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Hettie, to publish or not to publish Part 1

Updated on July 31, 2012

Hettie & Some of her Children

Great great great grandmother Hettie and her oldest son Edwin James.
Great great great grandmother Hettie and her oldest son Edwin James.
Uncle Duncan and his wife Aunt Odelia and their son Duncan, Jr.
Uncle Duncan and his wife Aunt Odelia and their son Duncan, Jr.
Grandpa Charlie "Mutter"
Grandpa Charlie "Mutter"
Aunt Shannie and her husband Uncle George
Aunt Shannie and her husband Uncle George

To publish or not to publish

I am at a Crossroads, I want to publish my family history, but my dilemma is when I do, there are no do over’s. I am all about honesty and I know there will be some that will not want the truth in black or white, but I want my daughter as well as future generations to have a tangible read on our family's history. Then, I wonder is the writing even good enough? So, this is the synopsis that I wrote for the family reunion as the history I would encourage feedback. I will do this writing in 3 installments Hettie 1-3, so fill free to chime in at the end of each hub.

As I sojourned to Kershaw and Lee County, I discovered the treasure that is our family legacy our history. Our story thus begins before the birth of our trailblazer and loving grandmother Hettie Mae Kelley Brown (lovingly referred to as Maa), our matriarch. She lays forth the divine connection that connects us to one another. Our ancestry derives from an uncompromising woman of strength and courage that did not take adversity lying down, but she stood up often alone and did what it took to keep her family thriving in spite of her immediate exclusion from her own birth lineage. Despite the actions taken at her life into a woman of action, determination, and an uncompromising strength that has transcended over time and is instilled in all of us today, which has sustained us through times of oppression, set-backs, and matters of the heart, spiritual crisis, tragedy and loss. This is our story and our history. Thanks "Maa" for clearing the path for us all to walk into our destinies.

Hettie Mae Cook was born May 1865 in the Ionia Township in Lee County, South Carolina. She is of Irish and Scottish decent. Her story begins in the year of 1860 before her birth. For clarity of the circumstances surrounding her birth I must explain what type of lineage Hettie derives from. Why would they give this clearly Caucasian baby girl to a slave family to take in as their own? The answer lies in the social status of her maternal grandparents and great grandparents, the Cooks and the Barnes. Her mother by all accounts is Mary M. Cook; she was the eldest child of Confederate Captain William Lewis Cook and his wife Elizabethalice Dupree Barnes-Cook. Her grandmother Elizabethalice comes from a very prestigious family that was later active in the Daughters of the American Revolution.

Elizabethalice, Hettie’s maternal grandmother was the daughter of Edwin and Lavinea Barnes. Edwin worked as an appraiser in the early eighteen sixties he also at one point was Sheriff of Camden, South Carolina. These are the names of the maternal relatives of Hettie Mae Kelley Brown. These people are important, because the fear of losing their social status led them to commit an inconceivable and inexcusable act against their daughter and grand-daughter. To explain it is imperative that I take you to the year 1860.

In 1860, the Cooks are living in Division 3 in Kershaw County, South Carolina. Captain William Lewis Cook is about 32 years old and his wife Elizabethalice is 30, Mary M. Cook, (Hettie’s mother) is ten years old, she has five other siblings: Alice Hester, who is 6, Charles E, who is 4, Mary E, who is 3, R.K, who is 2, and a sister M.A., who is four months old. Captain Cook is working as a toll gather. The family’s real estate is worth 800 dollars. Life for them is good and things are comfortable. They are well-liked and respected by their community. Then the inconceivable happens in 1864, their eldest daughter Mary, the one who would carry on their Southern legacy and rich history and tradition was found with child. That child is Hettie.

The union which created Hettie occurred outside of marriage and that would ensure instant shame to the family name. So rather than bear the shame of having an unmarried daughter give birth they devise a solution. See in this time period legitimacy was everything. Family played a key role in social stratification, so the legitimacy of birth determined affiliation with a particular social group, accordingly, access to certain privileges and life opportunities. Illegitimacy, in contrast, prevented one form exercising one’s family rights and thus put one in an awkward position, both legally and socially.

From conflicting legal and social ramifications that the family would experience they decided to give Hettie to a slave family to rear. I remember my great grandmother Nancy saying the reason they gave her to the Kelley’s was to prevent from having to kill her for being born out of wedlock.

This ends Part 1, stay close for Part 2. Do you like so far, this is only the beginning.

What do you think?

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    • brittvan22 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      @Stillwaters, Hettie's mom was 15 when she was born, her mother was 10 in the 1860 census, Hettie was born in 1865. There is a record of her father, a young white male lived next door to the Cooks, he was chased out of SC by her family, didn't hurt that Hettie's maternal great grandpa was the Sheriff. I'm giving too much away, lol. As far as her death certificate she put on that her adoptive family, the Irish can keep a secret to the end.

    • brittvan22 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      @Integrity thanks so much for your support, glad you enjoyed!

    • brittvan22 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      @Ms. Dora, I agree with you and I really appreciate your input, these pictures are very dear to my heart, with so much death in my family this year including my Mom, these memories are very invaluable pieces of my history that I want to share with my family. There is nothing like knowing who you are and where you come from.

    • brittvan22 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      @Nate, thanks I am trying to balance the records and the first hand accounts with the oral traditions, thanks for your kind words.

    • stillwaters707 profile image


      6 years ago from Texas

      Was Mary 10 years old for Hettie's birth? I wonder if there is any record of the father.

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      That is great. I certainly voted up!

    • MsDora profile image

      Dora Weithers 

      6 years ago from The Caribbean

      Those photographs must be really precious to you. I'd say "Publish" with an editorial preface about how you feel. Putting the information in the hands of your relatives is worth any risk. At least, publish on desktop.

    • NateB11 profile image

      Nathan Bernardo 

      6 years ago from California, United States of America

      That is a very interesting story, both from viewpoint of history and tradition and from personal family history.

    • brittvan22 profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I have more trust, I did the research, I will do 3 more hubs on the remainder of what I presented to the family members that were at the reunion. The issue for some will be coming up in the next hub. the thing about the past is sometimes people want to keep certain truths hidden, because it doesn't paint some in the best light. Some are ashamed or embarassed, because of their own reputations. I want to see how some receive the information and feedback from hubbers, because this could be the thing set in stone that makes them think I am airing out our families dirty laundry. Thanks for your input. I divided it into 4 hubs, because it is really 14 pages long. I have made it available to some on fb. Thanks again.

    • Patty Kenyon profile image

      Patty Kenyon 

      6 years ago from Ledyard, Connecticut

      Interesting Hub!! If you are not sure whether or not you need to do more research, or may need possible revisions, for now you could always save it as a word document and send it to loved ones...this could turn into an entire family project and when everything is completed you could always self publish, or publish when you are ready.


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