Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

“Well, she was pretty.”

And Mama’s daughter’s name Hattie, Hattie Mae. That’s who they named me after. I asked them why they named me Hattie after a dead person. “What, you don’t like Hattie? Well, I just thought ’twas nice.” And after I looked at the picture, I said, “Well, she was pretty.” Well, since Jack knew her, and he wanted her picture, so when I come up here, I give him the picture. And he kept it. They thought she was white, wanted to know what old white girl was that. And the frame was out on, right on whatchacallem street now where Mildred live, it was out there on her back porch, and I saw the frame, and I asked something about the picture, what happened to the picture, and she said she didn’t know what happened to it, it was some of Daddy’s stuff he brought here. I said, “Well, I know ’cause I gave him the picture, that frame where was sitting right out on the back porch.” He wanted it, and it was Bessie — not Bessie, but Hattie, Mama’s daughter Hattie. I said, “’Cause they grew up together.” “I don’t know who that old white girl was. I don’t know what happened, … he brought the stuff when he got sick, you know. Waited on him, you know… And he died, so…” Never did find out what ever come of the picture. They thought ’twas a white woman.

Mama never talked about her. But A’nt Nina, she would tell everything. Mama got mad with her, said, “You always bringing up something. You don’t know what you talking ’bout.” So she’d go behind — Mama wouldn’t want her to tell things. And she never did say, well, if she said, I wouldn’t have known him, but I never did ask her who Hattie’s daddy was. I figured he was white. Because she looked — her hair and features, you know, white.

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It’s hard to see, but here lies the first Hattie Mae.  Born just seven months before their marriage, Jesse Jacobs Jr. adopted Sarah Henderson‘s daughter as his own. (I need to clean this stone next time I’m in Dudley. I’m ashamed I left it like this this time.)

Interview of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

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Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Family cemeteries, nos. 11 & 12: Rountree & Rest Haven.

The wooden church was still standing then, on a sandy bank that rose from a curve in the highway at Lane Street.  In my father’s time, Rountree church was well beyond city limits, but our subdivision leapfrogged it in the early 1960s, and a grocery store popped up across the road, and it was no longer an outpost.  Still, when we were children, Lane Street was raw and unpaved and, for us, a gateway to adventure.  A hundred yards in, the road crossed over a sluggish branch, the pines began to crowd down to its ragged edge … and tombstones began to poke through the snarl of catbrier and cane choking the forest floor.  Here was the remnant of Wilson’s first colored cemetery*, abandoned at mid-century and, by the mid-1970s, when we prowled these woods, completely overgrown with bamboo and sweetgum and loblolly pine.  Burials by then had moved around the corner to Rest Haven cemetery, which is city-owned and maintained.  Perhaps 20 years ago, after several half-hearted clean-up efforts, a small, ragged section of Rountree was cleared and its remaining stones propped up.  A hundred yards down the road, in an open field, a memorial was erected to Rountree’s many hundreds of lost graves. A set of my great-grandparents were probably buried there, as well as my father’s stillborn brother, Uncle Jack’s sickly boys, and other kin unknown and maybe unknowable.

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 The sad remnants of Rountree cemetery, February 2014.

My grandmother was buried at Rest Haven in 2001 and my uncle in 2005, but only recently did I begin to regard that cemetery’s conventional, lettered rows as as interesting as wild Rountree. My grandmother’s headstone, like all from the last 30 years or so, is machine-cut, its lettering precise and even. Older markers, however, reveal an artist’s hand, quickly recognizable in a squarish font with flared serifs and, especially, the long, pointed tails of the 9’s. Marble cutter Clarence Benjamin Best carved headstones for more than 50 years, chiseling lambs, stars, flowers, and Masonic emblems, as well as pithy, grammatically idiosyncratic epitaphs, into slabs of gray granite. I have found his work in rural Wilson County cemeteries and as far afield as Wayne and Greene County, but Rest Haven is ground zero for his oeuvre.

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 An early example of Clarence Best’s marble-carving in Rountree — before he developed his signature long-tailed 9’s. (Foster was an early investor in Commercial Bank.)

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A late example — with 9’s and a bit of a extra verbiage, Rest Haven.

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 Rifle, fish, peaches — a Best creation for husband and wife, Rest Haven.

In addition to my father’s mother and brother, my paternal grandfather is buried in Rest Haven, as are my aunt’s husband; Uncle Jack and his family; Josephine A. Sherrod and countless other Artises; and, somewhere, Aunt Nina.

Jesse A Henderson headstone

My uncle, Jesse A. Henderson.

Jack Henderson headstone

Cousin Jesse “Jack” Henderson and wife, Pauline “Polly” Artis Henderson.

*I have since learned that it was not, in fact, the first. That distinction may belong to a small cemetery just off Pender Street, memorialized in today’s Cemetery Street. All traces of it have disappeared.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Joshua & Amelia Aldridge Brewington.

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Joshua Brewington, son of Raiford Brewington and Bathsheba Manuel Brewington, was born in 1846 in Sampson County and died in 1931 in Wayne County.  His wife, Amelia Aldridge Brewington, daughter of Robert Aldridge and Mary Eliza Balkcum Aldridge was born in 1855 in Sampson County and died in 1895 in Wayne County. Their children were: Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney (1878-1965), Bashua M. Brewington (1879-1899), Hattie Bell Brewington Davis (1880-1981), Mattie Amelia Brewington Braswell (1883-1952), Elijah Coleman Brewington (1886), Amelia Brewington (1888),  Lundy Brewington (1891-1914), Toney Cemore Brewington (1894-1973), and Murine Brewington (1895).

Joshua and Amelia Brewington are buried in the cemetery of the First Congregational Church, Dudley, North Carolina.

“Sleep on and take thy rest.”

——

Photo by Lisa Y. Henderson, August 2010.

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