Autry Wright Powell Douglas Hayes Family Research

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Sophia Jane "Jin" Powell

Sophia Jane PowellGrandmother Sophie was born in 1900 and was found living in her parents household in 1900, 1910 and 1920. Sometime between 1920 and 1925 she met an married William R. Douglas AKA Willie Thomas. Willie was of the very large Douglas and Clemons families of Anson, Richmond and Scotland counties NC. His Douglas grandmother (Mourning Meachum-Douglas) had nineteen children, almost two hundred grandchildren and well over a thousand great grandchildren at the time of her death. She died shortly after 1920, living to be almost 100 years of age.

Does anyone who's ancestors are from the south remember anything about the photos below? I do because I have seen my grandmother Sophie, her daughters Virginia and Willie Mae and others in the fields picking cotten more than one day. The only difference was that in my days of the cotten field each picker picked in what they called a tow sack. I think these are actually real photos of African American slaves picking cotten. The photos were found in the NYPL Digital Gallery.

My grandmother was the only person that I have ever seen in my entire lifetime to carry three watermelons at one time. One in each arm and the other on her head.

I have seen my grandmother carry what is called a foot tub filled with blueberries on her head for miles with her arms at her side. A true African trait!

Willie and Sophia

Willie and Sophia
Willie and Sophie continued to live and raise their children in the house that Gabe built. I think my mother (Catherine Autry) who is the youngest child was in mid school when Willie made his move to the present day location of his daughter Geraldine Melvin's home. I have heard many story's from my mother about the long cold walks from way back in the woods to the school bus stop. My aunt Virginia has also told me stories about her walks to the different schools that were scattered about in the community of her times. Sophie and Willie's children are listed below.

The Children of Sophia and Willie

Note: Three of their daughters married grandson's of Ned Edmund and Mary Johnson-Autry.


Virginia Thomas Autry

A Birthday function in October of 2004

Aunt Virginia is enjoying a grand meal which includes her birthday cake. A birthday function that was arranged and held at her younger sister Catherine's home in Oct. 2004
Willie Mae

Willie Mae Thomas Autry

A Birthday Function In Oct. 2004

Geraldine Thomas Melvin


Catherine Thomas Autry
Catherine is the founder and owner of Catherines Floral arrangements and Wedding Cakes. A home based business that has taken her to multiple states on the eastern seaboard. She has decorated churches, halls and homes for weddings, receptions and conventions. Most of her Floral pieces and designs are made by hand and her cakes are from another world. Her dedicated work is an eye awakening experience that you will never forget and is known all over Bladen and Sampson counties NC and beyond.

Johnny Elbert Thomas was their only son who died as an infant.

The Grandchildren of Sophia and Willie

Me and several of my first cousins (in the photo at the bottom) were partly raised by my grandparents Willie and Sophie. My aunts Virginia and Willie Mae and their families were very frequent visitors to the old home place. From growing up around them and my grandparents I have had the pleasure to learn how to feed and raise hogs and chickens, milk cows, make butter, crop, string and hang tobacco, pick blueberries, strawberries and a variety of other things that I could have never learned being raised in New York. I also remember my aunts and grandparents helping with their yearly hog killings which included making liver pudding, preparing hams to cure, making cracklings from hog fat and sometimes pork skins. I enjoyed everything about hog killing time except the actual killing of the hog and the cleaning of the intestines (chittlings) which I have always found to be very good and tasty to eat. Here is a photo of one of the hog killings at my grandparents home. The two men in the picture are my uncles Leroy Autry (Willie Mae's husband) and his father James L. Autry. I remember that day just like it was yesterday.

Note: In the background of the picture is the building that is now on display at the old slave plantation called Harmony Hall. This building was used by my grandparents as a storage building, a store and a playing place for me and other grandchildren that lived in the Thomas home. The building was originally a school for the Caucasians of the Colly township back in the early 1900's. My grandparents purchased the building from the Russ family of Colly and kept it in their possession until their deaths (over 40 years). My Aunt Elizabeth Autry who is very elderly has even told me that during her early childhood the building was used as a home for her and her family after an earlier home had burned to the ground. Now, some of the visitors to Harmony Hall probably thinks it is one of the original Harmony Hall buildings.

Grandmother worked and raised children most of her adult life. Besides her children there were nieces, nephews and grandchildren raised by her. God bless her and all her efforts.
The descendants of Willie and Sophie Thomas came together and had a lovely Thanksgiving Day dinner. The dinner was held 11-25-04 in the cafeteria of the St. Peter's AME Zion church of Colly. It was quite enjoying to meet and speak with cousins that I grew up with as a youth. Below is a picture of Willie and Sophie's grandchildren that were born from the early fifties until the mid sixties. Most of us and our parents were able to attend. Who would have ever had any idea that this small but happy group of grandchildren would multiply this family ten fold.

It was amazing, most of us in the picture on the right and most of our children dined together for this Thanksgiving feast. Time has passed so fast, I hardly knew any of my first cousin's children. I met some that has finished school and is working, some that is still attending college and some that is still in high school. It's just like the old saying, "my my, look how time flys". I hope each and every member of this family will be blessed to live and attend many more of these joyous family events whether it be home or away.


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