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Cynth'ya Lewis

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A Most Incredible Irony!
by Cynth'ya Lewis   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, August 12, 2004
Posted: Thursday, August 12, 2004

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For those of you who have not seen the Reed Puryear Family Website, first go to my "Short Stories" and click "We didn't start out Reeds" which tells some of the story that helps make sense of an incredible letter from our cousin Melvin Collier. One of our recently discovered white cousins, an administrator at Rust College, is under the employment of one of our direct decendants who is the African American president of Rust College, Dr. David Beckley. The Reed Puryear Website below breaks it down as my husband's great great great grandfather, Pleasant "Pleas" Barr, is the key link.

Melvin's letter is below. But FIRST, to see what kind of people came generations later, here's a message from the decendant of slaves, Dr. David L. Beckley, Rust College. . .


"Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a dream, which fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation." These words by John F. Kennedy about education reflect our own educational mission as we approach a new era of excellence for Rust College.

Thank you for taking the time to review our web site. As we celebrate over 136 years, we are poised to be recognized as a truly great historically black college.

After your review of the many opportunities available at Rust College, we are anxious to hear from you. Contact us to discuss the educational opportunities available to you, a family member or a friend.

David L. Beckley

Rust College ( a co-educational, senior liberal arts college with innovative programs.

For more details, go to the Reed Puryear Family website at my Author's Den Link.

Melvin's comments: "I just wanted to take a minute to share something. There are so many ironies coming out of our family story, til it ain't even funny! It leaves me to wonder, "What's next?".

A white Reid researcher recently sent me a copy of an old letter that was written by Rebecca Reid Barr, Abbeville, S.C. on Feb. 6, 1849, to her sister, Margery Reid Miller in Pontotoc, MS. The letter talks about Grandpa Pleas Barr's sister, Sue Barr Beckley. Rebecca Barr states the following:

I am not with out friends and the common comforts of life. But I can not feel altogether satisfied to be so far from my older sons. If we can sell our plantation to advantage we will move to Miss. I cannot expect to live long enough to be a comfortably fix there as here but I think my children can do better there, and at my Death the negroes are to be divided. Some will go to Miss and some here and I cannot bear the Idea of sepperating Sue and her children. She has nine children—seven sons & two daughters. They are very smart and promising in every respect. She is an uncommon good negro—honest and Faithful and very kind to me.

And, Rebecca Barr goes on to tell her sister to keep her letter private... between them.

Now, years later, the descendant of her slaves are reading it. Ironic, huh? But this is what is going to get ya.....

I recently got an e-mail from the Vice President of Finance at Rust College, who is a cousin to the person who sent me this letter. Don Miller (white) works for Dr. David Beckley, Pres. of Rust College. Don Miller is the great-great-great-great grandson of Margery Miller, to whom this letter is addressed. David is the great-great-great grandson of Sue. Melvin "Don Manning-Miller wrote:

Mr. Collier, My cousin Bob Thompson sent me copies of the e-mails with the letter mentioning Sue Barr Beckley and the one with the link to the Abbeville reunion website and pictures. I just wanted to say hello to you and introduce myself. The Margery Miller in Pontotoc to whom Rebecca Barr's letter was addressed was my forebear. Lemuel Reid was my great, great, great grandfather's first cousin. I find all this a remarkable coincidence since of course I work for Dr. David Beckley and I have spent most of my life trying diligently to undo everything my family was up to back in those days. I suppose it was a much smaller world back then and the flow from the Abbeville District into North Mississippi more extensive than I had understood. In any case, greetings to you! If you get over this way ever please stop by. . . Don Manning-Miller Vice President for Finance RUST COLLEGE

Recent Footnote from Melvin, 8/12/04:

Cousin Cynth'ya, I saw the link you put on your site. You are fast Cuz! But another thing that hit me real hard about Rebecca Barr's letter is the fact that Grandpa Bill's fate had already been decided when he was just two years old. Grandpa Bill was just 2 years old when Rebecca Barr wrote that letter to her sister in Feb. 1849.

Grandpa Bill was there on the Barr Place at that time. Rebecca Barr stated that "we" will move to Mississippi, some of the slaves will be taken to Mississippi, and some will remain. And whoever goes where, she wanted Aunt Sue Beckley and her kids to be kept together. And that is what happened.....William Barr Jr. took them to MS.

When Rebecca said "we will go", I am sure she is talking about her and her two youngest children, William Jr. & Margaret, who were still in the house in 1849. Their older brothers had already gone to Pontotoc & Oxford, MS. The Barrs had plans to not take all of the slaves to MS, but leave them in Abbeville, S.C. And as you know, that is what happened to Grandpa he and possibly more of his siblings were transferred to Rebecca's nephew, Lemuel Reid. His fate was already decided when he was just a toddler!!!!

Web Site: Reed Puryear Family Legacy

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