Donna Hechler Porter
A Sad History
With downtime from my novel, Keeping Secrets, last week (I was waiting on the proof copy to come), I pulled out the third book in my Metes & Bounds Series and started editing. I had done so after a conversation the night before with Rose Darden Jackson, a descendant of not only the Tyler County Darden family, but the McQueen slaves as well. She is a lovely woman, and cleared up some mysteries and questions I had about the Milton McQueen family and the years before the Civil War and Emancipation.
Let me say, though, that while working on editing the book this week, a profound, deep sadness overwhelmed me. I had not experienced such while writing the first two books or while writing my book on the Hechlers. Maybe its because I'm older now. Maybe its because there is so much more history in this book than in the first two. Maybe its because I have more information and resources to reconstruct the family in these years than in previous ones.
Or, maybe, its just that the story is sad.
The third book begins with some recapping of John McQueen's childhood and history as a young adult. The book then goes to his move to Kentucky, his marriage to Nancy Crews (daughter of David Crews and Annie Magee), his lawsuit against his father-in-law, and his subsequent move to Tennessee. There is nothing unusual or heartbreaking in that part.
But after David Crews McQueen's death in 1832, and John McQueen's death two years later in 1834, the entire family, including McQueens, Barclays, Beans, and Taylors, enter into a period of almost constant loss both materially and physically.
One of the saddest episodes in all of this is the lives of the McQueen family, both black and white. It is a disorder of that time that masters, in order to put food on the table or clothes on the backs of their black and white family, had to resort to "meanness" to do so. It's a travesty that blacks, out of no fault of their own, were enslaved to work a crop that they themselves never benefited from directly. As such, they were oftentimes labeled "lazy" and "unproductive."
And then, there are all the stories of slaves that had white fathers.
All of these issues will be dealt with in my third book. It will be difficult to write it, but sad or not, these stories need to be told. The lives of these people were too important, and their decisions impact out own lives today.