As a daughter often is, in the early 20th century Sarah H. Jacobs Silver was the linchpin of Lewis and Mag Henderson’s family. Death and migration had forced in wedges. Sarah set her broad back against them. She was in Wilson with her sister Loudie’s son and grandchildren; her brother Lucian was in Dudley; and brother Caswell in New York. Sister Ann Elizabeth Henderson Simmons died leaving children, but Carrie Henderson Boseman left none behind. Sarah maintained links between them and across generations, made sure her aged parents were cared for, and, later, when Lucian was failing, saw to it that he and his sickly wife ate:
Mama Sarah’d fix dinner and send it down to Dudley on the train. The man that run the whatchacallit, engine? Up there, where stokes the fire or whatever is on the train. He would take it. She would tell what day she was gon send it. And so somebody’d be up there to the train station to get it. And the train, ‘cause a lot of time the train didn’t stop. But anyway, the man, the conductor, he would pull the thing, whatever, for the train to stop long enough for him to drop off this package. And that’s the way Mama sent food down there to Uncle Lucian and A’nt Susie.
Though her mother was dead, and her grandmother, and her great-grandmother, and though she lived a long day’s journey away from her birthplace – because of Sarah my grandmother knew her family. Visited Uncle Lucian, A’nt Nancy, A’nt Ella, Cousin Henry and his wife Nora, and Cousin Dolly in Wayne County. Uncle Caswell in New York. Cousin Min in Philadelphia, and Min’s brother Daniel in Baltimore. Lived for a while with A’nt Mollie in Greensboro. Worked in tobacco with Cousin Elias and his children David John and Estelle. She didn’t always know exactly how she was kin to all these Hendersons, and over the years the bonds faded, but she knew they were her people. With her stories as blueprints, I was able to rebuild.
Interview of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.