FIELDS FAMILY HISTORY By Uriah J. Fields
The Progenitors and Descendants of Henry Harold, Virginia and Amanda Fields: Genealogy, History and Family Reunions
Fields Family Genealogy and History before the Birth of the first "Fields" Benjamin Franklin Fields, Sr.
The progenitors of the Fields family were Africans who lived in Africa, prior to being brought to North America. After they were enslaved in America it was through the maternal lineage that descendants, beginning with Benjamin Franklin Fields the first person of their lineage lineage to have the surame "Fields," began the Fields Family. However, before Benjamin Franklin Fields was born his ancestors had a history of enslavement that spanned four generations in America. Presented here is a brief history of what is known and imagined, based, primarily on the oral conversations Benjamin Franklin Fields had with his grandson, Uriah J. Fields, regarding their ancestors.
Unfortunately, given the nature of slavery, the fact that written records were not kept or destroyed, in my research there were some things I could not uncover. What I did learn from my gandfather I gladly share. However, to reiterate, some of it is also my imagination - what I think life must have been like for my ancestors and the thousands of other people like them. (A fuller citing of the life and times of my ancestors is given in my book, "Grandpa Benjamin").
In the novel, "Grandpa Benjamin," by Uriah J. Fields (Published 2006), Benjamin Franklin Fields, Sr., the first person in the Fields family to have the surname Fields and the first African American of his lineage to marry and have descendants through the traceable and recognizable paternal lineage, since his great-great-great grandparents were kidnapped in Africa, told his grandson, Uriah J. Fields, the fourth oldest son of his oldest son, Henry Harold Fields, Sr., these things about their ancestors: "I am the first person in my famly with the surname Fields, but that is not my true surname. My father and slave master at the time of my birth was Eugene Harrell who owned my mother. He did not want me to have the same surname as his two legal sons or the surname of my mother's former slave owner who he was angry with because he had sold him an effete slave who died only a few months after he purchased him. He never forgave him for that. So, my father named me Benjamin Franklin Fields. While a soldier in the War of 1812, his father became interested in Benjamin Franklin and frequently talked about him. Like his father, at times he could be heard quoting Benjamin Franklin, especially, this statement: "A penny saved is a penny earned."
It was a Spring day in April after Grandfather and I had left his garden, the pride and joy of his life, and went inside his house for lunch that, after a long pause, he said, "Uchay," (that was the first name I can remember being called. Later I learned that I was being called "U. J.," but what I heard was "Uchay.") "I want to tell you some things that my mother told me about our ancestors. During the Revolutionary War in 1776, English slavers, also known as slave catchers, kidnapped my great-great-great grandfather and great-great-great grandmother, Baasti and Ashanti Nkrumga in the Gold Coast of Africa that was then known as Ghana while they were fetching water from a river near their home. With the help of some Africans warriors their two small children, Munga and Akambi, were rescued from these slave catchers. Baasti and Ashanti were shackled and, like animals, herded into the ship named the "LaFortuna" with some 200 other Africans who had also been kidnapped. After sailing for nealy three weeks through the Middle Passage and acorss the Atlantic Ocean about 160 of them remained alive when they reached Charleston, South Carolina. Three days later during an auction Baasti were purchased by a slave owner in South Carolina and two weeks later Ashanti was sold to a slave owner in Georgia. They never saw each other again just as they never saw their childen again. Ashanti's slave owner told her that he was her slave owner and that her name was Elsie.
Born in America
In 1778, two years after being brought to America, Ashanti was either raped or sexually assaulted by her slave owner. She gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl. The boy Andrew was sold when he was two years old. Isabella remained with her slave owner father until she was in her mid-teens. Shortly after her mother died she joined some twenty other slaves who escaped from two adjourning plantations. One of these ecapees who she called "My Indian Lover" was also a slave. They escaped to Florida where Seminole Indians gave them refuge, at least for a while. A few weeks later a posse, composed of slave catchers from Georgia and Alabama, numbering about twenty persons, during a shoot-out, killed about half of these run-away slaves, including Isabella's Indian Lover, whose name was Hitchitaw, but not before this "fighting Indian" as he was called on the plantation from which he had escaped took a slave catcher's gun and single-handedly killed him, one other slave catcher and a horse.The surviving slave catchers captured Isabella and several other slaves and brought them to Dauphin Island in Mobile, Alabama. Isabella was sold to a slave owner in Wilcox County who soon discovered that she was pregnant. She had been impregnated by her Indian Lover. In due time she gave birth to a daughter who her slave owner named Betty. But Isabella never called her daughter by that name, except when she was in the presence of white folk. At other times she called her by her Indian Lover's mother's name, Dehgewanum, that means "The Two-Descending Voices."
Betty, who had the fighting spirit of her Indian father, was frequently beaten by her slave master in attempting to subdue and make her docile. At the age of sixteen she was impregnated by her slave owner's son who was allowed to name his child Sophia, but only after he promised his father that he would never reveal to anyone that he was Sophia's father.
For a while, with some success, Sophia resisted being impregnated, although her slave owner had ordered a slave he called "The Stud," but whose slave name was Walter, to have sex with her in the hope of increasing his slaveholdings. Sophia did not want to give birth to a child who would be a slave. However, after about two years of engaging in frequent and intense sexual activity with "The Stud" who had gained a reputation on two plantations as being a "good breeder,"she gave birth to a girl who her slave owner named Amanda.
Amanda was in her mid-teens when she was sold to a slave master named Eugene Harrell who lived in Washington County, Alabama. He impregnaed her. Three years before the end of the Civil War, on April 10, 1862, Amanda gave birth to a son. Her slave owner named me Benjamin Franklin Fields. To reiterate, he gave me a surname that was neither his own or the surname of my mother's former slave owner. While a soldier in the War of 1812 that involved British and American soldiers and Indian warriors his father became fond of Benjamin Franklin. I am Benjamin Franklin Fields."
Beginning Family Life with Freedom
Some twenty years after the Civil War ended and a decade after the death of his mother, on January 3, 1887, Benjamin Franklin Fields marreid nineteen year old Mary Jane Miler who was born on December 8, 1868. Mary Jane's foreparents, like Benjamin's foreparents, were kidnapped in Ghana and brought to America nearly a hundred years before the Civil war. Mary Jane's mother was named Mary Turner and her slave master father's name was Charles Miler. Benjamin and Mary Jane were the first persons in their respective lineage to be married since being in America.
On September 6,1887 the couple gave birth to their first child who they named Henry Harold. His middle name was meant to be the same as the surname of his paternal grandfather, although with a different spelling. The names of their other eight children, in the order of their dates of births, are: Amanda, Augusta, Julia, Ordella, Elizabeth, Edna, Benjamin F., and George A., their last child, born on June 16, 1904. Benjamin and Mary Jane lived in Sunflower all the years of their lives, she 64 years and he 88 years.
Henry Harold, Virginia and Amanda Fields and their Descendants
Henry Harold Fields, the six generation of American born family members, all from the maternal lineage, with the exception of his own father and mother, was the first person of the Fields' lineage to be born after slavery, from a marriage and have his father's surname. Henry Harold was married twice. He was the father of sixteen children.
We will now focus on the genealogy and lives of Henry Harold and his two wives, Virginia Woodyard and Amanda Fendley and their descendants. His first wife, Virginia Woodyard was born on October 17, 1886 to the parents of Edward and Mary Woodyard of Sunflower, Alabama. Her parents were born shortly after slavery ended.
Henry Harold and Virginia Woodyard were married on September 7, 1909. They named their first child Robert. He was born on November 27, 1910. The names of their other eight children, listed in the order of their dates of brith, are: Janie, Ola M., Ruth, Willie M., Henrietta, Henry Harold, Jr., Ella and Loyal, their last child, born on July 23, 1924. Virginia died shortly after he was born. She was 38 years of age.
On October 25, 1925 Henry Harold and Amanda Fendley were married. Amanda Fendley was born on July 15, 1897. Her parents, William Fendley and Ella Peavy of Clark County that adjourns to the north Washington County. He was a Choctaw Indian and she an African American. He was hated by white people who wanted to remove all Indians from Alabama. His grandfather had been removed from Alabama and placed on an Indian Reservation in Oklahoma in mid-1800s. William and Ella were born in 1873.
Henry Harold and Amanda Fendley became the parents on August 1, 1926 of a daughter they named Gerturde. Their other six children listed, in the order of their birth dates, are: Pearlie M., Uriah J., David, Joanthan E., Bessie M. and Mary, their last child born on July 15, 1939. Henry Harold and Amanda were both 57 years old when they died.
Descendants of Henry Harold, Virginia and Amanda Fields
The childen of Ola M., and Christopher, Knowles, Sr., Ola Marie Coleman (Angle Dove), Christopher Knowles, Jr. (Dorothy Jean), Margaret K. Faison, Dorothy "Faye" Williams (Nathaniel), Walter Knowles (Patricia), Barbara "Ann "Smith (Ronald).
The children of Ruth and Benjamin Masey: Ruth Vaughn, Rubye M. Gilchrist, John Massey (Carolyn), Justine Dickinson (Lemuel), George Massey (Clotile), Annie L. Bumbpers, Betty Leslie (Phillip), Bernice Davis (Alphonse), Eugene Garner.
The child of Willie L. and Albert Sanders: Dorothy Alberta Wells (Herbert).
The children of Henrietta and Wiliam Cooper: Doris Anthony (Henry), Voncile Dumas (Cedric(, John Cooper, Shirley Cobb (Walter), Evelyn (Joseph), Jancie Cooper, Martha Cooper, Mark Cooper (Loretta), James Cooper.
The child of Henry Harold, Jr., and Sadie Fields: Marilyn Figures (Norman).
The children of Ella and John Wiley: Annie Marie Sayas (David), Jeremiah Wiley (Margie),
The children of Gertrude and Wiliam Lang: Altharis Threatt (Arthur), Valveta Rambert (Maurice A.)
The children of Pearlie M., and George Holcombe: Donzetta Thompson (Ronald), Rosebia Kendrick, Gwendolyn Holcombe, George Holcombe, Jr.
The child of David and Maejim Fields: Daya Fields.
The children of Jonathan E. Fields and Thelma Fields: Anthony Wendell Fields, Szymanski Fields and Cassandra F. Taylor (Clarine is Jonathan's present wife).
The child of Mary Fields Taylor: Clifton (Albert is Mary's husband).
The other children of Henry Harold Fields, Sr., who did not have children are: Robert (Marie), Janie Foreman (William), Uriah J. Fields (Frances and Malathi), Loyal, and Bessie F. Nettles (Walter).
Descendants of Later Generations
The later history and names of the descendants of three later generations, not listed above, currently number nearly one hundred persons, will be added to this generational record in the updating of this written history.
Family Reunions of the Descendants of Henry Harold, Virginia and Amanda Fields
Although there had been periodic gatherings of members of the family of Henry Harold, Virginia Woodyard and Amanda Fendley Fields before 1955, it was not until that year, one year after the death of Amanda Fendley Fields, that the family gathering was held annually in the home of a member of the family. In 1963, the siblings, children of the above named persons, made a decision to have the family reunions that would be held anually on Christmas Day. Emphasis was placed on making this an event that woud be celebrated by not only the children of Henry Harold, Virginia Woodyard and Amanda Fendley Fields but by all their descendants.
In the earlier years, family reunions were held in the homes of older family members and the event was a potluck-like affair. Later, two families, hosted the event, providing the dinner which was and continues to be a major feature of the festivities.
In the eighties family members agreed to have future family reunion events in public meeting places that would accomodate more than a hundred people. The first of such outside-of-the home family reunions was held at the Scott Home, a community center, located in Chatom, Alabama, the capitol of Washington County, which is the birth place of all sixteen children of Henry Harold Fields. Subsequently family reunions have been held in hotels and other public meeting places.
Beginning in 2002, the grandchildren of Henry Harold, Virginia Woodyard and Amanda Fendley Fields surprised their parents and Aunts and Uncles with the offer to henceforth sponsor the family reunions. Of course, that was an offer that their parents, aunts and uncles could not refuse. Since 2003, this younger generation has left no stone unturned in making the family reunions bigger and better than ever. One of the features of the progam is a Memorial Tribute to recently deceased family members. Another feature is the expression of talents of several geneations of the family that is highly entertaining. Indeed, Fields Family Reunions have become an institution.
One of the beautiful things about the family reunion that is highly meaningful to the sponsors' parents, aunts and uncles is the opportunity they have to experience several generations participating in the family reunions who desire to encourage their elders and benefit from their elders' presence and wisdom. There is no generation gap in this extended family, just an intergenerational family composed of members who respect and love each other. This is a beautiful gathering to behold.
What is happening in these Family Reunions is a reflection of the legacy of Henry Harold, Virginia Woodyard and Amanda Fendley. May it live in perpetuity. While gratitude seems to be extended to everyone by each participant, the final word, as reflected in the lives of Fields family members is: "To God be the glory!"
Henry Harold Fields' father, Benjamin Franklin Fields speaks:
"...As you have opportuity share these things with other people beyond my descendants. Are we not all the descendants of Grandpa Adam and Grandma Eve and members of the human race extended family?
..Finally, I want to admonish you to never relinquish your faith, do your own thinking, have the courage of your conviction and that must include the courage to create. ...I hereby commission you to tell this story.. . Always remember that "his-story," and "their-story" must never supplant or be a substitute for "my story" that is tantamount to "our story."
(From "Grandpa Benjamin" by Uriah J. Fields, p. 156).
Copyright 2007 by Fields Family Historian Committee