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Sally Ann (Erwin) Barnes

This is a picture of Sally Ann Barnes, born into slavery in 1858 on the Erwin Plantation in Olive Hill, Ky. She died March 31, 1969.

She is standing along side Allie Erwin Caudill, an Erwin descendant, on the Benjamin Bonzo farm in St. Paul, Lewis County, KY.
Sally lived here during the last part of her life. She is buried at Greene Cemetery, about a mile from the Bonzo farm.

Click here for a larger image.

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Benjamin Bonzo left with his parents Martha Burchett Musick Bonzo and Charles Bonzo, along with brothers and sisters,
and other relatives to settle in Lewis and Greenup Counties in Kentucky and Scioto County in Ohio.

Ben was born in 1882 and died in 1964.

History Mystery
(Will the Real Sally Barnes Please Stand Up?)

By Jerri Schlenker

In February 2008 I began exploring the life of a Lewis County citizen.  Was it by 
intelligent design that I started this exploration during black history month since 
the lady I was and still am researching was Sally Barnes, an African American woman 
born 1858 into slavery in Carter County.  Sally lived to be 110 years of age, living 
the last half of her centenarian life in Lewis County.  She is buried in the Green 
Cemetery in St. Paul, Kentucky.  

Iíve been asked so many times what perked my interest in this. I had heard bits and 
pieces about this lady at a young age and was completely captivated by what I heard 
and by the fact that my family actually knew someone who had been a slave.  In my 
mind she was a living legend.  Then at age 8 I had the opportunity to meet Sally.  
She was 103, living in Lewis County with Benjamin and Ted Bonzo.  On the day I saw 
her on the Bonzo farm she was in the kitchen, mopping the floor, at age 103.

Now as is the case, life takes over.  There are school years, marriage and raising a 
family. Then after everyone that could have given you the most factual records has died, 
you start thinking back on memories and start asking questions that you should have 
asked just years earlier before that aunt or uncle with all the information passed away.  
This is my first attempt at genealogy; but Iím finding that this is how it works for many.

Considering Sallyís life was unique on several fronts, I thought this research would 
be relatively easy.  Not so.  The story I was uncovering would take several twists 
and turns, only one of which I am relating here.

One of my first finds was Sallyís obituary in the 1969 Lewis County Herald.  Iím pleased 
it was front-page news.  It stated that Sally had worked at the St. Charles Hotel in 
Vanceburg in her early years, that her father had been Peter Barnes, and that her 
last known whereabouts was in Weirton, WV.  These aspects of her life were unknown to me.  
The obituary also said that she lived with the Bonzos and had belonged to the Mars Hill 
Church of Christ.  Those facts I could correlate into my own Sally Barnesís life.  

In searching through census reports I could only find Sally listed in Carter County 
once Ė in 1910.  However, the name Sally Barnes would appear in the 1880, 1900, 1910 
and 1920 censuses in Lewis County.  In all cases the birth date was given in the 1870ís, 
or in one Vanceburg census as unknown.  Were these one in the same or two different people?  
I was to find a granddaughter to what I will call the Vanceburg Sally as opposed to the 
Olive Hill/St. Paul Sally. The granddaughter was also searching for information on her 
grandmother.  She knew very little about her grandmother other than she died sometime in the 
late 1920ís or early 1930ís.  I have just recently found a 1929 short obituary for this 
Sally Barnes, stating she died in Weirton and that her body would be brought back to Vanceburg 
for burial.  I have yet to find the grave in the Woodlawn Cemetery or record of it where 
she was supposedly buried.

Where the lives of two different Sally Barnes getting confused? The Sally Barnes I 
originally started researching died in 1969.  I have her death certificate and have 
visited her grave. Her parents were given as William and Susan Barnes.  The parents of 
the Vanceburg Sally were Peter and Lizzie Barnes. There are yet major serendipitous events 
in the lives of both Sally Barnes.  They both had lived in Lewis County.  They both were 
African American.  Neither married.  They both had brothers named Sam.  Both had daughters 
named Nellie; both believed to have been fathered by a white man.  I was told that both 
Nellies had visited Iowa sometime in the late 1950ís.  Secondary synchronicities were that 
they were both well liked and known for their cooking.  If they were indeed two different 
individuals was there some connection between them?  The St. Paul Sally was born on the 
Erwin Plantation in Olive Hill, Kentucky.  The slave record census of 1860 listed two 
female slaves, age 4.  Could there be some significance there Ė perhaps a twin?  
My research goes on.  

At this point I have been given many heart-felt fond recollections of Sally providing much 
to write about, which makes it all worthwhile.I have been writing brief accounts of her life 
in what I call Sally Shorts.   I will give one here as told to me by one former Lewis County citizen.

Lady in Pink - A Sally Short
I was recently privileged to find another person who had done some research into Sally's life.  
He thought so highly of "Miss Sally" as he called her that he worked her character into a novel 
he had written, dedicating three pages at different points in the story to her.  The book is 
"Isle of Regret" by Karl Combs, and is a very interesting historical fiction love story.  
I eagerly scanned the book for Sally.  Not readily finding her I settled into the pages 
and couldn't put it down until the end.  

Mr. Combs, as a boy, attended the church where Sally was a member.  He called her a sweetheart.  
He said he never saw her in any other shoes except house slippers.  In your nineties you definitely 
deserve comfortable shoes.  She always wore the same pink dress to church.  I would like to think 
that pink was her favorite color.  Pink represents modesty, shyness and gentleness; and she was certainly that.

If anyone has any further memories or information about Sally, please contact 

Jerri Schlenker at

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