Serving Metropolitan Detroit Since 1944

I met my Great Great Grandfather

Dale Rich learns who George Ward was

My great-great-grandfather was enslaved.

His name was George Ward, the son of a "negro" mother and a Chickasaw Native American father.

He told his story to an interviewer nearly a century ago as part of the Federal Writer's Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of Mississippi.

Ward was born on the Ledbetter plantation near Tupelo, Miss., and was later owned by the father of Dr. Edward Givhan. That plantation was 10 miles south of Pontotoc, Miss., and was where Ward labored as a "houseboy," cleaner, and cook. Every Christmas, in addition to three pounds of meat and six pounds of meal, he and fellow slaves got "one pair of red low quarters and two suits of osnaburg (coarse, plain-weave fabric).

Ward's mother, whose name was Amy Givhan at her death at 96, was "bright in color but with kinky hair." She had been stolen from Winchester, Tenn. and brought farther South. Because she didn't abide her masters' brutal whippings, she was sold six times. The oldest of her first two children, Susan, lived to be 96. Ward's stepfather helped to build the Martha Washington School and Chickasaw College.

"I knew the first settlers in this country," he said. "I heard the list of names read by lawyer Jack McIntosh down in ol' Dr. Turner's house, in what is now Lee County, one-and-one-half miles east of Pontotoc. At first the rich white folks sent chilluns to the female college, an' the poor white people didn't go to school."

If enslaved individuals wanted to marry, their options were restricted to those on the same plantation with them. "And we had to ask 'marster' for the ones at home," he said.

Ward ultimately did marry. He and his wife, who died at nearly 100, lived together 68 years and "never had a cross word."

Ward talked about a white man named Jesse Harris and the 16 hound dogs he used to catch escaped slaves. For every capture, he netted $10. "The owners had about 15 [patrols], for to catch the negroes when they went off on Sundays without a pass," he said. "When this happened, the negroes got 30 lashes."

He also recalled that the time after the Civil War Battle of Harrisburg, MS, his master sent him and other slaves to retrieve the dead. That day, they buried about 80 soldiers in area trenches.

And that is the narrative of my great-great-grandfather, George Ward. May he continue to rest with the ancestors

Clarington Ledger July 1940

Submitted by Dale Rich


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