Monday, July 9, 2007

MACON, Ga. — It was a search that took Herman “Skip” Mason 30 years.

Two black families traced their genealogy back to Middle Georgia and found themselves finally meeting the descendants of their ancestors’ slave owners at the site of the old McArthur family plantation in Bibb County.

“The ancestors in heaven are crying,” said Mr. Mason, who is the great-great-great-grandson of Ellen Barton, a slave owned by the McArthurs. “We have no control over the past, but we have very much control over the future.”

During Saturday’s reunion of about 100 people, three families met whose paths can be traced to when Ellen Barton and Hearty Thomas were slaves owned by the McArthurs. Most of the families now live in the Atlanta area.

The families joined, prayed and sang hymns. They placed flowers on the graves of John and Harriet Pace McArthur, the only significant remnant of the plantation.

“It’s a great historic occasion,” said Amma Crum, 69, of Jackson, the great-great-granddaughter of John and Harriet McArthur.

Billy Crum, also of Jackson, said he felt a natural bond with the other families.

“We all believe in God, right? Well, we’re all brothers,” he said.

Albert Clements, 82, whose grandmother was a Barton, said he had memories of some of the slaves.

“I feel great about it, just to remember,” he said. “I’ve been through the good and bad, and I can tell about it all.”

Mr. Mason said he hopes to have another family reunion in two years after more research to identify even more family connections and relatives.

He’s delved even further into his past — he had a DNA test to find what African tribe and country the Barton slaves descended from.

Augustine Gouayou, a member of the Bamileke tribe from the Central African country of Cameroon, was a 99.7 percent DNA match to Mr. Mason. She attended the reunion as a surprise guest.

“It’s a chilly feeling,” she said. “I’m just a bridge for them to the past.”

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