In The Name Of The Family

Dated 1867, this documents the honorable discharge of Grundy Crump, my mother's Great Grandfather, from the Union Army. He worked as a blacksmith before and during the war.
Born in 1841, he was enslaved until he enlisted in the Army. After the war as a freed man, he bought property and raised a family with Texanna Alexander in Knoxville, Tennessee.

GrundyCrumpLavon Crump often repeated to his children the importance of a good family name, an idea that I was slow to grasp. His daughter is my mom and she was of no help. She poked fun at the idea—not in front of Daddy Von though. Just us kids.Lately, I’ve been rereading bits of historical research about my family and community in order to weave the story together and been changed by what I’m learning.

The key to the biggest door of our past was an original document handed to me by my grandmother: Grundy Crump’s proof of Honorable discharge from the Union Army. Dated 1867, the document also indicated that he was a blacksmith by trade.

John Baker Jr., author of the Washington’s of Wessyngton, a book I signed for Atria Books, led to another key: Grundy Crump’s Pension Records. These confirm that he was years old when he became a veteran of the Civil War, married Texanna Alexander and raised a family with her on property they bought in Knoxville prior to 1899. Before the War, from the time he was a child, he was the property Martha Crump in west Tennessee.

The War affected Crump’s eyesight and ended his career as a blacksmith. He rather made a living carrying brick, working on farms. Yet, he was already a property owner by the time he applied for his pension. I wonder if he hauled any of the brick his son Ben used to build the bread baking ovens for the kitchen he ran. He was head baker at the Hospital for the Insane, a short distance from his home in the Lyon’s View Community.


Ben Crump

Forty-five years later, Ben Crump’s son Lavon, succeeded him as head cook and served the same Institution (then called Eastern State Mental Hospital) for a half century. He retired he brought home a gold stick pin and his parking sign from the Hospiral lot, it read: Honorable Lavon Crump. His placement of the sign at the corner of his yard was another expression of his pride. My mother didn’t disagree with his sense of pride, she was simply trying to level our self-perspective—the formerly enslaved have no call to “put on airs” or rather front. Her concern was that we put our energy, not into ego, but rather gratitude for how we’ve come from there to here. How we transformed a slave brand into a meaningful family name.

By: Malaika Adero

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