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Grandma, Ora Nelms Foster, Hands Off the Baton to Me

Just as the runner hands the baton off to her companion who carries it toward the finish line, little did I know at the time that my grandma, Ora Nelms Foster, picked me to carry the family’s fate in my hands. In 1971, I was six years old. Grandma, sensing her last days came to Joliet, Illinois on her last visit. No one knew this would be the last time. We were gathered in the living room. I could already read.

Grandma told me that she wanted me to memorize the 23rd Psalm right then and there. She handed me the scripture, and I proceeded to memorize line by line. When I was finished, I said to Grandma, “I have got now.” She said, “Okay. Let me hear it.” I gave the scriptures back to her, I and recited the 23rd Psalm.

She was very pleased with me. She explained what the verses meant, and then she told me something that I have carried through my life especially when I searched the scriptures to know what church I should join. She told me that I would find the answer to everything that I needed to know in the scriptures. Grandma took sick on that trip. She was hospitalized and died. She had opened for me a window to get the answers I needed from the Lord.

Years later while away at University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, I was away from home and needing badly to find a church. I went through the entire Bible. It never told me which church I needed to, so I prayed. One week later, I was in my apartment and there was a knock at the door. Standing outside my door was Elder Remington and his companion, who was 25 years old.

I found out what I was expected to do with that baton that I carried for so long in the process of getting baptized and becoming acclimated to the true Church. I knew nothing about Grandma’s parents. I decided to interview my uncle. This is where I discovered they had been enslaved. Their names were Henderson Nelms and Lucy Nelms. Lucy’s parents were Buck and Mary Nelms. They were owned by brothers, meaning they had the same last name but different owners. They lived in DeSoto County, Mississippi, but they had come from North Carolina.

By the time I could discover more and now married, we had moved with our daughter to Columbia, South Carolina. It was in the family history center there where I pulled up a record of the Nelms brothers and their move from North Carolina to DeSoto County, Mississippi. The record named Charles, Preston, and Eben Nelms. Charles G. Nelms died in the Civil War. Eben Nelms took over his slaves. In my haste, I did not save the record. I cannot find the record that I brought up on Heritage Quest.

Five years ago, we traveled to DeSoto County, Mississippi. I could tell one of the brothers lived in Holly Springs, Marshall County, Mississippi. I will need to go back there again. Through the years, I have completed ordinance work in temples for my family. Grandma Ora has been sealed to Henderson and Lucy Nelms. Lucy Nelms has been sealed to Buck Nelms and Mary. That is the baton that I carry.

I suffered a stroke in 2016 soon after we made this trip. No one thought I would live. I was not alert for days in the hospital, but I could have told my family that I was not going anywhere. I still carry that baton. There is still much work left to do. I learned from the stroke that I only have time for spreading the gospel and redeeming the dead.

On page 32, I found the three Nelms brothers the sons of Presley Nelms Jr. of Anson County, North Carolina. He had given them the property that they migrated to upon his death. I know that my Nelms ancestors were carried along with them when they made this journey. I can now trace the records of the Nelms and hopefully discover more of my family.


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