Please welcome guest author Christopher Emil Williams. Williams has recently published Black Blue Bloods — Legacy of an African American Plantation Owner, the true story of a freed South Carolina slave who at the age of 33 bought his own 700-acre plantation. “I wanted to be the first with a story like this, it is real and it’s my own family story,” said Williams, who already has a contract for a documentary movie. And if you’re near Spartanburg, SC today, join the Spartanburg County Historical Association from 12:30-1:30 pm as it hosts Williams in the west conference room at Chapman Cultural Center for a Lunch & Learn event. Williams will discuss his new book and the journey of discovery that led him to write it. Tickets will be available at the door: $5 for entrance to the event or $15 for the event and lunch. Visit www.spartanburghistory.org/tickets to purchase in advance, or reserve at Spartanburg Regional History Museum in person or by phone at (864) 596-3501.
I was raised as a child in Fountain Inn, SC on my grandparents’ 100-acre farm. The farm is part of a village-like area of relatives, extended relatives and close friends called “The Mt. Carmel Community.” My family moved away when I was about age 4.
When I came back after finishing college, I continued to document my family history. In search of that sense of family and identity, I did extensive research based on oral history and actual courthouse documents that dated back to the late 1700’s.
Records show that the farm I lived on as a child was only five miles away from a 575 acre plantation my great-great grandfather owned. Believing my family was poor, it was a big surprise to me to learn that family members still owned some of this land today.
My great-great grandparents, Mack & Caroline Saxon [shown on the book cover], were some of the richest people, black or white, in this region at that time. Not only did they race horses, they owned over a dozen businesses including a fairground, built a Julius Rosenwald school and Mount Carmel AME Church, had sharecroppers and servants, and have a surprising connection to the Kennedy family. What was supposed to be a 25-50 page pamphlet to be given out at reunions about the family history, has become a historical account called Black Blue Bloods — Legacy of an African American Plantation Owner.
From Black Blue Bloods:
Some of the Saxons thought they owned Mount Carmel AME Church, like my great uncle Andrew. He was nicknamed Cap and his wife Lizzie was called Sis. Even though their home was farthest from the church, they often walked to Mount Carmel every Sunday.
Cap was one of the most head strong and opinionated of the Saxons and after service or any church event he would always have to give everyone his opinion. Cap and Lizzie lead the choir in singing all the hymnals. As Annie Saxon Williams said, “The piano player always sounded like she had a bunch of cats walking across the keys! The singing wasn’t much better either because Aunt Lizzie and Cap sang like two crows!” She said the ones that could sing the least always sang the loudest.
Cap always wanted to be the big boss. He always had to voice his opinion about what he did and didn’t know. In the AME church the bishop is over each state and the presiding elder controls each district in the state. Elder Robinson was the new presiding elder at the time and when you get a new presiding elder this person would visit the churches in his district.
During this visit the presiding elder came to what the church called quarterly conference and at the conference certain reports were given. Cap was like the boss of the church and he did not know Elder Robinson and Elder Robinson didn’t know him. One of the members was giving their quarterly report and when reports were given the presiding elder would say if the report was acceptable or if it needed to be amended.
The one instance while a report was being given and the elder was responding, Cap jumps up and starts arguing with the elder. In front of God and the church they argue back and forth for at least five minutes. The presiding elder sat there patiently but after a while he had enough of Cap. As Annie Saxon Williams would say, “It’s hard to remember all the words to the argument. But I do remember him saying to Cap, you might be the old barn yard rooster but Mr. Saxon if you mess with me I’ll pluck your feathers!”
That’s the first time in the history of Mount Carmel that the congregation saw Cap shut up and be at a loss for words. It kind of startled Cap in a way and everyone wanted to laugh. Cap had never been talked to that way before by anyone. Cap knew Elder Robinson didn’t take any stuff and he met his match.