Born into slavery in 1849, Venus Morgan was freed by the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 yet remained with the Rev. Timothy and Belinda Patton Morgan family. She died Dec. 6, 1940, at the age of 91 in the Morgan home and was buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery.
By Amy Gully
The Albany Ledger
History has a way of resurfacing in the small-town life of Gentry County. One recently resurfaced story has come out to give Gentry County residents a new bit of important history in the place they call home.
Zane Dodge came into The Albany Ledger with a photograph, explaining that the picture was a Gentry County slave; he gave the name “Venus Morgan” as the women in the photograph. After a quick search on the Internet of “Venus Morgan,” the name in fact belonged to a Gentry County slave, Venus Morgan.
Ann Hogue and Susan Bridges offered much help and research information on the subject. The two sisters are relatives of James Cooper Patton, where Venus’ story begins. James Cooper Patton and his wife Isabella Patton lived in Monroe County, Tenn., when they decided to travel to Gentry County to start their new home. This new beginning for the family was also a new life for Venus.
Born in April 16, 1849, Venus was the daughter of Thompson and Millie, slaves to James Cooper Patton. After James Cooper Patton’s death, his last will and testament stated that the sons and daughters, or any generations of Thompson and Millie were not to be sold to any other family. At 6-years-old Venus was given to the Rev. Timothy Morgan and Belinda Patton Morgan to care for their children after the death of James Patton, Belinda’s father. Along with Venus, Timothy and Belinda Morgan were also given $100, a good amount of money at the time, and land with a house. After being given to the Morgan family, Venus’ last name became Morgan. Venus’ also had two brothers, Louis and Charles, and a twin sister, Dorcas, who were all given to Isabella Patton along with their mother Milla in the will.
After several years, in 1863, all slaves were freed through the Emancipation Proclamation. Upon the news of her freedom, it’s said that Venus wept in the family smokehouse until concerned family members found her. Venus admitted that she thought that the Morgan family did not want her anymore. The family then explained to her that she was free to leave, but that she could stay as long as she would like.
For the Morgan family, Venus was a member of their family who was “dearly loved.” As a gift to Venus, the Rev. Morgan gave her own land for a house and a horse.
“She didn’t know any other life,” said Susan Bridges. “They were nice to her so she didn’t want to leave; she was like family to them.”
Venus stayed with the Morgan family, taking care of the family until her old age did not allow it. Later, the Morgan children took good care of her until her last day. Venus died at the age of 91, in the Morgan home, on Dec. 6, 1940. She was buried at Mt. Zion Cemetery in the Morgan family plot; it was uncommon back then to have a slave or former slave buried with family. However uncommon it was Dorcas, who out lived her twin until the Civil War, was also buried at Mt. Zion. Dorcas and Venus were the only black people to be buried at Mt. Zion.
The funeral for Venus Morgan was held Dec. 6, 1940, the day of her death at Mt. Zion. In attendance to pay their respects was a huge crowd, all white. In the obituary prepared by the family, it said “One of our most beautiful characters to perfection; one loved and respected by the whole community.” Venus’ obituary ran in the Dec. 12, 1940, edition of The Albany Ledger.
Today, Mt. Zion Cemetery and Church are well persevered by family members of the people who are buried there. In the 1990s, Kim, Ann Hogue’s daughter, was working toward her Gold Award for Girl Scouts, took on the project of restoring the Mt. Zion Church. Kim along with Susan Bridges, Ann Hogue, and Eleanor Smith repainted, stained, and plastered the church to stand as a reminder for not only their family history but also an important part of Gentry County history.