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Mary Johnson-Ligons-Moss and Katie Miller, Winchester, VA
Mary Johnson-Ligons-Moss and Katie Miller, Winchester, VA

Ahhh......Katie Miller & Mary Johnson-Ligons-Moss, their lives intertwined in life and death. They left us with sadness and anger. Why anger? There are too many unanswered questions they both took to their graves. GGmother Mary personified the word LOYALTY! She was as closed mouth as the Millers.

We were told by an elderly cousin that Mary was the go between for the Miller women who had children born out of wedlock. She was closer to Katie than anyone else. Yes, my thinking is that Thomas had an afffair with one of the women. GGrandfather Thomas wasn't your typical black male. He was a tall, wellspoken, handsome mulatto with a very imposing stature that when he walked into a room, he automatically received the attention of those present.

He worked for Richard Byrd, an attorney in Winchester, Va. as a man servant. This is the Byrd family of Rear Admiral Byrd and the politicians from Va. W. Va. Thomas received his education by being privy to the conversations held in the Byrd household. I must give the Byrd family credit as they list the genealogy of their "Black Family".

I started reseaching our family fours years ago and spent most of the time running into this brick wall surrounding the Miller Plantation in Winchester, Va. where Mary went to live at the age of five, given to Katie Miller as a Christmas present.

Innuendo and supposition, that's all I had to go by until I found out that we had an elderly cousin in Winchester. My mother is still alive but in a nursing home in Md. and not able to communicate so I had to resort to contacting Richmond, Va., the census, family stories, etc. The rest of that generation were deceased and were a product of that "closed mouth society!"

Mary received her release from slavery at the age of 21 according to the will of Rebecca Miller. She continued working for the family until well into her 70's.

Thomas and Mary had a son (?) named Charles Franklin Moss.
We doubt that Mary is his mother. Why, well in the family bible under the records of his birth is this notation....(Was g--en to Mary) What else could the missing word be but "GIVEN!" According to Frederick County Va. records, Mary and Thomas were married in 1877 but in the 1880 US Census, she is not listed as his wife. In those days marriage certiicates weren't issued and you could register providing the clerk with whatever information you wish providing both parties agreed.

When Aunt Mary (as the Miller Family referred to her) became ill, a member of the Miller family took her back to the Miller home where she died in 1926.

Last year I came upon a copy of her obituary that was written by the Miller family which I found a little strange as Mary still had quite a large family still in Winchester and Pa. But finally, right there in the obituary, staring me in the face was a daunting, powerful statement that made me realize that I would never be able to complete the Moss puzzle. One short line stated......."she was faithful to every trust reposed to her".

Charles Frankin Moss born in 1878, mother shown on birth register as Mary. Slaves kept their children on the plantation and they worked right along with the other help. Not Charles, he never lived there. He was raised by his Aunt Gertrude right along with her children. Charles was as well dressed and educated as any white child of means. He was gifted with artisic ability and at the age of fourteen painted a mural across the altar of the Moss family church, Mount Carmel Baptist in Winchester called "The Lamb of God!"

Several years later he studied in Providence and Newport Rhode Island.Then he enrolled for postgraduate art study as Cooper-Union School of Fine Arts in New York City. While there he studied sculpting with a private tutor. Later he was admitted to the Pa. Academy of fine Arts and together with noted artist Henry O. Tanner were the first of their race to be honored. He received many more accolades and "first of his race" but more important to my research was the fact that he and Henry told everyone that they were half-brothers. You see, Tanner's mother came from the same Miller plantation. Her grandfather was the plantation owner. Both families eventually settled in Carlisle, Pa.

The only people that had the wherewithal to cater to his artistic
ability by providing the schooling, travel, housing and supplies were the Miller's. Oh, in Mary's obit, they did make mention of Charles having a half-sister, but that's another story. You see, she has the last name of a Miller in-law!

The Miller family has two genealogy listings located in the Handley Library in Winchester. One is for public viewing and the other is "sealed!" There lies the unanswered questions that both the Mosses & Tanners are seeking. I hope they both are resting in peace.

Sheila Green-Stevenson
Daughter of Ruth Moss-Green (last surviving grandaughter)
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