The fact that Mose Robinson had been an herb doctor was the legacy that decided the career path for many members of the family. Coach W. F. Anderson had verified that Mose was known as an herb doctor. (See Mose Robinson, the Herb Doctor with a Whip https://wordpress.com/post/angelissmith.com/365)
PREPARATION FOR THE LEGACY
From the time that I was potty trained and able to attend pre-K programs, I was placed on the path to become a doctor. By the time that I reached high school, it was common knowledge. My classes were college prep classes intended to prepare me for my destiny. I had first cousins who were already in medical school or who had already become doctors. In every branch of my family there were doctors, nurses, and others who were affiliated with the medical field. The die was cast. The legacy of Mose Robinson had to be carried forth.
This is a picture of my pre-K school. More than fifty years later, this building is still owned by the Bethel Baptist Association. During these times, religious associations took responsibility for the education of African American children in their communities.
WHO WAS MOSE ROBINSON?
I needed to know more about this man who had determined my future before I was born. He was legendary in his healing methods. How did he become an herb doctor? U.S. Census records indicate that he was born at the end of the Civil War, around 1865, so how did he acquire this skill? Was he taught this or was it handed down as an African or Native American legacy? Therefore, I started to ask questions of the older members of the family.
Of course, Granddaddy had already given me as much as he was willing to give. No matter how much I asked, that well was dry, so I turned to the next oldest and closest person to me, Aunt Lillie. Aunt Lillie was granddaddy’s sister-in-law. She was more like my grandmother because her sister, Bertha, my grandmother, had died young. I was only two weeks old when Grandmother died, so Aunt Lillie took her place as the grandmother that I didn’t know. Aunt Lillie shamefully spoiled me. However, she was of little help when it came to Mose Robinson. I decided to continue to rely upon her for other things, such as, making her fantastic tea cakes and showing me how to grow fruits like strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries.
The next person that I turned to was Cousin Leona “Loenie” Pruitt. At that time, I didn’t know how Cousin Loenie was related to us, but I always knew her as a cousin. She was always willing to talk to me. She thought it was a show of respect that I would take the time to visit with the old people as she would say. When she saw me walking towards her house, she would light up. I was encouraged by that.
She lived on the same street,”up the road”, from us. The street that we all lived on was called Preacher Street. It was named this because of all the preachers who lived there. It was considered the longest street in Thomasville and the hub of the African American community. The elementary and high schools (A. L. Martin) were on Preacher Street. Football, baseball, and softball were played on the field behind the elementary school. Before it was Preacher Street, it was Byrd Road. I once asked Granddaddy why it was called that because as a child, I was fascinated with birds. He told me that we were somehow related to the Byrd family. This is one of those memories that I stored in my box for future adventures.
In addition to Preacher Street, one of the oldest communities was Choctaw Corner. Choctaw Corner was a former town in Clarke County, Alabama, United States. It gained its name from the nearby Choctaw Corner, which helped mark the border between the native Choctaw and Creek peoples prior to the Indian removal. The community was one of the earliest settlements in the county (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, June 24, 2018). Many people who moved to Preacher Street were from Choctaw Corner.
It was Cousin Loenie who told me how rich our family had been and how much land the family had possessed around Highway 5 and a place called Danzy Settlement. She still had her share, but had sold some to some local land investors. She also recounted the story of how my grandfather lost most of his share of the property. I was not oblivious to this story. This was one of those things that tore families apart. It was a part of the “trouble in the family” that we were not allowed to talk about.
From Cousin Loenie, I learned that Mose Robinson was a well digger, and that he taught his sons and others how to dig wells, including my granddaddy who was known as the master well digger. So, Mose was not just an herb doctor. He had other skills. I wondered, “How did he acquire these skills?” In addition to being an herb doctor, he was a teacher of his trade. Suddenly, my possibilities broadened.
I decided to see what I could find in the local library. Sadly, the local library was a relic of the old Jim Crow days. This was during the mid to late seventies, but not too much had changed in Thomasville, Alabama. It had only been a few years since the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) had stopped marching downtown on their regular half-day business days. The stores and banks would close promptly at noon, and the parade would start afterwards. Even when the KKK stopped marching, stores continued to close at noon for many years. However, being the daughter of the legendary Theodore Robinson made me brave, so I visited the library where few other African-Americans dared to go.
This is a current picture of the renovated old City Hall where the library was housed. In addition to the library, the police department, mayor’s office, and water department were all housed in this small building.
I didn’t find anything about Mose in the local library, but another cousin had started to keep company with a young lady who lived a few doors down from us. Whenever he visited her, he would also visit us which was quite frequent. Granddaddy’s sister, Aunt Ender Jackson, was his grandmother, so he knew a lot about Grandpa Mose. The stories that he shared with me were epic. Following is one story as told by Melvin Jackson.
“Mose Robinson had a lot of sons. They were responsible for the farm even when Mose was on his herb gathering trips. Mose was also a master carpenter and architect. He designed and built the family church, County Line Baptist Church in Sunny South, Alabama.”“The pastor and members decided to have a fish fry as a fundraiser. Mose Robinson became enraged because they held the fish fry inside of the church instead of outside. He considered this as blasphemy, so he and his boys went inside with their horses and trampled down the tables, chasing everyone out. The pastor called the local sheriff. The sheriff found and arrested the boys who were involved, but didn’t bother arresting Mose.”
“When the time came for the field to be harvested, Mose Robinson got on his horse and went to the jail, which was located in Grove Hill. He told the sheriff, who had a reputation of killing black people without a thought, that he wanted his sons. He explained that they needed to get the crop in, but he would return them after they completed the job. The sheriff complied and released them.”
I’m sure that Grandpa Mose had his whip with him when he went to get his sons, but why would the county sheriff release these young black men to their father on his word? Was it fear or respect? My quest for family continues as I dig to find out more about Mose Robinson and the “white” woman that he married, Luvenia Poole.
From the stories that I’ve shared, there are several research implications. I’ve posed some in question format, but I will restate them and list others.
1. How did Mose Robinson become an herb doctor? (See theories below)
2. U.S. Census records indicate that he was born at the end of the Civil War, around 1865, so how did he acquire this skill after 1865? Locate and research the possible attendance in Reconstruction schools.
3. Was he taught this or was it handed down as an African or Native American legacy? Oral history has it that –
a. Mose was handed this from his African heritage according to his number within the family, meaning that as the last son, it was his legacy.
b. Some oral history has it that he is a descendant of the Black Dutch. Research the history of Black Dutch and locations.
c. Others believe that he was from the Black Indians from South Carolina or North Caroline. Research birth place of parents and grandparents.
4. Search for land grants and tax records
5. Search Alabama Convict Records for names of his sons who might have been arrested.
6. Search all U.S. and state Census records for specified time frame and areas to include but not exclude: Sunny South (Bethel), Choctaw Corner, Thomasville, other areas of Wilcox and Clarke Counties)