Boston Irwin is my maternal Alabama Great-great-grandfather. He continued to spell his last name as the people who held his family in bondage.
Boston was born during the Civil War in Shorterville, Alabama. The state has landmarked the area with a historical marker describing the Irwin Empire.
Boston grew up surrounded by love. The 1870 census lists 25 Black people with the Irwin surname enumerated together. The extended family was fortunate to be reunited. Keeping the enslaver’s name more than likely helped the relatives find one another after Alabama ratified the 13th amendment that abolished slavery on December 2, 1865.
Prior to emancipation, the domestic slave trade tore African American families apart. Many other newly freed African Americans were alone. They adopted or fostered families from the plantations where they cohabitated and worked. Sometimes I think terms, play cousins, big mommas, and aunties derived from this Black experience.
Boston’s immediate family included a younger sister, Martha, and parents, Luke and Malisa.
Boston experienced so much exposure to Black Love. He made his first commitment in 1883 to love his wife, Jennie, at the age of 21.
Knowing that Love never fails, Boston made another commitment to Love to his second wife, Fannie, in 1890.
There is an expression that family is everything. You know Cousin Love. Boston and his first Cousin Ellen produced a Love Child named Alma. Alma’s conception was no secret. When Alma and her sister Sarah visited her niece Mary’s house, Mary’s youngest daughter recalls, “We always called Sarah cousin and Alma aunt.”
When Boston’s sons Jarrett and Elgin relocated to Columbus, Ohio, he supported their decision, followed them, and showed unconditional parental love.
However, Boston had no Love for the city. The story goes that he didn’t like the city life and returned down South. This story does not include an exact location for down South. His wife Fannie had passed, his parents were deceased, and Ellen was gone. His sister Martha Balkum, now a widow lived with her daughter Vera and her son-in-law, Lester Miller, in Shorterville.
Boston loved again. He loved himself, the best kind of love.
My Aunts told me; After Boston returned down South, he shopped in a store. A white teenage store clerk demanded that Boston address him as Sir.
Boston didn’t like the city life but had become accustomed to the Northern ways. Boston responded, “Why should I call you Sir”?
He was referring to the boy’s age.
Boston had self-respect, Black Love.
Even though a noose may not be involved, when mob violence occurs that is racially motivated, it’s a lynching. My Great-great-grandpa was a victim of a lynch mob.
My mother added to this account that Boston’s son had to go down South and identify his body. I was a young girl when I heard this story. I immediately asked Boston’s son, my Great-grandpa Ervin, “Was your daddy lynched? And you had to go down South and claim his body?”
Grandpa Erin dropped his head low and nodded yes.
He was a dutiful son who faced a challenging task to return to the scene of the crime; he did it in love. He gave his father a proper burial.
Family is everything.
Say his name and love yourself.
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- Free census records – FamilySearch.org
- Free marriage records – FamilySearch.org
- City Directories – Ancestry.com
Making revelations and family connections. Genealogy, Family History, African American Family History