The Sears, Dungees, Colemans and Pattersons of Appomattox, Virginia
As with my Dudley slave ancestry, I have been thus far unable to penetrate the
“brick wall “ of Mama Ethel’s ancestors, the Sears and Coleman slaves of Appomattox,
Va. The biggest hurdle is the fact that there were several Sears and several Coleman
slave-owning families; with neither folklore nor public records linking my ancestors
to a specific plantation, there is little likelihood of advancing further in my search.
Mama Ethel was a renowned cook on both sides of the tracks. I often wonder about
her heritage, but I am certain she was descended for house slaves. Everything about
her, including professional cooking and housekeeping skills, as well as her lifetime
affinity and associations with affluent white families as a chef and caterer extra-ordinaire
suggests that heritage. But, I will probably never learn anything more. I firmly
believe that Mama Ethel was an innocent victim of a strange by-product of the American
slave trade. Many early Virginia slaves had significantly more generations of “Americanization”
than Africans captured much later. That usually meant white bloodlines, house training
and language skills not available to the others. That alone accounted for tensions
between descendents of house and field slaves today.
I share below a few fascinating Appomattox slave stories of Colemans and Pattersons,
both related families of the Sears.