Yep, that's me on what used to be my family farm. That was the first time I had seen that piece of my family history in over a decade, but it no longer belongs to our family.
This last minute road trip to Huntsville, Alabama is what challenged me to ask some difficult questions and come up with some even more difficult answers; confirming some of my already existing thoughts, leading me to some new perspectives, and igniting my fire to take on the huge task of leaving the city life of Chicago to acquire my piece of paradise on the countryside.
It was early August of 2017, and after an 8-hour drive to drop off a relative at Alabama A&M, I wasted no time heading down the street, just west of campus, to the farm that I had grown up visiting my Great Aunt Mattie and Uncle Joe, who have gone on to be with The Lord for some time now. Although I didn't know the address, I didn't have much trouble finding it. That long driveway, leading up to the homestead and the church on the left has been forever etched in my mind. (That church owns the property now, by the way).
I walked around a bit to see what remained, and tried to envision how it all looked the last time I was there. I even tried to image how it looked at the turn of the 20th century. I could picture my forefathers getting up at the break of dawn to tend to their daily chores around the farm. (I'd trade that commute for Chicago's any day). I could even remember Uncle Joe sitting on the porch twiddling wood; the chicken coop, cows, and fruit trees to the west of the house. And who could forget the infamous tire swing in the back?
The house had been torn down the previous year. The fencing which used to contain the cows, now held some horses, and the old garage in the back was still standing. I didn't expect the old tire swing to be there, but, it was worth a look.... NO LUCK!!
After taking it all in, knowing that I was legally trespassing, I headed across the field to the church to introduce myself, and insure that nobody felt the need to call the cops or pull out their shotgun. What happened once I got to the church was something that I had not anticipated at all.
After running into Deacon Milton out in the parking lot, he expressed that he had known of my family and was excited to introduce me to the pastor. Pastor Montgomery has been pastoring Union Hill Primitive Baptist Church, just to the east of the old family farm since 1977. The church actually sits on a parcel of what used to be our land. They have now acquired the last of the property and plan to build a school and campus.
While it is sad to see the last of the property leave the hands of our family, it was comforting to know that Pastor Montgomery had some knowledge of the history of this land and our family. But what was even more refreshing, was learning the rich history and connection that the church had with the land, our family and one historic, local preacher who purchased land just north of our property from his slave master. In fact, it is likely that my family and the neighbors to the north, who had founded the church, purchased the land together before dividing it. So I guess you could say, things have come full circle. (The original home, which was used to hold service for Union Hill P.B. Church in the first years, still stands today as a historic landmark).
After sitting in his office, talking to him and some of the administration for what seemed like hours, and figuring out who I was in relation to the family that they knew, the pastor recalled that my Great Aunt Drusilla was the first clerk of the church. Remembering that he had included her in the book he wrote on the church's history, he fumbled around his bookshelf to find the book that you see pictured. He told me to keep the book, and it has been instrumental in helping me to understand and appreciate the history, hard work, and heritage associate with the land that not only my family acquired from old slave masters, but also the hundreds of thousand of families, who sacrificed everything for a piece of land in this country that would produce and provide for their families for generations.
I mentioned earlier, that some difficult questions arose from this whole experience. Questions that dig deep into our heritage and are connected to the culture and condition of our people today. In learning more about WHAT WE HAD, I want to now probe into just a couple of these topics in the blogs to follow:
WHAT WE GAINED FROM LOSING
WHAT WE LEAVE WHEN WE LEAVE
Please Subscribe, Comment, Like, Share
FREE YOUR SOUL!!!