Smyth County

'The Crying Tree' in Marion

The Crying Tree

MARION, Va. - Too much of history is lost because nobody bothered to write it down. It doesn't exist in history books, but in the minds of those who lived it and know it.

Such is the case with African-American history.

But one Marion, Virginia woman is trying to keep the stories alive. As we learned, her story dates back to a 5-year-old slave girl and a giant oak tree.

It's appropriate that a rainy sky blankets an ancient, historic white oak in downtown Marion. It's known as "The Crying Tree," and it's designated as such with a marble plaque.

It's a story best told by the granddaughter of a little girl named Sallie who was bought to be a house slave for a rich man's wife. "So he saw my grandmother at age five as good little body servant to attend his wife. He bought her and she was separated from her mom and siblings. One day while her mistress was asleep, she went out to the master's yard, Thomas Thurman's yard, and she was drawn to a specific tree in that yard," granddaughter Evelyn Lawrence said.

The same oak tree that still holds the sorrow of one little girl as she would cry and tell the tree her troubles. Her family had be sold to a slave dealer in Lynchburg, Virginia.

"At night she would slip away again and hug that tree. She would see stars and the moon and wonder 'do my siblings, my brothers and sisters and my mom see the same stars,'" Evelyn says.

Evelyn, being a true lady, would only say that she's in her 90s. The story of the successful educational history that both she and her mother have had in the region is only one that's told here at the Mount Pleasant Methodist Church on Main Street.

It's place for an untold history to be told and preserved. She puts it perfectly in an essay she wrote. "My topic is 'Restore the Voice, Reclaim the Past.' The voices of most of these people have been still and will not be heard audibly ever again but there are ways to bring these voice back," she read.

And she is definitely one of those voices.

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