***Bringing the Past to Life: A Local Historic Biography Series***
We are very excited to present to you the third digital monologue of this new series. Thank you to
Humanities Kansas for giving us the opportunity to share this work in digital format for the very first time. Our fourth monologue honors Ann Owens.
Ann Owens - By Jocelyn Woodson
I am Ann Owens. I was born around 1790 in Maryland. I spent much of my life as a slave, not sure who owned me first, but they told me I was brought at 9 months old from a slave trader by a Mr. George Mayberry and taken to serve in Tennessee on the Mayberry plantation till my womanhood. That’s not a good life, as you know, it’s cruel and hard in every way. The slave master made sure we had no education at all. We couldn’t even be seen with a piece of paper or there would be a beating coming to you. They fed us plenty, kept us fit and upright, that was our purpose, after all. People might say, you had food, you had a roof, but that ain’t no life. And, like they say…you can’t separate the water from the wet.
When I was born, George Washington was president, and I lived thru 26 of them. Lots of changes in the world I’ve sseen. The last president I remember was Theodore Roosevelt. As a woman, I was sold to Dick Christmas and I was taken to Madison County, Mississippi, near Jackson. Where I spent quite a few years of my life. At one point, Mr. Christmas went off to fight in the civil war and took us slaves to Mr. Walsh Hardy on the Hardy Plantation in Texas, where we spent some time… maybe 4 or 5 years. But, one day a man from Vicksburg am with news of the war ending and Mr. Hard had to let us slaves go. Lord he didn’t want to but…we was free.
We was freed June 19, 1865. We call it Juneteenth, and it’s celebrated still, each state got the news at a different time, and though Kansas was a free state, we got the word here on August 4th, and you’ll see a parade going down Main Street and a piano or gathering that day.
We went back to Mississippi for a while. That’s what we knew, and then heard about a town that was growing in leaps and bounds, and we came up here to Kansas. And, lived here in Hutchinson at 217 East Avenue D. With my son, Hiram. I’m buried next to him our here.
From 1885 till 1890 there was so much happening here in Hutchinson. They started the reformatory project in 1885, and that same year the Hutchinson News got started in the back of a bookstore on 1st and Main. We got a street car going right down Main St. and then they discovered some of the biggest salt deposits in the States. We had hundreds of salt companies around here. Morton Salt was the biggest salt plant in the world. There’s a Morton Salt right over there by the river in South Hutchinson. They also found coal here in Hutchinson. This community was thriving and a great place to be. There was a packing house, a water company, gas and electric works. We had refineries and telephone system. In 1889 there was an article about the first postmen, and the Union Pacific train started coming thru town. That was thrilling, and then about 5 years later the Salvation Army raised their banner. There was just so much, just one thing after another. So lookin’ at that, me and mine thought we should come on up here and see if it was a fit for us.
Couple things I think about sometimes…I’ve never lived on my own. One plantation after another and then landlord here with my son and his family. It was fine a lot of the time, course I didn’t know my parents…I wish they’d known my children and grandchildren. They would have been proud of all of us. My son, Hiram, he is a cook at the Elks Club here in town and his son H.B. had a band called The Sims Cornet Band. They used to play in the north room in the passmore block, which became the JC Penny building down on South Main. It was a popular band and played all around Hutchinson. They also were known for their oyster dinner. I can remember I lived somewhere between 118 and 120 years…it’s a long, long time. A lot has happened in this world. And, a hard life, you might say, but I’ve seen so many things in this life. But, I was happy enough. Me and my children came up here and got a start over, and it’s been good. You’ll meet a lot of people here tonight known for what they did in their life. What did I do? Well, let me see, me, I lived 118-120 years oldest person in Reno county, probably Kansas, and me and mine…we lived a life that was meant to break us, yes, we lived it, we lived thru it and we survived.