The Ancestors

It had been a few years since I had come into possession of a Face Jug discovered years earlier in Philadelphia by my Grandfather.  I most definitely felt that the ancestors were speaking to me every time I looked at the jug in the china cabinet in my home. It was an idea that was strong enough to send this busy Philadelphia Mom on an all absorbing hunt for the makers of the jug – with spectacular success.

In was sometime later in Edgefield where I had come to pursue this research. While in the town’s archive center I met a local historian, Wayne O’Bryant. I had asked him about an abandoned slave cabin that had caught my eye as I drove into Edgefield. Wayne gave me the business card to what he thought was the owner of the land on which the old cabin stood.

Later, when I called the number on the card, I was connected with Fred Morton, an African American. Fred quickly told me that he did not own any real estate in the area. I was puzzled and asked Fred why Wayne would have given me the card. He then volunteered that he was the descendant of an African who was aboard the Wanderer – and this was the beginning of my unravelling of the fabulous story of these amazing Africans.

I met a year later with Wayne at the North Augusta Library. I said, “Wayne, I am guessing that you knew very well that Fred didn’t own that cabin…”

Wayne smiled, “Of course I knew. I am a writer, I have published several books and I have often thought about telling the story of the Africans of the Wanderer. Yet, when I first met you, April, in the archive building over in Edgefield, I immediately sensed that here was the person who would tell the story better than anyone else.”

He paused and I waited, “I know it sounded like it doesn’t make sense – you were not a writer, not a historian, and you were white…yet I felt that the ancestors were talking to me. They were saying, ‘this is the one.’  I knew my job was to help you. So I gave you that card. I figured if you were truly the one, you would ask the right question.”That cabin that drew my attention on the road to Edgefield at one time, was the home of Ward Lee!!  He was one of the Wanderer Africans.
I later made the amazing discovery that Ward Lee also made pottery in the county – and it led me to thee face jug that his great grandson now proudly owns!
This was a spectacular find and finally connects an African American face jug maker and more specifically an AFRICAN born potter in Edgefield District!
(Photo taken at Ward Lee’s cabin with Wayne O’brient)