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Sold as a Slave

Charity Ross Will Soon Be with the Daughter She Has Not Seen for Forty-Five Years

Kansas City, 12/29/1898:

An old colored woman sat in the Union Depot yesterday, rocking to and fro, whimpering and moaning softly, while her tears fell on an envelope which bore her address, “Charity Ross, Valley Falls, Kan.,” written neatly. It was the first and only word she has had from her daughter, Mary Barnes, who has been lost to her for 45 years. The old woman said she had passed the hundred year mark. She had just learned that her daughter, whom she saw sold as a slave to a Southern slave dealer and carried away, a young woman, was still alive and living on a farm in Mississippi. The old mother did not have enough money to buy her ticket. She had nothing to eat.


Her story was one of the most remarkable ever heard at the depot, but no one could question it after beholding her pitiful figure and wrinkled face and tears of joy as she related in a broken way the incident of finding her daughter after nearly half a century.


The notion of trying to find what had become of her child came to her over a year ago. It was 15 years before the war when her daughter was sold. When she went to Kansas about five years after the close of the war, she gave up all hope of ever seeing her.


The first letter was written for her by a neighbor and was directed to her old master. After months of waiting she received a letter from him, telling her to write to a man who is today living on the old farm which forms part of the old plantation. He was the man who brought the purchaser of her daughter to him, and from him she might get definite information. Another letter was written, and again she waited for months before a reply was received. This time she secured information by which she came into communication with her daughter.


She seemed to have no doubt but that it was really her own child who had answered her letter. She said she sold everything she owned at Valley Falls to raise the money to go to Gunnison, Miss. She sold her cow and the little house in which she lived, with all its furniture. Detective Bradley counted her money and found she lacked only 40 cents. He spoke to several people about the depot, raised the balance and purchased a ticket. The porter brought her a basket of food, which would last until she got to Memphis. She says her daughter is about 63 years old.


[Published in the Kansas City Journal, Thursday, Dec. 29, 1898; the Atchison Daily Champion, Thursday, Dec. 29, 1898; the Independent, Oskaloosa, Saturday, Dec. 31, 1898; the Wichita Beacon, Saturday, Dec. 31, 1898; and the Valley Falls New Era, Saturday, Jan. 14, 1899.]


This story appeared in “Yesteryears” in April 1989 and October 1992.


Charity Ross was listed as a resident of Valley Falls in the 1895 Kansas State Census. She was 83 years old and was born in North Carolina. She came to Kansas from Louisiana and worked as a housekeeper.


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