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Priscilla on The Trail of Tears

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Priscilla's Origins?

Who were Priscilla's parents?  Did she have siblings?  If she was a slave to an "Indian chief" or to any Cherokee on the Trail of Tears, who was that person?  From whom did this Cherokee buy her?  The legend says the Cherokee bought her from the plantation in NC, SC, or Georgia (depending upon whose account you read) where Brazilla Silkwood visited and first met her.

Could Priscilla have lived at Edenton, North Carolina, at Somerset Plantation?  I don't think so, but I recommend Redford's book!
 
Dorothy Spruill Redford in her beautiful book Somerset Homecoming tells of the property of William Littlejohn passing down in 1817 to his son John Wilson Littlejohn, who took power of attorney for his two brothers who had moved away.  By 1826, this John Wilson Littlejohn was evidently in serious financial trouble because he was selling land and people.  First 23 slaves and then 32 slaves including a mulatto woman and four children--one of whom was a "negro girl Priscilla aged about nine years."  He sold these people to Josiah Collins II, his next-door neighbor there in Chowan County. Josiah ll died in 1839, a widower and he divided his slaves up among his children. Redford includes the barely decipherable  list of the slaves in the estate of Josiah ll, and there on the bottom of page 87 is the name Priscilla with the old-fashtioned "f" for the "s" and she is 22 years of age.  This indicates that Priscilla was still there in North Carolina in 1839 and not on the Trail of Tears. 
 
When I first learned of this Priscilla at Somerset, I was excited thinking maybe she was "the one."  Josiah Collins III entertained lavishly with constant house guests and it would have been possible that Brazilla Silkwood was one of his guests at Somerset.  And even though a Priscilla, aged 9 in 1826, would have been too old for "our" Illinois Priscilla, who was believed to be around 14 in 1838 on the Trail of Tears, the ages of slaves were poorly kept.  So I thought this might be the Illinois Priscilla with a wrong age given. But since she was in North Carolina and not Illinois in 1839, this was yet another young woman being sold like cattle and not treated like the human being she was.  
 
Nevertheless, I thank my friend Phyllis for sending me this tip because I am very grateful I had the opportunity to read Redford's well researched book. I defnitely recommend it to anyone--black or white or other color.  The universality of Redford's search for her heritage is heartwarming and her ability to forgive and look to the future is healing to all of us.

Pondering Priscilla's nickname--"The Quadroon Girl".....
 
Locally Priscilla was called "The Quadroon Girl" and was considered three-quarters Indian and one-quarter black.  I am not smart enough to figure out the mathematics of that.  I have always assumed the "three-quarters Indian" meant she was Cherokee, but recently it occurred to me that she might possibly have been Creek or of some other tribe.  I thought I knew that if she was Cherokee, she could not have had a Cherokee mother or else she would have been considered "full-blooded" and never been enslaved.  And so, I had assumed her mother was black and her father was from whom she received her Indian blood.  Can anyone explain this to me or have ideas about her heritage?
 
I always remember that all written accounts we have of Priscilla's life were done decades after her death and that these written accounts vary considerably in their "facts."  When John Allen puts Priscilla's words into quotation marks in his 1963 book, he is relying upon the accounts of elderly Mulkeytown residents.  No one had a tape recorder or even a reporter's notebook writing down Priscilla's words there on the Jonesboro Square.  Allen wrote of Brazilla Silkwood traveling down to the Dutch Creek campsite west of Jonesboro to talk to Priscilla's master about freeing her.  If conjecture that Rev. Jesse Bushyhead was the "Indian chief" who owned Priscilla turns out to be true, the fact that he and his very pregnant wife were actually staying at the Winstead Davie home would explain Priscilla's presence on the square. 
 
Because the story is so intriguing, all of us who have heard it have been inclined to dramatize it and add details we imagine happened.  I always used to tell the story that the hollyhock seed in Priscilla's pocket came from her mother when they were separated in order for Priscilla to remember her mother.  It finally dawned on me that I was making that part up, and so I try to refrain from telling it that way now.  Priscilla was such a pleasant and inspirational person in real life that she inspired poems, songs, stories, and plays, and we have all taken poetic license with her heroic and compassionate life.

In their book The Silkwood Inn:  Illinois Landmark written by sisters Chloe Davis and Ruby Henderson and published in 1989 as a fund raiser to restore the Inn after a destructive 1983 fire, a script of a May 14, 1941, radio program is published. 
 
This is one of the earliest written accounts of Priscilla that I have found.  Mrs. Maud Hertel, president of the Mulkeytown Woman's Club was interviewing Mrs. Flora McGlasson, a great niece of Brazilla Silkwood who lived at Silkwood Inn, and a Mrs. Lough Snider, who had actually known Priscilla.  Mrs. Snider described Priscilla in this way:  "She was a mighty little woman, had fine lips and fine cheek bones.  I was only six when I can remember seeing her in church.  She was stooped and she awlays had held her dress up in front to keep from stepping on it.  She always wore a kerchief folded over her bosom, and a ring."
 
Henderson and Davis reported that those who knew Priscilla said she always wore a sun bonnet as well as a kerchief (neck scarf) secured with a brooch. They comment that neither the brooch nor the ring were listed in her estate inventory or in the bill of sale of her belongings following her death.  This inventory is also in their book. 
 
Their father, William Harrison Price, also remembered seeing Priscilla at the Mulkeytown Christian Church, where she would sit close to the pulpit with her hand cupped to her ear because of a hearing impairment, he thought.  He said she took care of a flock of chickens for the Inn and that she made a "certain calling sound" and the chickens came quickly.

Priscilla was also called "The Hollyhock Girl" for the hollyhock seed she carried in her pocket to Southern Illinois.