When I first began my research 13 years ago, I did so in an attempt to discover who I am. I didn't know anything at all about my ancestors, beyond my maternal and paternal grandmothers, both of whom I personally knew. I didn't grow up hearing family stories. As a matter of fact, I really didn't have any sense of there being a "history" of my family. My maternal grandmother, Mary (Davis) Thomas, lived just 30 minutes away from us, in Norfolk, VA, but it was my paternal grandmother in Louisburg, NC, Anna (Green) Yarborough, with whom I was closest. Both of these women were constants in my life, and my grandma Thomas even ended up living with us during my last couple of years of high school. Therefore, despite the fact that I knew little to nothing of my grandmothers' past, or of the ancestors who preceded them, each of these ladies were threads the fabric of my life.
These women who raised my mother and father each had a significant impact on my development into the person I am today. And not only that, but when I look in the mirror, I see them both in my reflection - the body of one, and the face of the other. As I've learned more about their lives, and the hardships they each faced, I beam with pride as I recognize what it had to take for each of them to have managed and sustained their households in the loss of their husbands and in the face of repeated financial blows and/or significant family stressors that would have brought many others down. But, both of my grandmothers stood tall in the face of adversity and beat the odds of their time. As single parents, they raised successful children and both managed to keep their homes, which are still in our family today. Through hard work and faith in God, Mary Thomas and Anna Yarborough lived well, and left a legacy of self-sufficiency, perserverance, and good will towards others. Many times I've been complimented on the way I've raised my children and managed to rise above the many hard times I've been faced with in my adult life, and I'm often asked the question, "How do you do it?" Well, now I know, and I have the perfect answer: "It's the 'stuff' I'm made of!"
Anna Beatrice Green was born on January 18, 1891 to parents John Wesley and Susan Dunstan Green. She was the daughter of Nathaniel Hawkins and Anna B. Green (who she was named for). Anna was born in Rolesville (Wake County), NC. The family soon moved a few miles north to Louisburg, in Franklin County, but returned to Wake County when Anna was in her teens. She had two sisters, Mabel and Blonnie, and three brothers, "Little Johnny", Joseph, and William; however only Mabel, William, and Anna lived to adulthood. I know very little about Anna's early life, but in 1919, she married my grandfather, Calvin R. Yarborough, Jr., a widower with three children. Anna moved to into the Franklin County home that was built by her new husband and his brother, and became step-mother to Vida, Priscilla, and Frederick Yarborough. Over the next five years, she gave birth to her own three children, Susie, Calvin III, and Arthur (my father). Unfortunately, Calvin began to suffer with the symptoms of tuberculosis, the cause of his first wife's death. He fell ill, and passed away in 1929, leaving Anna to raise six children alone. Anna, who was, at the time, involved in the creation of a new church in Louisburg (Mt. Hebron United Holy Church) relied on her faith and worked hard keep the taxes paid on the house that her husband had built, and to keep her children fed, clothed, and educated. She worked as a laundress, as well as for private families as a housekeeper and nanny. She also took in sewing, all the while maintaining a leadership role in the church she'd helped to create. She had a sweet disposition and was known throughout the little town of Louisburg as, "Miss Anna". Anna walked several miles each day to and from her jobs on the "white side" of town. She never did learn to drive.
As Anna grew older, her three biological children helped to support her so that she no longer had to work. (The older three died of various causes in their 30's and 40's.) Her greatest joy was in spending time with her four grandchildren, all the children of her youngest son, Arthur. She was an excellent cook, and was known for the wonderful cakes she baked. She took pride in her house and her yard, and gave special care and attention to her "award-winning" rose bushes in her front yard. She loved to sit out on her in her porch in her brown, wooden rocking chair and wave at all of the passers by, many of whom would stop for a chat. Some of my fondest memories are of warm summer evenings spent sitting on that porch with my grandma, and yes, I remember her hands - soft and wrinkled, I loved so much to trace the bluish-green veins that showed so clearly through her pale, almost-white skin. I remember my grandma's hands.
In February, 1977, when I was 15 years old, my grandmother, Anna Yarborough, died of complications from colon cancer. She is buried in the family plot on "the hill", which is the Louisburg City Cemetery (formerly, "Louisburg, for the Colored").