Dr. Richard Matthew Fletcher - B, A Vintage Vignette

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Dr. Richard Matthew Fletcher - B
A Vintage Vignette by John P. Rankin
January 2, 2009

In her biographical booklet, “DR. RICHARD MATTHEW FLETCHER, 1830-1906”, Octavia Fletcher Frazier relates a story of how some Old South plantation owners provided for their slaves under the culture of the times. On pages 6 and 7 of the booklet, she wrote, “I have already made mention of Mammy Agnes but I feel that the biography of my Father would not be complete without the proper introduction to two of the slaves who served him loyally and loved him dearly. Father was training Agnes for a nurse for Mother and the children. Later she became the most efficient ‘midwife’ for miles around and was Father’s right hand bower for their children and many of the family and friends.”

“One day Father saw Agnes talking to a young Negro who belonged to his neighbor, Mr. Betts. Agnes looked shy and flustered when she saw Father, and when questioned about it by Father after she came into the house, it was soon established by wordless glances that she was in love. The next day Father rode over to see Mr. Betts and asked him if he wanted to sell one of his slaves. Mr. Betts didn’t believe that he did, unless possibly it would be that young black, Alex. This was the object of Agnes’ affection, and after a price was agreed upon, Father took out his checkbook and closed the transaction. Needless to say, Agnes was delighted. Alex enlisted in the Army (of the Confederacy) with Uncle Ed and was his bodyguard at Vicksburg. He was a good soldier and a faithful and devoted friend. After the war Alex and Agnes were married and lived to be more than eighty years old. I remember well when we buried them. After the surrender Father and Mother explained to Mammy Agnes and Uncle Alex that they were free, but they preferred to live as they always had, as members of the family.”

“That they were members of the family was superbly illustrated by Uncle Alex when he was introduced to my future husband, Dr. J. E. Frazier in 1898. Uncle Alex was coming through the grove (the Fletcher family home in Madison, south of the railroad tracks, west of Sullivan Street, was called ‘The Grove’ for the cluster of oak trees around it) one Sunday afternoon, all dressed up in Father’s Prince Albert and silk hat which he had inherited. Knowing he would go to the back veranda, I said to Dr. Frazier, ‘I want you to meet one of the finest characters I have ever known.’ When we reached the veranda Uncle Alex was at the foot of the steps. Small, black, bow-legged – he took the Doctor in from head to foot.”

“I said, ‘Uncle Alex, I want you to meet the gentleman I am going to marry.’”

“Uncle Alex drew himself up and addressed me as he always had, ‘Baby Chile, has you done asked Mister Dick and Miss Rebeckah permission to marry the Doctor?’”

“I have – and they have given their blessing.”

“’Well then,’ – stepping up to the porch and smiling, “I want to be the first to welcome the Doctor into the family’, and he extended his hand.”

Octavia continued illustrations of her family’s relationships with their slaves by adding a paragraph stating, “My parade of memories brings again to my mind the faces of other beloved Negroes and their unforgettable expressions – There was Alabama, called ‘Bam’ for short, who came in on that tense morning shouting, ‘Miss Rebeckah! Miss Rebeckah! General Lee done absquatolated, and Richmond is being evaporated.’” Of course, Octavia could not have recalled seeing the faces of anyone during the Civil War, since she herself was not born until 1875, well after the war. However, she no doubt knew “Bam” well, and she had probably heard the story so many times that she had fixed the image firmly in her mind as if it were her own observance. This excerpt of Octavia’s booklet is a tiny portion of the wealth of tidbits she documented. The Madison Station Historical Society is fortunate to be allowed to preserve this work for posterity.

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