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Amanda Arnett and Richard Brooks During Enslavement

02 Aug 2004 Comments: 0 Views: 
Posted by srEDITOR
Photo of Amanda Arnett Brooks

Amanda Arnett and Richard Brooks During Enslavement

By Joyce Reese McCollum

Our family began with the union of Amanda Arnett and Richard Brooks during enslavement. Each generation has come forward through its era and obstacles. We are well over 200 descendants scattered across the country and diverse in many ways. But we all know the family stories and now, much of the history.

Oral tradition in my mother's family is a wealth of names, events and sometimes fantastic stories of ghosts, omens, faith and the deeds of long dead relatives.

My mother is the seventh of thirteen children. The eldest was born in 1910 and the youngest in 1937! My maternal grandfather was the youngest of his mother, Amanda Arnett Brooks' seven living children. He was born in 1890 and his eldest sister, Jennie in 1862 before Emancipation.

There were many stories about great-grandmother Amanda (born 1846); that she had been a slave and that the slave owner had been her father; that she had a white half-sister who visited her and finally, that she received a government pension that made her affluent for her time and community.

Very little was ever mentioned about her husband, Richard (born 1836). My grandfather was named for him although there were several older brothers. Papa was born in 1890 when Amanda was in her early 50s.

In 1985, the family had gathered for a funeral. All of Mother's surviving siblings were in town. I had recently been given a photograph of great-grandmother Amanda and remarked to my Aunts Ernestine and Hallie that they resembled her a great deal. I asked if they remembered their grandparents. Hallie was born in 1910 and Ernestine in 1912. Both remembered their grandmother very well. Aunt Ernestine said that Amanda had been sewing clothes for Ernestine's upcoming wedding in 1933 and was 98 years old when she died that year.

Neither had any memories of their grandfathers, but recalled when their mother's father died in Dayton, Ohio in 1919. It was their first train ride and first time away from Kentucky.

When questioned as to why he was in Ohio, they replied that he was in the Old Soldiers Home! My brain was racing, Spanish-American War, World War I? The answer floored me! They said that both of their grandfathers had fought in the Blue and Gray War!

The next day I became a genealogist. I called Dayton and found the Old Soldiers Home to be the Veterans Administration Hospital. After a long talk with the archivist, I knew that great-grandfather John Howard had been admitted to the home in 1897 and had died there in January of 1919. He was a veteran of the United States Colored Troops 49th Regiment, Company B. From this information, I applied to NARA and obtained the service and pension files for him and later, great-grandfather Richard Brooks, who served in Company D of the 6th Colored Infantry.

These documents provided much genealogical information for both ancestors.

The file for Richard Brooks included his military enlistment including his year and place of birth, his service record, petitions for his pension, death and burial information and most importantly the "Declaration Of Marriage" affidavit that he and Amanda made at the Henderson County, Kentucky, Court House in 1881, stating that they had cohabited as man and wife since 1858, having been joined under "Old Slave Law" and wished to continue to do so. (I had been told by the county clerk that no marriage record was on file for them.)

Amanda Brooks14bx

The lady in the hat is Mary Arnett Baldwin. She and Amanda Arnett Brooks (on the right) were supposed to be sisters and remained close all of Amanda's life.

From the NARA file I also obtained the final medical and funeral expenses for Amanda as she did receive a widow's pension after Richard's death in 1905. From her death date, I contacted the local newspaper and obtained a copy of her obituary. From it I learned that, "An Honored Colored Woman Dies."

The obituary told of her being born enslaved on the farm of Elijah Arnett of Cairo, Kentucky and remaining there until freed by the Civil War. There was mention of her being a midwife and having 105 living descendants.

She died in March of 1933. Family tradition also stated that Uncle Fox was the offspring of a white Yankee soldier. Richard Brooks was stationed at Camp Nelson Kentucky from 1864-1866. George was born in 1866. Richard raised him as his own, stating that he knew "Mandy had no say in the matter." It was also family tradition that he could read and write and that Amanda often said, "Pappy never lied in his life!" His application for pension affidavits that give character references state that "Richard Brooks was a moral man, a strict church member and not given to vicious habits."

There are many other family traditions yet to be researched. Next, I may tackle the story of Brother Fox escaping from a chain gang in a flash of fire and never being seen again!

© Joyce Reese McCollum

By Joyce Reese McCollum
Phoenix, AZ
Published by U.S. Legacies: August 2004

About the Author





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