daniel troy carmichael

musings and ponderings

His Old Master's Grandchildren

Copyright 2009 by Daniel Troy Carmichael

Virgil Patterson, Born 1795, Died 1905. "His last days were spent with his old master's grand children".


We have an old Negro Graveyard* on our land (see footnote * below if you don't know what I mean). It is on a hillside facing East and has maybe 100 or so graves. We really don't know how many. Most of the graves, we suspect, we cannot find. The ones we know are there are marked either by a rough rock, probably pulled out of the local creek bed, or perhaps marked by the ground being sunk in** on either side of the body (see footnote ** as to why). A very few graves have an actual head stone and only a few are of any lasting quality. Mr. Patterson's tombstone, pictured above, is probably the finest in the cemetery and obvious great care was taken in its selection.

Virgil's tombstone brings a lot of emotion to me; in fact, this stoic ethnic Scotlander teared up a bit when I first saw it. He lived for 110 years, in three centuries. Most likely, he knew my cousin, Mira Carmichael, on whose family's land the graveyard resides. Mira also lived in three centuries, dying a few years ago at the ripe young age of 107, lucid to the very end. The Revolutionary war was not so many years ago, when measured in lifetimes--the War Between the States even less so. Mira new men who fought in the latter war, and Virgil in the former. Amazing. We are not so distantly connected to the past as we often suppose.

There is so much untold history, and people's perception of the past is rarely painted with more than one or two monotone colors; the result is that the vividness and reality of a time period is left to nothing more than a cliche. Known history is filled with this lack of color, of course, and we forget the horrors of one age in light of a more vivid horror in this one. For example, I daresay few people today know the real horrors of what the Indians did to other Indians, how they displaced the nations here before them, and instead just think of them in the present-day politically-correct view as the 100% victims of "The United States Government". Being of Scottish ancestry, we don't recall the ongoing rape of our daughters, wives, and sisters by the English in the border war years. Or, previous to that, the Norman's abuse of those they conquered at Hastings in 1066? We forget the horrors of one generation for the ones of this generation, be they concentration camps, ethnic purges, slavery, or some other horror.

So then, to the horror of slavery, there are many untold stories, no doubt. Of course, when I speak of slavery, I am really speaking of "Slavery"--the worldwide enslaving of Africans continued into the mid-19th century--and not all the other people taken into slavery in that period or before and since and of many different nationalities and colors. (However, as an aside, I am not so sure that we we have not replaced the forced indenture of a minority people with a more insidious kind of economic and mental slavery of all people, luring the masses into forced economic servitude through Madison Avenue, consumer credit, excessive taxes, and government welfare programs.)

Slavery. Slavery in the United States of America. Virgil Patterson, born a short while after the ratification of the US Constitution, a slave for the first 70 years of his life. "His last days were spent with his old master's grand children". Of all the many things he could be remembered for, those he loved and those who loved him declared living the rest of his days with his master's family to be the greatest thing he should be remembered for. Love. Kindness. Family. That is what this life is really about. Slave or Free. I am amazed. There is a whole book that could be written from that one, simple statement.

This life is not about oppression and tyranny and struggle. Yes, we have that in this life, but are wrong to think it is what life is about. It is a perfidious lie to be consumed by how our ancestors--or even ourselves--were oppressed and maligned by others. What matters in the end is love, gentleness, long suffering joy, goodness, faith, peace. Looking forward in spite of the hardships and wrongs we have been through, to make the world better. Life is about that. Family. As I get older, like most, I realize the great importance family has to life.

I really wish I could have met Mr. Patterson. I know he would have a different view of his life than what others in this politically correct charged world would seek to make of it, his being a former slave and all. He would expose the lie that his first 70 years could have been anything but horrible. Of course, there was evil perpetuated, and those he loved did what they could do to live within that evil system as Christian a manner as they could (no less than Christians today do the best they can to live in an evil system murdering thousands of unborn children every day). As best as they could, Patterson and his old master's grandchildren lived charitable, Christian lives and they and society were the better for it....


Below are some other pictures from the graveyard:

Copyright 2009 by Daniel Troy Carmichael

Daniel and Gracie at Virgil's headstone.


Copyright 2009 by Daniel Troy Carmichael

Part of the old Negro Cemetery*. One monument is visible (just above right of center) and numerous stones, marking various graves. Probably about 30 graves are in this picture, only a few known, visible only by the rocks or sunken ground on either side of the site.


* Some have a problem with the word "negro", either through misplaced political correctness or some other problem. Obviously, the United Negro College Fund has no problem with it in context and neither do I. "Negro Graveyard" here is used purposefully and with great honor to those men and women buried there. It would be wrong and disingenuous to call it anything else but that. For those who have not lived amongst the generations of black men and women born during the era of that graveyard, there is little hope I have to convey the honor and respect in calling it thus. To call it African-American or some other nonsensical name would be as uncharitable as to call the local graveyard where my ancestors were buried "Scottish-American" or other some such gobbledygook. We are all Americans, no matter how we came to immigrate here, and make this nation better or worse by our actions, not those of our ancestors. Great honor goes to all that made this nation great, slave or free, black or white, and anywhere in between.

** The ground sunk on either side of a gravesite seems strange, because we normally think, possible due to old wives' tales, that the sunken ground should be over the grave, not on either side. My friend, Chris G., came up with a plausible answer to this dilemma: we believe the ground has sunk on either side of the grave because, after the casket returns to dust (assuming one was used, it would assuredly be wooden), the open space that was within the coffin would then be filled in by the looser dirt on either side of the casket. The ground above the casket would be too hard packed to fill in those voids, as it would be densely packed from having been dug out and refilled at time of the burial.