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.