On the two hundredth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth and two days before Valentine's Day, I celebrate the union of my great grandparents in 1873. My great grandfather was Henry (Davis) Smith who was born a slave in 1849 in Tallapoosa, Alabama.
He was the oldest of twelve and the only one sold away to the Smith Plantation. In my research on Ancestry.com I first find him in the 1870 U.S. Census living in a boarding house in Selma, Dallas County, Alabama. His work is listed as "teamster".
Recently I wrote to the Tallapoosa County Courthouse in Dadeville, Alabama to get a copy of my grandfather, Asberry John Smith's birth certificate from 1876. I received a letter from the courthouse which informed me that birth certificates were not issued for births at that time, but that here was his parents' marriage certificate from 1873. Click on the image below to read it.
I unfolded the copy and looked at it for a long time -- stunned to see my great grandfather's name. I stood there with my mouth open and my eyes transfixed for the first time on my great grandmother's name -- Molly Slaughter Beckett. Her name was musical, it had visual appeal, and it had heft. I tried to imagine her, young, strong and beautiful, going up the stairs of the courthouse on Henry's arm. Then my eyes were drawn to the word, colored and I was jerked back to their reality. Less than ten years after the end of the Civil War, this certificate was probably the first document either of them had ever generated. I burst with pride that they had optimism and confidence in their love and in their future enough to proclaim their desire to be united in matrimony.
I wondered what they did after they left the courthouse that day. Did they go home, did they have family and friends over? In 1873 January 4th fell on a Saturday. They must have had a little party, a little something to eat, and they must have had a delicious cake with tea.
1 lb. Butter
1 lb. Sugar
4 c. Flour
1 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Baking powder
3 tbs. Lemon juice
1 tbs. Grated lemon peel
2 tbs. Lemon juice
1 c. Powdered sugar, sifted
Cream butter and sugar on medium speed for a full five minutes. Combine dry ingredients. On medium speed, add the eggs to the butter and sugar one at a time. Add the lemon peel and lemon juice. Gradually add the flour until just combined. Pour into two buttered and flour-dusted loaf pans and bake in a 350˚ oven for one hour or until a bamboo skewer inserted in center comes out clean. Cool on racks.
Combine powdered sugar with the 2 tablespoons lemon juice and pinch of salt and stir until smooth and pour-ey. Drizzle over the cakes and let dry.