McNair Family - Coffee Springs, Alabama 1900
The Legacy Of Archibald and Nora McNair
by Huey L. Cobb
In 1855, Great Grandfather Archibald was born on a plantation somewhere in the State North Carolina. It is believed that he was conceived when his Mom was legally raped by the son of her plantation Master. I use the term "legal", because the Master's Son had a legal right to do anything he wished to any of his father's slaves.
Family Members believed that Archibald's father was an Irishman who sometimes consumed too much Irish whiskey. It is said that he was under the influence of Irish whiskey when he raped Archibald's Mother.
After Archibald was born, he was allowed to develop under the care of his mother until he was about five or six years old. At that time, his mother was sold to another plantation master and was never seen by him again.
Archibald was removed from the slaves quarters and given the title," House Boy". To be named House Boy, was the ultimate dream of a slave child. It meant that he would not be required to labor long hours in the hot fields, or live in the sub-human slave quarters.
Many family members believed that Archibald was made a House Boy because he was the grandson of the plantation Master.
Archibald performed his house boy duties with elegance and grace. They included serving food, washing dishes, and carrying messages from his Master to other near by plantation owners.
It was on one of those communication trips to the Greene plantation that Archibald met Nora. She was a beautiful young half Indian and half English girl, who worked in the kitchen on the plantation. It is strongly believed that Judge Green's Son was her father. Her Mother was a full blooded Native American, who was a house slave at the plantation.
When Archibald saw Nora, it was love at first sight, even though she was only eleven and he was just twelve. Both being slaves, meant that they could only see each other when Archibald was given a message to deliver to Nora's Master. Sometimes months passed before there was a message to deliver. The agony of not seeing her for long periods of time was very painful for a young boy in love
The following year, slavery ended in the South, and Archibald and Nora were freed. They were asked by their former Masters to remain at their plantations and work for wages. They agreed, but later decided that the plantation life style was not for them. So one night while their former Masters were sleep, they slipped away.
After fleeing the plantation, Archibald and Nora were married in the State of Georgia at the tender ages of twelve and thirteen. At their marriage ceremony Archibald promised Nora that he would love, provide, and be there for her for the rest of her life. This was a promise that he would keep.
For the next twenty years Archibald worked as a farm hand and a Sharecropper in the States of South Carolina and Georgia. During this period several of his thirteen children were born.
In 1884 Archibald moved his family to Coffee Springs Alabama to take advantage of homestead land offered to citizens by the Federal Government. He was given 40 acres of land and a mule. He and his family worked the land and made a nice profit. The income over the years enable him to buy more land.
Archibald became one of the larger land owner in the Coffee Springs area. He was one of the first ex-slaves to own land and vote in the State of Alabama.
Archibald's thirteen children worked with him on the farm until most of them were grown or married. When all of his children were grown, working the farm became more work than he could handle. So he rented part of his farm to sharecroppers and built a retirement home in downtown Coffee Springs.
Archibald always kept several bottles of Irish whiskey hidden around the house. He would hide the whiskey because Nora did not approve of him drinking. She would pour out all whiskey she found in the house.
Archibald loved his whiskey, but he never let his drinking interfere with his responsibilities to Nora and his family. His Granddaughter Lenora said: "Grand Papa could drink a pint of whiskey and then walk a tight rope without falling". It is believed that Archibald inherited his love for whiskey from his Irish Father.
Archibald and Nora had great educational plans for their youngest daughter Ila. She was to be the first McNair to attend finishing school and go on to college. However, ILa had other plans. At age fifteen, she slipped off and married Alonzo Ming, my Grandfather.
My best memories of Archibald occurred when I was about three or four years old. I recall him taking me and my brother fishing at his favorite fishing place near Beaver's Dam. He caught several cat fish that day, but led us to believe that we had caught them by hooking the fish to our lines. He made us fell so happy.
My best memories of Nora was embedded in my mind when I was three. My brother and I were playing in a fig tree in her back yard. Suddenly a humming bird rested on a limb just above me. My brother picked up a tin can and hurled it at the bird. He missed the bird and hit me in the back of the head, creating a deep cut. Nora came running with the speed of light to my aid. She and her daughter Isabella clean my wound and stopped the bleeding, thus saving my life. From that time on, I always felt safe and secure around Great Grandmother Nora.
Nora died on June 13, 1950 at the golden age of ninety four. She had suffered for three or four years from several disabling strokes. Archibald was ninety five at that time and in excellent health. However, six months later he was dead. It is believe by many, that after Nora's death Archibald lost the will to live. On his dying bed he said that he no longer had anything to live for and requested that the McNair farmland never be sold. He wanted his descendants to always have a place to call home.
Ila McNair Ming Matthews, the last of Archibald's 13 sibling, died in 1983 at the age of eighty six.
The year, "1996" forty six years after Archibald's death, the one hundred sixty acres of land he was so proud of remains McNair property on the outer area of Coffee Springs. This land is there for any of Archibald's descendants who might need a place to call home. This was his wish, and so far his descendants have honored that wish.
Today, the Caretakers of the property are Lula Bell Ware, Wilma Doris Reynolds, and Britt Matthews Jr. Lula Bell is the Granddaughter of Alice McNair, Wilma is the Daughter of Bessie McNair, and Britt is Step Son of ILa McNair.
Archibald, Nora, ILa, and several other siblings are laid to rest in the family plot at the Pleasant Valley Baptist Church in Coffee Springs, Alabama. His youngest daughter Ila was the last of his sibling to pass. She died at her daughter's home in Baltimore, Maryland on May 23, 1983 after a long bout with colon cancer at the age of 86.
The Following Persons provided the background information for this paper:
Ila McNair Ming Matthews - Archibald's daughter
Lenora Ming Cobb - Archibald's Granddaughter
Violetta Ming Lee - Archibald's Granddaughter
Gussie McNair Kyles - Archibald's Granddaughter
Nell Ming LaBeach - Archibald's Granddaughter
Huey L. Cobb (author) - Great Grandson of Archibald & Nora McNair