By Carole Robinson, Staff Writer
“We learned so much about a man we didn’t even know.”
Jocelyn Jordan Dotson
2013 Pioneer Family member
Discovering one’s family history is a connection to the past and the future, but even in today’s high-tech society, discovering that history is not always easy.
The Williamson County African American Heritage Society helps families discover their family history through its Pioneer Family designation.
The WCAAHS may designate a family with a proven connection to Williamson County that dates to the 1850s as a Pioneer Family, and help them to research their ancestry.
At last Friday’s Black Tie Affair, the Perkins Jordan family was designated the 2013 Pioneer Family and several found new branches on their family tree. Perkins Jordan, who was born in 1848 and his wife Malissa, who was born in 1856, had10 children; their bloodline remains strong in Williamson County.
“We didn’t know [Perkins Jordan]; we didn’t even have a picture of him,” said Jocelyn Jordan Dotson about her great grandfather. “My grandfather [Joshua] never told us about [his father] Perkins. We learned so much about a man we didn’t even know. Then we met relatives we didn’t know. It was like a family reunion with people we didn’t know we were related to.”
Dotson said she even discovered a lady she knows from her son’s church is a relative.
Through hard work and industrious ingenuity, former slave Perkins Jordan set high standards for his children and future generations. Using his knowledge of agriculture, Jordan “provided well for his wife and children and in 1890, purchased at public auction 86-acres of land on Owl Hollow Road. With subsequent purchases he increased his farm’s acreage to 230,” Dotson said.
What little debt Jordan owed when he died in 1914 was settled by selling some of his personal estate of livestock, grain, crops and household furniture. The land was divided between his 10 children. A portion of Jordan’s original estate remains in the family.
When Jocelyn Jordan Dotson, one of 11 children, was given a photo of the family’s patriarch, “There was a likeness to one of my brothers – a true likeness,” she said. “We all had a likeness to each other, but he didn’t look like the rest of us. Now we know; he looks just like Perkins.”
Dotson’s grandfather, Perkins and Malissa’s son Joshua (1884-1964) and his wife Lena had a restaurant on Lewisburg Pike “across the tracks,” that was famous for its barbeque, fish and chitlins.
Her father, John Henry Jordan (1907-1983) was a rock mason who inherited Perkins’ hard work ethic. With his brother Edgar, John Henry “rocked” houses and walls in along Carters Creek Pike, on Battle Avenue, Boyd Mill Pike, Hillsboro Road and South Petway Street and all over the county. He also had his grandfather’s green thumb. Jocelyn recalled her father, “always planted trees that “bearded” something you could eat –apples, peaches, pears and plums.”
One day Dotson bought a fern. John Henry questioned why she would buy a plant “You can’t eat.”
Joshua was Perkins and Malissa’s seventh child. Jocelyn was her parents’ seventh child.
“Daddy tried to name me after Joshua, but when I turned out to be a girl, the nurses came up with Jocelyn – but my friends call me Joshua,” said Dotson, the mother of four children, grandmother to five grandchildren and one great grandchild. “My children are delighted to know about all this – it’s an important part of their history. To know what [Perkins] acquired as an ex-slave, it’s amazing. It made them realize our family didn’t start at Green Street [Joshua’s home].”
Planning for a family reunion “to get to know all the new people connected to our family” has already started.
“We are delighted and surprised to know we are a part of history,” she added. “I appreciate the people who took the time to do this and brought us together."
Posted on: 2/7/2013