Legacy: Fame or Infamy?

Plummer was a good man.  He was kind to all and was a friend to the sharecropper. He built a church out of his own pocket. They even named the town’s project development after him.  Laura was as mean as Plummer was kind.  As she grew older, she had the classic “witch look” replete with a  hooked nose, facial warts with hairs growing out of them and teeny-tiny, little black shoes. It left us all looking for the whereabouts of Dorothy and Toto.  

Plummer and Laura lived in a house upon a hill in Nashville, North Carolina. Also upon that hill was Richardson’s Funeral Home, the house that Aunt Irene lived in, and the house that my grandfather Plummer Benjamin lived in with his wife, Alice Cooper. My grandfather, P.B as he was affectionately known, owned the funeral home. Aunt Irene was its bookkeeper and Alice Cooper was a schoolteacher who gave birth to my mother, Norma and my uncle P.A.  It is said of my grandfather that he was a mathmatical genius. He chose to use his gift in the art of playing cards. 

My great-grandfather, Plummer Alston was deceased by the time of my birth, but how I remember Laura. We called her Mammy. At the ripe age of ninety-six, she asked my cousin and I to go “fetch” the switches that were to thrash our bottoms. The property that was accumulated by Plummer and Laura was divided among the thirteen children and many of them squandered their inheritances , with exception of my grandfather who passed his funeral home on to his son PA. My uncle P.A. owns a  funeral chain in North Carolina.

The ancestry of my mother’s mother is exciting. . I will tell her tale as it was told to me. She was a descendant of Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of Shaftsbury, one of the eight Lord Proprietors of North Carolina, so deemed by King Charles II of England. It was his son who found a great love for a slave named Rebecca. By all reports, Rebecca claimed to be a princess captured from the other coast of Africa and she refused to work. She was about to throw herself off of  a cliff when Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper II rescued her and kept her for his mistress. They had thirteen children together and all were given the Cooper surname. There you have it: the white Cooper line, the mixed Cooper line, the white Battle line, the mixed Battle line, and the mixed Richardson line. I grew up always being told that I came from nobility.

 It seems as if the First Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper, Earl of  Shaftsbury, had found favor with Charles II, and just as easily lost it as he was exiled to the Netherlands when his liberal religious views could not be tolerated by emerging religious zealots. The Coopers held plantations in North Carolina as well as Barbados.

He was credited with bringing  the writ of Habeas Corpus  into the English Parliment which was adopted by England and then ratified by the  United States. His friend was the great philosopher John Locke who assisted him in the formulation of progressive legislation of those times. Sadly, the first Earl of Shaftsbury, died in exile in the Netherlands; a brilliant statesman, and architect of one of our countries most just pieces of legislation.

 Both the Ashley and Cooper Rivers in North Carolina and the Ashley Cooper Waterfalls in South Carolina and Australia were named after Sir Anthony Ashley Cooper. All of his descendants carry his surname. After that there was over three hundred years of lineage that was un-recorded. The last of the mixed Coopers seemed to die at an early age from stroke-related illnesses. Now, there is no one who knows what happened after this great age. I will tell you that my grandmother,  Alice Cooper, had a predilection for fortune-tellers, that she passed on to my mother. Could there have been European exiled gypsies within the gnarled branches  of  our family tree?

2 responses to “Legacy: Fame or Infamy?

  1. Hello, aunt Alice! Upon speaking to mother on her birthday, she directed me to your blog…I am so proud of you, and so thankful to get insight about our family’s past. It helps me to begin to understand why things seemed so disjointed…Thank you. I needed that.
    I am glad that you went to France. I am also still on base in Germany with the family. Love to you and family…E

  2. Dearest Erin,
    Love you madly. You are brave, talented and genius: “…therin lies the romp…” I know that there are books inside of you, art inside of you, and songs inside of you. It takes not only the vision of these things being birthed into the earth, but the focus for them as well. The purpose of these offerings must be selfless, and for the benefit of mankind, in order to go forward with power and strength. Self -promotion is crass and obvious. I expect great things from you, oh creative one. Your spirit is both humble and righteous.
    Love, Aunt Alice

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