North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin

The link.

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.

Letters, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

I pray for the whole family.

A few months after my grandmother passed away in January 2001, my father, mother, sister and I converged on her little rowhouse at 5549 Wyalusing Avenue, Philadelphia, to clean it out. In a drawer of a large steel desk in the basement, I found a packet of papers. In them, a letter I’d never known existed, from my great-great-grandmother Loudie‘s brother Caswell C. Henderson to their sister, Sarah H. Jacobs Silver, who reared my grandmother. ImageImageImage

Though he does not say so directly, Caswell seems to have been responding to the news of the death of Sarah’s husband in early July. She has asked him to come home, for a visit or perhaps permanently, but he cannot, pleading health and finances. He is hopeful, though, that soon they will be together to “help one another.” He expresses the importance of his family (if not his wife, who garners no mention) by sending greetings to his great-nieces and inquiring after Minnie Simmons Budd, daughter of his and Sarah’s deceased sister Ann Elizabeth Henderson Simmons. Of course, while “prayers are wonderful when said in all sincerity from the heart,” the prayers of his friends could not keep Caswell forever, and he died 16 January 1927.