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“Page County Ex-Slave Lives at the Age of 109”

March 18, 2009

From the September 28, 1928 issue of the Page News & Courier:

John P. Washington, ex-slave who lives near the Bixler’s Ferry road, on the northwestern suburbs of Luray, says that Mary Powell, a colored woman, who left here about 1867, is still living in Ohio at the age of 109 years. For many years she worked for a white family in Wheeling, W.Va., who out of appreciation for her long and faithful service provided a permanent home for her old age and placed her in comfortable surroundings in Ohio. Ellen Powell was a Mason before her marriage.

Two other aged colored women Ellen Gordon and “Happy Jane” Jackson, sisters about ninety years of age , who are still living in Wheeling, W.Va. left here about 1867, practically at the time of the departure of Mary Powell.

All three of these women were slaves, Washington thinks they belonged to the Keysers in Springfield district, but his mind is not clear as to which Keyser. Probably it was Col Andrew Keyser or Joseph Keyser.

Ellen Gordon referred to above was the daughter of Phoebe Gordon, who lived on a bluff on the Hawksbill in Springfield district. Washington has some recent information about these old slaves from descendants of Fred Lacey, a slave from descendants of Nicholas Yager, who live in Wheeling or vicinity. Fred, who has been dead for a great many years, built the second or third of the houses of colored people on Bixler’s Ferry road near Washington’s present home.

Washington himself who was a boy eight years old when the war closed was a slave of Daniel Koontz a wealthy farmer of near Alma. He is an ardent Old School Baptist, the faith of his fathers, and was the leader in establishing a church of that persuasion here a few years ago.

It is a pity that the recollections of these old colored folks cannot be preserved. They saw the world from a different angle and have the faculty of remembering things of a certain kind with a vividness that others do not equal. As far as Washington’s recollections of the ages of these women is concerned, he says he knew them well and they let here directly after the war and were then persons of mature age with a number of children. Evidence like this has a convincing quality.

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