Friday, September 4, 2009

Great Grand Father's Story - Circa late1800's Texas

I posted this story several days ago on the West Virginia Surf Report when the questions was asked: "Tell us about your saddest, or most interesting family tragedies, from a long time ago. Not recent stuff, that’s too personal, but stories you’ve heard about people you never actually met." I have made some edits and grammatical corrections to this story. I chose to write my about my great grand father on my fathers mothers side. Other tragic stories about my family are just to close to me to tell.

The story was set in a small town nestled about 70 miles northwest of Houston, Texas. This story is short but very poignant and has some racial overtones so I need to warn you before you read any further. This story may have been played out millions of times all over the country throughout history but was kept inside the minds of the victims and survivors.

Needless to say, my GGF was born a free man around the mid 1800’s. This story came from my aunt and the only way that I know about it was that she was telling the story to my father and mother back in the 70’s when we came to visit them in Texas. I hid out in the other room listening to what she had to say.

My GGF owned land outside of Brenham, TX and had a small farm with livestock and enough acreage to grow a few things to feed his family. Enough said on that. He was lonely and decides to search for a wife. His search took him to New Orleans where he met a most unusual woman. She was Creole and her name was Lillian Spencer. They soon fell in love and married and he packed all her belongings and moved her back to Brenham and soon after started a family.

They eventually produced several children, one being my grandmother who was given my GGM’s name. In 1800’s Texas, it did not take long for the word to get out regarding my next bit of details. If you know anything about Creole people, well dammit, go read about, I don’t have time to explain.

The problem was that a great mistake was made one day; a nearby white farmer came by my GGF’s land a saw my GGM out hanging clothes on the line. What he thought was a white woman was actually my Creole GGM. He stood back and watched my GGF come up and get a glass of water and then give her a kiss. Enraged at this sight, he got back on his horse and rode off. Later that evening, a group of men came a calling and they were not there for my GGM’s biscuits. They wanted to know why a (you know what they said) was kissing on a white woman.

Most of them being drunk and already looking for some retribution, they were able to subdue my GGF, take away his shotgun and tie him up. My GGM shouted to them that she was not a white woman, and that she was Creole, being both ignorant and drunk they did not want to listen to her. My GGF was carried off into the night and hung. Several of his close friends went looking for him the next morning and they found his body beaten and mutilated. My GGM never recovered from the loss of her true love and died several years later from grief leaving my GM to raise the siblings and run the farm. They buried his body on the farm near a pecan tree he had planted. The tree now shades both of their graves, the land was eventually sold back to the city long before my birth.

So that is my story. It is one that I have kept secret for a long time since I was a teenager. Peace ya’ll. I’m outta here…


kenju said...

How very sad. Thanks for sharing, Rod.

The Dish said...

That's terrible! I hope karma bit those assholes square in the bum.

Buzzardbilly said...

Oh, the horror! My God, Rod, what an awful thing!

My white ass wouldn't be on this Earth, would've never been made even, had it not been for a kind black man taking in two roughneck orphaned white children who were hiding their parents' deaths (during an influenza outbreak) because they did not want to be separated. They were both pre-school-aged and took his last name. I haven't a clue what my 'real' name is, but I sure as hell was always proud of my assumed black last name.

My special sadness with it always came when people would call searching for relatives (under 100 households in the US at that time with that last name and there was no Internet). Invariably, they were black and they wouldn't even stay on the phone with me long enough to find out how I, a white, came to have their last name. Instead, they assumed I was some damned plantation owner's descendent who felt people should be owned by other people.

Given the circumstances, it's impossible for me to do much research on the whole story. But, it was certainly passed down through the family that we owed our family to "Uncle Van" as he came to be known to us.

Dear lord, I just can't imagine the anger I would feel if I found out that one of my ancestors was murdered in such a way. I still can't deal with the fact that a cousin was murdered by a person who was just brain-damaged in a way that left him criminally insane.

Shiny Rod said...

Kenju, The Dish and Buzzardbilly - I deeply appreciate your support and sentiment. When I was a teen, the story stuck in my head and it was hard for me to accept that it had really happened. A lot of my family history was either not passed down or family members withheld important information for shame of telling the truth. I was never angry that it happened by I was shocked that it did happened. Thank you all for reading and understanding.

Warped Mind of Ron said...

It is amazing how broken some people are and how society, at that time, seemed to accept that evil behavior as pretty common place.

tiff said...

Dang. The suck is strong with this incident. It boggles my mind how anyone could feel they have the right to do something like hang a man because of who he's mackin' on.

trinamick said...

That's a horrible story! Well told, but horrible. Kinda puts my family's "Irish need not apply" story into perspective.