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"In Search of Annabella’s Children: A History of the Fielder Family," by Darrell Fielder

My long and arduous journey to find Annabella’s children began about twenty years ago in year 2003. This was a pivotal year that followed the death of my father Benjamin Franklin Fielder in December 1995 and my Aunt Scotia Fielder Wash (Benjamin’s sister) in March 2003. These two people were giants in keeping the Fielder family history alive and relevant. At Aunt Scotia’s funeral, a somber occasion, I realized our family history was in jeopardy of perishing. Few, if any, of the next generation, including myself, knew our complete history, our tribulations, and yes, our successes. In addition to mourning my Aunt, I devised a plan to document our family history.

With great fondness, I recalled the cold, wet and shivering, daytime, and nighttime hunting trips where my father Benjamin spoke of his father William Estell Fielder (Papa), Annabella, William (Bill) Fielder, Ida, Scotia, Chunkyville, Meridian, Alvin Fielder, St Louis, Laurel, Cincinnati, California, Nova Scotia, and the Prairie or “Prair” as the elders called it. The Prairie, where my father was born, was always this mysterious place where ghosts (haints) played tricks on the living. The “spirits” were around us in the babbling creeks, mosquito-infested swamps, dark forests, and beautiful green fields that dot the landscape. The family ghost stories made for spooky nighttime hunting trips especially with a full moon overhead. I remembered those lively chats sitting with Aunt Scotia on her front porch where Annabella (her great grandmother), William “Bill” Fielder (Annabella’s husband), Ida Jones (Aunt Scotia’s grandmother), Levi Jones, Wash Fielder, Micajah Wall, and many others were discussed. Aunt Scotia, a kind-hearted soul with red cheeks and reddish-brown hair, would dip her Garrett snuff, talk a little, and then eat a small handful of “good dirt.” Many people from the Prairie craved the so-called “good dirt.” The gritty, grey, clay dirt was extracted from selected hillsides across the county and baked in the oven. Aunt Scotia, some of her siblings and relatives, and many others left us a hint to our ancestry and our socio-economic status during the family’s formative years. We have risen from eating dirt, albeit “good dirt,” to become educators, musicians, health care professionals, mayors, and successful businesspeople.

Aunt Scotia, Aunt Hattie Mae, and my father were the first ones to mention Nova Scotia. Aunt Scotia always reminded me that she was named after Nova Scotia, Canada, supposedly our family homeland, and that several other relatives were also named Scotia in honor of this special place. The sisters and my father told harrowing tales of journeys from the cold climes of Nova Scotia, Canada to bustling Petersburg, Virginia to Georgia and finally to Mississippi. They told stories of hardships, separation, and unspoken love. Although neither of them had ever been to Nova Scotia, the mention of this place elicited a deep longing for their deceased ancestors.

I also recalled how Mr. Isaac Milton and his wife Joyce Fielder Milton (descendant of Patrick Fielder) maintained the old family cemetery at Chunkyville, MS for so many years. This was not a pleasant or easy job. In summertime, the gravesite is swarmed by mosquitoes, flies, and pesky, gnats. Only through the hindsight of writing this book did I realize the significance of their act in preserving our history. The maintenance of the gravesite and stones provided tangible proof that our people, the Fielder people, lived, breathed, and were loved.

Remembering would be incomplete without mentioning Henry Thomas, a cousin from East St Louis, Illinois. Henry showed up in Mississippi on many summers and always had a quarter or fifty cents to give us children. We immediately rushed to the store and spent it on an assortment of pepper mints, taffy, and other candy. Through his simple act of kindness, Henry retained the connection between the family members in Mississippi and those in the St Louis, Missouri metro area. All families should be fortunate enough to have such “bridges” as Henry Thomas unless they become separated forever.

This loss of history, my family history, would be tragic. The goal of In Search of Annabella’s Children is to capture the Fielder family history as accurately as possible relying on evidence (official documents such as census records, social security records, DNA analysis, and other documentation) but also realizing that oral stories are important glue that helps make sense of the evidence. In Search of Annabella’s Children is a magnificent chronicle that began in Europe and Africa, moved to the exploration of the Americas and the dawning of a new nation called the United States. With a relatively small and ill-equipped force, our forefathers such as Arthur Wall defeated England, the most powerful nation on earth. In declaring their independence on July 4th, 1776, they wrote “We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal with certain inalienable rights…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” However, as our family matriarch Annabella and her descendants found out, this idealistic goal did not immediately apply to them. Slavery persisted as national policy in the United States for almost another one hundred years until the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified on December 6th, 1865. Nonetheless, the American Revolution was amazing in that it laid the foundation for ideals that would eventually be realized and continues to be a source of great pride for our family.

After the revolution, our story moved into Frontier Expansion in the Southeastern United States. The frontier expansion period was laden with conflict. The land sought by Micajah Wall and others was already inhabited by Native Americans (Creek, Choctaw, Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Seminole). The proud Native American people had lived and maintained this land for thousands of years. Within a brief span of only thirty years from 1800 – 1830, the Choctaw and Creek people forcibly ceded over 60,000,000 (million) acres of land to the United States culminating with the removal of large numbers of Native Americans to locations West of the Mississippi River. Blood was shed to acquire and retain this most precious of all commodities – land.

As noted, slavery persisted as national policy in the United States through December 6th, 1865. Annabella, William, Wash, and the first generation of Fielders witnessed freedom from enslavement only to face other horrors during Reconstruction (1865 – 1877) and the Jim Crow period that lasted until 1964. Doug Blackmon described this period in American history aptly as “slavery by another name” in his book of the same title. Unfair share cropping tactics prevented former slaves from becoming self-sufficient. There were also unwarranted arrests and fines designed to procure labor. Poll taxes, poll tests, and similar antics deprived American citizens of their right to vote. “White Only” signs solidified divisions among American people in all facets of public life. The book Remembering Jim Crow edited by William Chafe provided first-hand accounts from people who lived during Jim Crow. Hate groups were common during this period and wreaked havoc on the Fielder family. The Fielder family lived through this period and warriors like Alvin Fielder Sr., Alvin Fielder Jr., Scotia Calhoun, Benjamin Fielder, Arthur Jafa Fielder, and others fought against the instituted policies and baseless prejudices.

The Fielder family survived the black death, dreaded “middle passage,” revolution, slavery, Jim Crow, Klan violence, and family diasporas. Any one of these events could have doomed our family. However, ours is a story of survival and success against the many odds. From this one enslaved woman Annabella and two enslaved brothers William (or Bill) and Wash, descended at least one thousand Fielder family members throughout the United States and abroad and the number continues to grow.


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