An Incident in the Life of Rev. Walter Lanier
by Jesse Lanier Poe as told to her by her father, Francis Burdette Lanier
(mother was Sally McDonald)
My grandfather, Rev. Walter Lanier, was born in Clark Co., Georgia, near Athens, April 29, 1819. He was married September 1840, to Mary Eliza [Eliza Mary] Meade of Macon, GA. He was converted in 1841 and was made Class Leader of the Methodist Episcopal Church South in 1842. He was licensed to exhort in 1848 and to preach in the M. E. Church South in 1856.
Mary Eliza [Eliza Mary] Meade was the daughter of a slave-owning planter in or near Macon, Georgia. It was a well-known fact that her husband, Walter Lanier, opposed slavery. This caused no friction in the family nor did it cause any inconvenience to the wife of the young church leader as long as she lived near her mother who quietly saw to it that her daughter had plenty of help. The time came, however, when Walter Lanier felt impelled to move back to North Georgia. We assume that he felt it to be a clear call to some phase of Christian duty. He gathered his wife and three small children and began preparations.
Going back from Macon to Athens, they moved in covered wagons. Everything was packed and the wagons loaded so they could start at daybreak. Something happened though and the journey was delayed for two days. One of the children saw a little colored boy peeking out from the covered wagon and upon investigation, it was discovered that Eliza's mother had concealed three slaves, a man, woman, and child, in the back of one of the wagons.
Mr. Walter (as everyone called him) would have none of this and great excitement prevailed.
Two days later, another start was made. The wagons got an early start and they traveled steadily until early afternoon. They came to a large spring and creek where they all stopped for water for themselves and their stock, and to eat of their generous baskets of food prepared by Eliza's mother. While all of them walked up and down to rest themselves again from sitting so long, again one of the children discovered something.
He saw one of the drivers hand a gourd of water into the wagon. Again Mr. Walter investigated. Behind a large piece of furniture sat Kizzie, all dressed up in a starched white sunbonnet. Kizzie was a fifteen-year old girl, black with very white teeth. Mr. Walter questioned her and found that only two people knew she was there -- her mistress (who was Mr. Walter's mother-in-law) and her pappy who was the driver of the wagon.
As always, when Mr. Walter was perplexed and burdened with a great decision to be made, he resorted to prayer. He called them all together, drivers of the two wagons, Kizzie, and his family; and there, by the creek in the wilderness of North Georgia, he begged that through the "mercies" of God he was led to make the right decision. He could send Kizzie back to her mistress by the drivers who would return with the wagons, or he could keep her and do the best he could with her as a free negro.
The decision was made through Kizzie herself. The prayer revealed to her that she might be sent back and by the time the prayer ended she was sobbing and shrieking and begging not to be sent back. She wanted to stay with Miss 'Liza.
And stay she did! She never left them.
When I was a child in about 1889 I went with my parents to visit Grandpa in Georgia. Aunt Kizzie was still there. I can remember her, tall, black, with snow-white hair. She had married and raised a family of good substantial boys and girls. It never did bother her that she was a free negro in a country of slaves. They always paid her a small wage. She didn't need it; she didn't want it but she had Miss 'Liza to keep it for her. By the time Sherman marched through Georgia she had quite a sizeable little sum in the hair-covered trunk- but that's another story.