By Ellis Roosevelt Moody (updated by genealogy committee)
The late Alex Haley distinguished himself as a great genealogist for his work with Roots. This inspired many people to learn more about their beginnings. I am proud to say that I, too, was inspired. During the Christmas holidays of 1978, Cousin Lillie H. Shelton of Los Angeles, the daughter of Walter Harrison, visited her relatives in Slidell and New Orleans. On January 20, 1979, Cousin Lillie spent the night at our home in New Orleans. She was a world traveler and we enjoyed hearing about her travels. During that time, Roots had captured the airways as a saga of an American family. Being inspired by the Roots episode, I expressed my desire to cousin Lillie to learn more about the history of The Harrison Family. I asked her if she would help me with my research. Her reply was “of course I can.” I asked her how far back could she take me. She replied “to the beginning”. Astonished as I was, I immediately grabbed for my pencil and note pad. She very diligently and without any hesitation at age 80 sat down on the floor in front of the fireplace Indian style.
She started by stating that Stephen Harrison came to the Slidell area from Maryland around 1850 at the age of 15. This of course was 13 years before the Emancipation Proclamation, the proclamation issued by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863 that declared that all slaves within any State, or designated part of a State, shall be then, thenceforward, and forever free.” We assume that Stephen Harrison was a “free” black man as early as 1859. This is based on our research of the 1870 US Census that indicates that he was able read and write. The vast majority of slaves were not able to read and write. Additonally, our research has found that that there was a very large population of “ Free People of Color” living in the US, contrary to what most of us were taught. Stephen later met and married Charity Jackson. That marriage took place in 1859 two years before the civil war. From that union ten children were born between the years 1860-1879.
Charity Jackson Harrison was a slave on the Abner Jenkins property in Sun, Louisiana. Records obtained by Cousin Tushanna Adams indicate that Charity, her mother Sarah Moore and her grandmother Fanny were all slaves on the property. Research into Sarah Moore showed that she was born in South Carolina as a slave with her mother Fanny (which we think was a nick name for Francis) and was brought to Louisiana with the Jenkins. Additionally Sarah’s children John, Sarah, Marry, Robert, Charles and Hetty were identified. This info was obtained from divorce documents found in the St. Tammany Parish court records where a petition for divorce was filed by Mary Ann Bennett Jenkins vs. Abner Jenkins at the 8th Judicial Court on June 24, 1854. An inventory of their “property” included these slaves. They were eventually free and took up residence very near to the Jenkins. Sometime after this in 1857, it is believed that Abner Jenkins fathered Charlie with Charity. Charity then met and married Stephen Harrison. Grandpa Stephen reared Charlie, who was grandma Charity’s first born, as he did his own ten children. At that point in our nations history (1859), the United States was only 83 years old, there were only 33 states in the union and James Buchanan was the President.
According to the director of the Louisiana governor’s office on Indian Affairs, it was common practice for Blacks and Indians to marry, as both were members of an oppressed group. It was reported that a nation of Choctaw Indians migrated on foot to Oklahoma from southern Mississippi in the early 1800’s and some of them settled in and around LaCombe, (known as Indian Village) and what we now know as Slidell. Slidell Louisiana was founded around 1882 and was formally incorporated in 1888. In 1882 there was construction of a major new railroad from New Orleans to Meridian, Mississippi, connecting there with Cincinnati, Ohio and eventually with New York, NY. The New Orleans and Northeastern (n.o.n.e.) Railroad established a building camp at first high ground north of Lake Pontchartrain which eventually grew into the city. Slidell was chartered as a town in 1888 by the Louisiana legislature. A review of the 1870,1880 & 1900 U.S. Census provided by Elvin Smith of Denver, Colorado (son of Luecreacy & T.J. Smith, Sr.), confirmed the ages of Stephen, Charity and their children. Charity can also be found on the 1910 and 1920 U.S Censuses listed as a widow.
The accompanying chart depicts a profile of the descendants of Stephen and Charity. Research into our family history continues. As of this printing, we have been able to gather information on ten of the eleven children as follows:
Our research of Stephen Harrison has found some interesting facts. Listed below are some of what we have found.
Born in Maryland (Verified by 1870, 1880, 1900 censuses and Family book
Arrived in La. (Verified by Family Book)
Married Charity Jackson (Verified by Family Book)
Listed on voter registration list of St. Tammany Parish
Listed on La. Census as Head of Household (Verified by 1870 census)
Listed on La. Census as Head of Household (Verified by 1880 census)
Helped organize Mt. Olive AME Church in Slidell La. (Verified by church records)
Owned property in St. Tammany (Verified by US Homestead Certificate)
Listed on La. Census as Head of Household (Verified by 1900 census)
Charity Harrison listed as widow (Verified by 1910 census)
Sometime between 1900 and 1910 Stephen died. We have not been able to find any information on the specifics of his death or where in Maryland he came from. We are continuing our research on Stephen.
Grandma Charity came to live with her youngest son Jimmie and his family. Grandma Mary always felt that God wanted Jimmie to stay at home and rear his family rather than move away like most of his brothers. This allowed him to take care of his mother. Grandma Charity had a sister whose name was Sally Jackson Young and a brother named John Jackson. Sally (Sarah) Young has many descendents who still reside in the Sun and Bogalusa area. Our research has found that Grandma Charity was born in Sun, La. Grandma Charity would often visit her relatives in Sun and Bogalusa, Louisiana. Sometimes she would stay three weeks to one month. She would visit all of her relatives in the Village and inform them that she was going to visit her kin. Our research has also found that Grandma Charity’s mother was named Sarah Moore. We are continuing to research information on Sarah Moore.
Although they were very young, my mother and Aunt Mil remember that Grandma Charity loved to drink her coffee from her own blue coffee mug. She would fill her mug and retire to her room. She was a dutiful member of Mt. Olive A.M.E. Church in Slidell. It must also be noted that she and her husband Stephen were two of the founders of Mt. Olive A.M.E. When her health began to fail and she no longer could attend church service, the minister of Mt. Olive would visit her and conduct church service and administer communion. In 1926, Aunt Mil remembers that Grandpa Jimmie had gone to work not knowing that his mother had become very sick. They all thought that she would pass away before he got home from work but she held on. At 6:30 p.m. on October 19, 1926, shortly after he arrived home, Grandma Charity passed away. She had lived a full life and expired at age 82.
Jimmie and Mary Rosetta Fields were married in 1898 at ages 19 and 17. The accompanying chart shows that they were the parents of sixteen (16) children. Ten of which produced grandchildren that totaled fifty-four (54). Ironically, twenty-seven (27) were boys and twenty-seven (27) were girls. My mother, Edna, was their only daughter to give birth to more than one child. She also was their only daughter to give birth to a son. Therefore, I am their only grandson without the Harrison last name.
I would like to recognize Mom (Edna) and Aunt Mil for their memory in setting the record straight. It had been reported that there were 17 children born to Jimmie and Mary. We learned that there were 16 children as shown. In fact, Mom stated that not only did the triplets die as infants (George, Georgia and Georgiana), but while Mrs. Marie Prevost (see picture on right), the mid-wife, tended to Grandma Mary, her three daughters, Louise, Leona, and Edna each held one of the babies. It was at that time that the baby held by Mom (Edna) died. The other two died within days after the first. Mrs. Marie Prevost was Grandma Mary's second mid-wife. She took over those responsibilities after Mrs. Eliza Foster retired from mid-wifery. Mrs. Foster delivered Grandma Mary's older children. In addition to the triplets, Mrs. Prevost also delivered Aunt Mildred and when she would visit she would refer to Aunt Mil as "her little girl". Aunt Mildred tells the story of how her older brother Phlander would tease her about not being one of Grandma Mary's "real children", but that she was really Mrs. Prevost's child. Grandma Mary would then chastise Phlander about teasing little Mildred and reassured her that she was in fact her child.
Grandpa Jimmie and Grandma Mary (see picture on left) reared their children in a happy Christian environment. Grandpa worked at Salmen’s brickyard for years. He also worked at the Oyster factory as a lot of us did in those days. The bus would pick up the workers before day and off we went to shucking oysters. (I said “we” because one morning when I was about 12 years old I caught the bus with Aunt Mil and others and shucked oysters all day, which was enough oyster shucking for me). Grandpa also worked in the timber industry. Thomas Harrison reminded me that he had worked with Grandpa cutting wood. Grandpa was known to be a good man, but he did not back off of a “hum bug” as he called it. Thomas remembers some fellow giving Grandpa too much lip and Grandpa knocked him down. He did not exclude white people either. He was my hero. He was a hero to all of us who were fortunate enough to know him. Grandpa had a severe speech impediment and stuttered severely. The only time I can remember him “warming my hide” was when he overheard me imitating (mocking) him. I had it down pat and he patted me down.
Grandma Mary (picture on right) was a God-fearing mother and grandmother. She reared her girls to be ladies and assigned two of them each day to get up and fix breakfast for the working men of the family. Each Sunday morning she would conduct prayer service with her family before going to Sunday school. Each child took turns until all of them prayed. She always prayed that her Jimmie would be converted and become a Christian. Her prayers were answered in 1947 when Cousin Idella Stokes, a member of Mt. Olive A.M.E. church, invited Reverend Prentiss Harrison, their nephew, to conduct a revival service. She also invited her uncle Jimmie to the revival. It was at that revival that Grandpa Jimmie accepted Christ as his savior. All of us were overjoyed that Grandpa had joined church. Having a choice of baptism by sprinkle or submersion, Grandpa chose submersion. Rev. T. H. Sampson, pastor of Hartzell Methodist Church, baptized Grandpa Jimmie in 1947. It was a grand day for all of us who were there. Grandma Mary, who was a pillar of strength, was overjoyed.
Grandma Mary was born on February 1, 1880 in the Indian Village area. Her parents were Alexander and Mary Fields. Her Grandmother on her fathers side was Cilia Ducre. She had 6 brothers and 3 sisters. Her older sister Josephine Fields (known as Aunt Joe) was married to Jacob Washington, whose grandson, The Honorable Lionel Washington, was a member of the Slidell City Council. Her younger brother Anthony Fields (known to us as Uncle Tony) was wed to Pearl Foster (Aunt Pearl). Her other brother, Edgar Fields was wed to Lugenia Harrison who was the younger sister of Grandpa Jimmie. Her other siblings were:Louise Fields, who married Jack Brookter (known as Uncle Jack), Rachel and Alfred, Robert, Buckley, and Gustave Fields. Grandma Mary believed in a favorite quote from the book of Proverbs Chapter 22, Verse 6, that reads, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it". Each Sunday she sent her children to Sunday School at Hartzell Methodist Church in Indian Village. At 11:00 she and her sister Josephine (Aunt Joe) joined them for church service. This foundation followed their children, grand, great grand, great great grand and great great great grand. To this day her descendants are actively enrolled in church work, such as Sunday School Superintendents, Sunday School Teachers, Bible Class Teachers, Vacation Bible School participants, Stewards, Trustees, Deacons, Deaconesses etc, doing God's work throughout the nation.
In later years of her life, Grandma Mary’s health began to fail. All of her children helped out with her, as did Grandpa Jimmie. Aunt Mil was the only child who remained at home and took a lead role in caring for her mother.
Through the years, Sam, J.T. and I lived with our grandparents. After my father died in 1935 my mother returned home to live. Even after her second marriage, I stayed with Grandma and Grandpa thereby growing up under their heels. Aunt Mil, J.T. and Sam were like my older sister and brothers rather than an Aunt and first cousins. We worked with Grandpa in his field (garden) where he grew all the vegetables for the family. Some 50 years after his death, the Slidell Times printed an article about a sweet potato crop found on his land. It is thought that was Grandpa’s last crop he had planted. He also had a fruit orchard of pears, plums, peaches, bananas and figs. Grandpa enjoyed excellent health all of his life. In 1950, Grandpa became sick and required an operation. He did not recover from the operation and on October 8, 1950, he died at the age of 72. Since Grandma Mary was bedridden, she was not told of his death, although we thought she knew that he had gone on to glory. On January 11, 1951, just three weeks before her 71st birthday Grandma Mary died. Oh what a beautiful woman who lived a full and Christian life. We felt very certain that her journey to heaven united her again with her Jimmie.
Written by Ellis Moody. Son of Edna Harrison Crawford.