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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lillian Taylor Lyons, September 11, 1994. Interview Q-0094. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Family history and parents' experiences before and after the Civil War

Lyons discusses her family history, reaching back to her parents' experiences in Virginia and North Carolina during the mid- to late 1800s. Lyons's father was enslaved at birth and was enlisted to serve in the Civil War with his master. Following his emancipation at the end of the war, he went on to become an expert carpenter. In contrast, Lyons briefly explains that her mother was enslaved, although she was born just on the cusp of the Civil War.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lillian Taylor Lyons, September 11, 1994. Interview Q-0094. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
No, that's not Piedmont, is it?
EDDIE McCOY:
Mrs. Lyons, what grade did you leave the Orange Street School?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
I left at the end of sixth grade and went to Mary Potter, which was the day and boarding school. Mary Potter was located, the buildings were located on the property from Lanier Street and McClanahan Street.
EDDIE McCOY:
What year were you born?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
I was born November 18, 1902.
EDDIE McCOY:
So what age would you be today?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
As of today, I'm two weeks from my ninety-second, I'm two months from my ninety-second birthday.
EDDIE McCOY:
Could you tell me about your parents and their affiliation with Oxford. Was both of your parents born in Oxford?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
My father was born in Sudan, Virginia, near Clarksville. He was born on April 9, 1850. My mother was born where I live now, at 210 Alexander Avenue, on December 22, 1960, the daughter of Charles Lewis and Lucinda Gregory Lewis.
EDDIE McCOY:
You say your mother was born in 1960. I think your mother was born 1860?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
Eighteen and sixty.
EDDIE McCOY:
OK. And how long the land has been in your family, on your mother's side?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
The land has been in the family since between 1859 and 1860.
EDDIE McCOY:
1859. Tell us a little about your mother and father, far as wanting you and your sisters and brothers to get a good education.
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
My mother worked part of the time in New Jersey. That was during the [light time] and the times of my brother, Leonard Taylor, who became Dr. Leonard A. Taylor, a dentist. There were eight children. The oldest was Edgar Taylor, Lucy Taylor, [Lattie] Taylor, Blanche, Winifred, [Schotia], Leonard, and me.
EDDIE McCOY:
So what did your father do? And what did he contribute to raising y'all and how he wanted y'all to have a decent education? What kind of work did he do?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
My father was a carpenter? He worked at various jobs during my early years in Granville and Vance, the surrounding counties. In later years, by the time I was in fifth and sixth grade, he was working at the Oxford Orphanage, which was three blocks up the street from us. The orphanage is still in operation and is run by the Masons of North Carolina. Of course, I mean the white Masons of North Carolina. There was also a Negro orphanage in Oxford at the same time. That was located about two miles from my house down in the lower Raleigh Street area.
EDDIE McCOY:
Could your father read and write?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
My father could read a little bit and write a little bit, but he became very proficient without it. In latter years, he and three other Negroes were working very proficiently. Mr. Ed Tyler, Mr. William Alston and my father made all of the work at the carpenters' shop at the white orphanage up the street two blocks from my house. They were expert carpenters. At that time, the orphanage had a carpentry shop and at that time, they made all of the window and door frames for all of the houses that was being built in Oxford about that time.
EDDIE McCOY:
Did you ever know your father, your grandfather and grandmother on your father's side?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
No, I didn't know them, but I did know my Aunt Jane and Uncle John [Blanks]. They lived in what was Sudan, Virginia, a part of the Clarksville, Virginia area. And the train ran from—the railroad—. The train ran from Durham to [Keysville] and passed right by my house. And we used to travel over to Virginia to visit my Aunt Jane and Uncle Johnny [Blanks].
EDDIE McCOY:
OK, let's talk about your mother. Did you ever know, on your mother's side, your grandmother and your grandfather?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
Yes, I knew Grandma. Grandma was born in Granville County near where we live now. She was the daughter of Charles Lewis and Lucinda Gregory Lewis. My grandfather worked at the dispensary. I imagine that was the distribution of the corn liquor that was being made in the county. And my grandmother worked in the orphanage up the street from me.
EDDIE McCOY:
Which one of your grandparents on your mother's side could read and write, your grandfather or your grandmother?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
Both of them could read and write.
EDDIE McCOY:
On your mother's side, how old was your mother when she passed? And what year?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
My mother died in October, 18 and—my mother was born November 22, 1860.
EDDIE McCOY:
Did she have any experience with slavery? Or did her mother or father have experience with it?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
Both of my parents had—my mother didn't have any experience with slavery, but my father did. My father's master was John Lyle Taylor, who went to war during the Civil War and my father went with his master, as I mentioned before, and he was at Appomattox Courthouse when Lee surrendered to—.
EDDIE McCOY:
Was he with—does his name come from the Taylor's plantation, or the slave owner, Mr. Taylor that owned him? Where did he get Taylor from, or that was his name from his father before?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
That was his name from his father. His father was John Taylor and his mother was Mary Puryear Taylor.
EDDIE McCOY:
Now, we are talking about your mother's father and grandfather. Which one of your mother's parents that experienced slavery that was not treated right, or how was they treated? Or was they free?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
My mother was—they had an interesting life. There was no slavery. My mother was born here at the same spot where I was born. And they had no experience with slavery because my mother went to school here and her teachers were Canadians, white people who had come down from the north, from Canada, to teach the Negro children after the end of the war. The place where my mother attended school was near where the site of the graded school was, where I attended.