Hi Hannah, my name is Sharon I believe. Part 2

The Spann and Mack family unique bond lasted fifty-eight years according to the documents I found, now adding Paul and I friendship, it will make one hundred and seventy-three years that the Spann and Mack family has been linked together. Looking back when I was a little girl, hungry to know the ties that binds me, I would have never imagine that I was part of such a magnificent family history story.

Paul lives in Hilton Head South Carolina. He is married to a beautiful southern woman whose family roots are deep as well in the South. When he told me that his wife name was Jennifer, I felt chills run up my arms. My goodness I thought, her name is similar to the name 'Jennie' that has been passed down through out my family. More chills followed when Paul told me that he has two beautiful girls, and his oldest daughter is name ‘Hannah’. I am not sure if Paul has ever paid any attention to the coincidence with our families, but I was paying attention.

One day I got an email from Paul asking me what records I haven't found on my ancestors because he was willing to try and help me locate some of them. He wanted to help me piece together my family roots, which felt amazing and blew my mind at the same time. I wasn't custom to anyone other than Ms. Raina wanting to help me. I've been researching from Philly for thirteen years and since he lived in South Carolina, closer to the Sumter County Court house and the State archives, he would be my feet for this leg of my journey. I was overwhelmed with so much gratitude that he would even volunteered to do something like that, my mind went blank. After I got my composure and thoughts together, I told him that I thought it would be helpful if he could see if the Concord Presbyterian church still had any of their old records. Henry Spann might have taken his slaves with him to church, most slaveholders did. If he took his slaves to church with him then maybe the church records would tell me more about the slaves he brought. Paul and his family still attends Concord Presbyterian Church. Paul got his wife and other family members involved with the hunt.

After a few days, Paul told me that the church doesn't keep records in the church anymore and after calling around to find out where the records were kept, Paul told me the records were in Philadelphia, at the Philadelphia Presbyterian Historical Society. “You better get moving and keep me posted”, Paul wrote. I high tailed it to the Presbyterian Historical Society located in the center of Philadelphia. I spent the whole entire day there reading the minutes of the Concord Presbyterian Church written by Henry Spann. I was disappointed that the records started in 1855. I was hoping to see earlier records. I read as much as I could and copied as much as I could before they closed. When I got home, I got comfortable and went over the church minutes I had copied.

I shared with Paul my findings from the few papers that I did manage to copy out of the thousands of pages I viewed. I found just enough information that confirm that Paul’s great-great-great grandfather Henry Spann and his great-great grandfather Samuel Robert in fact took their slaves with them to church. Henry took one of his slaves named Jinny with him to church and his son Samuel Robert took one of his slave named Hannah with him to church as well.

("Citing; Concord Presbyterian Church minutes, 26 February 1860, page 53. Presbyterian Historical Society of Philadelphia.")
("Citing; Concord Presbyterian Church Records: Catalog of Colored Communicants; Eleventh line; Owner Samuel R. Spann, his slave 'Hannah'; Presbyterian Historical Society of Philadelphia.")

On February 26, 1860 in the minutes of the Concord Presbyterian Church. Henry Spann wrote that he brought one of his servants name Jinny with him to be baptized as a member of his church. The way he described Jinny as a colored woman, (not a negro woman) and his servant (not a slave) tells me that Henry Spann was indeed a good nature man. In another record, list a catalog of colored communicants and their owners. On the eleventh line Samuel R. Spann owned a slave named Hannah.

When slavery ended in 1864 most of the black members of the church left. My family became members of Beulah A.M.E. Church in Sumter South Carolina, in 1864, the same church my great-great grandmother Winnie and her oldest brother Lewis Junior is resting. Discovering that my family slaveowners took their slaves with them to their house of worship made me feel a little relieved that despite ‘slavery’ they still had their faith and my family were living and breathing around a good man and his family.

Knowing that Henry Spann wrote every word that I read in the Concord Presbyterian Church minutes, I didn't muster up any type of ill feelings towards him. Oddly I felt drawn to him. There wasn't one word in the minutes that offended me. From a young child up until I met Henry Spann, I was forced to believed that most white slaveholders were mean, and evil. Slavery to me had no compassion, no sense of morals. To me slavery was a dark place where people minds were broken, traditions were broken, hearts and souls but when the light broke the darkness of slavery, stronger minds, hearts, hopes and dreams emerge. I love to believe I am the hopes and dreams of my ancestors. The records that I've found suggest that Henry nor his son didn't seem to follow what every other southern slaveholder were doing during slavery or even afterwards. When most southern slaveholders were calling African Americans ‘slaves’, Henry called them ‘servants’. While people were degrading enslaved people and freed African Americans by calling them ‘negro’s’, Henry Spann addressed my family as well as other African American people as ‘colored people'. After Paul and I worked together to find the Concord Presbyterian Church records, Paul and his cousin Kevin who is an experienced genealogist, worked on locating the deed records to the ‘Linebacker Plantation’.

Paul and his cousin took off work one day and drove a few hours from their home to Sumter County South Carolina Court house and the Sumter County archives. They spent hours looking for deed records as well as broken pieces to my family history. I wished I was their with them to help rummaged through the old records. Later that day I got a email from Paul that they had found the deed to the ‘Limbacker Plantation’. I was so ecstatic. After they were done Paul sent me a copy of everything they found. A few days later Paul and I were discussing the deed record to the 'Limebacker Plantation', we tasseled with where the land was actually located. I felt strongly about were the land was but Paul wasn't interested in feelings, he was interested in knowing for sure.

A copy of the Limebacker plantation deed record located in Sumter County South Carolina. Richard Spann purchase 200 acres of land for $500 hundred dollars from Sinclair Limbacker in the Sumter District of S.C. on April 11, 1811 ("Citing deed record, 11 April 1811 Sumter County South Carolina, Probate Courts, Department of Archives of Columbia; Sinclair Limbacker 200 acres to Richard Spann") Deed record courtesy of Paul Richbourg Walter.

In February of 2015, I decided that it was time for me to take that journey back to my roots, where the ties that bind me. I shared with Paul about my plans to visit Sumter and he told me that he would join me. I was so excited to finally be going to Sumter. I started getting my finances together, looking for reasonable hotel rooms and a affordable way to travel down to South Carolina. It was finally set that I would meet up with Paul sometime in March once I got the arrangements together.

As March approach my finances started to get a little sketchy and I was panicking that I wouldn't be able to afford to make the trip. One day I was chatting with Paul through email and he asked me how my plans were going. I had too much pride to tell him that I was struggling financially to make the trip. He told me that he shared with his parents that I was planning on making the trip to a South Carolina and they suggested that I could stay at their home with them in Columbia South Carolina, because I was like family. I was so overwhelmed with emotions that I cried until my eyes were swollen. How thoughtful of them to invite me into their home with out even knowing me. I was so moved and jumped at the once and a lifetime offer. My journey seemed to be forming into more than I could have ever imagined. A few weeks later Paul asked me what was my itinerary for South Carolina.

I told him that I wanted to visit a few ladies who work at the Sumter County Court House; they were always there for me and made me feel as though they would go beyond the call of duty for me. I was able to piece together my family history from the old dusty records they found. I want to walk the ‘Limebacker Plantation’ with him, in a different light, then visit the Concord Presbyterian Church to pay my respects to his family that are resting in the cemetery behind the church. I especially want to visit his great-great-great grandfather Henry Spann and his great-great grandfather Samuel Robert Spann. The last leg of my journey I want to go visit my great-great grandmother Winnie and her brother Lewis Mack Junior at Beulah Cemetery. I was over joyed that Paul and my daughter were going to accompany me on my journey because years earlier I had contacted Beulah church to see if they had any idea where my family were buried in their cemetery, the Pastor of the church at that time told me the family that I was looking for were buried in their older cemetery a mile from their new church. The old cemetery was also over grown with high weeds, were snakes and whatnot would be lurking. Although I'm a city girl, and my roots are planted in the south, I don't do snakes or anything that crawls. “Is that all you want to do?”, Paul asked me. “Pretty much”, I responded. It was nothing else really that I was interested in seeing.

My trip was finally set in motion. I was going to rent a car on March 25, 2015 and drive the nine hours with my daughter to stay at Paul's parents home in Columbia, South Carolina for four days. I was so hyped. I was on my way to fulfill a life long dream. The day before I was to travel to South Carolina I got up around five in the morning because I was over anxious about the trip. I gathered my cell phone and iPad and went down stairs to make coffee. I sat down on the couch with my coffee and turned on the news. A few hours later I opened up my phone and noticed that I had a notification from Facebook. A message was waiting for me in my inbox. "Who could be sending me a message through Facebook?", I thought. I don't communicate with anybody like that. I ignored the message for a little while until I had this nagging urge to read it. So I open up the Facebook message.

("Citing the actual Facebook conversation between Crystal Brown and I")

The message was from a woman name Crystal Brown. “Lets plan a feed in memory of your mom and Freda in front of your old house. Lets plan it", Crystal wrote. I was kind of confused as to why she would suggest something like that because I never met her before nor have I ever talked with her. I knew she had been a friend of my best girlfriend Freda who had died sometime ago, her brother was once married to one of my other friends and we were mutual friends on Facebook but other than that I really didn't know her personally. Why would she contact me and suggest something like that? I asked myself. I wrote her back and said that I thought it would be a good ideal but I was about to take a trip and would get back to here when I got back. I was brushing her off because I couldn't figure out why she would bring my mother and best friend up out of nowhere. Crystal wrote back and said that it makes her feel good to feed homeless people. She also said that my mother would be proud of me and was so sure that my mother once said to me, "There will come a day when I'm not here, but know that I would never leave you", I gasped. I never told anyone that my mother said that to me before she died. How in the world did she know that my mother said that? I nervously thought. She continued to write, "A unexplained thing or leaf?" Is she talking about Ancestry with the green leaf? Is she talking about a leaf from a tree?" I asked myself. "What are the numbers that I need to know?” she continued to write. Huh? What numbers is she talking about, I thought to myself?

She continued to write that she was seeing the numbers 1111 and they had something to do with my mother. “Give me the numbers”, she said. I don’t know why but I gave her my cell number and wrote: “1 Corinthians 11:20”, the only numbers I thought that would be significant to the conversation. I instructed her to read the last line of the thirteen chapter because it change my life when I first read it. Faith, Hope and Charity.

("Citing the actual Facebook message between Crystal Brown and I")

Crystal immediately called me when she got the message attached with my phone number. We talked on the phone for at least four hours straight. She told me things that I couldn't figure out how she knew. “How do you no the things that you do?”, I asked her. “I am going to be honest with you Sharon, I don’t no. But I do know that God is using me for good, regardless of how I struggle and how I sin. I have a story of triumph to tell also”, she said. Crystal has five children and her oldest two children are also her brother and sister. Her biological father sexually abused her for years, which produced her oldest two children. Just when her life couldn't get anymore challenging, her oldest two children were diagnosed with a severe diseased that began to cripple them, forcing them to live their lives in a wheelchair. “My heart and soul ached to see my children fight to survive. I was angry for a long time, I went through emotions I never knew existed but I have five children who needs me. I honestly didn't have the time to be angry. I was loving on my kids to hard. I found strength in my faith. God turned my anger into compassion. He sends me on missions all over the city of Philadelphia to help people, and today is your day Sharon", she said.

“Do you ever have a dream about something so amazing, you go to tell your family and they don't believe you?" she asked me. “Yup”, I said. Crystal told me someone was telling her to reach out to me in the wee hours in the morning. “No matter how much I tried to put it out my mind, the urge of getting up to try and contact you was overwhelming. I know this might seem strange to you, it’s strange to me as well. I am learning how to understand how this works", so bare with me she said. “Oh, okay”, was all I could muster up. Crystal then started to tell me that her ears were beginning to ring. “What does that mean?" I nervously asked her. “I'm not sure but let's just be quiet for a minute so I can hear", she said. So we both sat on the other end our phones in complete silence for a few seconds. “It's your mother coming through, she is proud of you, she don't want you to be afraid of the people that you will meet on this journey because they are family. She wants you to know that you're not alone on this journey you are on and you are suppose to be on this path”, she said. “What was your mother’s name Sharon?”, Crystal asked me. “Why?”, I asked. “My daughter is name Jeannette and she just got up out of bed, with her eyes closed, still sleep and she walked right over to me”, Crystal said. “Are you serious right now”, I asked Crystal. “Yes, I am, what was your mother name?” she asked me again. “Jeannette”, I said. Crystal and I were silent for a few seconds in disbelief. The things that she was telling me started to overwhelm me and I couldn't digest it. I told her I would talk to her when I got back from my trip because I had to go and pack. I thanked her and hung up the phone. I sat on my sofa for a while struggling to believe what just happened.

A little while later my children came home and I shared with them the conversation that I had with Crystal. "Mom please don't talk to this woman again", my son said. "It's a scam mom, she wants money from you", my daughter scolded me. "She never asked me for no money or anything", I said. "Well, why would she get in touch with you?" my son asked. "I don't know why but she sure was sharing with me things only I knew that I never shared with anyone other than you two", I told my kids. "Well, we don't believe her and we both don't want you to ever talk to her again", my children said. "Okay", I told my children. I left the conversation alone and went out back into my garage to collect my luggage for my trip. I was in the garage for about thirty minutes when my cell phone rang. It was Crystal. I promised my children that I wouldn't talk to her but I couldn't help it. I picked up. “Hello?”, I said into the phone.

"Sharon?", she screamed into the phone. "Yes", I said. "Why are you sitting around not believing anything that I have been telling you all day, are you serious?", she said. "I believe you", I lied. "You're lying Sharon", she said. "What was your fiancé name?", she asked me. "Why?" I asked her. "Because he won't let me cook my kids dinner", she said. "Huh?", I said. I couldn't wrap my mind around believing her for nothing in the world. "He keeps nagging me to call you, he said that you still don't believe nothing I've been trying to tell you”, Crystal said. My throat got dry and I began to shake nervously. Could this be really happening? I thought to myself. My heart started beating rapidly, this journey is definitely keeping my heart in shape as I rub my chest. “His name was Masudi”, I finally told her. Crystal describe him to me from head to toe. "Sharon you've been hearing him walking around your house?, Crystal asked me. I didn't respond to her question immediately because I was blown away mentally, while still doubting what she was telling me. "You're always asking your kids, who's that walking around? He's telling me to tell you to stop yelling at your kids because it is him walking around, he will always be there for you." Crystal said. I flopped down onto bags of clothes on the garage floor because my legs buckled from underneath me. "He wants me to tell you that he knows you picked another favorite song for you and him and he likes it. What's the name of the song you changed?", she asked me.

"The first song I chose for us was, ‘At Last by Etta James' and then I changed it to ‘Meant to be’, by TLC, after he passed away”, I told her as tears rolled down my face. "Listen Sharon", Crystal said. "I know all of this may seem strange to you, I am still trying to get use to this as well, I don't know why God chose me to do the things that I do, to see things and hear stuff because I'm not an angel at all. I don't know why your family and fiancé picked me to tell you these things but they did. They love you and they want me to tell you these things so you will believe. So listen to me. On your journey your going to see the numbers 1111, an oval picture that has something to do with a drawing, like arts and crafts and you will see an oval mirror trimmed in brown wood. When you see the mirror, you're to stand in front of it; a tall woman will be waiting for you. She wants to put her hand on your right shoulder. When you see these things, you will believe everything I have told you. You are suppose to be on this journey", she said. “Who is this woman?” I asked Crystal. “I don’t no, but she's waiting for you, enjoy your trip”, Crystal said.

At four in the morning my daughter and I loaded up the rental car and got on the road. I had about a nine-hour drive to Paul’s parents home in Columbia South Carolina.

On my way to Columbia South Carolina. (Photo taken by Sharon N. Calvin Jr.)

A few hours into the trip it got really cold, it started to rain like we were in monsoon and my rental caught a flat. I spent almost an hour trying to find a place to fix my tire. My daughter tried to keep me focused but my frustration level increased every minute I waited for the tire to be fixed. “This blows, we're going to be behind schedule”, I complained to my daughter as we sat in the lobby of an Enterprise rental office. “Well, that maybe true but things happens mom”, my daughter said. My daughter grew tired from listening to me rant and rave about the rain and tire. As soon as the car was ready and we got back on the road, my daughter fell asleep. Looking over at her as she slept, I was glad she was taking a brake from me because I started to reflex on how I was acting like a big kid and she was acting like the adult. The rain cleared up and the traffic lighten up, which got me back in focus. When my daughter awoke a few hours later she asked me if I had called Paul or his parents to let them no we would be getting into Columbia later then we expected. I told her no because I was hoping to make up the time. My daughter looked over at me and said, “I hope you're not thinking about making up for lost time by speeding, because that ain't going to work on my watch”, she said. I just looked at her with no response because that's what I was planning on doing. “Mom, call them!”, my daughter demanded.

A few minutes later, Paul called my cell phone. “Oh my goodness, what are we going to do", I said. "I am going to pick it up and put it on speaker so you can talk to him", my daughter sarcastically said. "I've never talked on the phone with him before, what am I going to say?", I nervously asked my daughter. "I have no clue mom but this man and his family are expecting us and I'm betting he wants to know how far we are and if we are okay, just relaxed mom", my daughter said. My daughter then answered the phone. When I heard Paul's southern voice, "Hello Sharon, this is Paul". My ears started ringing and I could barely hear what he was saying. I was looking at my daughter as she held the phone in her hand and she didn't show any signs that she was having a problem with ringing noises in her ears. What is going on I said to myself. I saw that my daughter had ended the call. I could see that she was moving her mouth but I couldn't hear her voice. I started to panic but the ringing stopped. I was beginning to think I was losing my hearing or going crazy one, but then I remembered that I had experienced the ringing once before and so did Crystal. The way that my daughter was looking at me, she seemed a little worried. "Why are you looking at me like that?” I asked my daughter. “Why am I looking at you this way, because you're tripping, you have to relax”, my daughter said. "I'm trying", I said. I couldn't hold it in any longer.

I told my daughter about the ringing in my ear incident and confess that I had talked to Crystal again. I told my daughter that Crystal told me I would see the numbers 1111, a oval drawing in a frame an a oval mirror trimmed in brown wood. "Mom!" my daughter said with a stern voice. "Please don't go get your hopes up high in believing that you're going to see any of those things that this woman said you're going to see, I don't want you to focus on that, then have it ruin this trip you've been dreaming about. Please don't go mentioning it to these nice people, they're going to think that you're nuts as well as me”, my daughter instructed. I didn't promise her that I wouldn't mention it to them but I did promise that I would try and not sound crazy.

My daughter and I reached Columbia, South Carolina, fifteen hours after we left Philadelphia.

Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo taken by Sharon N. Calvin Jr.)

Exhausted was only half of what I was experiencing. When we drove up to Paul’s parents home. Paul, his father Ted Walter and his mother Pegilie Price-Walter came out to greet us. My daughter and I hugged them like we've known them forever and their embrace felt the same. Paul and his parents walked us into their home; they had a beautiful welcoming basket waiting for my daughter and I. The basket was filled with all type of southern and northern goodies.

Ted Walter, Paul Richbourg Walter, Sharon Calvin and Mrs. Pegilie Walter. (Photo taken by Sharon N. Calvin Jr.)
A beautiful welcoming basket, made by Mrs. Pegilie. (Photo taken by Sharon Calvin)

I was so at awe that I was actually in South Carolina and in the home of Samuel Robert Spann’s great granddaughter and Henry Spann's great-great granddaughter that I could barely concentrate. I thanked them for having us. I was too anxious to find the oval picture, the numbers 1111 and the brown oval mirror trimmed in wood. “Can I look around?”, I asked. I didn't have the heart to look at my daughter when I asked that question because I knew she would be trying to tell me ‘no mom’ using eye signals. “Of course you can look around”, I heard Mrs. Pegilie say from behind me. Their home walls were filled with so many family pictures, funny needle point sayings her grandmother made, art work and a touch of unique knick knacks….just like my house. I practically looked in each room for the oval picture, the numbers and the oval mirror but I didn't see it. I felt a little disappointed but it didn't over shadowed the magical moment I was blessed to be in. Paul and his parents warm southern hospitality embraced my soul and I actually felt like I understood that old saying I use to read about. “It's nothing like Southern hospitality.” My daughter and I freshen up and sat down to eat dinner with Paul and his parents. Mr. Walter a retired pastor of thirty-seven years said grace. At that moment I couldn't help but to remember a section from Dr. Martin Luther King speech that I have heard and read growing up. 'I have a dream' he read on August 28, 1963. "I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood."

A wonderful dinner that Mrs. Pegilie prepared with my glass of southern sweet tea. (Photo taken by Sharon Calvin)

Mrs. Pegilie out did her self, the food was so good, I couldn't shove it down my throat fast enough. As I looked at my daughter sitting next to me smiling and comfortably engaging with everyone around the table, I felt so complete on so many different levels. I had fulfilled a life long dream, no matter how hard the path was for me to get here. After my daughter and I couldn't eat nothing else we all helped cleared the table and retired to the living room. We were all chit chatting away when I notice Paul had a bag next to him with papers in it, “What do you have there?”, I asked. I knew I was being nosy but it looked like researching papers from the sofa I was sitting on. Paul reached down and pulled out a big binder full of his family researching papers. I was exhausted but I was willing to see whatever it was that he had. Paul opened up the book, which was filled with so much of his family lineage. During our conversation about his family lineage, Paul shared with me a memorable time in his life that was on 1111. “What did you just say?”, I said to Paul. "On November 11, 2011, I killed a 11 point buck", he repeated again. No way, no way! I kept repeating out loud. I could tell by the look on his face as well as his parents face that I knew I was making a spectacle out of myself but when I looked over at my daughter I knew I was making myself look really nutty. I tried to explain to Paul and his parents about how I met Crystal and how she told me I was going to see the numbers 1111. They were kind to not make me feel or sound crazy and I will forever appreciate that.

After a little while it was definitely time for us all to go to bed. Mrs. Pegilie told my daughter and I we could pick between the two empty rooms she had. The first bedroom walls were neatly adorned with family pictures and framed needlepoint. However the bed that was situated perfectly in the middle of the room was once the bed Mrs. Pegilie used growing up. In the other bedroom was the bed her mother Blanche Richbourg Spann Junior occupied and the bedroom was also beautifully decorated with family pictures, artwork, needlepoint and her family's heirlooms. Every piece had a story to tell. I chose to sleep in Mrs. Pegilie's old bed and my daughter slept in her mother's bed. Mrs. Pegilie noted that it was cool that my daughter and I will be sleeping in the beds of a daughter and mother. I was thinking, ‘No one can make this up’. This story couldn't have been written more perfectly. We all settled in. Before I climbed onto the bed, I pulled out my favorite picture of my Boo and I, taken on our first Thanksgiving dinner together. I sat it on the night stand and fell straight to sleep.

My favorite photo of my Boo and I. ( Photo taken by Sharon Calvin)
Mrs. Pegilie's comfortable bed. Beautiful art work and needle point in the other guest bedroom. (Photo taken by Sharon Calvin)

The next morning I opened up my eyes with the sun shining on my face through the lace curtains. It felt like I had slept for days, it was a well needed rest because for two years I struggled to get proper sleep through all my grief and depression. Mrs. Pegilie's old bed still had some juice in it because it was amazingly comfortable. I continued to lay in bed, basking in the thought that I was actually laying, breathing, and touching history that I was deeply rooted in. I also brought my daughter along to share in the moment as well so that she would be able to share this story with her children one day. I could hear laughter and people talking somewhere in the house. I snapped out of it and got myself up and dressed. When I opened up the bedroom door, I turned to see down the hall that my daughter, Paul and his parents were all in the kitchen smiling, talking and laughing. I must have slept like a rock, I was the last one to get up. I scurried into the bathroom to get myself together. When I entered into the kitchen Paul asked me did I drink coffee. I assured him I did. I joined everyone in the kitchen. After making me a cup of coffee, Paul said, "Hey Sharon it’s a room that you haven't seen." "Huh?”, was all I could muster up. Paul led me out of the kitchen and into the living room. He opened up a door that I thought was a closet door, it had steps that led up to another room.

“This leads up to my father's man cave, let's go take a look”, Paul said. I led the way up the stairs. On each side of the walls leading up to his father's man cave, were family portraits situated in different size picture frames everywhere. With each step I took Paul was behind me, he introduced me to every face I asked, “Who is this?”. I marveled in how much their family history filled every space on the walls. When I reached the top steps, I turned my head to the right to see a drawing of black woman, holding a white baby in her arms, in an oval picture frame who looked just like my mother. I stood at the top of the steps looking at this picture, stunned and unable to move any further. My eyes filled up with tears of happiness. “What's wrong?”, Paul asked me with concern. Trying to get myself together mentally I replied. “Who is this woman Paul?”. “Her name is Charity, she was my nanny and that's me she's holding”, Paul said. “Her name is Charity?", I asked Paul, even though I clearly heard what he had just said. "Paul, months ago this verse from the bible appeared to me, 1 Corithians 11:20, the last line of chapter thirteen says: faith, hope and charity, charity is the greatest of them all." It felt as though I was about to past out.

The oval picture frame that holds a drawing of Charity and Paul. (Picture drawn by Perry Walter)(Photo taken by Sharon Calvin)

“Oh my goodness Paul, you have no idea what this means to me”, I said. Paul looked at me inquisitively and said, “My brother Perry drew this picture when he was a little boy. My memory of Charity will always be good, she was a really warm and thoughtful person.” “Your brother Perry is very talented”, I said. “I'm not sure if he drew this picture from his memory or not”, Paul said. I was still a little stunned, probably toddling on the top steps, so Paul suggest I continue to look around.

I pulled myself from that spot I felt planted in and complied with Paul. As I took a few steps into his father's man cave, I stopped again to take in the whole room. I tried really hard to focus through my watery eyes. I could see it was decorated beautifully. I smiled widely because it wasn't what I expected it to look like. To the right of me I could see something that looked like a wooden shelf with pictures all on it and sitting on the middle shelf was the actual photograph of Charity and Paul in a frame. Still smiling I said to Paul who was watching me in awe. “I am guessing your brother Perry used this picture as his guide.” Paul walked over to me an look at the photograph and said, “Yeah he probably did.” Turning my attention away from the shelf to the wall behind me was a picture of his father Ted standing around a group of black men dressed in African garments. “Paul, where was your father in this picture?”, I asked. “My father was in Africa. He went there to help build up some of their communities”, he said. I turned to look at Paul with amazement by what he had just said. “Now that's cool”, I said. I continued to glide around the room looking at the pictures and newspaper clippings on the wall when I saw hanging in a corner all by itself……the oval mirror trimmed in brown wood. My heart almost leaped out of my chest that I actually threw my arms around my body to not allow it to.

The oval mirror trimmed in brown wood that hangs in the home of a family that will forever be the link of the ties that binds me. (Photo taken by Mr. Ted Walter)

Clutching my upper body with my arms and hands, I went over to the mirror and stood there. Warmth of emotions filled every part of my body as I looked at myself in this oval mirror. I released the hold I had on myself and stood up straight. I felt so complete and happy but most importantly I felt strong. "I believed more now than ever and I would never forget", I said to myself. I really didn't want to move from in front of that mirror, I could have stayed there all day looking at it. Before I turned to go back down the stairs, I closed my eyes and reflected on all the obstacles, brick walls and emotions that I had went through to get this far in my journey. I clearly understood now how much my family loved me, even from beyond. It's an amazing feeling to be loved so much by people who I can't see but no is there. My family has done an amazing job going out of their way to show me how much they love me. How could I not believe?

Paul and I went back downstairs to join his parents and my daughter for breakfast. After breakfast I noticed that my daughter seemed a little bit under the weather. I leaned over to her and asked her was she feeling okay? “I think it's this southern pollen, it's getting to my sinuses”, she said. “Oh no!” I said. “Mom it's okay, if you can find a store that carries the sinus medicine I use, I will be okay, I just need to lay down”, my daughter said. I told Paul and his parents that I was going to run out and pick up my daughter some sinus medicine because she wasn't feeling good and I would be right back. I walked my daughter back to the guest bedroom. I tucked her in and told her I would be right back.

Mrs. Pegilie gave me the directions to get to the Walgreens a few minutes away from their home and I headed out. I was two blocks from their home when I got lost. I was to busy sight seeing. I got my self back in focus because my daughter wasn't feeling well. I turned on my GPS on my cell phone; I was only a block from Walgreens. I went in and found her medicine. When I got up to the cashier I noticed his nametag said ‘Lewis’. “Am I really seeing this right now?” I asked myself. Of all the names in this world this gentleman nametag says Lewis. “Good morning ma'am, my I have your zip code? Lewis said in a southern accent. “One nine one four nine”, I said. He looked at the cash register machine with a questionable look on his face and then looked up at me. “Where is that zip code from? he asked me. “Philadelphia”, I said. “You're sure a long way from home, ma'am, welcome to Columbia South Carolina”, he said. “Well thank you, Lewis”, I said with a smile. “Make sure you get some southern sweet tea before you leave” he said. “I had some already but I couldn't help but to notice that your name tag says Lewis. My great-great-great grandfather name was Lewis”, I told him. “I am named after my great grandfather Lewis ma'am”, he said. All I could do was smile at Lewis. I paid for my daughter’s medicine and headed back to the Walter’s home.

I went straight back into the guest room that my daughter was in. She was still sleeping. I woke her up and gave her the medicine. I removed my coat and shoes and climbed in the bed with her. “Mom, what are you doing?”. “I'm laying down with you until you feel better”, I told her as I snuggled up next to her. As my daughter and I laid there together, we talked about all the cool things we had seen on the drive to Columbia and how nervous I was. I told her about the Walgreens cashier named Lewis. “You no what mom?”,my daughter said. “What's that”, I asked her. “At first I really thought you were going crazy with all the things you said you were seeing and hearing, it scared me a little. I can't explain the things you've seen and I don't understand none of it but I no it's real and I clearly understand that all of this was meant for you. I also no that us being here together means a lot to you and the future generations. What a cool story I will be able to share with my children some day. I am so proud of you right now Mom. I been listening to you talk about wanting to find your ancestors all my life and here you are on a different level of finding them. You never gave up and I will always admire you because of this. I don't want you to lay in this bed with me another minute. I want you to go with Paul as y'all planned. We've come to far for you to not go all the way. I will be fine” my daughter lectured me. I was a little hesitant to think about leaving her. “Mom, stop sitting there going back and forth in your head about leaving me for a few hours, remember our ancestors are looking over me too”, my daughter said with a smile. “Are you sure?” I asked my daughter. “I am sure mom because after the things I thought you wasn't going to see and you seen them, I'm a believer, so go mom”, my daughter said.

A selfie moment with my daughter Sharon Junior before Paul and I started on our journey. (Photo taken by Sharon N. Calvin Jr.)

I was relived that Paul's parents agreed to watch over my daughter while Paul and I embarked on this journey together. Paul and I got into his jeep and headed towards Sumter South Carolina. It was about a forty-five minute drive from Columbia South Carolina but with Paul’s heavy driving foot, I am sure we would get there in ten minutes. I looked out of the window trying to mentally take in every thing I laid my eyes on: the trees, buildings and even the signs I seen. I mentally never wanted to forget this journey. Paul told me that we would be entering into Sumter in five minutes. My heart began to beat rapidly as I saw the Sumter welcoming sign. I couldn't wait to fulfill our day itinerary: visit the Sumter County museum, the Limebacker plantation, the Concord Presbyterian Church and the Beulah A.M.E. Cemetery. A few minutes later Paul said, “We are now entering Sumter South Carolina.” The feeling was so unreal to me, I am finally driving down the road I took on ‘Google map’ for so long. I immediately whipped out my cell phone to record the moment.

“The purple flowers on the left of us are called ‘Wisteria’, they bloom really nicely this time of the year”, Paul said. Looking at the beautiful purple flowers that lounged languorously over the row of trees, even from the passengers seat of Pauls jeeps, its charms were almost impossible to resist to pick.

A few minutes later Paul and I pulled up to the Sumter County museum. The museum was a nice size two story house, that resembled the homes in the Fairmont Park section in Philadelphia. Before going in I had to stop and get a quick picture in front of the Sumter Museum to record the moment. When we entered the museum, I was surprised to see that it was pretty much set up like an actual home. Mrs. Deborah Watts the museum manager greeted us. “What is it that brought the two of you here to the Sumter Museum today?”, she asked. Paul and I looked at each other. “You tell her”, I said to Paul. “You tell her, Paul said to me. Mrs. Watts was looking back and fourth at Paul and I inquisitively. I spoke up. “Well, My name is Sharon Calvin and I am from Philadelphia. I've traced my maternal roots to Sumter South Carolina, I discovered my slave ancestors and this gentleman Paul Richbourg Walter is the descendant of the people who once owned my family. It took me thirteen years to get to this point.

A happy moment for me standing in front of the Sumter County Museum in Sumter S.C.(Photo taken by Paul Richbourg Walter)

I have called this museum through out the years needing help with understanding how to read eighteen-century plat records. I was desperately trying to locate the plantation that my family once lived on. Mr. Charles the curator here has done a really good job educating me on how to read old maps over the phone. I want to personally thank him for all his time and to tell him Paul found the deed to the property”, I told Mrs. Watts. “Oh WoW! I've never heard a story like that”, Mrs. Watts said. “I'm sorry to say that Mr. Charles isn't here today”, Mrs. Watts said. Although I tried not to let it show that I was very disappointed but my facial expressions never lie. “Oh sweetie, don't look so sad, maybe you can come back on Monday to see him”, Mrs. Watts suggested. “ I'm leaving on Monday, but thanks anyway”, I said as I was turning to leave out the museum. “Wait. While you two are here, y'all should take a tour of the museum”, Mrs. Watts said. Paul and I looked at each other and we both agreed, even though we were pressed for time. The flat tire incident jammed my itinerary up. We agreed to the tour although we had to watch a twenty-five minute video about the history of Sumter first. Mrs. Watts led us into a small room right off the side of the museum entryway. The room had just enough space for the thirteen-inch VCR television, a small bookshelf, and two chairs that sat Paul and I. Before Mrs. Watts popped in the VCR tape for us, Paul asked her if she could look up a few of his ancestor's names in the museum files. Mrs. Watts agreed to look through their records for Paul while we watched the video.

Twenty-five minutes later as the short video was ending, Mrs. Watts entered the small room as if on cue. Unfortunately she told Paul she couldn't find anything on the names he had given her in the museum records. So we proceeded on with the tour. "The museum is actually a complex of several small museums that transport you to different era’s of South Carolina.

After watching the video, touring every room of the two-story museum as well as two additional rooms located outside the museum in a separate building, I was sure that the tour was over, until Mrs. Watts said. “There's one last part of the tour that I think you two will find interesting, especially you Sharon”, Mrs. Watts said. She led Paul and I out of the second building, passed a wonderful garden in the back of the museum.

The scenic view of the Settlers recreated homestead behind the Sumter County Museum. A selfie of me in front of a Settlers out house. (Photo of the Setter cabins taken by Sharon Calvin. Photo of Sharon Calvin standing in front of a out house taken by Paul Richbourg Walter.)

My eyes could have jumped out of my head, followed by my heart, might I add. I was actually standing in front of a typical farming community of homes built from 1750-1850, that white and black Settler's lived on. Not only had I discovered my roots, I was standing in front of how my family lived. “Some of the buildings you see were constructed from materials salvage from derelict buildings in the backcountry of Sumter County South Carolina. The museum recreated these buildings to give visitors the sense of what it was like living in a Settlers community during the eighteen century”, Mrs. Watts said. The feeling was so unreal, it gave me the feeling like I had stumbled upon a working farm community and the people had just left their homes for a minute. A large barn was our first stop. The museum had reconstructed the inside of the barn to look like the eighteen century Sumter train station. I don't think I could have ever been ready for the next stop on the tour, it was another barn and inside was set up as a blacksmith shop. Walking around this barn, looking and touching the various tools my family used as slaves and farmers were indescribable. When I got up that morning I wasn't expecting to touch a cotton bag similar to what my ancestors carried around with them in the fields or where ever. As if the institution of slavery wasn't cruel enough, I couldn't digest the size of the cotton bag that every woman, man, child, young and old had to carry around all day, filling it with cotton. Slaves only had eighteen hours to fill their bags. The bag could fit my daughter and I in it easy with room for us to move around in. My goodness, I had no ideal what hard work was really like until I touched the cotton bag and all the different size tools my ancestors used as slaves and farmers.

The weight of a small spade alone was too heavy for me to carry, on one of my good days. Paul, Mrs. Watts and I took our time walking in and out of a house cabin, a cabin to dry tobacco, a family cabin, a out-house, a garden and a loom house. Inside the loom house were small piles of cotton. I couldn't resist reaching down to touch a piece of the cotton that still had its prickly branch of thorns on them. I've never touched raw cotton. Touching the soft white plant that was once the reason so many people like my ancestors were stripped from their cultures, their homelands, their families, traditions, dignity, faith, pride and their lives…..and yet it's still here. Mrs. Watts walked up behind me as soon as tears were about to form up in my eyes. “If you want, I can see if I can give you a piece of cotton to take back home with you”, Ms. Watts said. I turned around to her and said. “I would like that a lot and thank you". I wanted to take a picture of every nook and cranny of everything I laid my eyes on but it was prohibited for anyone to take pictures of the inside of the cabins.

At the end of the tour, I promised Mrs. Watts I would send her a copy of my family book one day, so she can place it in the museum, she told me she would like that. Paul and I said our good byes to Mrs. Watts like she was a long distance family member, she felt like one, we had spent most of the day with her. The next stop on our itinerary was the Sumter Archives. I started walking towards Pauls jeep ready to go to the archives when Paul said, “Sharon were are you going? “I thought we were going to the archives?”, I asked Paul. “It’s right underneath the museum”, Paul said. “Are you serious?”, I asked him. “Yup”, Paul said. On the side of the museum was a door that led to the Sumter County Archives. When Paul and I entered into the archives a nice lady asked us to signed the visitors book that sat on a small podium type table, off to the side of the front entrance. After we signed in I was taken back by the room, which wasn't big at all. The room reminded me of my elementary school, James G. Blaine library. There were two large book shelves, filled with old books and new books. In front of the book shelves was a long table, for visitors to read and do research on. On the other side of the room was a large old brown wooden desk that looked as though it was made before the museum was built. The desk was surrounded by a lot of small file cabinets. Captivate in the moment and obviously in a daze, Paul called out my name, I'm assuming to snap me out of it. "Is there anything that you all need help with?" the nice lady asked us as she stood there waiting on me to pull it together. Paul gave her his ancestors last name ‘Spann’ and I gave her my ancestors last name the ‘Mack’s’. Paul and I sat down at a table and began looking through old maps and records.

Thirty minutes later the archives assistant came over to Paul and I. She gave Paul a few folders and she gave me one folder. My folder felt light, like it wasn't nothing in there, but it had the name ‘Mack’ on it. The file she gave me consist of one piece of paper. The contents of the paper was a letter I had written some years ago, asking the Sumter archives for help on any information on Winnie Mack and her family. The feeling of victory was overwhelming. “This is my letter,” I said out loud. Paul looked at the letter and said. “Remember when I told you that my cousin Kevin and I came to Sumter to look through records here for your family and they handed me the same file. I giggled to myself because you were already here asking questions ”, Paul said. “Oh Wow! I do remember”, I said. The archives assistant looked at me and looked back at my letter and said. “So did you find your family?”. “I sure did and when I get it together I am going to send you a copy of my family book, so if any descendants of the ‘Mack’s’ ever come looking for their roots here at this archives, they'll have the 'Mack' family book”, I told her.

Paul and I then turned our attention on to trying to find his great-great-great grandfather Henry Spann home. Paul had a picture of Henry’s home and believed it was still standing. He felt we were close to it.

Henry Spann home. (Photo courtesy of Paul Richbourg Walter)

We spent a few hours in the Sumter archives, caught up in the world of genealogy. It was awesome and it was getting late. I still wanted to walk the Limebacker plantation, pay my respects to Henry and his son Samuel Robert Spann and last but not least, try an locate my great-great grandmother Winnie and her brother Lewis Junior resting place at Beulah A.M.E. Cemetery. Paul and I gathered our things and got back on the road. Before we headed towards the plantation Paul took me past the Sumter County's court house, although they were closed I still wanted to see it and take a picture. After a quick few stops we were finally headed towards the plantation.

The Sumter County Judicial Center is were I was able to obtain records about my ancestors. (Photo taken by Paul Richbourg Walter)

“How far are we from the plantation, after only driving for ten minutes?”, I asked Paul. “We're not to far but I don't think that the plantation is located were you think it is Sharon, I think we should do some more research on the land, we don't want to get out and walk a piece of land that's not the Limbacker plantation”, Paul said. I sat there and thought about what he said for a moment. He was right. I wasn't really sure about the location, I was going only on my gut instinct but I know as a self taught genealogist, I had to be sure. “You're right Paul, I've come to far to half step now. Well, can we at least drive passed it and not get out?”, I asked Paul. “Okay, we can do that, we will be there shortly”, Paul said.

A view of the land that I believe was the location of the 'Limebacker plantation'. (Photo taken by Sharon Calvin)

Riding down the dusty narrow road, lined with different kinds of large tree’s, once occupied: cotton, tobacco, and sugar plantations. Gazing out of the jeeps window, I imagine seeing the tops of people’s heads working out in the hot sun in those large fields, carrying around those gigantic white cotton bags. We pulled over at the spot were I believed the Limebacker plantation was but we didn't get out. After a few minutes of me mentally taking in the view, Paul pulled back onto the road. A couple of minutes later we pulled up to the Concord Presbyterian church.

As I climbed out of Pauls jeep, I could hear my heart beating with every step I took towards the front of the church. I walked up to the top of the church steps and stood there looking at the big green wooden front doors and the large shutters in awe. Long time ago my family wouldn't have been allowed to approach the front doors. I turn my gazed off of the big wooden church doors to see that there was a door to the side of the church. I turned to look for Paul who was standing at the bottom of the steps, allowing me to take in the moment alone. “My ancestors used this side door to enter into the church?”, I asked Paul. “Yes, Sharon that's the door they had to enter into”, Paul said. I walked over to the door my family entered and touch the knob. I placed my hands all over that door, hoping that my handprint might have touched the same spot my ancestors may have touched, when they entered that door.

The front view of the Concord Presbyterian Church. The side door that my family used to enter into the church. (Photo taken by Paul Richbourg Walter)

Before I went down the church steps, I turned back around to take a mental picture of every inch of that church so that I will never forget. When I reached the bottom of the steps, Paul pointed to where the cemetery was located. The church cemetery was a little ways back behind the church. Paul and I decided to drive the few feet. He parked in front of the cemetery gate. We both got out the jeep and walk through the gate. Paul took me to straight to the resting place of his great-great-great grandfather Henry, his wife Louisa and their son Samuel Robert Spann's grave. I knelt down at each of their graves. I introduced myself to them and read out loud their names, birthday and death day. I recited the Lord's Prayer to myself. Paul and I got back in his jeep and head out of the cemetery. “Wait! I told Paul, I want to take some earth from in front of the church”. He pulled over to the front of the church, I jumped out of his jeep, I walked over to a large tree that stood in the front of the church. I was planning to put the dirt in my pocket but Paul brought a few mason's jars for me. I thanked him constantly for being such a great guy from the moment I met him. I gathered some dirt and got back into the jeep.

Turning onto Florence highway which led to Beulah, I started to feel a little worried that we wouldn't be able to find my great-great grandmother and her brothers resting place, it was getting late. Although my spirit was totally into trekking through the woods to find their graves, I was terrified. I looked over at this man, driving me around in his jeep, taking the time out of his busy life to walk with me to fulfill a life long dream of meeting my ancestors, and he doesn't no me from a can paint. I believe him and I was suppose to meet. He's definitely one of God's angel, my heart, body and soul immediately reeked of humbleness. "God is so good", I prayed.

I could see the outline of Beulah A.M.E church from a distance. Ms. Raina had showed me an Ariel view of the Beulah cemetery a few times on Google maps. I've also looked at pictures of Beulah church on the internet for years, I've seen the name Beulah written on so many of my families death certificates. Knowing I was getting closer to stepping onto the earth that my family once worshiped on, walked on and is resting on felt amazing.

Beulah A.ME. Church. (Photo courtesy of Rev. Hunter)
Beulah A.M.E Cemtery in Sumter South Carolina. (Photo taken by Paul Richbourg Walter)

Paul pulled his jeep up to the front entrance of the cemetery that was on the side of the church. I could see from the passenger seat of the jeep that the gate was closed and locked. It was about five o’clock in the evening. “Oh no they're closed”, I said in a high-pitched voice. Paul go out of his jeep and went to go checked the gate, it was locked. “What are we going to do?”, I asked Paul. “We are going in this cemetery to find your family, you've came to far not too”, Paul said. Paul bent his body down and went under the gate. I jumped down out of his jeep and went under the gate behind him. “Who are we looking for?”, Paul asked me. “Winnie Mack Witherspoon and her brother Lewis Junior”, I told Paul. “Well you will take one end of the cemetery and I will take the other end, we will meet up at the end”, Paul said. I could feel my soul rejoicing just looking at this human being that God chose to walk with me on this journey. Paul went one way and I went the other way. Every so often we would yell back and fourth to each other. “Did you find anything?”. I looked up to see that the both us were almost to the end of the cemetery and we hadn't found them. My heart sank to the lowest of the depths in my stomach, tears were about to become an issue, and I really didn't want to make Paul feel uncomfortable from an emotional break down that I could feel brewing.

And then as I took one step to the end of the cemetery, I turned my head to the right to see my great-great-great grandmother Hannah’s grave marker. I immediately began to shake uncontrollably inside and out. It was really cold that day but I was shaking way beyond the shivers. I could feel my long braids smacking up against my face as my body shook, until I felled down on my knee’s in front of my great-great-great grandmother Hannah's resting place. Tears of joy flooded my face. I spoke out loud because I knew my family could hear me, they've been listening to me all along.

“Hi Hannah, my name is Sharon and I am your great-great-great granddaughter. It has taken me thirteen years to find you. I want you to no I cherish you, appreciate you, I value the strength that I inherited from you and I love you, I will never forget all that I have learn and how I came to be. I hope that I am worthy of what you dreamt that your future generation would be. Hannah, you died on July 15, 1904. Written on your marker it says: Rest mother in peace, sleep in peace." I traced my fingers over every word on her marker. I recited the Lord's Prayer.

Meeting my great-great-great grandmother Hannah for the first time. (Photo taken by Paul Richbourg Walter)

I began to take my hands to gather dirt from in front of her resting place. Paul was standing behind me, he handed me a mason jar. "I have a small spade in my trunk, you don't have to use your hands Sharon", Paul said. "That's okay, I said, I want to use my hands, this grass and earth is the closet thing I will ever have tangible from my great-great-great grandmother, I don't care." I got up from my knees. I notice that the headstone sitting next to Hannah was her husband and my great-great-great grandfather Lewis Mack. I knelt down beside Lewis resting place and introduced myself to him. "Hi Lewis, my name is Sharon and I am your great-great-great granddaughter. I have been researching your bloodline for a very long time. From the records that I discovered about your life, bothered me that you and your family had to live your lives in the institution of slavery, but I wouldn't be here had you not found strength and love in yourself and your family. I discovered that you were a slave of the Spann family and I figured out that they were good people and you really like them, you all were friends and neighbors for a long time. Standing here with me is Richard Spanns great-great-great-great grandson Paul." I recited the Lord's Prayer.

My great-great-great grandmother Hannah Spann Mack and my great-great-great grandfather Lewis Mack resting place. (Photo taken by Paul Richbourg Walter)

I gathered dirt from Lewis resting place as well. I got up from my knees and took a step back, I was devastated that my cell phone had no juice and I didn't bring a camera, but Paul had already had my back and took the pictures of my great-great-great grandparents resting place. Knowing that Hannah and Lewis were resting together filled me with so much joy. Even though Paul and I never found the resting place of Winnie and her brother Lewis Junior that day, I still felt elated I found my great-great-great grandparents. As Paul and I walked back to his jeep I was crying immensely. My tears were filled with joy, strength, determination, love and peace.

Paul and I drove away from Beulah; I turned around to take in another look at the cemetery when Paul said. “Don't be sad we didn't find your other family members resting place Sharon, you are coming back”, Paul said. I wiped my face and smiled at Paul. “I am definitely coming back to try and find Winnie and Lewis Junior resting place as well as Jinny.” “I will be right there with you”, Paul said.

Paul and I are standing behind the door that leads up to his fathers man cave. (Photo taken by Sharon N. Calvin Jr.)
A Sumter South Carolina back road. (Photo taken by Sharon N. Calvin Jr.)
On July 18, 2015 I got to meet Crystal Brown for the first time. She's more amazing in person.

On July 18, 2015 I got to meet Crystal Brown for the first time. She's more amazing in person. I never met such an amazing woman. She made sure that I didn't forget that we were suppose to feed the homeless in front of my childhood home. Crystal named the event, 'Rain or Shine we are going to dine'. She is the CEO of "Two dollars Can Change a Life"

All of the people, including her that helped with feeding the homeless or the hungry that day, wore shirts that read. "There's no excuse for abuse"

I now have my shirt! (Photo taken by Sharon Calvin)

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