It touches my heart to know that my great-great-great-great grandparents, Reese and Rosa, were treated with respect and dignity by their owners. That even as slaves, their worth and character remained untampered with. That even with the long awaited and fought for choice of freedom, they “continued to serve.”
I encourage you to read the entire article, but here are two takeaways:
“Rosa, then a young girl, became, by deed of gift, the body servant of Miss Corinne Dortch, and after the surrender, when she was given her freedom, she begged to still remain a servant in the Dortch home, where she was respected and well treated for her worth and nobility of character; and so she continued to serve in the Dortch home, even for many years after she married.”
“Reese and his wife Rosa remained with the Dortch family after the Emancipation and were well respected by all according to family stories and obituaries in the newspaper.” - Mary Emory Rogers Church (Helen Dortch’s great-niece)
Honestly, when this article was published last year, I was expecting to see my African American ancestors, the people I grew up hearing about and seeing so highly revered in my hometown. However, this article highlighted the owners of my ancestors, whose surname “Dortch” was taken by my great(x4) grandfather Reese. I’m grateful for any opportunity to learn more about my ancestors and their owners. Dortch isn’t my ancestors’ real surname, but it is a name I will forever cherish.
This Black History Month, I celebrate, of course my ancestors, but also William T. Dortch and his family for seeing their servants as people and treating them as such.
Pictured: Reese (my grandfather) & Helen (William’s granddaughter)