Family Ties

Anna Davis was curious about her history. What she learned is a tale for the ages.

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The Blackwell family eventually left Virginia and headed north to South Philadelphia, where Lewis’ sister and brothers lived. Their only child, Cuetter, was just 13 when her mother died, at which time Lewis moved her to Bryn Mawr to be raised by his spinster aunt. That’s where Cuetter would meet Willis Hare, her future husband. Their eldest child is Anna Davis, named after Anna Ragsdale, the woman who helped raise her mother.

And that is the pathway across the generations from a slave plantation near Culpeper, Va., to a suburban home near Valley Forge.

The Davis family had its own road map to follow. The youngest of 10 children, Jerry lost his mother when he was still a toddler, but his determined father and cohesive West Philadelphia community shaped his values. He and Anna raised their two children in Mt. Airy. After rising to captain in the Marines, Jerry built a career in human resources and public affairs with ARCO, Smith Kline and Sunoco, commuting to New York, and moving to Los Angeles, Chicago and back to Philly along the way.

Anna taught at Philadelphia public elementary and middle schools for 29 years, the final stop at Lamberton in Overbrook Park. Most of her work was with the learning disabled and emotionally disturbed.

Now her focus is on more than a century’s worth of masked feelings and words left unspoken. She sits at her kitchen table and reads her heartfelt “Ode to Lucinda.” She speaks frequently on the telephone with Mark Rigsby, of Newberry, S.C., whose fourth great-grandfather was Blucher Hansbrough (though he doesn’t trace his bloodline to Lucinda). Rigsby had been conducting his own ancestral search when Davis first contacted him.

“I knew little about the Hansbroughs then,” says Rigby. “Now I feel like I’ve known them all my life.”

At some point, the Hansbrough line added an “o” to the name. Marcia Carter Darden is a Hansborough descendant. Her husband, Christopher Darden, served on the prosecution team in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Both met Davis at the 2006 reunion in Culpeper.

“Chris [Darden] was really taken aback,” says Davis. “He didn’t know much about his own family history.”

So while Blucher Hansbrough may well have died without a valid will, his descendants inherited a richness that has nothing to do with money.

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