Yes, Lorena is still with me, and considered one of the most beautiful girls in the village

Posted by | July 31, 2012

Part 2 of 2
Continued from yesterday…

“It was a trying hour indeed,” said Mrs. McFerrin. Lorena learned of their predicament, and fearing that she would be permanently separated from her kind friend, trembled with emotion, saying in Spanish, “Do not leave me! Please do not leave me!”

The situation was explained to the officer in charge of the health office, with an earnest appeal to give Lorena a good health certificate, as she had not been exposed to small pox. “No, she must be vaccinated; and she cannot be vaccinated until office hours, 2 to 4 p.m.,” was the stern reply. This would be two hours after the departure of the steamer.

Mrs. McFerrin learned of a mission home in Havana. She hurried with Lorena to the home. Here arrangements were made to have the child vaccinated and remain there until she could be sent for. It was all made clear to Lorena and Mrs. McFerrin bade her an affectionate farewell and hurried to her steamer, not expecting to see her again for several weeks.

That dear little orphan girl should not have been separated from her loving protector. We sometimes find foolish rulings, with fools to execute them-fellows that will strain at a gnat and swallow a camel. If the official who refused to issue a good health certificate to Lorena had been a broad-gauge man he would have ignored the fool rules, precedents and red tape and given her a good health certificate; and if that were impossible, if he had been a sympathetic and resourceful man–a man big enough for the place–he could have put the child in a big basket, covered her over with the stars and stripes, and had the basket and contents carried on board the steamer.

But all’s well that ends well.

Fortunately the steamer was detained as stated above, and Lorena received a vaccination certificate in time to join her protector before her departure. I shall never forget, and the passengers who witnessed their meeting and greeting will never forget, how this affectionate and appreciative Cuban child threw her little brown arms around Mrs. McFerrin’s neck and shed tears of joy–tears that were more eloquent than words.

The above narrative was written in May, 1889, after my return from Cuba for an Ohio journal. This summer I sent a copy of the narrative to Mrs. McFerrin and wrote to her making some inquiries about the little, dark-eyed Cuban damsel. The answer follows:

Oliver Springs, Tenn., July 31, 1906.

“My Dear Mr. Mann:–Of course I remember you and have often wondered if I should ever again see any of those who came over from Cuba with us, and can assure you I was so glad to get the copy of the newspaper article you sent me.

“Yes, Lorena is still with me and she is considered one of the most beautiful girls in our village, and she is as good as she is beautiful. Her devotion to me is truly lovely; but I will lose her now, as she recently married Mr. John C. Walker, a corporal in the Tenth Infantry, United States Army. So you see Lorena is ‘under the flag of her lovely beloved America.’

“After I brought Lorena home, she said: ‘Mama, America dead,” (You know it was a late spring, and the trees were dead so far as the leaves are concerne,d especially to Lorena, coming from a tropical and always green island). ‘No”, I said, ‘America is not dead, but sleeping.’ A few weeks later she ran into the house and said: ‘Mama, America waking up, come and see,’ and she pointed to the trees which had begun to put forth their green leaves.

“I do wish you could see her, Mr. Mann. We would be glad to have you repay us a visit. This is a beautiful wild country and you could find much to interest you; so just pack your trunk and come down. We will give you a hearty welcome. Come soon, as Lorena leaves in a few weeks for Chattanooga.

“My son, Colonel H. Hannah [torn] of Tennessee I enclose you a photograph of Lorena. It is not as good as it could be, but I send it to let you form some idea of how she looks. Will send you a better picture as soon as we can have some taken. Also send you a clipping from the Nashville Banner. You will see by the engraving that I am veteran of two wars. My husband wore the gray, my son wore the blue; and I thank God there is no South nor North; no West nor East, but one great America, and I pray it may be so forever.

“Hope you are well, and with best wishes for your success, I am you friend,
Mrs. R.A. McFerrin.”

Colonial Hall, Oliver Springs TNColonial Hall, Oliver Springs, TN. In this house, Elizabeth “Lillie” Gerding Hannah raised her two sons, Harvey Horatio and Gerald (by her first husband, Maj. John Hannah), her daughter, Bernice McFerrin (by her second husband, Dr. R.A. McFerrin), and the orphaned Cuban girl, Lorena Maria Lacarada Paidrone, whom she brought from Cuba following the Spanish-American War.

3 Responses

  • Heather says:

    An interesting postscript to this story. I was home the other day. (I live in Colonial Hall) and saw a woman peeping over my gate. She wanted to know if she could take a picture. I told her yes and was about to get off the porch so I wouldn’t be in the shot. She asked me if I ever heard of Lorena. I was shocked. It was her great-great granddaughter, and she had brought Lorena’s 80 year-old granddaughter to see the place where her grandmother grew up. She found my house through this article. I had often wondered about Lorena and why she was buried in the Hannah plot when I knew that she had married due to reading this article years ago when I did research on the family who lived in my house. I often wondered if she had kids and what happened to them.

  • Caron Dutro says:

    This is fascinating! I am actually related to the Hannahs/Macferrins. My grandfather was Harvey Horatio Hannah II. His sister, Geraldine, owned this home until the current owner (Heather, above) bought it. One of my aunt’s is our “family historian” but I have not heard this story before. Thank you for sharing! (Heather from above, I’d love to get in touch with you!)

  • Dawn says:

    I am the great great granddaughter of Lorena and periodically check sites, as I am still looking for more information about her. Especially any stories of her life. (Stories mean the most!!) I have found out a lot about her but sadly have hit a dead end road as of today. Heather thank you so very much for the picture you sent to my family and the hospitality you and your mother showed us. I have the picture framed and hanging on my wall. Thanks to you we were able to see where she lived and finally where she was laid to rest. I still think about the small little head stone with the only word engraved in it — “Lorena”.

    My grandmother is doing well and is 84 now and still talks about our road trip to Oliver Springs. Lorena’s short life is a sweet and tragic story all wrapped in one. Not only how she arrived here but her life thereafter. The loss of her parents, adoption and adapting to a family of strangers, adapting to TN and its cultures, her marriage to John C. Walker, the birth of their daughter “Lorena”, her health and then the way and reason she ended back in Oliver Springs, only to die shortly after her return at such a young age…..If anyone has any stories, pictures or anything that can help complete her story, my family and I would be forever grateful!!

    Thanks to sites such as this one we are all able to find missing pieces of our heritage and stories we can pass down to our children and grandchildren to cherish.

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