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