Today's Reading

LOST FRIENDS

We make no charge for publishing these letters from subscribers. All others will be charged fifty cents. Pastors will please read the requests published below from their pulpits, and report any case where friends are brought together by means of letters in the SOUTHWESTERN.

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Dear Editor—I wish to inquire for my people. My mother was named Mittie. I am the middle of nine children and named Hannie Gossett. The others were named Hardy, Het, Pratt, Epheme, Addie, Easter, Ike, and Rose and were all my mother had when separated. My grandmother was Caroline and my grandfather Pap Ollie. My aunt was Jenny, who was married to Uncle Clem until he died in the war. Aunt Jenny's children were four girls, Azelle, Louisa, Martha, and Mary. Our first owner was William Gossett of Goswood Grove Plantation, where we were raised and kept until our Marse was in plans to take us from Louisiana to Texas during the war, to refugee in Texas and form a new plantation there. During plans, we encountered the difficulty of being stolen in a group from the Gossetts by Jeptha Loach, a nephew of Missus Gossett. He carried us from the Old River Road south of Baton Rouge, northward and westward across Louisiana, toward Texas. My brothers and sisters, cousins and aunt were sold and carried from us in Big Creek, Jatt, Winfield, Saline, Kimballs, Greenwood, Bethany, and finally Powell town, Texas, where my mother was taken and never seen by me again. I am now grown, being the only one of us who was rejected by my purchaser in Marshall, Texas, and returned to the Gossetts after the facts of my true ownership became
clear. I am well, but my mother is greatly missed by me, and any information of her or any of my people is dearly desired.

I pray that all pastors and friends discovering this plea will heed the desperate call of a broken heart and send word to me in care of Goswood Grove Store, Augustine, Louisiana. Any information will be acceptable and thankfully received.

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CHAPTER 1

HANNIE GOSSETT—LOUISIANA, 1875

The dream takes me from quiet sleep, same way it's done many a time, sweeps me up like dust. Away I float, a dozen years to the past, and sift from a body that's almost a woman's into a little-girl shape only six years old. Though I don't want to, I see what my little-girl eyes saw then.

I see buyers gather in the trader's yard as I peek through the gaps in the stockade log fence. I stand in winter-cold dirt tramped by so many feet before my own two. Big feet like Mama's and small feet like mine and tiny feet like Mary Angel's. Heels and toes that's left dents in the wet ground.

How many others been here before me? I wonder. How many with hearts rattlin' and muscles knotted up, but with no place to run?

Might be a hundred hundreds. Heels by the doubles and toes by the tens. Can't count high as that. I just turned from five years old to six a few months back. It's Feb'ary right now, a word I can't say right, ever. My mouth twists up and makes Feb-ba-ba-ba-bary, like a sheep. My brothers and sisters've always pestered me hard over it, all eight, even the ones that's younger. Usually, we'd tussle if Mama was off at work with the field gangs or gone to the spinnin' house, cording wool and weaving the homespun.

Our slabwood cabin would rock and rattle till finally somebody fell out the door or the window and went to howlin'. That'd bring Ol' Tati, cane switch ready, and her saying, "Gonna give you a breshin' with this switch if you don't shesh now." She'd swat butts and legs, just play-like, and we'd scamper one over top the other like baby goats scooting through the gate. We'd crawl up under them beds and try to hide, knees and elbows poking everywhere.

Can't do that no more. All my mama's children been carried off one by one and two by two. Aunt Jenny Angel and three of her four girls, gone, too. Sold away in trader yards like this one, from south Louisiana almost to Texas. My mind works hard to keep account of where all we been, our numbers dwindling by the day, as we tramp behind Jep Loach's wagon, slave chains pulling the grown folk by the wrist, and us children left with no other choice but to follow on.
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