Category Archives: Hemingses

“Wench” – Stranger than fiction truth about slavery

Old sketch of Mount Clemens, Michigan where Temple and her daughter, Josephine visited in 1905

Just as I’m finishing up the 700-plus paged tome, The Hemingses of Monticello (only 200  more pages to go!), I’ve found another ancestor-related book to add to my research list.  This one is a début novel, Wench by Dolen Perkins-Valdez about masters on vacation with their slave mistresses at a resort in free state Ohio.

In an interview on NPR today, Perkins-Valdez said she got the idea for her novel after reading about Tawawa, a real resort in Ohio that was a popular place for masters to relax with their mistress slaves.  WEB DuBois mentioned Tawawa in passing in a biography, she said.

I was as intrigued listening to her describe happening upon this hidden piece of history as I was when I stumbled on to the secret of my great great-grandfather, Col. W.R. Stuart and his slave mistress, my great great-grandmother, Temple Burton.

When the interviewer went  on to explain that Tawawa was near mineral water and people retreated to it for what they believed were its healing qualities, I almost stumbled across my own feet for real.  Temple and her daughter, my great-grandmother Josephine also traveled to a town known for  its mineral waters, Mount Clemens,  Michigan in 1905.  The premise of Perkins-Valdez’s historical novel made me wonder if Temple had ever visited Mount Clemens or anywhere else with her master, the father of her 7 children, before he died in the late 1890s.

Masters and their slave mistresses vacationing together?  A slave having 7 children with her master even after being freed and living with him and his wife for the rest of their lives?

The truth is stranger than fiction.  I’m looking forward to both in the novel, Wench.

I’ve now come across two books that seem closely related to my family’s history.   What books best describe your family, current or in generations past?

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Filed under Annette Gordon Reed, family history, geneology, Hemingses, Josephine Burton Ford, Mt. Clemens, Multiracial families, slavery, Uncategorized, vacation

Ginger Men

Did  you know that Thomas Jefferson was a redhead?  I didn’t until I started reading Annette Gordon Reed’s Pulitzer Prize-winning tome, The Hemingses of Monticello, which tells the story of a family of slaves owned by our third president.

I’ve always had a special place in my heart for redheads like my mom, the first boy to kiss me on the cheek when I was seven, a few high school and college boyfriends and my husband to name a few.  So, I was surprised that detail about Jefferson slipped by me.

Besides just the obvious fact of white men fathering children with their black slaves, Gordon-Reed’s book has highlighted a few other parallels between the Hemingses/Jeffersons and our Burton/Stuart family.   Both our Temple Burton and one of the Hemings sisters were given to their new owners as wedding gifts for example. It makes me wonder if there were any other similarities, like if my third great-grandfather, Col. W. R. Stuart was a redhead too.

I have no colored photos of Col. Stuart, and so far, I’ve not come across any mention of his hair, but I’ll keep my eyes open for any hints that along with being a pecan daddy, he was also a ginger man.

My third great grandfather, Col. W. R. Stuart

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Filed under Annette Gordon Reed, family history, geneology, Hemingses, Multiracial families, Thomas Jefferson