Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

MORE REMARKABLE PEOPLE

Years ago I told you some stories of several remarkable people. They were Laurens Countians. All of them lived to be more than one hundred years old. All of them were black, and all of them had been slaves. Here are more stories of former slaves. But, I will also tell you about some more remarkable people. Although they never had to endure the shackles of slavery, they did face their share of challenges.

"Sis Crecy" was born Lucretia Neil between the two Briar Creeks up in Warren County, Georgia on March 10, 1866. Her parents, who belonged to the Edwards family before the Civil War, moved to Laurens County, where they were told the living was better. Crecy came along too as a grown woman at the age of 26.

Before she came to Laurens County, "Sis Crecy" picked and chopped cotton all day long during pickin' time and worked wherever she could when there was no cotton in the fields. She began to teach, first in Warren and Glascock counties. When she retired, Lucretia's teaching career had spanned more than fifty years.

Widowed at the age of 75, Mrs. James Hill did her own work around the house. She cooked, washed, cleaned, cut firewood and sewed her own clothes.

Rarely ill, "Sis Crecy" despised doctors and hospitals. She put her trust in the Lord. "My motto is do the right thing, live right and trust the Lord," Mrs. Hill maintained.

Her friends and family threw her a big party to celebrate her 100th birthday. They had to wait a few weeks later to celebrate because the guest of honor was too busy - still sewing, working in her Pinckney Street home and attending services at Wabash Street Church of God, which was most of the time. Oh, by the way, "Sis Crecy" was still playing her piano at the age of 102. Lucretia Hill passed into Heaven on August 3, 1968 and was buried in Dudley Memorial Cemetery in Dublin.

Just down the street lived the Rev. J. R. Roberson. Pastor Roberson was born in Hancock County, Georgia on March 31, 1875. During his five and half decades in the ministry, Rev. Roberson served 17 churches. He never quite officially retired and preached the Gospel as long as he could speak. Although he never had much schooling, Roberson learned about life in the church, out in the cotton fields, and in the loving home of his aunt and uncle, who raised him to follow the Lord. At the age of 101, Rev. Roberson went to the polls and cast his ballot.

It was about 1949 when Rev. Roberson and his wife moved to Laurens County. She died about three years later. Roberson married again, this time to his beloved Ardella. Long living ran in Roberson's family. His older sister lived to more than 106 years old. In the later summer of 1978, the Rev. J.W. Roberson died. He was buried in Dudley Memorial Cemetery in Dublin.

Aunt Daisy Wilson claimed that she was born in 1804, two years before Laurens County was created. According to the Macon Telegraph, there were white people who stated that she had authentic records showing that she was 117 years old in the summer of 1922. Daisy was born into slavery in North Carolina and purchased by John Manson, who brought her to Wilkinson County. She lived there well beyond her 100th birthday. If her claim could be substantiated, Daisy Wilson may have been the oldest woman in Laurens County history and one of the oldest in the State of Georgia.

Thomas Allen maintained that he was born in 1800 and was 114 years old just before he died on the plantation of Dr. W.B. Taylor, outside of Dexter, Georgia. Owned by the Giles family, the former slave was a native of Wilkinson County. Although his age cannot be documented by census records, Dr. Taylor, who knew the old man for many years, did not doubt the accuracy of his claims.

Jane Smith believed she was born in September 1812. Mrs. Smith told everyone she had been a slave of John Chapman on his farm at Kewanee, between Dudley and Dexter. Not surprisingly, the Atlanta Constitution reported that at the age of 107, Mrs. Smith was "unable to sit up much."

Andrew Isler, whose age has been confirmed by census records, was born in 1813, although he claimed to have been born three years earlier. Isler married his wife Phebe in Laurens County in 1850. The Islers lived in the Bailey District of Laurens County. Isler, who had been a slave of D.F. Scarborough, had an older brother, who reportedly died at the age of 105. It was said that all of his family lived to be very old. Isler died in 1913.

Uncle Hampton Powers died in 1907. Folks said he was 102 years old. Powers once belonged to Governor George M. Troup. Uncle Hampton's funeral at Robinson's Chapel Church was attended a large crowd of both black and white mourners.

By far the oldest documented Laurens Countian was Hester Hubbard. Although she was only known to herself as "Aunt Hester," her name appears as Hester Hubbard in the 1920 Census of Coffee County, Georgia. Born near Dublin in spring of 1799, "Aunt Hester," by the beginning of the Civil War, was already a grandmother. She died at the census documented age of 120 in October 1920 in her home near Nichols in Coffee County, Georgia.

If Hester's age could be documented, her death at the age of 120 would easily eclipse that of Gertrude Baines, who died last year at the age of 115 and who, according to Wikipedia, is the oldest Georgian ever. Her age would even exceed Jack Robinson, who died in 1872 in Laurens County at the census corroborated age of 118. Her ten dozen birthdays would also make her the oldest person in the history of the United States and the third oldest in the history of the world.

There are others who claim to have lived longer than Aunt Hester. Take James Walter Wilson, of Vidalia, for example. Wilson, according to both Time and Life magazines, died at the age of 120 years and seven months. When the news of Wilson's advance age began to appear in the papers, "Uncle Mark" Thrash wanted everyone to know the he was 122 years old and even had a twin brother who was still alive in 1942. It may be noted that an early census record put Thrasher's age at a mere 112 years.

Authentic dates of birth, especially in the early 1800s, are difficult, if not impossible, to verify. But, let's just say that Aunt Hester and these remarkable people lived long, long lives, perhaps through good genes, hard work, good eating and maybe, just maybe, by the grace of God.

Monday, February 15, 2010

DANIEL CUMMINGS

My Story


I was born on a Monday. I died on a Monday. As I lay on my dying bed, I saw the Lord coming for me. My family was there. They cried. Mrs. Edith Louder, my faithful nurse, was there too. She was always there for me when I got sick after my darling Vinie died.



When I look back on my one hundred and six years on this wonderful earth that my God has made, I had a good life. Yes, it was a good life. The Lord has blessed me with a wonderful wife, lots of fine children, and good crops to feed me and my family. I've been powerful lucky.

My name is Daniel Cummings. I was born a slave. My momma and daddy were slaves, too. After I got my freedom, I took the last name of my master, Marse Robert Cummings. Marse Robert was good to me. He was a doctor. He helped a lot of folks to get well.

I was near about thirteen years old when Marse Robert told us he was going off to fight the Yankees. I was there that day when he rode off on his fine bay. I fetched his sword from his office and handed it to him. He told me to take care of his missus. "Yas, sir," I said!


It was the last time I saw him. Somewhere up around Richmond, Virginia, near where my momma was born, he got the cholera and died. We got the bad news in a letter from Captain Carswell, who lost his own brother up there in a big fight. I helped bury Marse Robert in the Stanley Cemetery up near the Big Ditch. Just four months later, we had to bury Marse Robert's baby son. He was only eight months old. Miss Leah cried for months after that. She had just lost both of her parents right before the war. Her brother, Mr. James Stanley, was killed in the war too. All she had left was her baby girl, Miss Margaret. It was so, so sad.



The Yankees came riding down the road one day. They were headed east toward the river. I never took sides in that war. It was so terrible. Mrs. Cummings came to me screaming that the Yankees were coming. I always liked Miss Leah. She asked me to help her take the gold and silver down to the swamp on Big Sandy. I wrapped it up in a blanket and put it up in a big hooty owl hole in the top of an oak tree. I grabbed some moss and covered it up real good.


When the Yankees were here, I toted water and buttermilk to them for their supper. I did the same thing for General Wheeler's rebs when they were riding through these parts trying to catch up with the blue soldiers. Nobody ever knew I was toting water and milk to both of them.

It was soon after the war that I met my wonderful wife. Her name was Miss Elizabeth Vinie Jones. She was nineteen and the prettiest thing I ever saw. We were married for seventy years before she went to Heaven. We never had a fight. Well, there was this one time when a school teacher lived with us. I got to noticing that he got to noticing her too much, so I asked him to leave. We never had no trouble after that.

Vinie and I had a lot of fine children. I always promised my kids that they could go to college and make something out of themselves. Most of them did. I was real proud of them, especially my girls. My daughter Elizabeth was a dentist. She was one of the first colored women in the South to be a dentist. She married Dr. H.G. Harrington and they lived over in Birmingham, Alabama. Anne teaches school up in Augusta. Mary married a Smith and teaches the Bible in Detroit. My daughter Laura works for the government in the big capital in Washington. As for me, I went to school for two months. I learned what I know on my own.

Despite all the bad times I had, I still had some good ones. I was lucky. I started out renting a small place to help feed my family. I made $200.00 the first year, then I did the same thing for three more years. That gave me enough money to buy my own place. So, Monroe Rozar and I bought on halves a piece of land on the Old Macon Road from Mr. John Weaver.

Three years later, I bought out Monroe's half. From the front door of the house I built, I could almost see Wilkinson County. Although we lived far out in the country, there were plenty of folks passing by at the crossroads of the Old Macon Road and the road which ran up to Chappel's Mill. I lived there for the rest of my life. Just after 1900, I was able to buy the Steely Place. It was about 405 acres. Before I knew it, I owned almost 700 acres. Life was good.

Vinie made all of our clothes with an old spinnin' wheel. When the crops were good, I bought her and my children some clothes from the store. We used to walk every wherever we went, but when I was making good money, I bought a buggy. I was an old man when I got my first automobile.

My friends thought I was rich. I guess I was. One day I took my wife to the hospital in Dublin. The doctor said she had to have an operation. I asked him to give me the price. Then, I reached in my back pocket and pulled a big fat roll of bills. That kind doctor said, "Dan, had I known you had all that money, I'd been harder on you." From then on, I was careful about showing my money before the job was done.

Money was never important to me. But, like most folks, I needed it. I was visiting my boy in Philadelphia when I heard that a bunch of banks back home went bust. I was lucky - lost only ninety cents. My rainy day money went into a postal savings account.

When I was about fifty-six, I got together with my friends, C.D. Dudley, D.W. Wiliams, J.J. Jenkins and Thomas Kinchen. We went to a lawyer. He set up a corporation. I called it the Georgia Investment Company. We built a building at the corner of South Lawrence Street and West Madison Street. My friends insisted that I call it the "Cummings Building," which I finally did.

I turned one hundred years old on September 25, 1948. Most of my family was there. I wish my granddaughter, Mrs. Pearl Davis, had been there. She was one of the first colored ladies to be a pharmacist. I knew she was going to be successful, but she died while birthing a baby back during the first World War. My grandson, Herndon Cummings, flew airplanes in the next big war. He went to Tuskegee and learned how to fly. They locked him and his friends up one night when they tried to take a drink in the white man's officer's club. I took a drink one time. I got drunk. Then I swore I'd never drink again. And, I haven't.

They had a big funeral for me. My good friend, the Rev. D.D. Edmond, preached my eulogy. Everyone above me was crying. Then I saw my Vinie coming toward me. I took her hand and we walked through the pearly gates. Yes, God is good to me!


The preceding story was based on a 1953 interview of Daniel D. Cummings by Dublin historian, Sarah Orr Williams. I wrote it in first person to give you a different look at a wealthy man, not in cash and land, but one who accumulated his fortune in the love he shared with his family and his community and in the accomplishments of his children and grandchildren.