In search of history even while on vacation

Published 2:35 pm Tuesday, October 25, 2022

For the past few weeks Milt and I were travelling and fulfilling some of my favorite things to do. I love visiting family, seeking out historical places, and if possible, finding connections to Washington NC.

Our current trip took us through four states we have never been to before, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.  Each afforded me the opportunity to learn more about the history of the underground railroad and how it functioned in each of those states. This research allows me to share new and exciting information to provide to our guests at the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.

In each state I looked for possible connections to the greater Washington/Beaufort County area. To give you a brief example in Louisiana, I found a remote connection to a possible story about a Beaufort County connection to a man named Overt Barrow who was formerly enslaved in Louisiana.

The story goes that Overt Barrow and 62 other enslaved people were kidnapped from a Houma County Louisiana plantation by a slave trader and taken to Florida where they were forced to work on a sugar cane plantation.

The owner of the enslaved people, a Fishing Creek, Halifax County NC native named Edward Ruffin Barrow, had received a large amount of money from the Citizen’s Bank of Alabama to purchase his enslaved people. After being coerced into getting the Bank’s investment back, the slave owner tracked the slave trader and 42 of the enslaved people to Florida and returned them to Alabama.  This is where the plot thickens. Overt is said to have made his way to the Sarasota, Florida area, which is the site of part of the original Florida underground railroad.

It is said Overt married a woman named Annah from Beaufort County NC, who he met there.  I wanted to find more about Overt while going through Louisiana because some stories say they lived in Beaufort County for a few years after escaping on the underground railroad from Sarasota to eastern NC. This is the story I heard and I wanted to find out through documentation if it was true.

My vacation was full of loving on my family, sight-seeing adventures, good food and history digging. But one of the best parts of this vacation was a stop at the Katy Library in Katy, Texas where the wonderful library staff helped me find what I needed for my research of Cane Island in Katy.  I told librarian I was from Washington NC and gave her my history connections here.  She was very astonished to be able to pull up the Washington Daily News account of the Juneteenth Celebration that was held in Washington and the fact the historical part of the celebration held on the morning of Juneteenth was so full of history and diversity.

Texas is really big when it comes to Juneteenth celebrations in most places and our celebration here was noteworthy to my new Texas friends.

I am happy to talk about Washington NC where ever I go. I love this town!

Leesa Jones is a Washington native and the co-founder and co-executive director of the Washington Waterfront Underground Railroad Museum.