The (W)right Plot

The Wright Plot

We’ve been looking for a particular grave for a few years.  On New Year’s Day, we found it.

Jennie Mae Butler Wright

This ordinary grave marker is for Jennie Mae Butler Wright.  Jennie Butler was the real name of the character Jennie Grant in the book “Daughter of My People”.  The title of the book come from Jeremiah 8: 19-21.  “Behold the voice of the cry of the daughter of my people because of them that dwell in a far country.  The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.  For the hurt of the daughter of my people am I hurt.”

I bought the hardback edition a few years ago after learning that the setting of the book is Garnett, SC.  After reading the book, I gave it to Ms. Florrie’s daughter, who then gave it to a friend, who supposedly gave it away yet again.  Every so often, I think of this book, and the sad chain of events that caused the book to be written.

Every community has a sad story, told and retold through the generations.  People still know of this particular story, and the story is sadder because it is true.  A few years ago, while in a graveyard taking pictures for findagrave, I stopped at one of the markers and stared at the name on the stone, and suddenly, crystal-clear, realized that the man resting here was the main character in the book.  This white man was involved with his cousin Jennie, a mixed-race woman, early in the 1900’s, and the man’s brother had also fallen in love with Jennie.  The book ends with a murder-suicide of the brothers, and the banishment of Jennie.

After finding Jennie’s grave, I ordered another copy of the book, this time a paperback.  From the back cover:  “From the threads of actual events, acclaimed essayist James Kilgo weaves a richly textured and complex debut novel.  Set in rural South Caorlina in the early twentieth century, it is the story of the ties of the land, blood, and honor that forever bind the heart.  At its center are two brothers, Hart and Tison Bonner, and the cousin Jennie Grant, a mixed-race woman one brother loves and the other dishonors.  In a South plunged into poverty in the wake of the Civil War, Hart’s forbidden desire sparts a conflict so raw and provocative that its consequences will forever change the fate of two families.  And as the dust settles from the brothers’ dark passions, it is Jennie’s strength and dignity that will be remembered…”

Jennie appears to be the second wife of James Henry Wright.

James Henry Wright

The first wife appears to be Carrie Jones Wright.

Carrie Jones Wright

And in this interesting configuration, the 3 graves are side-by-side in this small plot.

James Henry, then Carrie, then Jennie

There’s a gap in the story from when the book ends in 1918 til Jennie’s death in 1960.  Even though I think I’m a fairly good genealogist and researcher, I can find very little about Jennie, even with all the tools I have, like technology and computer databases and websites like ancestry.com.  Women are hard enough to track, since they change their last name due to marriage, but sometimes they use a different first name, or the recorded age is not accurate.  Cultural variations come into play.  For instance, on the census, a woman might claim to be single, but she’s never divorced.  Or she might claim to be married, but she’s moved to a different city and represented herself as married even though she isn’t.  She might claim to be a widow, but she was never married, yet has children in the home.  And with mixed-race people, one census might say that she is black, another says she’s mulatto.

William Wright

This grave further complicates the puzzle.  Why is William Wright outside the plot?  Who is he?

I suppose that there are some things that we are not meant to know.  There is so little privacy left to some of us, yet these graves hold the secrets and stories that perhaps will never be told.

****

(Edited on Saturday, September 28, 2013)

I am adding the death certificate for Carrie Jones Wright.  The death date on the certificate does not agree with the one on her headstone, similar to the incorrect date on my grandfather’s marker.

SouthCarolinaDeathRecords1821-1955ForCarrieWright

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2 Responses to “The (W)right Plot”

  1. Simba Says:

    Would you like to venture a guess that Wm is the father to James? Wm possibly was born a slave in 1857, possibly not? Wm might have been buried there at his death in 1905. In 1922 James may have buried his wife close to his father. Then in 1960 Jennie may have buried James next to his first wife, and later in the same year when she died she was also buried near her long-time husband, and the barrier placed around the three forever linked. My grandfather was married twice and he lays between his two wives.

    Like

    • ruthrawls Says:

      Very good analysis. After looking for the grave of Jennie Butler for so long, I like how the “Wright Plot” is the “Right Plot”.

      Like

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