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Another Milestone

This time at the Jefferson County museum in Charles Town.

Website Narratives of Four Descendants of Jefferson County Enslaved and Free African-Americans On the iPad to the left, you can access genealogical research and family stories by several descendants of enslaved and free black Jefferson Countians.

Monique

Monique Crippen-Hopkins, a certified paralegal, blogger, family historian, and genealogist, is a descendant of the Thompson family of Jefferson County. Influenced as a young person by the importance her mother placed on genealogy and later in life by the loss of relatives who had been the repositories of family history, she began researching her family’s origins in 2006 and in 2013. Ms. Crippen-Hopkins’s blogging has led to exciting journeys and discoveries. She is writing a book on her family’s history.

Joyceann

Joyceann Gray, a U.S. Army retiree, author,family historian, and genealogist, is a descendant of the Hatter and McCord families of Jefferson County. Her historical and genealogical research is primarily focused on her family’s movements from Virginia to Liberia, Canada, Kentucky, and several other states. Mrs. Gray’s novel, Yes We Remember, is based on historical records and family stories of her ancestors. She is a contributor to the online encyclopedia Blackpast.org/contributor/gray-joyceann and has presented her research in several venues in the mid-Atlantic states.

Shelley

Dr. Shelley Murphy, a coordinator and faculty member for the Midwest African-American Genealogy Institute, is a descendant of the Goins family of Jefferson County. She has been an avid genealogist for 30+ years, researching the Marsh, Yates, Goins, Johnson, Sims, Myers, Roper, and other families in Jefferson and Loudoun counties. She attends and presents at local and national genealogical conferences and has 20+ publications with the Charlottesville Genealogy Examiner, familytreegirl.com blog, and the Central Virginia Heritage. Jim Taylor,

Dr. Shelley Murphy, a coordinator and faculty member for the Midwest African-American Genealogy Institute, is a descendant of the Goins family of Jefferson County. She has been an avid genealogist for 30+ years, researching the Marsh, Yates, Goins, Johnson, Sims, Myers, Roper, and other families in Jefferson and Loudoun counties. She attends and presents at local and national genealogical conferences and has 20+ publications with the Charlottesville Genealogy Examiner, familytreegirl.com blog, and the Central Virginia Heritage. Jim Taylor,

Jim Taylor

Jim Taylor, life-long county resident and former high school teacher and coach, is a descendant of the Payne and Dotson families of Jefferson County. He is one of four founders and currently an officer of the Jefferson County Black History Preservation Society (JCBHPS), has written a number of books on African-American history in Jefferson County, and is a member of the board of directors of the Jefferson County Historical Society. See the JCBHPS website at http://www.jcblackhistory.org.

 

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.

Our conversation: Black Rug and White Rug

There came a time when Descendants from both sides of the slavery era came together. Came together to share, talk and massage the pain. Pain for Sarah, who has to live with the embarrassment of finding out her family were enslavers and not very nice about it at all. Enslaving our families; that is Monique and mine.  So Sarah walks with that heavy yoke  as she tries to make sense of how and why her ancestors could participate in such human degradation.Monique and I walk with a certain sadness and stifled anger, trying to understand what our people went through and how could one person treat another in such a manner.

So we talk and cry and talk some more and here is once such conversation:

BLACK RUG/WHITE RUG; A DIALOGUE AMONG THREE LINKED ANCESTORS

By Joyceann Gray, Sarah Brown, and Monique Hopkins

Joyceann Gray, Monique Crippen-Hopkins and Sarah Brown are “linked through slavery”. Joyceann and Monique’s ancestors were enslaved by Sarah’s ancestors, the Washington family. When Sarah published her most recent post, about her connection with Monique’s family, Joyceann spoke out about her feelings about the piece. The three of them decided that the Facebook dialogue that followed was important, and would be valuable as a post of its own.

Read Joyeann’s blog for her full story:  https://jgraydiscovery.com/

Read Monique’s blog for her full story: http://genealogybreakingdownthewalls.blogspot.com/

Joyceann Gray

 Joyceann Gray writes:

There are a few who are in a delicate position being a direct descendant of slaveholders and wanting to give what you can of slave history and family connection to descendants of those enslaved by your families. You are in possession of access to all your family papers which affords you a glimpse into your ancestors’ thought processes, emotions, and desires.

The descendants of those enslaved, can only guess what our people thought or felt. We are desperate for any tidbit of information about our ancestors. The norm was to account for our people by number, not by name, and it was very rare to find a surname. But we have a responsibility to record what we can find of our ancestors and their histories. To tell their stories and as much as possible ensures that when others write about them the facts and impressions are correct and in keeping with the truth. We have a responsibility to them to never let their pain and struggles be forgotten and to ensure their legacy lives on!

 Sarah Brown adds:

me and Denise

When I wrote my last blog piece, Part Two of my series “Redrawing A Community – A Washington Descendant’s Journey ( “People” -The Thompsons), athttp://linkedthroughslavery.com/2015/03/18/redrawing-a-community-a-washington-descendants-journey-part-two-people-the-thompsons/  – I included a photograph of Solomon Thompson that was provided by Monique Crippen-Hopkins, his 3x great-granddaughter. I described what I saw in his expression. As linked descendants, the three of us have been talking to each other through Facebook, and by phone occasionally. Since I was writing Part Two about Monique’s family, I sent her a final draft to review, but Joyceann saw it for the first time on the Bittersweet site.

Joyceann was troubled by my comments, and sent me some of her own. This started a discussion among the three of us that was sometimes difficult and emotional. In the end we were all glad that Joyceann didn’t shy away from expressing her frustration. Since our talk reflects the difficult work that Coming To The Table is committed to, we decided to edit it slightly and post it here.

Monique Crippen-Hopkins

Our dialogue brought home one of the pitfalls of writing about slaveholding as a descendant of slaveholders. Attention must be paid to acknowledging the pain inflicted by our families, in words on the page; assuming that the reader knows that the writer is aware of the specifics of abuse may not be enough. History demands a clear retelling of the dark side of the story, and a missed opportunity to do so can undermine establishing the truth.

 Dialogue among Sarah Brown and Joyceann Gray and Monique Crippen-Hopkins

(Sarah wrote in her post, about the picture of Solomon Thompson: 

From my contemporary perspective he seems sad or wary, or possibly just unaccustomed to being photographed. His undirected stare might be the common expression of a servant who has learned to be both present and absent, without being able to freely choose either.”

Joyceann starts a dialogue by commenting on that paragraph.)

 Joyceann: From your perspective you did a good job of guessing, but you didn’t remark on the pain that he had to have felt or the bad he must have seen and endured!! From my understanding of his history, troubles and struggles, all of which were much more than you or I could ever imagine!

 Sarah: I guess I thought that was implied – that he had to be both present and absent, which is pretty much impossible. My whole project is an attempt to address the pain inflicted by my family, but what I hear from you is that I should stress the pain endured more clearly.

 Joyceann: Stand on a black rug you really see and feel much differently than standing on a white rug… We feel through the ages what we as a people and in cases individuals felt as they went through their daily struggles, I often have nightmares about the struggle of my Indian heritage, my people and their losses. Not sure what directly; but something bad had to have happen for the dreams are intense.. I have evidence in another part of my family where the husband tried to buy his wife and children, but he was only allowed to buy his wife and a daughter. He had to leave the four boys in slavery.

When he paid the cost for wife and daughter he was forced to leave the state… so can we imagine the pain and agony there??? Nope, as a mother and grandmother I can’t and really don’t want to.

Sarah: It’s a good comment, Joyceann. The next post will have more details also. I’m thinking that the word “servant” should be in quotes, since it was a euphemism.

 Joyceann: Coming from an elite and intellectual standpoint we have to be careful to not assume or think things are implied….We weren’t servants… servants had options. We only had two options in most cases; do as told or suffer dire consequences

Sarah: Of course he wasn’t <a servant>, although the white families used that term. I shouldn’t assume that readers know the way I’m using it, though. I was saying that he shared a common expression of people regarded as servants – a class thing as well. They had to stand by and pretend to be invisible, and that’s the expression I saw. I don’t see him as only a victim, though – he seems to be conveying a dignity that refuses that classification, although he was robbed of choices in his life.

Joyceann: But he was a victim through and through caught up in a vicious cycle of horrendous cruelty!

Sarah: It’s not easy to write about the black experience as a white person. I tend to feel that I’m writing about the human experience in general. I don’t want to sound only like an elite intellectual. I do use my own voice, though, since anything else wouldn’t be genuine. I would really like it if you added these comments to the blog page – it’s a good conversation.

Yes, all those enslaved were victims of horrendous cruelty. Gosh – there is no way I’m downplaying that! I’m talking about what I see in his eyes – he’s a complex human being rather than JUST a victim.

Joyceann: True but I see more pain I think than you do, I see a man that has endured and seen too much! I see a man that has survived and has YET to really live.

This picture of Solomon Thompson is from Monique Crippen-Hopkins' family collection. Date unknown.

 Sarah: It’s a great comment, and I see exactly what you mean. I see that pain. But I chose to write about him as transcending that pain as much as possible. I see him as wearing a kind of mask. Truth be told, I never expected to see an actual photograph of someone enslaved by my family. His dignity and cautious expression really stand out to me – to me, he’s masking his pain.

Joyceann: His eyes are not masking the pain! It is all in the eyes!!

I really enjoy the fact you are conscious of your heritage and of the pain but we have to tread lightly when your ancestors dealt with my ancestors as if they were cattle or horses… and whenever they spoke of freeing their property there was always a condition that had to be met first. For instance George Washington lamented over freeing the slaves, so he waits until he’s almost dead to say oh yeah free my slaves AFTER I die and only then can they be freed AFTER my wife dies too! Now what kind of mental anguish is that, what a torn and conflicted humanitarian he was…Yes?

At least your ancestor Bushrod Washington said flatly; hell no to freeing slaves! Samuel Washington George’s brother didn’t even want to sell Reuben Hatter to his sister-in-law Christian Blackburn!!It took his wife’s badgering him to get him to do it! And even then he made her pay top dollar too!

So Sarah what I’m attempting to do is to get you to see another view of all the “Solomons” of those times…have you ever found a photo of a person who’s been enslaved; smiling?!

Sarah: Joyceann, I’m writing about all of that. I hope that you see that what I’m doing is an attempt to address all of these injustices. I’m going to send you a copy of an article I wrote a few years ago. It was supposed to be published in a journal called Race/Ethnicity, but the journal went under before it came out, so it was never published. It’s important to me that you know my personal perspective. We have to get know each other better, I think. I see that you feel I don’t know how these people suffered, and that I’m downplaying that. If that’s the impression I’ve given, then I want to correct it.

Joyceann: No not downplaying at all. Let me try saying that another way. When looking at old photos of enslaved folks: When you see an uplifted chin you see pride, I see pain with stubborn refusal to give in.

I see at least I felt you were seeing through ” rose” colored glasses so to speak, you were elevating when in fact we need to stand low? Make sense?

I’d love to read your work I’ll do that while we’re on our road trip back home!

Sarah: Yes! It’s the stubborn refusal to give in that I see in the foreground.

Joyceann: Now you got it!!

Sarah: That’s what I was trying to say, but I guess I didn’t say it. Thanks for pointing that out.

Joyceann: Are you ok with our discussion?

Sarah: Yes! It’s kind of painful, but I love that you’ve told me how you really feel. I understand that I left out the chance to comment on the cruelty of Solomon’s situation. But I do want to know that you hear me, too. And I see that Monique is commenting now – great….

Joyceann: It’s hard to write someone else’s story.

Oct3_6_2

 (Monique Crippen-Hopkins enters the conversation)

Monique: Yes, that is true, I’m having a hard time writing my ancestors’ story….I’ve been trying to figure out how to do it to give them the honor they deserve.

Sarah: The only way I can write it is to write what I’m experiencing personally – the journey I’m taking myself. So I write about what I see in the picture, my communication with the two of you, and how I feel about my own family.

Monique: I’ve just been reading the comments; it’s a lot to take in, because what is being written is about my family that has come alive to me, and a very painful experience at that. Some of it may come across as just a story to others, but that is my family. I can actually feel for these people and for my grandparents!

I don’t have any real comments…I was just taking it in.

Sarah: Our stories intersect, and I want to honor both of your families without taking over your own stories. I’ve very conscious of my responsibility there.

Joyceann: True but our intersection is only up to the civil war ending when the Washingtons and other slaveholders were forced to free their slaves. Now did the Washingtons work with their formers slaves to help with their transition? Train them? Give them the land to work? Then till now we didn’t have a relationship. We have come together again now as we try to piece things together and make amends….

Sarah: I’m researching what happened at Claymont after emancipation. I’d like to think that my family tried to help those they enslaved, but I think it was the other way around – some of the Thompsons and others stuck around and worked for what was probably hardly any pay.

(to Joyceann) I’m thinking about your comment about how hard it is to write someone else’s story. It’s ironic – what I’m trying to do is tell the full story about my family. So many people have written about George and all as patriots, but not as slaveholders. I think my job is to correct that.

Joyceann: I hear you louder than I’ve been able to express, I do indeed understand also why you are doing this… I’m just playing devil’s advocate here somewhat trying to help you be careful in how you relay others’ history. I am excited to know you are going to tackle writing the hard truth of your ancestors… That will be a bestseller.

Monique: No, just seeing all of this became a little emotional because it made me see and think about some things I never really thought of before.

Sarah: Yeah….wow. This is such a raw subject and that’s why we have to talk about it. Thanks Joyceann!

Monique: Thank you Cousin Joyceann! You have a lot of insight.

Joyceann: So yes it’s a raw discussion but I’m so glad we are not running from it!!

Sarah: When I got the archive with all our wills I felt that someone had to address the wrongs my ancestors had committed. And they were many. Connecting with the two of you allows me to make baby steps toward that goal. You’ve allowed me in – thank you so much!

Joyceann: And by writing your story SARAH you will indeed be helping a lot of people to heal and move on, someone needs to acknowledge the real story !

Sarah: Can I tell you both that I’ve got tears in my eyes? None of us asked for what our families gave us, and we’re all working on making sense of it. I’m so grateful we can do this, raw or not.

Monique: Yes, that’s what this is all about…taking those steps, it’s a lot and we can only try to move on, we will never be able to correct what our ancestors did, we can only help some people move on. What’s done can’t be undone we can only try to help others to heal

Great job both of you in this conversation!!      Thank you because you have given me food for thought.

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