Posts Tagged ‘Slave Cabin’
In 1991, I had an opportunity that few historians or genealogists ever have; to literally walk in your ancestors’ footsteps. In 1989 I was approached by the president of the Bloomington-Normal black history Project and director of the Midwestern archaeological research Center, about the potential investigations of the salve cabin area on Wessyngton Plantation to get an interpretation of slave life there. Similar digs have been conducted at the Hermitage, Mt. Vernon, and Monticello.
The actual digging at Wessyngton did not start until 1991. The thought of actually walking in my ancestors’ footsteps and holding objects they used in their everyday lives one hundred years earlier was surreal to me. Three sections of the slave cabin area were selected for exploration. One site was where the cabin of my great-great-grandparents Emanuel and Henny Washington once stood.
The dig yielded fragments of pottery and dishes used by my ancestors as well as coins and arrowheads made by Native Americans.
The photograph above shows the site of the archaeological dig on Wessyngton Plantation where my ancestors once lived.
On Saturday August 8th the Terry family will tour Wessyngton Plantation as part of their bi-annual family reunion. The group will tour the Wessyngton slave cemetery, the Washington family cemetery, the grounds around the mansion and a restored slave cabin. Members of the National Black Arts Festival from Atlanta will also attend the reunion festivities. Following the tour the group will dine at the Tennessee National Guard Armory. I will also autograph copies of my new book The Washingtons of Wessyngton Plantation: Stories of My Family’s Journey to Freedom. The Terrys descend from Dick Terry 1818-1879 and Aggy Washington Terry born 1824. Today there are more than 1,000 Terry family members.
In 1860 Wessyngton Plantation was the largest tobacco plantation in the United States. The Washington family also held the largest number of enslaved African Americans (274) in the state of Tennessee. 187 of them were held on what was called the “Home Place” near the Wessyngton mansion. Eighty-seven others were held on a part of the plantation known was the “Dortch Place.”
In 2008 the Gardners celebrated their 75th annual family reunion. As part of the reunion festivities I led them on a tour of Wessyngton Plantation. The tour included the Wessyngton mansion, Washington family cemetery, slave cemetery and a restored slave cabin. The Gardner earliest ancestors, Aaron Gardner, his wife Betty and their three sons, Daniel, George and Jackson came to Wessyngton in the late 1830s. There are more African Americans in Robertson County, Tennessee with the Gardner surname than any other family.