Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Tombstone Tuesday - My Brother's Grave

Even though this picture features a person, more so than a grave, I felt it appropriate for Tombstone Tuesday, when I ran across it on my memory card just the other day.  Everyone who knows me knows that I always have my camera with me, and I randomly snap photos of even the simplest moments.  Here, on a ride out a few weeks ago (not the same ride I wrote about for Sentimental Sunday), I took my mom by the cemetery in Hampton where my brother, Arthur, is buried.  My mother was very reflective and was noticeably touched to be able to visit her son's grave site, even though she's now unable to get out to walk over to it.  This picture tells so much, and reaffirms for me, in yet another instance, that my mother, despite some occasional moments of dementia, is still herself and (as I already know, but others don't seem to), is not only a thinking person, but also one who experiences normal human emotions, whether she expresses them verbally, or not.

In this picture, Mary Yarborough gazes out towards the grave of her son (and my brother), Arthur Yarborough, Jr., (August 23, 1960 - April 6, 1984).

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - Riding with Mom

The month of March has been extremely emotional for me for a number of reasons.  One thing that has been a challenge has been witnessing my mother's apparent loneliness, and then, just this past Friday trying to be uplifting and supportive as she, as she occasionally does, actually verbalized her feelings and expressed a true concern about her situation in life.  (For those readers who don't know, my mother has been in assisted living since June of 2004 after a devastating fall, and has lost her ability to walk -for the most part - in the past year.)  I've been very torn up and concerned trying to figure out what I can do that I'm not already doing to try to improve her situation.  I left her on Friday promising to pick her up for a ride out the next day, which was to be a warm, sunny 70+ degrees.  (My mother won't come out in the cold.)

We got a later start than I'd hoped for, due to my morning WAR with my allergies, but finally after lunch I picked my mom up and off we went.  She did a good job of getting into the car for me, which was a good sign.  Before we left the parking lot of her facility, I put on her make-up and jewelry to get her looking like Mary Anne, and we plotted out our afternoon ride.

 Our first stop would be in Hampton, at my mother's home (which she still owns and I take care of).  She sat in the car while I went in to check the house and get the mail.  When I came out, I noticed her neighbor sitting on her screened-in back porch.  She hadn't realized my mom was with me, but when I told her, she came right over to chat with her.  God is so good!  This is just what my mother needed - a few minutes with an old friend - her neighbor of 46 years.  I invited Mrs. Cappe to perch on the door-sill beside my mother, and sat by patiently while the two friends got caught up with each other, and Mrs. Cappe filled my mother in on the health of another previous neighbor.  This little visit, though brief, did my mother a world of good, and served to continue the job of lifting her spirits, which the ride, the sunshine, and I had already begun.  As an almost-afterthought, I decided to snap the two ladies' picture with my cell-phone just before we left.  It's a dark shot, but still I'm glad I was able to capture the moment.

That's my mom on the right, talking to her neighbor , Mrs. Cappe, as they sat in the car under our carport.

From here, we took a ride just a mile or so away, to the home of a dear friend and former co-worker of mine.  I'd called to tell her that we were in the area, and wanted her to meet my mom, since she never had and she hears me talk about her all the time.  The meeting was quick, but went well. :)  Next stop - McDonald's to get the required Coca-Cola (I don't know how to make the brand-sign) which my mother requests whenever we go out.  Then, it was onto to the interstate and off to Norfolk, where she was born and raised.

Our first stop on the south side was to Calvary Cemetery, the burial ground of my mother's mother and her paternal grandparents.  I wanted to show her that there was no headstone or marker for them, a discovery I'd made when I first visited in January.  She insists that there should have been a marker-plate for her mother, who died in 1986, and her brother has told me the same thing.  Luckily, the plot is right by the side of the road, so my mother was able to see for herself that there was nothing there but grass.  We drove around the cemetery a bit, looking at some of the surnames and unique graves (many of which I photographed on my last visit and have already uploaded to Find-A-Grave).  Next, it was off to my mother's childhood home, which she also owns, and I also now take care of.

Again, Mom waited in the car while I did my walk-through of the now-vacant property, which is adjacent to ODU's campus.  When I returned to the car, she reminisced a bit and commented on how the neighborhood was changing.  We talked about the need to get new tenants or sell soon, noticed the completion of the new recreation center in the next block, and headed out of the neighborhood for the 45 minute drive back to her facility in Newport News.

All in all this was a great day with and for my mom.  It saddens my heart that she, once such a vibrant and active member of the community, is now so physically confined by her failing body that she can't get out and about anymore, but I'm ever-so-glad that Spring has come, so that I can at least take her out on the weekends now.

On Tuesday, my mother will celebrate her 76th birthday.  Yes, I said 76.  The debilitating condition which has robbed her of her bodily control and ability to balance began to torment my mother eleven years ago, when she was only 65.  I'm thankful that she still has her mind (although there are times when she is extremely sleepy and you might not believe it) and that she knows all of her family members and what is going on around her.  This can be a mixed blessing though, because this means that she is well-aware of how seldom anyone else visits her, except for my daughters and me, but still it is a blessing.  Mom has asked me to make a yellow cake with lemon icing for her birthday, and she wants vanilla ice-cream, so that's what we'll be having to celebrate.  Oh, and if you're wondering what we'll be drinking... well, in this family, COKE is always IT!


Thursday, March 11, 2010

Restore My Name - CoAAG (Updated 5/28/17)

For my first entry in the Carnival of African-American Genealogy, I'd like to respond to the prompt, "As a descendant of slaves, have you been able to work with or even meet other researchers who are descendants of slave owners?"

A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to meet a descendant of one of the slave-owning  YARBOROUGHs of Franklin County, NC, where my paternal ancestors are from.  As it happened, I was in the FC Courthouse doing some research one summer day, and in discussing my plight in trying to validate my theory on how my gg-grandfather, Calvin, came to be a Yarborough, a very helpful young lady shared with me that a semi-retired lawyer in town was a YARBOROUGH, and had an office in the very next block.  Several of the other courthouse workers chimed in, saying that this person was an avid family historian and that they believed him to have access to his ancestors' records.  Of course, I made my way over to the law office, only to find a note on the door saying that the person I sought was only in on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  This was not one of those days.

 This is Richard Fenner Yarborough, Sr., a son of one of the first "brothers of Yarboroughs" who came to Franklin County (then Bute), NC from Virginia.  (Photo taken by Renate Sanders of original picture (in frame) held by C.H. Yarborough, Jr.)

I took down the phone number for the law office and continued on to the next planned stop on my trip, which was a visit to the Oakwood Cemetery, where most of the slave-owning Yarboroughs are buried. This was more out of curiosity than anything else, but as always, the Ancestors were at work.  As I stood amid the immaculately kept graves in the YARBOROUGH CIRCLE (which was located right in the center of Oakwood), another vehicle pulled up.  A white-haired lady got out and headed directly towards me.  "Oh, no", I thought.  I guess she's wondering why I (a black woman) am out here in the middle of her family plot.  I put on my best smile and greeted her, excited on the inside thinking that I might be about to meet one of the descendants of my gg-grandfather's owners, but nervous about how I was about to be received.  The woman also smiled, perhaps a bit nervously too, but - she-smiled. :) We got all of the pleasantries out of the way and got to talking.  As it turned out, the woman, Nancy, was the widow of a deceased YARBOROUGH and was out to visit her husband's grave.  She knew and shared quite a bit of history with me, and we completed our visit to the cemetery together. She also knows and considers as a friend, my aunt, Sue, who still lives in Louisburg. Before we parted, Nancy, too, shared the name and the home phone number of her husband's nephew - the same lawyer whom I'd just attempted to visit.

Nancy Yarborough, widow of Edward Yarborough
(Photo property of Renate Y Sanders)

Long story short, I ended up contacting Charles Yarborough, who was quite gracious and receptive to meeting and talking with me about the possibility of our shared family history.  I met with him on my next trip to Louisburg, and we had a high time getting to know each other, and chatting about our families.  As it turned out, my own grandmother, Anna Green YARBOROUGH, actually worked for Charles' family when he was a boy.  And get this - she was his nanny!  Charles remembered my grandmother's sweetness, and he remembered being very sad when she had to stop working for his family, abruptly, due to the illness of a family member.  (I'll write about that in another post.)  He thought he might have a picture someplace of her holding him (oh - wouldn't that be a treasure for me!), but hasn't been able to find it to date.  Charles did find the photo a year or two after this post was written! Although it's blurry, that's definitely my grandma. This photo now serves as the youngest picture I've ever seen of her. 
My grandmother, Anna Green Yarborough, holding little Charles Hill Yarborough, Jr. (circa 1934)
I have one other photo to add to this post, but I'll have to get it the next time I visit Louisburg. It's a precious photo of little Charles, about 5 or 6 years old, tucked into the Yarborough Family Bible, along with other precious mementos.

Anyway, I've had the opportunity since then to meet Charles' son, Hill, who is just as gracious, accepting, and generous as his father.  Together, the three of us have visited, "The Hill", which is the burial ground for most of my African-American YARBOROUGH ancestors, including many who were formerly enslaved.  In particular, Charles wanted to pay his respects to his "Nanny", which he was able to do on that day. Charles recalled, with obvious fondness, how much he loved my grandmother, and how "sweet" she was to him. He told me about how, one day, his mother told him that "Nanny" (as he called her) couldn't come back anymore. He was very young, so of course, he didn't know the details, but he remembered that he "just cried and cried". Some 70 years later, I was able to fill in the void of him not knowing why she "left" him. My Aunt Sue, who was about 17, had been diagnosed with tuberculosis, the horrible disease that had taken the life of my grandfather (her father) some years earlier. Apparently, my grandmother had been tested and found to be a carrier, therefore, the Health Department prohibited her from working in private homes, any longer. Because of this, she had to abruptly leave her job with "Lawyer Yarborough", and resorted to at-home work to support her family, such as taking in laundry and sewing for others. However, I've found letters and documents that show that Mr. Yarborough (Charles' dad) provided legal support and wrote letters on my grandmother's behalf, in later years.

Charles and Hill Yarborough have continued to open their hearts to me in my quest to find any documentation that further supports my finding that my gg-grandfather was owned by their ancestor's cousin, James H. YARBOROUGH.  We know that we are not blood relatives, thanks to DNA testing, but I never thought we were since my gg-grandfather, Calvin, was acquired by James H. via his marriage to Elizabeth T. Neal, who owned him first.

This is me with Charles on "The Hill".  Here we stand touching the headstone of my grandmother (his "Nanny") and grandfather.

Soon, I'll be heading back to Louisburg, where Hill (pictured left) and I together will search through some of the boxes and boxes of family documents which he now has in his care.  Charles, Nancy, and Hill Yarborough have indeed proven themselves not only to be wonderful "friends of friends", but as we like to call ourselves, "almost-cousins", or "cousins-anyway". 
Hill and I did, indeed, have our day of searching. We started out, together, but then he left me to go through the boxes and files on my own. (Such trust!) I learned a lot about the Yarboroughs that day but did not find documents specifically related to my ancestors although there were a few things that referenced my great-grandfather's last owner, James H. Yarborough. Still, just having the opportunity to sift through and read so many original historic records of a private collection was an honor and a privilege that I'll always cherish.

Today, I'm revisiting and updating this post, due to the loss of my dear "cousin-anyway", Charles Hill Yarborough, Jr. He left this earth on Friday, May 26, 2017. Sadly, I hadn't visited with Charles in the last few years, due to his move to Raleigh and declining health. Hill and I talked several times about trying to arrange for me to see him on one of my trips to the area, but we never made it happen and I truly regret that. 
Charles Hill Yarborough, Jr. was a great man, who lived a full life. I proud to say I knew him. We considered one another family, and I will always remember him with fondness. May he rest in peace.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Been There - Done That!

Been there, done that!
Haven't we all? :)

Source citation included in photo,  The Daily Press is a Tribune subsidiary, and is located at 7505 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, VA 23607

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Fearless Female - Anna G Yarborough - #AtoZChallenge

     A is for Anna.

This post was originally written in 2010, in response to a writing prompt encouraging the blogging community to write posts about "fearless females" from our family trees. I am resposting this on April 2, 2017 as a part of the A-Z Challenge, which began yesterday so I'll be posting A and B, today. 

This is a picture of my grandmother, Anna Beatrice Green Yarborough.  It is the only picture I've ever seen of her in her younger days.  I do so wish I could see her eyes under that hat!

Anna was "my" grandma.  I've written about her in several posts.  All my life I've been told that I look just like her, and I know that she has definitely passed on an abundance of her spirit to me.  We were so close, and though she passed when I was just a fifteen, I miss her still, and think of her constantly.

 Anna Beatrice Green was born January 18, 1891 in Wake County (Rolesville), NC, to parents John Wesley Green and Susan Georgiana Dunston. Her grandparents were Nathaniel M. Hawkins and Anna Green (her namesake).  In 1919, Anna married Calvin Yarborough, Jr., a widower with three children.  She went on to have three more children with Calvin - Susie, Calvin III, and Arthur (my father).  Sadly, my grandfather succumbed to tuberculosis, which had ravaged his family, just ten years after they married, leaving Anna to finish raising the six children alone.  Following what seems to be pattern of single women rearing children in my family, Anna never remarried.  Instead, she worked hard (and constantly) as a laundress, housekeeper, and nanny for several families in her little town of Louisburg.  "Miss Anna" (or Annie), as she was known around town, was under constant financial pressure to keep the beautiful family home which her husband had built, but she did it, and it is still in the family now.  (I've discovered records of letters and legal papers which document this struggle; otherwise, I would have never known.)  Anna, determined not to let her misfortune define her family, worked hard to feed, clothe, and educate her children to the best of her ability.  This was her priority, and, according to her daughter, Susie (who will be 90 in April) who passed in 2013, they "were poor, but they didn't really know it."  Additionally, Anna was one of the founders of the Mount Hebron United Holiness Church in Louisburg.  I have very fond memories of attending this church with my grandma, but I never knew that she was one of the founders until very recently.  My grandma was so very humble.  She was proud, but never boastful. She passed those traits down to my father, and subsequently, to me.

I chose this picture because, as I mentioned already, this it is the only picture I have ever seen of my grandma at a young age.  I don't know when the picture was taken, but my guess is that it was between the years of 1919-1929, because  I feel sure the picture was taken by her husband, Calvin. (She is not wearing a ring, but I don't know for sure if she even had one.  I will have to find out.)  What I do know is that in this photo, Anna is standing on the bridge over the Tar River in Louisburg.  This bridge used to serve as the proverbial "tracks", which divided the Black and White parts of town.  However, Louisburg's little "downtown" area is just beyond this bridge on the "White" side, so blacks had to cross it to do their business in town.  My grandmother, like so many others, walked across this bridge each day to get to the homes of her employers.  I like to try to imagine what took place on the day this photo was taken.  Had Anna and Calvin just gone on a date?  Had they, perhaps, just come from being married at the courthouse?  Was Anna just on her way home from work?  I pray that one day I might know the story and that eventually, someone will bless me with more photographic evidence of my grandma in her younger days.

My grandma
Grandma and me

Thanks for reading!

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All pictures and content are the property of Renate Y. Sanders, and should not be used or reproduced without permission of the owner, which will be liberally granted, so just ASK!