THE ROBERT AND EMILINE BREWER FAMILY

 






THE BREWER CENTER FOR SLAVERY AND GENEALOGICAL RESEARCH

"In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning. No matter what our attainments in life, there is still a vacuum, an emptiness, and the most disquieting loneliness. "

                                                                                                                                                                                                               —Alex Haley

 

2013 is the 150th year anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the slaves in Confederate states. It is also the 50th year anniversary of the 1963 historic March on Washington!


 

Robert and Emiline Brewer Timeline

1842

Prior to 1863

1863

1874

1891

1925

2011

2012

Emiline Watts is born a slave on the Thomas H. Watts' farm. She is one of 11 slaves--all female.

Emiline and Robert Brewer "Jumped the Broom" during slavery.

The Brewers had their first child Viney. Robert and Lee, his brother purchase land in 1874. Emiline becomes a well-known midwife. Robert passes away. Emiline joins her beloved for eternal rest. Nancy Merriman, Cynthia Porcher and Clayton Mann...the Watts contact the Brewers with Emiline's obituary. Several Watts family members join the Brewers at Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church.

 

 

Saturday, September 22nd marks the 150th anniversary of the drafting of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation! The Brewer Center for Slavery and Genealogical Research celebrates this historic event. Beatryce Nivens of the Center says "This was one of the most significant events in American history. Today, historians are celebrating this importance of this document. In terms of my family, I know this must have been a joyous day for Robert and Emiline Brewer, two former slaves. The end of slavery was coming! The indomitable spirits of these two people who endured slavery but still had the fortitude to rise above all adversity!" 

 

 

 

 

After the slaves were freed in states with no loyalty to the Union, the two Brewers along with their children were determined not to enter the sharecropping system. They considered this another form of slavery. Instead, they purchased land...enough to give each of their 11 children a plot. As early as 1870, Robert Brewer was listed as a farmer in census material. By 1874, he and his brother Lee purchased 48.3 acres of land in rural South Carolina. Today, the Brewers still own and live on that land.

 

 

Eventually, Emiline more than likely inherited land given by Thomas H. Watts to Arsilla Watts who we believe to be her mother

 

 

 

On their land, the Brewers built churches and schools.

The Wesley Chapel United Methodist Church

They built two famous Rosenwald schools now U.S. National Historic Sites

They used their land to provide vegetables and fruits for those in need in Pageland.


 

A Letter To The Brewers from Nancy Merriman, Watts Family Member

Note: In the Spring of 2011, Nancy Merriman, the widow of a Watts family member originally wrote an email to the web administrator of the Brewer family's website. 

 

While searching for new information on my husband's Watts birth line last summer, I discovered the Brewer web page. The name "Emiline Brewer" was familiar, and I realized that I had a copy of Bea's great-grandmother's obituary in my "Watts"  files. I contacted her immediately....as well as Cynthia Porcher, the Watts genealogist and researcher who had shared this obituary with me a few years earlier. It was obvious that the Brewers deeply respected their ancestor, Emiline, and the tremendous obstacles she and her family endured during slavery and after remission. . I also saw that the Watts family was mentioned on Bea's web page, supporting the information that I had. It was, at least, apparent that the Watts family had deeply cared enough about Emiline to have her obituary published in the local Pageland, South Carolina newspaper in 1925 and that one member of the Watts family carried it in his wallet for the remainder of his life. Obviously Emiline was not just "a number" , as she was on the slave census, to some in the Watts family.

When some of us Brewers and Watts met for the first time last fall, we held hands around Emiline's grave......grieving together for past wrongs and hopes for the future. Then, this summer, it was an amazing experience to spend the weekend with over 200 Brewers attending the family reunion in Charlotte. I am humbled that we are among those fulfilling Dr. King's hope "that one day the children of slaves and the children of slave owners will be able to sit down at the table of brotherhood and fellowship." As we discussed politics, our families, and our careers, and as we joked and cried together, race was not a factor. Humanity was.

I can best describe reuniting with the Brewers and Watts as exciting and almost overwhelming. Appropriate descriptors are that it was an academic "ah ha" moment (to have found so much evidence that our families are biologically and historically related; to find facts that supported the family stories from both "sides"), relief (that most of the Brewers graciously welcomed us into their family, even though we were related to the slave owner), and "sisterhood/brotherhood" (race did not have any bearing on our connection; some of us just felt an instant bonding when we met). I was delighted and honored to be making meaningful connections with an absolutely lovely, accomplished family. "Race" is such a foolish and obsolete term. It is a continuum, not a scientific label.

Meeting the Brewers has been a life-changing experience and particularly fulfilling since my husband was a Watts by birth, but was adopted out. In addition, our family is small (I am an "only child"). Since his untimely death, I have been welcomed into the Watts family and now by the Brewers as well. Having worked on my family's genealogy for the past 25 years, I have found it to be deeply moving and satisfying to learn about one's "roots." I believe that it is not only a way to honor those on whose shoulders we stand, but also a way to better understand ourselves and our "connectiveness" to others.


Respectfully,
Nancy Merriman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society

 

 

Links..

Good Reasons to Do Genealogical Research

Beginning Your Own Genealogical Search

 

The Center's Genealogical Team: Beatryce Nivens, Founder; Dr. Althelia Brewer; Vanessa Brewer-Tyson; Nelda Davis Brewer; Clayton Mann; Nancy Merriman; Cynthia Porcher, Arthur V. Brewer, Jr., Esq.; Nancy Gathings Bunch.

 

Sources:

Schedule 1-Inhabitants in Mount Croghan in the County of Chesterfield, South Carolina, 1870

Robert and Lee Brewer's Land deed courtesy of Marion Chandler, The South Carolina Department of Archives and History.

Thomas Watts' land deed courtesy of the Chesterfield County Courthouse, Faye Sellers, Clerk of the Court.

Rosenwald School picture courtesy and permission given by South Carolina 

Haley quote: http://rwguide.rootsweb.ancestry.com/lesson25.htm

Broom clip art courtesy of www.freeclipartnow.com