Off The Same Plantation, but Not A Relative

Eliza was also owned by Col. Harrison.  Her mother, Annie Williams, was born in Virginia. I am trying to figure out if any information in this article can help me in my research.

The Montgomery Advertiser, Wednesday Morning, November 14, 1917

“Old Charles,” Faithful Servant For Almost a Century, Passes Away


Charles Leftwich, born into slavery in “Old Virginny,” at Lynchburg in 1831, in early manhood sold to a new master and carried to bondage to Lowndes County, Ala. died here November 7 at four score years and six.  His death was mourned by white and black alike.  He heard the “angel voices calling”, and in death as in life, ever obedient, he answered the call.  In youth, In young manhood, in middle life, and finally while body was bent and head hung low, as those who knew him say, he was loving, faithful, and true.  “Old Charles” is no more, but through the avenue of almost a century he walked among friends he made because of his deeply affectionate nature and entire faithfulness.

Servant of Col. Harrison

As a slave and faithful and devoted servant of Colonel Edmund Harrison, of Lowndes County, when the war broke out Charles was selected by his master as a body guard for the latter’s son-in-law Winston Hunter, when the young man began his service in the Confederate States Army.

Through the blazing heat of Summer, in the sleet, slush, ice, and bitter winds of Winter, for four long and trying years, while the confederacy’s fortunes lay in the troubled balance of the great Civil War, steadfast and true the faithful negro served his warrior master.  It was but natural that a peculiarly strong affection bound the two together, a bond of attachment none the less strong because of any difference of color, it is said.

Return To Old Home

After the war and Charles was free, he returned to the plantation of Colonel Harrison as to his natural home, and there remained until the death of the older master.  Throughout the trying days of the reconstruction immediately following the war there was no change in the former slave.  Day and night he remained true to those who had been good to him, an every ready protector of the women and children in the times that tried men’s souls.

Sorrow stricken after the death of others to whom he was so attached, after the death of “ol morster”, Charles came to Montgomery.  Events changed others – but not Charles, for into life, in ease and in plenty, in privation and in misery, this man with a black skin but a spotless character plodded his humble way as nobly within the city’s gates as he had for many years out where the birds twittered and the balm of the Southern sunshine itself ever the silken corn and fields of snowy cotton.

Served in Kessler Family

About ten years before his death “old Charles” began service with Mr. And Mrs. W.D.C. Kessler.  He soon became so attached to the Kesslers’ first born, then a baby boy, that he was installed as a nurse.  Then this splendid character proved as good a nurse as the gentlest woman.  To other boys were born to the Kesslers, and as each came Charles took him in charge, and guarded them as only he could do.  all of the children were devoted to him and his pride and affection for them were beautiful evidences of his own great goodness.  He wold often say that it was his only desire that he should live long enough for “his boys” to remember him so well that never would they forget him.  That this wish is daily gratified there are several who will attest.

"She was owned before the war by the late Colonel Edmund Harrison of this county."

Yesterday someone  sent me a small newspaper item about my great grandmother on the Cleage side, visiting her children in Indianapolis in 1914.  Then I read a blog post on Reclaiming Kin about breaking down a brick wall with a newspaper article.  This sent me searching newspapers on The Genealogy Bank.  I expected to find more of the little society items about teas and meetings I have found in the past. I found several interesting articles, One about a horse owned by Victor Tulane putting it’s hoof through a car window and a photograph of my mother selling tickets to a church dance in 1951.  I started putting in the names I don’t usually look for, like my grandmother Fannie Turner.  I found two articles about her which I will share later.  Then I put in Edmund Harrison’s name.

Oral history tells us that Col. Edmund Harrison of Montgomery owned my 2x great grandmother, Eliza, during slavery. My cousin Margaret McCall Thomas Ward searched for decades to find something that would prove this.  I joined her search in 2002 but we were unable to find anything … until I came across the article below about Margaret’s father, James McCall.  It is that written record!  I really, really wish I could call Margaret and tell her what I found but she has been gone for almost 4 years now.  This is just a short part of the article, it was a very long article with many poems included.

 James Edward McCall, A Montgomery Negro Boy, Is an Intellectual Prodigy
“Blind Tom” of Literature Writes Clever Poetry, None of Which Has Ever Before Been Published—Lost His Eyesight by Hard Study.

The Montgomery Advertiser

The Montgomery Advertiser,  March 28, 1904.
    “Young McCall’s thoughts are high.  He is a muscian as well as a poet, and his happiest hours are spent in solitude with his thoughts which are ever bright and cheerful nonwithstanding his affliction.
    James Edward McCall is the oldest son of Ed McCall, for twenty-three years a cook at the Montgomery police station and one of the best known and most respected negroes in Montgmery.  Ed McCall was owned by W.T. McCall of Lowndes County.  His aged master is still living on the old plantation and he has no truer friend or more devoted servant than Ed McCall.  The mother of the young poet was Mary Allen, daughter of Doc Allen, for many years a well to do negro carpenter of Montgomery.  She was owned before the war by the late colonel Edmund Harrison of this county.”

Mary Allen McCall
James Edward McCall

 

Eliza’s story – Part 1

Mary Allen McCall back row left, her son James, his wife Margaret. Grandaughters Victoria and Margaret in front. Late 1920’s. Jennie Allen Turner seated left, Mary Vee, Fannie, Doris.Back Mershell holding Howard. Early 1930’s. Detroit, MI

“My mother was the first child of my grandmother who was one of seven children born to Dock Allen, a free man and Eliza, a woman freed from slavery at seventeen. Before being freed this woman, my mother’s grandmother had been trained as a seamstress in the “big house” of the white master, Colonel Edmund Harrison, who was her father. Her mother, Annie, was the slave seamstress in the “big house”. For three generations, in slavery and in freedom, each mother taught her daughters to sew. My grandmother earned her living as a seamstress for white folks in Montgomery, Alabama. But she never taught my mother or her other two daughters to sew.”

My mother wrote me this as part of a piece she was writing about her own mother, Fannie Turner Graham. We grew up hearing it. There was also the part about Colonel Harrison’s wife. She was so angry about her husband having this child, my great great grandmother Eliza, with a slave that she was cruel to both Annie and and Eliza. Col. Harrison, the story went, finally freed both of them and married Eliza to a free man, Dock Allen, who was a carpenter in Montgomery, Alabama.

Because he was always referred to as “Colonel Harrison of Virginia” I pictured him driving Annie and Eliza in a carriage from Virginia to Montgomery, finding a free carpenter and arranging a marriage between his daughter and the carpenter before returning to his plantation in Virginia. I wasn’t really clear on the distance or terrain between Virginia and Montgomery, AL but I wondered why he took her all the way to Alabama. Later I read that freed slaves had to be taken out of the state they had been enslaved in.

In 1980 my mother began writing down her memories and stories of all her great aunts, Eliza’s daughters. She wrote about her mother and about herself growing up too. She made duplicates and sent my sister and myself both copies.

In one she mentioned a strange phone call from her cousin Margaret McCall Ward, who was a librarian and a genealogist and a founder of the Fred Hart Williams Geneological Society in Detroit. The first black genealogical group in Michigan. My mother wrote:

“Note of recent strange happening here: Teen (note: a longtime family friend) is still working on her family tree and sees Margaret who works in that dept. of the library. Margaret kept sending word to me by Teen that she would be happy to help if I wanted to get the family history together….I never called….but finally did one day when Teen insisted….somewhere in the conversation Margaret said of course you know our grandmothers were not really sisters (Aunt Mary and Grandmother Turner whom I had always thought were Dock Allen’s children…had never heard a suggestion of anything else)..I said o really…how…she mumbled…I mentioned Dock…she said you’ve seen the sisters you know how different they looked…I knew she meant some were light like her grandmother and some were dark like mine… they had different mothers? I said..she mumbled again (I have never heard her mumble before …different fathers? I said, really intrigued by this deep family secret now to be uncovered…more mumbles..at any rate, I said, if they weren’t sisters, we aren’t cousins, right?…more mumbles…I let it go, said good-bye and crossed her off the family list….who needs her?…. then a few weeks ago (the other conversation on the phone was months ago) she sends word by Teen that as she was helping someone search records she came across a record pertaining to our family and it proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that our grandmothers were sisters and we are cousins. I told Teen off again on again cousins I do not need and have heard no more…but I’m curious about what she was talking about in the first place and what she found in what records…I mentioned it to MV who had never heard it…she called Aunt Gwen (the only one left in that generation to talk to) who is the gossip of the group who said as far as she knew they were all full sisters and brothers (there were two of these.) I await further developments but not with baited breath…”

In 1982 my mother died of ovarian cancer. I inherited her photographs, scrapbooks and letters which she had inherited from her mother. In 1991 I wrote to my aunt, my mother’s only sister, Mary Vee and asked her to tell me about her parents and grandmother. She told me the little she knew and suggested I write to cousin Margaret asking for help with the family tree. I did. A year later I received a reply filling in blanks in the tree. She wrote that my letter revived her interest in looking at this branch of the family again, and be sure to look her up if I got to Detroit.

For other parts of the story