Sunday, April 13, 2014
Digging In Franklin County: The Search For Mariah Hall Conaway
Growing up, I remember my conversations with my grandma Luella, my father's mother. As a teenager, I was already curious about my family history and wanted to know more. The day that she told me about her family, I quickly grabbed my yellow notebook and began writing as she talked. Grandma began to rattle off names of her parents, sisters and brothers..and then she began to talk about her grandmother.. Mariah. She said that her grandmother looked like a white woman and could have easily passed for that. Even though she looked white, she was made a slave. I still remember the tone in her voice that day, she said it like she was surprised, she just couldn't believe that she was a slave. I remember having the feeling that Grandma wanted me to know. I was 16 at the time and little did I know that this would be the last time that I spoke with my grandma Luella. I still have that yellow notebook, the one that I wrote in as she spoke to me. Over the years I have referred back to this notebook often, searching for clues to find the woman named Mariah.
I found that Mariah Hall Connaway, was born in or around Franklin county, Missouri in about 1839 to MYRA and Abraham HALL. She married Curry CONWAY around 1865. Together they had children; Joseph, Daniel, Maggie, Sarah, Frank, Louis, Benjamin, Barbara. I descend from Barbara who was grandma Luella's mother. I have found CONWAY spelled at least six different ways. I'm not sure what the original spelling was, perhaps Conway turned into Connaway, Connoway, etc. As a result of how the name sounded to the census taker. Mariah and Curry lived their life in Franklin county, Missouri with most of their family members. Looking into my father's family I found that their roots run deep in Missouri. My search for Mariah led me to find her mother MYRA HALL as well as some of Mariah's siblings; Rufus, Sedonia and Wesley Hall. Aunt Frankie, my father's sister, remembered Mariah, her mother Myra and Mariah's daughter, Barbara all being light skinned with long brown hair. Being that I've yet to find any photos of Mariah, Myra or Barbara, I really enjoyed hearing about what they looked like. Mariah died in 1928 and is buried in the Old City cemetery in Washington, Missouri along with her husband Curry and several other family members. Sadly, there are no headstones for any of them.
Researching slave ancestry has been challenging to say the least. Spending hours searching slave documents trying to find ancestors is painful. Although I have yet to find the owners of Mariah and her mother Myra, I have not given up the search. The ancestors are calling, and they have a story to tell.
© 2014 Denise Muhammad
Sources: Interviews with Luella Pryor
and Frankie Taylor