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December 17, 2012 / Joanne Yeck

Minnie Garland Harris

Minnie Garland Harris_Iowa_1894

My maternal grandmother, Minnie Garland (Harris) Sanger, was born near Well Water in the spring of 1891. At the age two, Minnie was taken to southern Iowa where she was raised within a community of Buckingham County expatriates, an environment both home-like and foreign.  Most of these Virginians felt some degree of exile.  Many went home to Buckingham to die. They would not be buried in Iowa.

Decades later, I was born and grew up in southern Ohio.  Iowa was far away; visits were few and far between.  As a result, I knew nothing of my grandmother’s deep Virginia heritage.

In 1995, in part inspired by the family tradition that my grandmother was descended from Pocahontas and in part inspired to uncover a family culture I knew nothing of, I made my way to Buckingham.  Gradually, what began as a somewhat idle curiosity deepened into a fascination with the community and family Minnie had left behind. My grandmother had been uprooted . . . but her family left tracks.  Faint tracks, but tracks none the less.  It has turned out to be a very big puzzle with a whole lot of missing pieces.


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  1. Patt Freedman / Dec 17 2012 11:15 pm

    On – I see Powhatan Co as her birth place. I am descended from Amanda Harris Bolling. Daughter of John “Jack” Harris and Eveline Moseley Harris. Patt

    • slate river press / Dec 18 2012 11:21 pm

      It isn’t first time has been wrong and it won’t be the last. Minnie Garland Harris’ father, Clay Harris, was born in Powhatan County.

  2. horseshoe flats / Dec 17 2012 12:30 pm

    She is so cute … looks like you Joanne …. Quite the young lady at age 2.You have come a long way in tracking each of them, know this has got to be very rewarding for you and your family. Have a great holiday season and enjoy your family. Your grandmother is very proud of you and watching out for you and dropping hints along the way, it seems you were both a lot alike in so many ways. Greetings from Buckingham!!!

    • slate river press / Dec 17 2012 1:35 pm

      Minnie was probably three by the time this photo was taken in Iowa. Following her trail indeed has been immensely rewarding. We did have things in common. She grew up to be a school teacher, though her career was short. I taught too. In fact, I have learned that several members of my Buckingham family were teachers.

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