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Story Archives: The friendship of Sarah & Mary on Black River plantation - 1847-1863
|The friendship of Sarah & Mary on Black River plantation - 1847-1863|
(Eighth in a series)
More than a century and a half ago, along the Black River in Concordia Parish, a white girl and black girl were born the same day -- March 21, 1847.
The white girl, Sarah Kilpatrick, was the daughter of a physician, Dr. Andrew Robert Kilpatrick, who was also a planter, slave owner and writer. Shortly after Sarah's birth in Kilpatrick's two-story plantation home, her mother died.
On the same day, in the slave quarters, Mary Reynolds was born in a cabin. She and her mother, Sallie, were owned by Kilpatrick, while Mary's father, Tom Vaughn, was a free man from the north. Tom was skilled at building and tuning pianos and while on the Kilpatrick place he met and fell in love with Sallie. Later he asked Kilpatrick if he could purchase Sallie and her three children. When Kilpatrick refused, Tom decided to marry Sallie and work on the plantation beside her. They had six daughters, including Mary.
As Sallie nursed Mary, Kilpatrick entered the cabin with Sarah in his arms. He placed her in bed with Sallie, who nursed the two little girls during the weeks ahead.
An old woman in the 1930s, Mary recalled for a representative of the Federal Writer's Project the circumstances of their births that bonded the two girls. "It's a thing we ain't never forgot," said Mary, adding that Sarah always "looked with kindness on my maw."
Just a few months later in September 1847, John Roy Lynch was born. He was the product of an interracial union between a white Irishman from the north and a mixed raced slave on Tacony plantation near Vidalia on the eastern side of Concordia. John Roy would one day become a Congressman and a speaker of the Mississippi House of Representatives.
These three children -- John Roy Lynch, Mary Reynolds and Sarah Kilpatrick -- would lead vastly different lives marked by the opportunities of their youth and the color of their skin. All began new lives in 1863.
Mary Reynolds and John Roy Lynch gained their freedom. Sarah Kilpatrick's father suffered enormously economic loss due to the war and he and his family, along with Sarah and some former slaves, including Mary, moved to east Texas.
John Roy had spent most of the first 15 years of his life as a house servant at Dunleith mansion in Natchez. His master, Alfred Vidal Davis, whose family was well known for treating their slaves better than most plantation owners, seemed to have a fondness for John Roy. Because of this, John Roy's life was much better than most slaves he knew.
Mary Reynolds spent her first 15 years primarily as a field hand on the Kilpatrick Plantation. Even though she and Sarah, Kilpatrick's daughter, had a close bond, Kilpatrick made sure that the two didn't get too close. While he often showed compassion as a doctor, both to whites and blacks, he was fully invested in human bondage and if he felt regrets about it he never expressed it.
Kilpatrick was born near Cheneyville in Rapides Parish on March 20, 1817, and lived to be 70 years old. He died in Texas in 1888 after establishing an impressive record as a physician.
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