MENU
component-ddb-728x90-v1-01-desktop

Tale of compassion for escaped slave has new life at Henderson County cemetery

The tale of compassion that's been shared by a Henderson County family for generations has new life. A ceremony was held Sunday to honor the memory of a slave known simply as "Little Willie." (Photo credit: WLOS Staff)

The tale of compassion that's been shared by a Henderson County family for generations has new life.

A ceremony was held Sunday to honor the memory of a 19th-century child known simply as "Little Willie."

On the two-acre Pace Family Cemetery in the Green River Community, every marker has a story. But as it turns out, not every story has a marker.

"I want to thank you all for attending this service," said Lewis Staton of the Pace Cemetery Association. "A very special service for a special little boy."

According to Staton, author Robert Morgan's book "Chasing the North Star" provided the impetus to remember Willie.

"Robert was inspired to write this book because of a story handed down from generation to generation in our Pace family," he explained to the crowd.

Morgan said his great-grandfather Franklin discovered a family of escaped slaves who needed help, including Willie. Franklin's parents, Sarah and Daniel Pace, took the boy in, back in the mid-1850s.

"They could hear bounty hunters coming up the valley," he said. "And the woman pushed the little boy to Sarah and said, 'Willie can't run no more!' and then they dashed off."

His parents never returned.

"It was a serious crime to aid a runaway slave," Morgan pointed out.

The act of compassion is a family point of pride to this day.

"They hid Willie in their wagon, peddled their produce and put him up on the wagon seat, and told people they had bought him," Morgan said at the ceremony.

Robert Morgan "brought little Willie back to life almost," Staton said. "You might call it kind of a resurrection."

"We grew up with these great storytellers," Morgan said.

"And he became a great story teller," Staton said, pointing to Morgan. "One of the best!"

There comes a day when when facing the past makes us all the wiser.

"We're honoring a little boy we never knew," Staton said. "But now we think we know him pretty well."

"We're simply better people if we have a better sense of who you are," Morgan told News 13. "But I really think it's important we have a sense of that past."

"Whoa, look at that!" Morgan said as Willie's monument was unveiled. "That is lovely."

Sadly, Willie died after being crushed by a falling tree at just 5 years old. Yet his legacy endures in 2017.

"If there was slavery here in the mountains, it should be remembered," Morgan said.

The monument was placed right between the graves of those who gave Little Willie a fighting chance.


Trending