My journey with my most recent book, A Story of Durham: Told the Wright Way has taken me back through time and in and out of the lives of living and deceased relatives. To be honest, my mother didn’t speak often of her great uncle and the impact he had on Durham. I guess, growing up in a middle class home with wealthy standoffish grandparents didn’t cause me to question where all the wealth came from. It just was.
I never thought much of the mausoleum that looms high above most of the grave markers in Maplewood Cemetery. My family attended all of the funerals and observed relatives being placed inside the vaults, without wondering who they were and how they had all come to be laid to rest side by side and on top of each other.
If it hadn’t been for a particular name on one of the vaults, a name that wasn’t familiar, I might have turned in a different direction. But there it was. Elizabeth Allen, wife of James Harris, born 1818 and died 1892.
Who was this woman and why was she alongside all the others that were clearly related? I’ll never forget the day I was looking through old newspaper articles on the internet and found a lawsuit that was raised by a former slave by the name of Henry Harris. Henry had lived on the Harris Plantation in the mid 1800’s.
James Harris, Elizabeth’s husband had told Henry that if he would take care of Elizabeth until the day she died, he would receive fifty acres of the plantation. So when she died in 1892, he was expecting to receive the land. The only problem was that he didn’t fulfill his part of the agreement. Elizabeth moved to Durham in the late 1880’s with her nephew Thomas (my great grandfather).
Henry stayed on the plantation and instead of working the fields and bringing in money from the crops, he basically let the fields go unattended. So when I read about Henry’s law suit and how my great grandfather Thomas was testifying against him, I realized who Elizabeth was.
Elizabeth was a modern thinker and didn’t believe love was just for the youth. When she was in her late sixty’s, a man from Chapel Hill began courting her. A man that appeared to have honest intentions. (You’ll have to read the book to find out what happens next.)
It was Elizabeth’s story that prompted me to move forward in pursuit of getting to know the people who lived in Durham when the roads were made of mud and gas lights were the only form of light after sunset.
I’m excited to share that my book, A Story of Durham: Told the Wright Way, is now available for PRE-ORDER at an early bird price! The official release day is September 26, 2023. Click the link below to order your copy today!
For the past two years, I have been researching and writing about my grandfather’s uncle, Richard Harvey Wright. When I began my search, I knew very little about this man except that he was one of the founding fathers of Durham, North Carolina. But what I discovered was a story of passion, love, and a determination to succeed with no boundaries. My new book, A Story of Durham: Told the Wright Way, will cause you to reflect on your own history and hopefully create in you a desire to study your past to understand your presence.
Read the first chapter and stay tuned for more updates.