If you read my first book, Mississippi to Africa: A Journey of Discovery, then you are already aware of how my great-great-grandmother's widow pension file from the National Archives amazingly revealed a lot about her and my great-great-grandfather's history. A whole lot! My great-great-grandfather, Edward "Ed" Danner, fought with Company I of the 59th Regiment of the United States Colored Troops (USCT). He was one of the 209,145 brave African-American soldiers who bravely fought in the Civil War for the freedom of enslaved African Americans. At the age of 44, Grandpa Ed died on September 15, 1876 near Como, Mississippi; twenty-two years later in 1898, my great-great-grandmother, Louisa "Lue" Bobo Danner, began the long and stressful process of applying for a widow's pension from the federal government. As part of the application process, she had to give a sworn testimony, as well as obtain sworn depositions from family members and friends proving that she was Grandpa Ed Danner's widow.
Louisa "Lue" Bobo Danner
1842 - 1921
The eleven depositions in her pension file were essentially a history book steeped with oral history on just my family - a genealogical and historical goldmine! In her deposition, Grandma Lue revealed the following about Grandpa Ed, solving a longtime mystery of why he had chosen the Danner surname rather than the surname of their last enslaver, Dr. William J. Bobo: "...the first year after the War, my husband took the name of Danner, as he formerly belonged to the Danners in South Carolina and was bought by Dr. Bobo from the Danner estate..." Grandpa Ed's military service record also revealed that he was born in Union County, South Carolina. Dr. William Bobo had purchased him and transported him back to Panola County, Mississippi shortly before 1860.
With that wealth of information, Grandpa Ed's previous enslaver was identified. His name was Thomas G. Danner, Jr., who had died in Union County, South Carolina in 1855. His wife, Alice Bates Danner, and their children remained in South Carolina for four more years, and they then moved to Saline County, Arkansas in 1859. As revealed by the 1860 Saline County Slave Schedule, Alice and her children only transported eight slaves with them to Arkansas, and the 1870 and 1880 Grant County, Arkansas censuses revealed that those eight enslaved human beings had been a lady named Harriet Danner (born c. 1825) and her seven children. The rest of the slaves from Thomas Danner's estate - including Grandpa Ed himself, his parents, and his siblings - were sold. Apparently, Alice and her sons probably needed money to buy land in Arkansas.
Not long after making this discovery, I received an e-mail from Alyce Petty of Jackson, Tennessee. (Yes, her name was Alice, too, but spelled differently!) She disclosed that she was a descendant of Harriet Danner! She saw the Danner name that I had posted in the surname database on AfriGeneas.com. Since the Danner name was not that common, she wondered if somehow we were connected. Indeed, we were! I eagerly shared with Alyce how I had determined that her great-great-grandmother Harriet and her seven children were the only slaves that the Danners of Union County, South Carolina had taken with them to Arkansas. I answered questions Alyce had for a long time -- how and when did her Danners get to Arkansas and where in South Carolina did they come from? Alyce was thrilled, as we instantly felt that Harriet and Edward may have been siblings, since the Danners had owned few slaves - eighteen slaves in 1850 to be exact, according to the 1850 Union County, South Carolina Slave Schedule.
Claiming each other as kin, Alyce and I bonded immediately, and she has visited me twice. The first visit was in 1998 in Memphis, Tennessee, where I resided at the time. The second visit was in 2010, when she and her husband came to Atlanta for a conference. On this visit, she pulled out this amazing photograph. I was instantly intrigued by it. Who wouldn't be? I had never seen a photograph like that before! Alyce informed me that the picture was given to her by one of her relatives who wasn't able to positively identify the people in it, but they strongly believe that they are members of the Danner and Owens Family of Prattsville, Arkansas - direct descendants of Harriet Danner. I promised Alyce that I would help her find out exactly who the people are, so I truly hope that someone will find this blog, recognize the picture, and contact me immediately. That's the story of how I received this amazing photograph!