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One Slave Family’s Story

Around the year of 1800 on a plantation in Whynot, MS, there resided a family bearing the birth name of Claude. Born into slavery, the Claude’s had to take on the master’s last name. They were united in marriage and bore (6) six children, three daughters, Clora, Dicie & Violet, and three sons, Wylie, Ben & Travis.

Unfortunately the family was stripped of the name Claude when they were separated and sold to other slave owners. Travis was sold to the Hearns plantation; his brothers Wylie became a Reid and Ben became an Eastern. No records were found on the three daughters of Grandpa Claude. They along with other Black families worked in the cotton fields from sun-up to sun-down in the State of Mississippi. Farming was their only means of survival. Education was unheard of for slaves in those days and was not a part of the daily routine.

Following the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation, which declared all slaves would be released from slavery and given their freedom. Travis, now an adult, had the option to remain with his slave master or move off the plantation and start a life of his own, Travis chose to leave. He met and married his first wife Manerva Robinson in Lauderdale, MS in January 1868.

Travis and Manerva Robinson

Mississippi and other southern states needed to recover from the financial devastation the cost of the Civil War had on their economy and began charging significant fees for services such as weddings. Travis paid $250 for a simple marriage license to marry Manerva. This was a huge sum as his normal pay for one week of work was only $5.00 ($250 dollars in 1988 would be worth $6,097.56 in today’s dollars!). Travis and Manerva farmed and relied on sharecropping.

From this union nine (9) children were born: They were a very tight knit family.

So much so, that many of the brothers and sisters would name their children after each other. History shows multiple relatives named Travis, Minerva, Susie, Frank, Geneva, Lula, Ora D, Eugene, James, Joe and John are just some of the more common names passed down.

Levi, the oldest son of Travis and Manerva, married Mary Wilson, who was trained to become a Community mid-wife by her mother-in-law Minerva. Mary took her title as midwife seriously. In fact, it has been told that Mary delivered, the first two grandchildren of Levi’s brother Booker T., the children of Ora D. Hearns. Levi and Mary had seven (7) children Cherry, Daisy, Charlie, Hugh, Mamie Ephraim and Ethel who all lived in Hurricane, MS.

{The Midwife was the keeper of women’s business, knowing which herbs to enhance fertility, to sustain pregnancy, and to abort. She was the root doctor among the slave quarters; maintaining the health of other slaves on the plantation. Pregnancy and childbirth folklore, beliefs and rituals that originated in Africa, were practiced and passed on from generation to generation.}

The second son, Frank married Patsy Wilson. They had eleven (11) children Travis, Leandra, Eugene, James, Zella, Vanda, Geneva, Joe Frank, Cora, Ora and Lula. They also lived in Hurricane, MS for a while, but soon relocated to St. Louis, MO.

The third son, Lummie aka Lum (Columbus) married Elizabeth Bryant. They had fourteen (14) children: Cora, Lillie, Minerva, Pearl, Landy, Frank, Eula, Lula, Erma, John Wesley, Elizabeth, Earnest, Olivia and Gilbert.

Daughter Dicie grew up in Hurricane Creek, MS at some point she moved to Gary, IN with her husband and died there. She married ST Hunter (from the Meridian, MS area) but never had children. She is given credit for raising Ephraim Preston a.k.a. EP (son of Levi). E.P. would visit aunt Alberta in Meridian often.

Son James moved from Hurricane Creek, MS to Gary, IN, then to Shreveport, LA. It is unclear whether James had children, but a 1910 Census record shows a marriage to a woman named Lovinia. It was also discovered that he had two sons, one named Hughie.

Son Hugh, the youngest son of Travis, passed at a young age of 27 (1878 – 1905) in Quitman, MS. The cause of death unknown.

Travis and Manerva also had daughters Florance, Bessy H and Annie H. No records are available for these daughters. History only provides their names, but no additional information about them, who they married, where they may have moved to, or other information about their whereabouts.

Mother Manerva was a mid-wife and delivered many children in the Quitman area. She taught her kills to Mary Wilson her daughter-in-law (wife of Levi Hearns) before her death in 1888. She knew that service of a mid-wife was vital because African Americans were not recognized as patients in Mississippi hospitals until after 1942.

Travis planted his own vegetables and raised cattle. He sharecropped for a short time to support his family. Grandpa taught his sons how to farm. He was soon able to purchase land of his own. This land had very rich soil for farming and growing timber. He used his know-how to the best of his ability to cut and sell his timber. Travis helped the Black farmers in his area with their negotiations. They thought his involvement would secure a better fair trade with Whites for their goods. We were informed that Grandpa Travis was a Deacon at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Yantley, AL.

Travis and Susie Ellen Wilson

Following the death of Manerva in 1888, Travis met and married Susie Ellen Wilson,

February 1888 in Yantley, AL. Susie Ellen was the daughter of Rev. Daniel and

Mrs. Jane Wilson. Travis was 23 years older than Susie Ellen and the Census record indicates that he paid $100 to purchase a marriage license to marry her. The witness Travis listed on his marriage license was William Moon. It was clear that neither Travis nor his witness could read or write. The probate clerk signed the marriage license for both men. From this union eleven (11) children were born.

Milton (Bill) – passed in his early twenties, the cause of death unknown. After the death of Travis between Yantley, MS. and Lisman, AL. Susie Ellen stayed in touch with the sister Aunt Dicey and the brothers in Quitman She finally relocated to Meridian, Ms. and resided with her oldest daughter Alberta.

Alberta (Bert) married Howard Hunter they had one (1) daughter, Lula Mae.

Alberta lived in a huge white house with a yard adorned with a beautiful array of flowers.

Alberta’s twin, Alvirgia (Sis) married Buck Palmer and had two (2) children Gussie Mae and Mary Jane. Lula Mae married Fred James and had no children. Her husband was very devoted to her and treated Lula Mae like a Queen. She never learned to cook. She would always tell stories about Grandma Susie Ellen’s experience as a public school teacher in Yantley, AL. Sally Mae married Jimmie Welch they had no children, but adopted one child, Cheryl Cunningham. It is believed that Sally married (5) five times.She was a jolly woman who loved to cook. Her favorite dishes, fried Salmon Patties and Fig Pies.

Geneva (Tiny) married Finus Williams and had six (6) children: Arthur Reese, their first born died at childbirth, Carl, Willard F., Susie B., John Louis (JL) and Maxierene. It was rumored that Mr. Finus was murdered on his job. He was employed by Mobile & Ohio Railroad as an engine maintenance man. This murder case was never solved. Affer the untimely death of Mr. Finus, Geneva met and married Major Lee Hall a construction worker from Columbus, MS. Together they had five (5) children: Edna Lucille, Robert Eugene, Velma Lee, Dorothy Louise, and Joe Louis.

Geneva, believed in education. Although she only had an eighth grade education, insisted that her children had to do better and graduate from High School and college if possible. A good report card was always the expectation. There was no space on her mantle in the Living Room for a photo of her child or grandchild if they did not receive a diploma and take a picture in a cap and gown. She was always calm and grateful and demanded respect. She was labeled with the name “Geneva and her Pharoahs Host” all (10) children travelled in packs. What memories, as we visit that area we called home at 1029 Brown Ave in Meridian, Ms. Now there are no familiar structures, no familiar faces, our eyes fill with tears. The destruction by a giant bulldozer had eliminated what had been a loving community. In reality there is no amount of renovation that could erase the deeply rooted memories embedded in our hearts and minds. We were rich without money. She always taught us to have faith in God. Geneva (Tiny) lived to see five (5) generations of her children. She relocated to Elyria, Ohio after the death of her husband, Major Lee and spent her last ten (10) year with the oldest daughter Susie B. She died February 15, 1989.

1965 {Geneva Hall joined the Freedom Riders. The Freedom Riders left Selma, Alabama and arrives in Montgomery to hear Martin Luther King deliver his speech.}

1968 {Geneva would march again with Freedom Rider in Meridian, MS}

1969 {Levi Vernon Burs awarded the Purple Heart, among many other medals, for Military Service}

Booker T. and Edna Watson became the parents of Ora D. (known as Snook). Snook and her husband Charlie Hall were also the parents of ten (10) children. God bless her, she is attending this 2013 Hearns’ Family Reunion.

James Monroe married Ethel Patterson and from this union seven (7) children were born: Joan (died as a toddler), James Jr., Paul, Jean, Constance (a.k.a.) Connie, Roger, and Yvonne. Monroe was the best dressed man in town when he came to Meridian from Detroit to visit Grandma Susie.

Irene (Rene) married Eugene O’Neal – John Williams) they had no children. Style of dress meant everything to Irene, and her home was always immaculate.

Estola (Pet) married Benjamin Franklin Bailey they had no children but raised a child Maxierene, a daughter of Geneva She was the loving aunt. She was a fantastic Sunday school teacher. She always played games with us and taught us how to lose with dignity. “Pet” was an active member of the National Baptist Convention and frequently traveled abroad with that organization.

The Hearns’ Family Church is Ebenezer Baptist Church in Meridian, MS. All of the ministers that pastored Ebenezer would reside at the White House with Aunt Bert and Grandma Susie Ellen who served as Mother of the Church and had the responsibility to make wine for the First Sunday communion. They held church services every First and Third Sunday. All of the sisters sang in the church choir. Alberta had a piano in her Living Room and an upright telephone which none of the other sisters had. We as children thought they were very rich.

Travis owned his homes, purchased 75 acres of farmland, raised his own cattle and grew most of his vegetables to support his family. He worked as a wood trimmer at a lumberyard and was able to sell some of the timber to small town builders. He had to rely on the white businessmen of the area to process his goods. The pay that he received for truckloads of timber was never its full value. There was nothing he could do about it if he wanted to do business. Grandpa taught his children how to be sufficiently independent. “Hard work paid off.” The Hearns children were born in Whynot, MS. Most attended Holbrook High School – Six (6) grades through 12th grade. Their family church was Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Yantley, AL. Susie Ellen’s father, Rev. Daniel Wilson’s name is engraved on the Corner Stone of that church. Between the two (2) unions with Minerva and Susie Ellen, Travis had a total of twenty (20) children.

Quaint Little House

OUR FAMILY HOME NEAR A DITCH

WITH A FENCED YARD AND A BENCH UNDER A TWISTED SHADE TREE

A GARDEN GREW GREEN FLOWERS BLOOMED EVERYWHERE

WE ALL RUSHED VACATION TIME JUST TO BE THERE.

THE VISITING CROWDS GRADUALLY BECAME HUGE BANDS

AS PROUDLY E PRESENTED HOARDS OF NOISY, NAUGHTY, SWEET GRANDS

THE WELL USED WELCOME MAT WAS ALWAYS OUT

THERE WAS NO NEED TO SOUND A WARNING SHOUT

A “NO VACANCY” SIGN NEVER APPEARED ON HER DOOR

WHEN TOO MANY SHOWED UP, SOME SLEPT ON THE FLOOR

THE AROMA FROM HER KITCHEN WAS DELIGHTFULLY PLEASANT

HER CALL TO DINE WAS MLIKE MUSIC FROM HEAVEN

WITH BELLIES FULL AND EMPTY PLATES

THERE WAS STILL SOME ROOM FOR HER PIES AND CAKES

ALWAYS EXCITING TALES OVER OIL LAMPS AND WOODEN STOVES

COULD NOT KEEP HAPPY, TIRED CHILDREN FROM FALLING ASLEEP

TEN BIRTHDAY CARDS CAME EACH YEAR WITH A DOLLAR

IF ONE CHILD WAS SHORT, HE SURELY WOULD HOLLER

CHRISTMAS GIFT BOXES WITH NUTS AND HARD TEA CAKES

WERE ANXIOUSLY AWAITED BY EACH OF US AND HUNGRILY ATE

WE MARVELED AT MOTHER’S MEMORY

OF AGES AND SIZES OF EACH CHILD AND GRAND

AS OFT TIME WE STRUGGLED TO FOLLOW ONE DAY’S PLAN

WHEN SHOPPING OR VISITING, A HEAD COUNT WAS NEEDED

AND GOOD BEHAVIOR WAS PRAYED FOR AND FREQUENTLY PLEADED!

WHEN YOU VISITED MOTHER’S CHURCH

SHE EXPECTED A GOOD SPEECH

IF YOU FAILED IN THIS RITUAL

YOU HAD COMMITTED A SERIOUS BREECH

HER WIT, TIMING AND INPUT ON EACH LEVEL WAS IN GOOD TASTE

HER PRESENCE WAS NEVER OUT OF PLACE

GRADUATION PICTURES WERE DISPLAYED WITH PRIDE

HER JOY IN EACH, SHE NEVER TRIED TO HIDE

AS OFFSPRINGS CONTINUED TO MULTIPLY AND GROW

MOTHER’S TIME WAS IN GREAT DEMAND TRAVELING TO AND FRO

TO EXPRESS OUR LOVE THERE WERE GIFTS AND CARDS OF EVERY KIND

THEN SOMETIMES OUR LONG DISTANCE CALLS NEARLY DROVE HER OUT

OF HER MIND

WITH PAINFUL HEARTS WE HAD TO WATCH MOTHER TIRE

IN HER OWN QUIET WAY SHE STARTED TO SAY GOOD-BYE

HER PROUD STEP GREW SLOW, HER SOFT HAIR TURNED WHITE

AND SLEEP CAME TO HER BEFORE THE NIGHT

OUR HEAVENLY FATHER WALKED WITH HEER AND HELD HER HAND

HER GENTLE DEPARTMENT WAS PART OF HIS HOLY PLAN

DEAR ONES HOW DARE WE LONG TO WEEP

BECAUSE OUR MOTHER IS PEACEFULLY ASLEEP

LET HEARTS REJOICE THAT GOD AT LAST HAS

GIVEN HER REST

AFTER THESE MANY YEARS OF SHARING

WITH US HER VERY BEST

A LOVING DAUGHTER

MAXIERENE

Salmon Patties

Ingredients:

1 can (16 ounces) salmon

1 small onion, finely grated

2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley

ground black pepper, to taste

2 large eggs, well beaten

1 to 1 1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter

Preparation:

Turn salmon and liquid into a medium mixing bowl. Flake with

a fork, removing OR mashing any bones (they are edible). Mix in

grated onion, parsley and pepper. Mix beaten eggs with salmon.

Add enough bread crumbs, about 1/2 to 3/4 cup, to make thick

enough to shape into 12 small patties. Roll patties in 1/2 cup bread

crumbs. In a large heavy skillet over low heat, melt 2 tablespoons

of butter; add patties. Fry patties slowly on one side; add remaining

butter, turn patties and fry until brown on the other side. Serves