Late in May 1856, as the full moon waned, the extended Stone family gathered around the bed of their matriarch. Husband, daughters, son, grandchildren, brothers-in-law, and son-in-law stood mournful vigil as Anne Boon Stone passed. They whispered memories of her accomplishments and amiable disposition; they took comfort in her steadfast commitment to Christ, sure that they would meet her again in Heaven.
“Then while an unearthly radiance illuminated her countenance and looking up like Stephen, steadfastly into heaven, exclaimed, ‘sweet Jesus, I come,’ and quietly fell asleep in Jesus.”
As her family prepared her body for burial, her brother-in-law McCullar Stone penned an obituary. Appearing in the July 4th edition of the Raleigh Christian Advocate (Raleigh, NC) the column told the story of that final moment while creating the narrative of Anne’s life by which the family wanted her to be remembered.
Anne was born to the late James Boon and an unnamed mother in Franklin County, NC on a wintery February day in 1799. Seventeen years later Anne married William G. Stone. Throughout her life Anne was a “dutiful daughter, a loving sister, a devoted wife, and tender mother.” Anne professed her faith in Christ at the Poplar Springs meeting house in 1839.
This deftly woven narrative portrays Anne as an intelligent, pious woman, caring for her community and church, and training her children for “usefulness and Heaven.”
But it is incomplete.
Surely also present on the Thursday of her death somewhere on the Stone’s 193 acres along Cypress Creek (Franklin County, NC)–tending hogs, cows, and chickens; fields of corn, wheat, and oats; preparing meals for the assembled mourners–were the residents of the three slave cabins.
- an elderly woman
- 2 middle-aged women
- 3 young men
- a teenage boy
- and 3 young girls
Anne was a daughter, sister, wife, and mother.
She was also an enslaver.
What McCullar Stone leaves out is as important as what he included: How did Anne reconcile cheerfully following Christ while holding black men, women, and children in the same manner as her horse?
The story of how Anne used black wisdom, intelligence, and accomplishments without granting compensation, respect, or liberty is lost.
This obituary tells my grandfather’s great-grandmother’s whitewashed story and provides insight into the world Anderson Perry Strickland inhabited. The narrative also points me into yet another genealogical warren–the Poplar Springs Meeting House and its early church records. Digitized and archived in the Special Collections and Archives, Z. Smith Reynolds Library, Wake Forest University, the pages are a trove of documents. Delving into these records I find an answer to the most pressing question I have for all my enslaving ancestors: How could you preach the Gospel of Jesus and at the same time build a political and economic structure on the dehumanizing cruelty of chattel slavery?
At the Church of Christ at the Poplar Spring…
Minute book, 1788-1877 (Poplar Springs Baptist Church, Zebulon, N.C.). North Carolina Baptist Church Records.
(1) “Deaths,” Raleigh Christian Advocate, Raleigh, North Carolina. 04 Jul 1856, Fri • Page 3; digitally accessed at Newspapers.com (https://www.newspapers.com/clip/105908424/obituary-of-anne-boon-stone-22jun-1856/), 2022.
(2) Ancestry.com. 1850 U.S. Federal Census – Slave Schedules [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. Original data:United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Seventh Census of the United States, 1850. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1850. M432, 1,009 rolls.
Transcription of Obituary of Anne Boon Stone
Died, in Franklin county, on Thursday morning the 22d inst., Mrs. Anne Stone, consort of Wm. Stone, Esq., and daughter of the late James Boon of the county. She was born on the 3d of Feb’y 1799. She united in marriage to William Stone on the 14th of January, 1816. She professed religion in 1839 at Poplar Spring meeting house, and united herself to the church, and remained steadfast until the hour of her death. She was an intelligent, refined and accomplished lady, meek in her temper, amiable in her disposition, courteous in her deportment. These lovely traits in her character live in the recollections of hundreds who formed her acquaintance; she was moreover a dutiful daughter, a loving sister, a devoted wife, and a tender mother. Though warmly attached to her relatives and friends, her highest enjoyments in social life was in the society of her husband and children, the arduous labors of the former she lightened by her sympathy and love, while the latter she diligently trained for usefulness and Heaven; she was a self-denying christian, eschewing in the fear of God the frivolous, unprofitable amusements of the day to which so many resort for pleasure. She cheerfully looked up to the cross and followed Christ through evil report and good. The peace and triumph of her death corresponds with the purity and piety of her life, believing from the commencement of her attack, that her end was nigh, she expressed willingness to depart and be with Christ, but entire resignation to the will of God; when conscious that she was fast sinking, she addressed personally her physician, sorrowing husband and her weeping relatives, exhorting them to meet her in heaven, and commending them with her dear children to the will of God. Then while an unearthly radiance illuminated her countenance, and looking up like Stephen, steadfastly into heaven, exclaimed, “sweet Jesus, I come,” and quietly fell asleep in Jesus; all who witnessed the closing scene testify that it was a signal triumph over death.
Hope looks beyond the bounds of time,
When what we now deplore,
Shall rise in full immortal prime,
And bloom to fade no more.
And when the last trump shall sound,
And souls to bodies joined,
Millions will wish their stay on earth,
Had been as short as thine.