Friday, October 4, 2013

Robert " Free Bob" Vernon of Tangipahoa Parish, Louisiana

When I started researching my own family history in Tangipahoa, I met other people who also had a unique family history in Tangipahoa Parish. One of the people that caught my attention was a man named Robert “Free Bob” Vernon. Three of his great, great granddaughters: Glyniss Vernon Gordon, Jackie Dukes and Ferry Hannibal, shared knowledge of their rich and unique Vernon family history with me.

Robert "Free Bob" Vernon
Robert was born in 1832 in Rankin County, Mississippi as a slave. He died July of 1915 in Tangipahoa Parish. He was the father of seventeen children: Willie, Riley, Georgia, Lula, Jim, Nancy, Isaac, John, Florence, Emma, Guy, Sam, Owen, Toby Stamp, Anna, Lettie, and Robert Vernon, III.

He watched as his first wife and sons were sold off as slaves on a plantation in Mississippi. Robert worked hard to purchase his freedom. He later moved to Louisiana where his father Robert Vernon lived. He built a cabin on one hundred and sixty acres; his father told him that if he worked hard to cultivate the land for five years, he could become the owner of the land. Robert took the challenges on and began working hard on two plots of land.

Robert got word from someone that his first wife who was sold away in slavery had died and   their two young sons were alone in Mississippi. Robert did what any concerned and devoted father would have done, he made his way to Mississippi to get his two sons to bring them back to Louisiana  to live with him and his new family. After returning back from Mississippi, Robert began growing and cultivating cotton. He enlarged his land holding by purchasing more land at just four dollars an acre. He soon accumulated a total of twenty-three hundred acres of land. He donated four acres of land to centralize a church for the colored folks in the community. The old log cabin on the land was converted to a church on Big Creek. The church, organized in 1869, was named Mount Canaan.
Free Bob's descendant conducting genealogy
research at the Amite Genealogy Library

He joined church and became an energetic and dedicated worker for his church and community. Although he couldn’t read or write, making only his “X” he possessed the God given wisdom, which he used wisely to provide for his family, the church, and community. Robert had a great love for books. He had his own personal book collection.

He gave each of his children one hundred acres of land as they married and established their own homes. This area became know as Vernon Town. Many of his descendants are still living in Vernon to this day. What an legacy left to his descendants?