Getting to know me
As a child we were told, (my siblings and I) we were the children of a only son, who was an only son, who was an only son. My father had eight sons, of which six were with my mom and two others with a second wife.
We’d always known my father was from Texas, as young children growing up in California, East Texas had no reference he was just from Texas. The year I graduated from high school the family moved to Dallas due to a job promotion my father received. The story of being the children of only sons was continued to be taught even after coming to Texas. My father never took us to his home town of Tyler until after they had returned to California and came back to Texas for a visit.
On this trip my father decided he would take us to Tyler and introduce us to his childhood world. For many years my mother had told us about the street they had name Fields in honor of my Great Grandfather. When we arrived back to the neighborhood and the home where my father grew up we found the street. Not as grand as I’d hope but nevertheless here it was. We were so excited it was me and a few of my siblings who went on the venture to see our roots. We visited some people I’m not sure who they were and exactly what their relations was to my father, however we discovered my Great Grandfather had a brother. The plot thickens and the myth is destroyed. Who is this brother, where did he come from and does he have a family? So many questions so few answers. We did meet members of the brother’s family.
One of the saddest part of my heritage is that because Blacks were left to feel they were less then much of their history was hidden or simply not discussed, as was with my Great Grandfather’s mother. It was said my Great Grandfather was the product of a white man. No great surprise we are in the south and he was a last generation slave or at least the child of a last generation slave. The surname we have grown up with and call our own was the name of the man my Great Grandfather’s mother married, and perhaps the father of his brother. So maybe the myth of an only son of an only son isn’t a myth, but a truth that is waiting to be bared out.
What I know about my Great Grandfather is that he may have had an auspicious start in life, being born to a woman under suspicious circumstances, given a name not his own, and probably expected to be like every other blackmulatto child born during those time to have a hard life, scratch and scrape for everything they could get, but he made good of it. He was a smart man even though he could not read. He had a thriving business and was a well respect man in the city of Tyler. He raised his son and grandson as well as adopted two children from his wife’s family. They were the only two surviving members of their family after a tornado struck. He died of a broken heart six months after the death of his beloved son, my Grandfather.
Many years after moving to Dallas I wanted to know who I was and where I came from. I begin my search at the local city library, which has a great genealogy department. I was able to locate some basic information about my Great Grandfather and family in the census, however I needed to go to Tyler. It took me several more years to take the trip; actually it took more than 10 years before I went. Some of my family had moved to Tyler and it made me wonder why my family was going to the place they begun but had not even looked into their background. So I took the trip and I meet my Aunt.
My Aunt who lived in the home my Great Grandfather built and I paid her a visit, along with one of my brothers who at the time was living in Tyler. While there I asked where they were buried, she said I’ll take you there. We got in the car and she being 90 plus years old got her car out of the garage and drove a few miles away, over the rail road tracks and at the light we made a right and about a mile or mile and a half we pulled into this small nondescript cemetery. Now if you did not know that a cemetery was there you would drive right pass it. She drove in and we didn’t go far when she stop. This is it. This is where your grandfather is buried, there wasn’t a headstone or plaque, nothing to identify who was there, but she knew. She pointed across the yard and said that my Great Grandfather was buried over there. I begin to walk towards the direction she pointed me in and I saw FIELDS on the large granite stone, I was like here we are and when I walked to the front of the stone I saw his name, my Great Grandfather and my Great Grandmother and suddenly I felt like I do exist, I belong, I am a part of something or someone. What an awaking in a cemetery looking at my name on a granite stone.