Exploring more of Climax’s black history

Published 4:25 pm Tuesday, February 17, 2009

In February 2006, Eva Green Washington, my husband, Gene, and I went exploring the black history of Climax.

We had only the memories of Washington and a little history on paper from the Martin family, and some history of the St. John A.M.E. Church.

Eva Green Washington grew up in Climax and has very pleasant memories. She remembers as a young lady helping Dave “Red” Mosely when the family needed a baby-sitter for one young boy by the name of “Butch.” She recalled that that little fellow sure could get away from you and could cause some mischief!

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She said, on one occasion she and another young girl were put in charge of a little Mosely when he and his dad came to the farm just outside of Climax. Dr. Mosely, as he was sometimes called, cautioned the young ladies not to let “Butch” go near the pond!

“Of course, guess what happened!” she said, “He headed straight for the water, and it took all we could do to keep him safe.”

She recalled a wet, dirty, little fellow greeting his dad along with two exhausted little girls when Dr. Mosely returned. She said Doc did not chastise them for letting “Butch” get wet and dirty, but instead said to his son, “Well, looks like you had a good time!”

Washington recalled other times; she remembered how good the Trulock family of Climax was to her and her family. Washington’s grandmother did housework for the Trulocks, she remembered.

Other families

We decided to explore the first black ladies who came to the Climax area; they were named Hannah, Phyllis and Sallie. Hannah is the great-great-grandmother of Eva Green Washington. Eva thought they carried the last names of Piles or Pyle, the plantation owners where they were slaves. We began to look for a plantation or family in the Climax area by that name; however, we could not find any.

After the article came out in The Post-Searchlight in 2006 asking for any information about anyone in the area having a name similar to this, Ed Perry of Climax, and Max Gainey of Cairo provided us with some interesting information.

Gainey’s son-in-law had purchased land just northwest of Climax and had found some grave sites. We were invited to visit this tranquil site accompanied by Perry and Gainey. Due to some family illness, Washington was unable to go with us, so Gene and I followed the gentlemen.

The day provided us with a beautiful morning where wild flowers were beginning to nod their heads as we climbed on golf carts and began to make our way deep into the woods. We crossed what appeared to have been a long forgotten stage coach road. Could this be part of the stage coach road that also went by the Earl Hester House we wondered?

Just as we topped the hill, there covered in bright sunlight stood two tall magnificent headstones. One had the inscription: “Scared to the memory of William Powell who was born Nov. 11th 1783, and departed this life Dec. 15th 1836, aged 56 years 1 month, and 4 days.”

The other was inscribed: “Scared to the memory of Sarah Powell who was born June 17th 1792 and departed this life April 16th 1852 aged 59 years 9 month and 29 days.”

Washington remembered her grandmother telling her the history of Hannah, Sallie and Phyllis, and how they married the black men who came later. Hannah became a McBride, Sallie a Donalson, and Phyllis became a Bradwell.

Pyle or Powell could it be?

We wondered.

Washington said knowing the dialect back in that time of how a name was said, it could very well be that Hannah, Sallie and Phyllis were Powells taking the name of the family who owned them as was very common during those years.

According to Gainey, the land where the headstones are located once belonged to the Trulock family. Then according to Trulock family history acquired during the centennial in 2005, Sutton Hines Trulock married Jane Powell at Tired Creek Church in Grady County in 1829. Is there a connection to William and Sarah, who departed this life in the 1836 and 1852?

Could Eva Green Washington’s great-great-grandmother Hannah have been a Powell before she married a McBride? In the history of St. John A.M.E. Church going back to 1866, they have a Hannah McBride listed as one of the founding sisters along with a Sallie Donalson.

We are also looking for more history on the Bradwell family in Climax, the family who ran the grist mill on Bradwell-Laster Road. Someone also weaved baskets in this family.

If you have information on the black history in Climax, and would like to share it with Eva Green Washington and me, please call us at 246-3149 or e-mail at ouztsg@bellsouth.net.