Friday, April 25, 2014

Grandma Ella 3

My Grandma Ella will not let me rest.  A few months back I only had a description of her, along with her name and mothers name.  After my initial blogs on Grandma Ella I just had to know more, as it is so much more to her story.  I've been told so much oral history on both sides of my family but the oral history that goes along with Grandma Ella is so in line with my own research. 

Months ago I was awaiting a picture of my great great grandmother Ella Farrish Luck.  I requested this picture over 10 years ago and it was driving me crazy.  My grandfather talked about this woman, his grandmother, told me stories, described her in vivid detail.  I just had to see her.  Finally, a few weeks back, my cousin Carolyn Okwesa, Uncle Frank's granddaughter(Frank Patrick Luck 1907-1987), who is the great granddaughter to Ella sent the picture to my email.  I have been staring at her ever since.  In my previous posts I described her personality as told to me by her living grandchildren all in their 80's and 90's.  I couldn't help but laugh when I saw how stern and serious she looked in the picture.  They described her to a tee.

 Ella Farrish Luck (abt. 1865 - aft. 1940)

Over the years I would get excited about Ella and delve into research.  I wouldn't find any leads, get frustrated and start on another ancestor.  I guess I wasn't looking hard enough.  Months back while awaiting this picture I decided that I would start over with Ella.  After all, I had been telling Ella stories as told to me by family members.  I had to have something to back it up.  I started with the only thing I had, her mother's name Lucy Farrish.  I found Lucy Farrish on the marriage record of Ben Luck and Ella Farrish from Caswell County, NC. (Nov. 28, 1880).  As told in the oral history, she ran away from the orphanage at 14.  She was born abt. 1865 and married in 1880 which made her around the age of 15.  I found one record with Lucy Farrish ( abt. 1845) who married James Nunnally (abt. 1830) in Caswell County, NC on April 18, 1866.  I found them in the 1870 census with Ella 5, and Harriett Nunnally 3, (abt. 1867).  Ella's last name was Nunnally in the 1870 census but she was also born a year before their marriage date.  The census recorders assumed everything back then.  All I have ever heard is this "Master Tom Farrish" from Caswell County, NC being her father.  By 1880 James Nunnally was a widow, which goes along with the oral history of her mother dying when she was young. 

I also followed her sister Harriett into adulthood.  To put icing on the cake I found her at the age of 12 in the 1880 census as a servant in the household of a wealthy merchant who ran a store in Yanceyville, Caswell, NC. by the name of Gerard James Farrish.  I think I woke up everyone in the house that night with my screams when I saw the name Farrish.  I followed his family tree a little and found that his father was a Tom Farrish from Chatham County, NC who later relocated to Caswell County, NC.  He died in 1862, before Ella was born so that slashed the thought of him being her father.  Then I saw a listing for Gerard James Farrish son, Tom Farrish who was born abt. 1843 and immediately start to look into the possibilities of this being her father.  He passed away in 1929 and according to oral history, her father, Tom Farrish tried to give her some land and her husband, Ben Luck would not let her take ownership of it.

Excited about this possible connection, I called my cousin Audrey McLaughlin Harris in Los Angeles, CA.  She is the granddaughter of Ella.  She remembers everything even things that happened as far back as 3 years old.  I have so many upcoming posts about her alone, she is one of the most fascinating women I have ever known in my 35 years.  I told her about my research and she told me honey, the spirit is telling me you are on the right track.  Then I asked her if she knew if her grandmother had a sister named Harriett.  She chuckled and said of course.  I burst out in tears.

Grandma Ella does have a story after all.  I am hoping to find more information on Lucy Farrish Nunnally, my great great great grandmother as it relates to the white Farrishes.  I have already been studying the white Farrish history and learning about their presence in Chatham and Caswell Counties in North Carolina.  This picture has become my most prized possession, I stare at it often and laugh as I picture her telling my grandfather and his siblings, "yll get y'll black asses away from here"................ 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Luck ~ Wilson Connection

After my parents got married in 1986 we moved to the projects, Cardinal Village, on the southside of Danville.  Since birth I had always lived with my grandparents in the Camp Grove community so moving across town was new to me.  I still stayed in Camp Grove a lot but some weekends I had to stay home.  It was so boring being away from all of my friends then one day a moving truck pulled up.  This family of four moved in the apartment across from us.  I noticed the children of the couple were teenagers.  I was in awe of their style.  I thought they were so fly.

The following day the lady of the house came over to introduce herself.  Her name was Mattie Jackson.  Once my mom told her who her family was she said, girl don't you know you my cousin.  By this time I was staring the lady down because she looked like she could be my mother.  There I was no more than 8 years old and I was shocked at how much she looked like so many other family members I knew.  I was too young to understand the connection but all I knew was I had some kin people who favored me.  I used to watch her children Tasha and TJ everyday, watch them dance, and just play around and have fun.  They moved here from NY, Mattie was from here.  One day I even saw David Wilson come over to Mattie's house.  I knew he was kin because we attended the same church, Camp Grove Baptist Church.  My grandpa was 'everybody cousin' so I knew everyone I was related to in church. 

Once my interest in genealogy peeked, everyone that my grandfather told me was connected to me I just had to know.  I wanted to know exactly how I was kin to all of these people.  What I found was an amazing web of double kinship, endless connections, and a lot of intermarrying. 

I followed Mattie until I found a connection.  Mattie Louise Wilson was born to Woodrow Benjamin Wilson (abt 1916) and Louise Constance-Luella McDaniels.  Woodrow and Louise were married on September 21, 1935.  I followed Woodrow Wilson all the way back to his great grandfather Jack Wilson (abt 1794).  Jack Wilson married a Matilda (abt 1814).  They had four children, John, Minty, Logan, and Indiana.  Their son John Wilson (abt 1848) married Emeline Bailey on December 27, 1870.  To this union, eight children were born.  John & Emeline had a son named Ben Wilson ( April 22, 1879).

Once I got that far, I found the connection along with many others.  Ben Wilson married Caroline Turner.  Caroline Turner (December 3, 1883 - October 1963) was the daughter of Robert Turner (abt 1848) and Lucy Luck (abt 1854).  Lucy Luck was one of 6 children born to my 3rd great grandparents Gardner & Paulina Luck.  Once I found that connection I realized that the descendants of Gardner Luck is probably over half of the people in Danville.

Below is a picture of Ben Wilson & Caroline Turner~

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Grandma Ella 2

Since I have been interviewing my grandfather's first cousins I am learning so much about my 2nd great grandmother Ella.  After all she is their grandmother.  It just amazes me at how her grandchildren all in their 80's and 90's can still vividly recall her.  Just recently I was speaking with Audrey McLaughlin Harris, my grandfathers 1st cousin, and I asked her to tell me some Grandma Ella stories that actually were related to me.  She started to tell me stories of my great grandfather James Ollie Luck, Sr. (1/6/1892 - 3/1965) and my great grandmother Maude Elliott Luck (abt. 1901 - 3/11/1928).  My great grandfather, Uncle Teetney to Audrey, said that he was always a lovable man that always seemed to carry the weight of the world upon his shoulders.

In my initial post about Grandma Ella I told you about her relationship with Ben Luck and how they had a white and black set of children.  My great grandfather James was one of the darker ones so he didn't have a close relationship with his mother Ella like some of the lighter children had.  To add fuel to the fire, my 2nd great grandfather Ben, James father had a few outside relationships.  One of those relationships was with my 2nd great grandmother Martha Ann Elliott.  They both were married.  Martha Ann to my 2nd great grandfather Grant Elliott (1837- abt 1925) and Ben of course to Ella.  They had a child together, Edna Elliott Tiller(1895-1983). 

When my great grandfather James married my great grandmother Maude Elliott, his mother Ella disowned him.  She said, you and yo pappy must love them "Elliott" women....yo pappy done ran off and done had a baby with Martha Ann and now you taking up with Martha Ann's daughter.  That really strained their relationship.  So as it stands, and I am hoping not to confuse you all, but my grandfathers's grandpa on his dad side had an affair with his grandma on his mother's side and they had a child.  So Aunt Edna was my double aunt.

Aunt Edna always knew she was a Luck even though she called Grant Elliott dad.  My cousin Audrey said the whole family knew it too.  She recalled a story that happened when she was a little girl.  She said that Aunt Edna would visit her mom almost everyday and they would laugh and talk.  She said her mother Ruby never acknowledged her as her half sister but one day Aunt Edna started laughing, and Ruby said, Edna don't you know when you throw your head back like that you look just like Papa.  That was her way of letting her know that she knew their connection.  From that moment Audrey called her Aunt Edna instead of Ms Edna.  My Aunt Edna is my double great great aunt and although she passed away when I was a little girl I remember her sitting on the porch.  I expressed interest in her old home in the Camp Grove community because of sentimental value.  My mother purchased it for $3,000.  My Aunt Edna was the first black midwife in Danville, VA.

My Grandma Ella didn't fool with my grandfather and his siblings, partly because they were dark, and secondly they were also the grandchildren of the woman she despised most Martha Ann Elliott.  Funny how they ended up being grandparents to the same set of children.  My great grandmother Maude, Martha Ann's daughter died when she was 27 years old.  She passed away 11 days after giving birth to my grandfather Bedford.  My great grandfather James went into deep depression having lost his wife and having to raise four young boys alone.  He eventually had to go to the insane asylum.  Audrey said her grandmother shed a tear or two but didn't have much reaction.  Those tears were probably shed because of how she had treated her son, simply because of whom he chose to marry.  As I said before, I am really starting to understand her.  However this lady was a piece of work.  How she was as a person had a lot of influence on her offspring through out their lives.  For example, when I was born my grandfather hollered out, I finally got me one, a pretty red baby.  As I am the lightest grandchild.  So as some things change, some things remain the same ~

I found this link to an old wanted ad published in 1950, Aunt Edna Tiller posted ads in the paper for her services:

Attached is a photo of James "teetney" Luck my great grandfather and the taller light skin man is his brother my great great Uncle Frank.  Take note one is darkskin and the other is light...children of Ella:)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Grandma Ella

My Grandma Ella, her story is like so many others born around the time of emancipation.  She was my great great grandmother.  She was born Ella Farrish about 1865 in Caswell County, NC.  She was the daughter of a biracial mother Lucy Farrish.  According to the oral history in the Luck family Ella's father was the slaveowner named Tom Farrish.  That has yet to be proven however in my spirit I feel that it is true and I hope one day I will find some type of documentation to prove the oral history.  I have interviewed several of my grandfather's first cousins.  One who is dear to my heart Audrey McLaughlin Harris.  She is 85 and so sharp.  I am in awe of her memory.  She has been a yoga instructor for over 35 years and has celebrity clients, and doesn't look a day over 65.  As I type this I am awaiting a picture of Grandma Ella from her that I hope to post soon.  This was her grandmother and she can recall her vividly.  Listening to her stories they actually mimicked those of my own grandfather.

Grandma Ella was very fair skinned and simply looked white.  She walked barefoot all the time even in the winter.  She also wore a long over coat even when it was warm. Her hair was thick and came down to her butt.  She wore it in two long braids hanging down on the side.  As I picture her, it makes me chuckle. A strange woman nonetheless but to them she was simply, "Grandma Ella".  Grandma Ella had no shame in telling her children and grandchildren her story.  She said she was around the age of 14 and her mother had passed away.  She was sent to an orphanage and was mistreated horribly.  She ran away, not knowing where she would go but she knew anywhere was better than that.  As the story goes my great great grandfather Benjamin Luck found her in a ditch somewhere.  He was close to 30.  He took her home, fed her, married her, had at least 14 kids by her and treated her like dirt.  She described how she would be giving birth alone while she had a baby crawling around on the floor and toddlers running around.  She would tell her children that she jumped from the frying pan straight into the fire.  But what could she do. 

My Grandma Ella was practically a white woman and she acted as such.  To see her out with Ben Luck had to be a site.  Ben Luck was a big muscular man with dark features and over 6 feet tall.  She was small and petite.  She was so small my great great Uncle Frank Luck who was her baby boy nicknamed her Short Toe.  She had a black set of kids and a white set.  Some of them looked exactly like their father skin tone and all and the other half looked no different from any other white person you will pass on the street.  For example my great grandfather was dark skin and his brother the aforementioned Frank Luck was very fair skin.  My Grandma Ella hated dark skin people.  All of her light skin grandchildren were welcome but the darker ones would get stopped at the door.  My grandfather told me the first thing that would come out of her mouth was, "y'll better get y'll black ass away from here".  She also told her daughters to never marry a black man and to marry light if they couldn't help it to keep the bloodline strong.  Audrey told me how her mother Ruby (1905) who was the baby girl married a man because her mother approved as he looked like a white man.  His name was Moody McLaughlin.  When I was a young girl I had the pleasure of meeting those two.  And yes I could tell the difference. 

When I used to hear those stories about her early on from my grandfather I would cringe.  However the more I learned about Grandma Ella I am starting to understand her.  You never know what type of things people have to endure and go through in life that shapes them into the person that they become. 

The last time I spoke with cousin Audrey she told me that Grandma Ella supposed father Tom Farrish left her some land. Tom Farrish is supposedly the white slave owner. I don't have anything to prove it yet.  However she said Ben Luck wouldn't let her take it.  I'm pretty sure I'll be writing more about Grandma Ella in the future.  My next interview will take place with Nora Luck Thornhill.  She is the granddaughter of Ella and is 93 years old.  She says she has plenty of Ella stories, as she shares with me I will share with you all.  Happy New Year 2014....peace & blessings~

John 3: 1-2 Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth


Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gardner's daughter

The very first ancestor my grandfather ever talked about was Gardner Luck.  Gardner Luck (abt. 1825-1835) is my great great great grandfather.  According to the oral history my grandfather told me, Old Man Gardner as he was called was a very strong man. So strong that he could knock the bark from a tree with his bare fist.  Little is known about Gardner and his wife Paulina.  After interviewing two of my grandfathers first cousins, Louise Luck Wilson and Geneva Luck Osborne, it was said that Gardner had four brothers.  Of the four brothers I know of John, Phillip, and Charles.  None of this is documented, well at least I haven't found it yet.  Gardner shows up in the 1870 and 1880 census.  Since researching I have researched families for all of Gardner's offspring.  Its thousands of us.  I was going through my high school yearbook and on every page I could point out a descendent of Gardner Luck.  Amazing isn't it?  I only know of one Luck plantation that is supposedly close by the Terry plantation in Halifax County, VA.  Whats so crazy is that I have researched other sides of my family back to the plantations they come from.  I have been working on Gardner Luck the longest and only know about Gardner.  In my heart I know there is a story there, one that needs to be told. Signed, Gardner's daughter~

Everybody cousin ~intro

When I was growing up, I was everybody cousin according to my grandfather the late Rev. Bedford Luck, Sr.  We would literally be riding in the car and every few minutes or so he would see someone and yell, "that's your cousin".  As a matter of fact he did everyone in the family like that.  It got to the point that no one wanted to ride with him anywhere because he always had a cousin somewhere that he was either gonna introduce you too or point out.  Some of these people had no clue how they were related to my grandfather so he would thoroughly explain and somehow before the conversation was over, the person was somehow saying, " ohhhhhhh I get it". I think it frustrated my grandmother the most.  He would say let me introduce you to my cousin I just met in the store.  And she would scream, "Luck everybody ain't yo cousin" in her southern drawl.  My grandfather was born February 29, 1928 in  Danville, Virginia in Pittsylvania County.  A leap year baby as they called it back in those days.  His mother passed away when he was only 11 days old from pneumonia.  His father was left to raise 4 boys and couldn't handle the death of his wife.  He struggled with mental illness and ended up in the insane asylum, so my grandfather was raised by his grandmother.  He grew up in a neighborhood called Camp Grove on the north side of Danville.  Both sides of his family lived in this neighborhood.  I was told by elders that my grandfather had all of his uncles and aunts on one street and everyone spoiled him because he didn't have a mother.  He went from house to house.  All of these things made me understand my grandfather a little more.  He valued family because he knew what it was like to grow up without a mother.  His love for family is inspiring.  I do genealogy for my love of family but without a doubt my grandfather is my greatest inspiration.  He is the reason why I do this.  And now it is a passion of mine and I couldn't imagine life without genealogy.  I think it is one of the most ignorant things in the world to not want to know where you come from.  I'm so glad that one winter day back in 2002, I was home bored and decided to interview my grandfather on his roots.  Its like something went off inside me.  Here I am 10 years later and the passion is still there.  And you know something else, my grandpa was right.  After years of research I have come to the conclusion that I am everybody cousin......isn't that grand:)

Here are my grandparents below~

Rev. Bedford Luck Sr. (1928-2007) & Mrs. Alice Elizabeth Thomas Luck (1928-1996)