Elvira family reunion: Four local families trace their ancestors to a plantation in Nesmith

  • Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Tanya Jones-Boland is the historian for the Elvira Family Reunion, most recently held in Jacksonville, Fla. She found that the Dorsey, Green, McGee and White families are descendants of a slave named Elvira.

Georgetown County, S.C. — Florence Dorsey-Flowers had a vision in the early 1980s to have her family come together. They had migrated to different states and she felt she didn’t know anyone anymore.
Discussing her thoughts with her first cousins, the late Thelma White-Milner, a former school teacher, and the late Kelly White, a former college professor who taught French, the three began a tradition that has survived 30 years.
The Elvira Family Reunion, which started in Nesmith, S.C., made its debut out of the state in 1993 in Washington, D.C. and was held in Jacksonville, Fla. this summer.
The family includes local residents, Latasha Dorsey of Nesmith, Eunice Gary of Kingstree, former Andrews mayor Curtis Dorsey, and other members of the Dorsey, Green, McGee and White families.  
The reunion is governed by a national committee and the host committee of the city the reunion in which it resides.
The three-day events have been held in Washington, D.C.; Maryland; Wilimington, N.C.; Columbia, S.C.; Jacksonville, Fla.; and Myrtle Beach, S.C., which brought together more than 1,000 family members, the highest amount of attendees so far.
Latasha Dorsey, the former chairperson for the reunion, said she looks forward to these events held every two years.
“Each time, I get to meet more of the family. Especially since I’m young, it is nice to meet young members of the family,” Dorsey said.
“And the older ones inform us about our history and our family. Every time I go to a reunion, I learn something new about our family history.”

Family history

Tanya Jones-Boland of North Carolina, who has served as the family historian for about 10 years, spoke at this year’s reunion.
She told the family members who attended about their ancestors, a slave named Elvira and her four children — Grace, Hampton, Rhina and Rosena.
She also found out who the four children married: Grace married George Dorsey, Hampton Green married Rosalina Mack, Rhina married Travis McGee, Rosenna married Jeffrand White.
The Dorsey, Green, McGee and White families formed Dorsey Town in Nesmith, which also included a school named Dorsey Town School.
Boland told them that she was amazed to discover a marriage settlement document — that should have been in Barnwell, S.C. — in the Williamsburg County Courthouse in Kingstree.
The document, which is comparable to a modern day prenuptial agreement, shows that slave owner Lawrence Porcher Hext of Barnwell gifted for $5 Elvira and children to his daughter, Mary Brisbane Hext and her husband, John Thomas McConnell of the Black River area of Nesmith on June 20, 1857.
Boland said she went to the courthouse when it was being renovated. She ventured into a small room stacked with books, and was “led” to a reference book.
That book referred her to a conveyance book (or deed book), out of which fell the document she had been searching for, revealing an important piece of family history.
Dorsey said she was teary-eyed when she heard about this discovery.
“This is something she has been looking for and she finally found a connection,” Dorsey said.
Gary, who is Boland’s aunt, said she was also excited to hear about this news.
“I commend her for the work she has done,” Gary said. “She stays in the courthouse for days, not even taking a lunch break. I believe she is guided spiritually.”

Legacy of land ownership

Boland has also discovered that George Dorsey, the husband of Elvira’s eldest daughter Grace, had a mortgage for 77 acres of land from the McConnell family and that he was one of the first African Americans registered to vote.
George and Grace Dorsey obtained a mortgage for $165 from J.Z. McConnell in the division of the estate of John Thomas McConnell, the former owner of Elvira and her daughters, on January 21, 1892, Boland said.
On March 12, 1892, two months later, they received the deeds in hand — the loan was paid in full, Boland said.
The second generation continued the legacy of ownership with the purchase of approximately 400 acres of land called Sand Hill in Nesmith, Boland said.
Brothers Mose and Peterson Dorsey, children of George and Grace Dorsey, Stephen White son of Rosenna and Jeffrand White and Charlie Chandler, continued the vision of prosperity like their parents.
The land title of Sand Hill land was purchased from Lawrence B and Gertrude Steele to the four men on November 28, 1917 for $4,000, Boland said.
“George Dorsey believed in voting, land ownership and family,” Boland said. “The goal of wanting something more for himself and his family was passed on to his children and his children’s children.”
For more information and pictures, visit the website www.elvirachildren.com, or the Facebook page at Elvira’s Children.

By Clayton Stairs

Tanya Jones-Boland contributed to this story.

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