Friday, May 27, 2011

Your past shapes your present

I have an ancestor, William Traylor, who owned a 3,000 acre plantation on the Appomattox River. He was born in 1674 in Hampton Parish, England and had immigrated to Virginia at some point, land was patented to him in 1702 so he arrived before that date at least. His plantation called Oakhurst was probably located across the river from Namozine in Amelia county because William was contracted to run the Namozine Ferry and received 600 pounds of tobacco as annual payment for this service. He was a slave owner and deeded the majority of his holdings to his oldest son but in 1753 he reserved "one girl Sall about eight years old now in the possession of my son John, and save my old negro fellow, Jack, which I give to my son Humphrey Traylor after my decease."
William had six sons, the second of which, George, was born in 1706. George married Elizabeth Gill in an interesting twist of fate. "Gill" is Mr. G's first name, the surname of a not-too-distant relative of his, meaning that he and I are possibly relatives. :-) In 1771 George dated his will and bequeathed the plantation that he lived on to his son Field Traylor along with one slave. George doesn't appear to have the wealth his father did, but he was a second son which helps explain this.
Field Traylor married a woman known only as "Sandal" around the year 1779, he too was a slave owner and fathered 12 children, including 7 sons. His 10th child was Bedford Traylor, whom we named our last child for, Asa Bedford. Bedford was an overseer but not a slave owner as far as I can tell though he worked for a slave owning relative. Bedford's wife was Airy Blankenship.
One of Bedford's sons was Edward who fought with the 14th Virginia. He was a P.O.W at Five Forks on April 1, 1865. He swore the Oath of Allegiance and was released on June 20 of that year. He fathered seven children including my direct ancestor Alice Rebecca. Alice married a Northerner, George Northrup and so from this point on my ancestry becomes Northern.
I'm proud of my Southern heritage, there isn't any of it with which I look to with shame or embarrassment. My ancestors were slave owners, they held other people in bondage which is something that we in the 21st century view with a very different lens than they did in that era. I don't condone slavery, I don't think blacks deserve to be held as less than whites, but I also refuse to judge actions of people long dead against a standard that was unrecognized in the era they lived in. The past is what it is, like it or not, and as history it deserves to be preserved untainted by modern sensibilities. So I'll celebrate that I come from a long line of wealthy Southern stock and teach my children that who and what they are today is at least in part derived from who their family was. We all have a heritage that we can be proud of. If I were black and had ancestors that were slaves I would be in awe that a people who suffered so much still survived, I'd be proud of who they were and who I was.
I dislike the term "Lost Cause", it tends to trivialize and mock beliefs that are still strong 150 years after that war ceased. I believe that the majority of what the South stood for was absolutely right; I believe in State's Rights and smaller limited government. I believe that your average Southern soldier was fighting for the right of self determination, the right not to told what to do by a serpentine Federal government. Slavery was a vestige of a by-gone era and would have been short lived in the South even if they had won. Enough leaders saw the evils in it, I believe. If the South's only goal was to perpetuate slavery then the best way to accomplish that would have been to stay in the Union where slavery was legal. No person is going to go to war to secure a right to something that's already legal, there had to be more to it then that. I believe that they rebelled against being forced, on unequal terms, to capitulate to the will of Northern industrialists and that was what the conflict was really about; which explains why so many people are still drawn to the Southern viewpoint. It resonates with us today, a beleaguered minority fighting against a tyrannical majority, we love an underdog. I also dislike the "you lost, get over it" mentality. Try that with a Jewish concentration camp survivor, the logic is the same isn't it? Jews lost big time in WW2, they got slaughtered, so give up an ideals about survival or "never again". Admit you were wrong, accept your defeat, and graciously live with the humiliation. Somehow, that sounds a little, oh I don't know, WRONG to suggest that, doesn't it? The principles that motivated the South are the same principles that motivate many people today and there isn't anything wrong about revering a people who had the moral courage to stand up and be counted. I'm proud of that and you should be too.

4 comments:

  1. GREAT!!!
    I love how eloquently and persuasively you put it all! I hope this post inspires folks like it did me!
    I'm all fired up now to abandon all politically correctness and walk through town singing something patriotic to “my” south :).... I'm proud of my relatives but am even more so to have a parent like you- it's such a gem to find your views today, much less to find kids who's parents believe it and teach it... well, at least up here in the “north”! I know better about some of the south at least.
    But it does make me sad that the North is still pulling this garbage on us :( and most folks don't even know.....
    I kind of take advantage of the fact that we all know the truth about this... But occasionally it hits me.. I'm SUCH a weirdo, guess I'll be proud of that 'cause there’s *no* way I'm changing :)
    Thank You

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  2. Paris - awesome posting as usual. What you wrote is what I've been saying for many years. It really bothers me when people of the 21st century place their modern morals and values upon those from the past. I mean to say it truly ticks me off!
    It's just too bad most folks listen to modern media and the historical revisionists.

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  3. My ancestors were early Mormons and of course polygamists as many Mormons were in the mid 1800s. That is definitely not something that would be wonderfully accepted now as a normal way of life, but I am proud of my heritage and for the strong stock I came from. When talking with other LDS folks with early ancestors in the church, the phrase, "Well, I am from the second wife of Mr so and so" comes up. Kinda funny. We should be proud of where we come from and the hardships that came with our ancestors lifestyles. Thanks for being honored to have amazing ancestors also.

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  4. Thanks Katie, Ken and Rachel. I agree that we should respect history for what it was. Trying to rewrite facts to suit modern sensibilities can only lead to "1984" like scenarios.

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