The African-American experience in columbus blog
This blog features brief articles on the African-Experience in Columbus from the Underground Railroad to the civil rights era.
By Doreen Uhas Sauer
In 1952 an interview with Mrs. Nassie Lewis, 378 North Garfield Avenue, Columbus, Ohio, revealed a remarkable woman with a long memory. At 110 years of age, Mrs. Lewis remembered growing up in Virginia and the Civil War.
“I worked hard all day, and I danced all night, and slept on top a fence by the side of the road,” she said with a sense of humor.
She said her birth records are in Tazwell, Virginia, near where she lived all of her life until she moved three weeks before to be with her remaining son, Ballard Lewis, who was 72 years old.
She continued her story,
I was born sometime in September in 1832. My mother was owned by John Hedrick who lived in a log house and had 12 slaves, but my father belong to a man named Gillespie. I remember the war (Civil War) very well. We used to go to a big meadow and watch the soldiers drill. I remember when the Yankees came to take over the old salt works. There was a lot of shooting. We laid on top of a hill and watched them fight. When the war was over, we stayed on the place and pretty soon the home broke up. They gave us a little shanty, on the side of the hill, and some dishes and a cow. We raised cows and pigs and everything like that. I was married by a white preacher named Kelly more than 73 years ago. I lived five miles from Taxwell all my life and I’ve worked hard too. I planted corn. I mowed the meadows. I grew flax, and I did my own weaving. I picked cotton and fruit, but I couldn’t ever hand a cradle…it was too big for me.
Mrs. Lewis went on to say she doesn’t smoke or use coffee and she never learned to read. However, she can spell out some words in the Bible. She had four boys and one girl, but her son, Ballard, is the only one now alive. She has (in 1952) 12 grandchildren, 6 great grandchildren, and 1 great great grandchild. Her eyes and hearing are excellent but she assists herself in walking with a homemade cane.
Teaching Columbus is a pubic history and civic engagement initiative by and for Columbus educators.