247 years ago today

Horton Howard, my 4X-great-grandfather, was born on this day 247 years ago.

I’ve been researching his life, and that of this off-spring, for the past 4 years or so. After transcribing more than 200 letters and other documents, have gone through these documents 3 times, to transcribe, re-write, and make sense of the information in those letters. I am now at the serious business of writing his life story.

This story traces his life from early days as a Quaker in North Carolina, where he inherited a “naval stores” plantation that produced turpentine, lumber and other products used in the ship-building industry. He and his brother and sister also inherited slaves along with the land, business and other wealth. Horton’s story includes the Quakers’ rejection of the “peculiar institution” of slavery, their move to a new land where slavery was prohibited, the loss of 2 wives, several children, successes and failures.

I’ve become very fond of some of Horton’s children. I find him endearing, and at times maddening. By now, I know his story very well, and also know that he and his children would certainly be long dead, no matter what had happened during their lives. Yet, on my 3rd pass through the letters that he wrote and recieved, I found myself wishing that Horton, his children and grandchildren, would have a different outcome. Yes, I also laughed at myself about this wish – one really can’t rewrite history.

I would wish my ancestors and their family a happier ending, yet am aware that if their ending had been very much happier, I might not exist.


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