Homespun Heroines and Other Women of Distinction

By Hallie Q. Brown | Go to book overview

CHARLOTTA GORDON MACHENRY PYLES
1806-1880

Down below the Mason and Dixon's Line, near Bardstown, in the good old state of Kentucky, among the various Negro families, who lived on the plantations, was one named Pyles.This family of father, mother and twelve children was one of those favored families before the war. I say favored because they did not have to suffer many of the hardships of slavery. The father, whose name was Harry MacHenry (Pyles) happened to be the offspring of his master, who was William MacHenry and hailed from Scotland, while his mother was a light colored maid, who worked in the home. Is it any wonder then, that the son had blue eyes, fair complexion and all the ear marks of his white ancestry, and his father, in order to atone for his sin, declared him free and allowed him to roam where he would? The father not only did this for him, but saw that his son had good training in the harness and shoe mending industries and gave him a shop where he worked for the plantations, far and near, and thus supported his family in a comfortable way.

Tall and majestic as a straight pine was his good wife, Charlotta Gordon, with the high cheek bones, the copper colored hue and straight, glossy black hair, which denoted Indian extraction. Her parentage, while different in some respects, was similar in others to that of her husband; for her father was a mixture of German and Negro, while her mother had been a full blooded squaw of the famous Seminole tribe of Indians. Coming from such parentage it was not surprising that later in life, she displayed such courage and endurance in the face of dif

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