Monday, December 31, 2012

WATCH NIGHT: Honoring my Ancestor Georgia Ann Houston

Georgia Ann Houston Bass

When I look into the eyes of my gr. grandmother Georgia Ann, I often wonder what she saw. Her eyes were the eyes that saw slavery. I sometimes think I see such sadness in her eyes.  Did she see siblings sold away? Did she ever know her father? Did she see children taken from mothers?

I know that Georgia Ann's eyes saw a lot in the small community in SW Arkansas where she was born. Her mother's name was said to have been Minerva, and she had an older sister whose name was Susan, and she like they, had been born enslaved.

It is said that she did have a half brother as well---but he was never enslaved. He was white and it is said that he was a son of a member of the family that had brought her mother to Arkansas. His name is said to have been George Millwee, and on occasion, he would come to visit her in her latter years. The family never called him "Uncle" George and he never referred to her children as his nieces and nephews. That was not done in those days and was not the social order of the day. But the children knew that when the white man came to visit, he was simply "Mama's brother" and they were to stay out of the way and let them talk.

I wonder what her eyes saw when she saw her brother. I wonder also what she thought and felt.
Georgia Ann was the younger of the Houston daughters--who were part of the Houston-Millwee clan. But exactly when they came to Arkansas is not known.

Her older sister Susan married Mitchell Bass after slavery ended. Susan took two children into that marriage--who were said to be children of another white man--J.S. Dollarhide. Those children would carry the Dollarhide name into the next several generations. Georgia's sister Susan had two children with Mitchell Bass, before illness took her life leaving four children without a mother.

Mitchell Bass then courted Georgia Ann, and she entered this marriage in 1879, with the intention of raising her sister's children. But with time, 11 more children were born into that household, and a large family emerged. Minerva, Georgia's mother was often mentioned, but by the time Georgia was raising her own large family, she was gone.

So Georgia Ann became the matriarch, and was mentioned often through the decades simply as "Mama" even by the Dollarhide children that she had raised. As grandchildren came along, she became "Big Mama", till she died in the 1930s. Though called  "Big Mama", she was slight in build and gentle in spirit. She was said to be the gentle voice of the family, raising her handsome sons, and her daughters who were known for their beauty. She would live to see many of her children educated, and the family would remain in the same community around her, until she died.

She was the gentle spirit and like her husband, she too saw slavery prosper, she saw it end and she was one who chose to survive.

It is not known how freedom came to Georgia Ann Houston Bass, but I honor her on this eve of the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation!