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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

The Women in My Family Who Lived Long and Left a Legacy

Posted on February 2, 2018 at 10:05 PM

Week 3 52 Ancestors 52 Weeks: Longevity

The Women in My Family Who Lived Long and Left a Legacy

By Nicole Hicks 



I have always viewed the women on my maternal line as survivors. Survivors of slavery, survivors of oppression, survivors of poverty, survivors of racism, survivors of the untimely deaths or their spouses and children. And a great many of them survived these tragedies and lived well into 70, 80, 90, and in some cases 100 years of age! They set a wonderful example of endurance and resilience for future generations.


For this week's 52 Ancestors in 52-Weeks challenge, longevity is the theme. I instantly began to think about my 2nd great-grandmother Priscilla “Cilla” Saxon May, born in June 1864 in Williston, South Carolina. She died December 26 1943. She was about 79 years of age at the time of her passing. While that is not really extraordinary, the fact the she gave birth to 18 children, only to having 11 live into adult hood; that was extraordinary!  Losing a husband in 1929, having a daughter murdered by her husband, and a son murdered by another son, and still finding a way to keep her family together; that was extraordinary. She was born at the tail end of slavery, but her parents and grandparents had been slaves their entire lives. They endure terrible hardships and by the end the of slavery, their slaveholder was bankrupt! They survived and went on to be landowner themselves; that was extraordinary. What makes her story special?  What makes her story unique, is that this is my heritage!  One of which I am extremely proud! The more I started thinking about what I could say about “longevity” and how it relates to my family’s story, I suddenly realized that 3 of her 6 sisters lived to be 93, 98, and 101 years of age respectively. Several of her nieces from the same lineage also lived well into their 90s and 100s. My Grandmama Cilla was part of a lineage of survivors, women whose longevity sets the tone for current and future generations!


I would give anything to go back in history to talk to and spend time with any one of these women. I would love to bring them into our time so that they can see how their legacies have flourished.


In this blog, I will simply highlight some of the things I have learned about the women the longevity of some of my family's heroines.



Ealer Saxon Blassengale (Mar 1861 – Dec 1954) died at 93 years old

  • The oldest child of former slaves
  • Married David Blassengale whom she lost at a very young age.

  • Had only one daughter.

  • Took on her brother-in-law in court over her sibling’s inheritance in 1903…and WON!

  • Was a farmer and worked the land left to her by her father and husband until her death.



Louisa Saxon Montague (Oct 1871 – Oct1873) died at 101 years old (8 days shy of 102)

  • 7th child of 11 children.
  • Married to Jacob Montague after 25 years of marriage.

  • Had 12 children, one set of twins and one set of triples.

  • Severed as a midwife to most of the black families in the area around Williston.

 


Lettie Saxon Thomas (Jun 1884 – Apr 1993) died at 98 years old (2 months shy of 99)

  • Was the youngest child in at family of 11 (maybe more).
  • Her mother died a few months after her birth, she never knew her.

  • She was nursed and cared for by her older sister (my 2nd great grandmother Cilla) who was 20 years older.

  • Had 13 children, lost 4 before adulthood.

 

Endurance, resilience, survival, and faith were the key ingredients to my ancestor’s longevity.  Today, we may credit better living conditions and improved medical treatment to the longer lifespans of our elders, but having this information about my ancestors tells me that it is genetic!  It’s in my DNA!  It's my inheritance!



My grandmother, Grandmama Cilla’s granddaughter celebrated her 90th birthday in November 2017, one of her first cousins celebrated her 90th birthday in September 2017.  Both credit their faith in God as the main reason for their longevity in addition to listening to their doctor’s advice and stay active.  I told them it’s in their genes.  Their longevity is our inheritance!

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