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  • Sharleen Wurm

Echoes of the Old Slavery Days


Echoes of the old slavery days have reached Oberlin in the experiences of Robert Tutt, a Negro who lives west of the city.

Robert was born in slavery at Columbiana, Mo., in 1843. His father had been given his freedom, but in 1850, at Rockport, Mo., his mother, his sister, Martha, his brother, John and he were sold at auction.

From that time, Robert heard nothing of his family. When, during the war, he was freed, he went to Illinois and was married there. Afterward he moved to Iowa, living at various points in that state. He came with his family to Decatur county in 1881, and all earthly possessions consisting of a team and wagon and the goods the wagon contained.

By industry and frugality, he slowly amasses property, until he now has 800 acres of land free of incumbrance, and in a high state of cultivation, a comfortable house and barn, a fine young orchard, considerable livestock and other property, all easily worth $10,000.

Last year, Mrs. Tutt died, and Robert, overcome with loneliness, began to wonder if it were not possible to find some trace of his family, so widely separated half a century before. Finally, he made up his mind to go in search of them.

He went back to his birthplace, and after persistent inquiry found trace of his father and mother, who had moved to Lebanon, in the Ozarks.

Going thither, he found that his mother had been dead fifteen years and his father eleven, the latter dying at the age of ninety-seven. He there heard of his sister, who had visited his parents and had married there and moved many years before to St. Louis.

Prosecuting the search, he went to St. Louis and was finally directed to a Negro storekeeper in that city, who had been in business many years, and had a large trade from the Negroes. The old storekeeper remembered Robert’s sister and pointed out a tenement where one of her married daughters lived. Robert had not heard a word concerning his brother up to this time, but his niece and her husband both recognized him from his likeness to his brother, who lived in East St. Louis, and whom they frequently saw.

Robert’s niece immediately started out with him and they were soon at the home of his sister, whom he had not seen for fifty years, since they were children. She did not know his at first, but when he called her by the name she had not heard since a child, she gasped, “It is Robert.” Maybe there was not rejoicing then as Robert had long been mourned as one dead. He had in the face of treat discouragements continued his search for nearly two months, to finally succeed in discovering his sister and his brother.

According to the custom in slavery days, Robert’s brother had been given the surname of his purchaser, and is known as John Rollins, thought he is a full brother of Robert’s.

After visiting for a time there relatives who he had not seen for a lifetime, Robert visited his daughter Annie, who is with relatives in Monmouth, Ill., and visited friends at various places in Iowa. He then returned to St. Louis and brought his sister out here to his farm. She remained with him for a month, but “honed” to return to St. Louis, so he recently sent her home again.

It is certainly remarkable after so long a separation, and under such circumstanced, that Robert was able to find his folks. Taken from The Oberlin Eye.

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