speakers at the ceremony will include a Cherry County Historical Society representative, Magnuson, Catherine Meehan Blount, a granddaughter of Charles and Hester Meehan – an interracial couple, who were among the early DeWitty settlers. Also, Joyceann Gray, a Granddaughter of William Roy,rancher and one of the orignial DeWitty settlers and wife Goldie Walker Hayes, legendary Principle, who remained in the county working in four-room schoolhouses long after the settlement disappeared. The  Reverend Khadijah Matin, also a granddaughter of the Hayes’ will offer the invocation.

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.

My Research Library to date

Black History Books on my shelf

 

African American Topeka – Sherri Camp

African Canadians in Union Blue – Richard M. Reid

Annie’s Trip to Grandma’s – Barbara Rose Page

A North-side View of Slavery The Refugee – Benjamin Drew

Baby Steps to Freedom – Joyce Middleton

Black Women of the Old West – William L. Katz

Crossing the Border – Sharon A. Roger Hepburn

Exodusters – Nell Irvin Painter

From Midnight to Dawn – Jacqueline L. Tobin

Images of America African American Topeka- Sherrita Camp

Incidents of the life of a slave girl – Harriet Jacobs

In Motion- the African-American Migration Experience – Howard Dodson & Sylviane A. Dioue

Kindred – Octavia E. Butler

Lay Down Body Roberta Hughes Wright & Wilbur B. Hughes III

Legacy to Buxton – Second Edition A. C. Robbins

Lena Horne – Leslie Palmer

Lina Derritt, Petitioner, v. State Board of Real Estate Examiners Record and Pleadings – John Pegg, /William B. Saxbe

Look to the North Star – Victor Ullman

Magazine of the Jefferson County Historical Society – 12/2011

Orange Morgan’s 38,325 Mornings – Forrest M. Stith

Refugees from Slavery – Benjamin Drew

Rumors of the Truth – Lyn Spencer DeNaeyer Messersmith

Selected Writings and speeches of – Marcus Garvey

Sketches of ancient History of the six Nations – David Cusick

Slave Testimony – John W. Blassingame

Sunrises and Sunsets for Freedom – Forrest M. Stith

The Ancient black Hebrews and Arabs – Anu M’Bantu & Gert Muller

The Blacks in Canada A History – robin W. Winks

The Booker T. Washington Collection – Booker T. Washington

The Family Tree Historical Maps Book – Allison Dolan

The Freedom-Seekers – Daniel G. Hill

The Philosophy of Negro Suffrage – Jerome R. Riley

The Houses in Buxton – Patricia L. Neely

The Last American Highway – Stew Magnuson

The souls of Black Folk – W.E.B du Bois

They came before Columbus – Ivan Van Sertima

UP from Slavery – booker T. Washington

When I was a slave – Norman R. Yetman

Women’s Slave Narratives – Annie L. Burton and others

My finished Contributions Please Enjoy!!

My contributions to    http://www.blackpast.org/

Allen-bernadette-mary-1955

Brown, Gayleatha Beatrice (1947-2013)

Hatter, Hamilton (1856-1942)

Holloway, Anne Forrester (1941- 2006)

Leslie M. Alexander (1948- )

Riley, Jerome R. (1840-1929)

Stanfield, Sylvia Gaye (1943- )

Watson, Barbara Mae (1918-1983)

See more at: http://www.blackpast.org

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