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African American Lives 2 -- Hosted by Henry Louis Gates, Jr.
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Sharing Stories: One Family's Story
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STORYTELLER LOCATION YEAR TOOK PLACE TELLER'S PLACE OF ORIGIN HOW YOU HEARD
It was my grandmother that first introduced me to some of the stories. All the events came from Sweetwater, Tennessee 1800s The ones we know about came from Sweetwater, Tennessee. I heard the stories during family reunion by the elders in the family.

My paternal family is made up of strong women. My grandmother, Ellen Bryant Tate Miller was the daughter of a slave, Theresa(Tweeze) Heiskell Bryant. My grandmother was born in 1875, and was abandoned and left by the chimney of a family by the name of James Montgomery and Laura E. (Jones) Heiskell.

Tweeze, my great grandmother was born into slavery in 1847. Records show her married to Henry Bryant on March 13, 1881 in Monroe County, Tennessee. Henry was a painter of houses. Oral history tells of her running away from her owner to live with relatives of her owner.

The Federal census of 1910 list both Tweeze and Henry as black with five children: Ellen, Newton, Ida Lee, James and Gracie. The 1900 census list Tweeze as a laundress, and list children Archibald, Will, Richard and Lillie. Lillie and Richard are the only two we don't know. Tweeze's parents were Amanda (Mandy) and Arter Heiskell; these were my great, great grandparents. A newspaper article in 1888 stated that Amanda won a bag of flour for the best corn bread at the state fair. Henry was said to have built a house.

The slave owner of Amanda and Arter, Daniel Heiskell, was a judge and a tanner. He was said to be a upright man, a fair man. He built a Presbyterian church in Sweetwater Tennessee before he died. From the Federal census in Monroe County, Sweetwater, Tennessee of 1880, Manda, Arter, and Tweeze were all listed as mulattoes. The 1850 slave census of Sweetwater, Monroe county listed Daniel Heiskell with 11 slaves, 1 female slave and 10 mulattoes. Two of the mulatto slaves I believe to be Amanada and Arter. The 1830 slave census listed Daniel as owning 3 male slaves. This leads me to belief that possibly Arter came with Daniel to Sweetwater when he left Shenandoah Valley.

Oral history says Arter and Amanda lived on the farm after the Emancipation as servants. Chancery records mentioned Daniel as owning a two story house ans a basement where the house servants cooked. After the war a house was built on the homestead and was used for cooking. A relative told me Daniel used to visit a old couple down the road that he was quite fond of.

I searched for my great great grandparents bury in Sweetwater. All I knew was they were buried in a graveyard with a church next to it. I found the graveyard in Pickel Town. Nearly all the markers were gone from that graveyard. The church was called Mt. Bethel Baptist church. Come to find out the original church on the hill was torn down many years ago. Next to the church separated by a drive that ran to the back of the church, was a hill, and on this hill surrounded by a number of trees was a tombstone about three feet tall. I crawled in between the trees and found an inscription on the stone: "Arter and Amanda Heiskell faithful servant of Daniel Heiskell." I did what no one thought I could; find the ancestors of our family. The oral history says Amanda and Arter was Cherokee. How they ended up with Daniel Heiskell we don't know. The trail of tears went through Tennessee, some Indian slaves (half breeds they called them) were sold. There were a number of wealthy Cherokee slave owners near Sweetwater, Tennessee.

I am amazed at the strength Amanda had to make sure she was found. To have the family repeat her ethic race from generation to generation so we would know where we came from. To live to see her great grandchild, and the family grow. The longevity of my family average 100 years, now that's a strong group of women.

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