Garret Buster - Story

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Transcript Garret Buster - Story

Cover of Brighter Sun Manuscript, 1937 Cover of Brighter Sun as published, 1954


The Search for Garret Buster

Kelli and I Make Contact

    Message on the Rootsweb bulletin board for Boyle County from Kelli Weaver-Miner, of Champaign, IL, looking for her ancestor, Garret Buster.

She was responding to a six-year old offer by a third person to look up names on the Beers 1876 map of Boyle and Mercer Counties.

I responded that I had the map, and so began our correspondence and friendship.

Kelli told me the story of her ancestor, and the historical novel, Brighter Sun, written by Garret’s grandson, Greene Berry Buster (GB to keep from confusing him with his father, also Greene Berry).

Brighter Sun, by G B Buster

 Written by G B Buster after a 1937 visit to Danville and the family home, published 1954.

 Introduction described in great detail the house where Garret and his family were enslaved, which GB visited in 1937.

 Told the highly fictionalized story of his grand parents’ lives, their children, their escape from enslavement, and eventual move to Xenia, OH.

Brighter Sun, by G B Buster (2)

    THE “FACTS” as we knew them: Garret’s father, “Jim” was a slave of Colonel Waring, of Monticello, Wayne County, and supposedly the Colonel’s son by “Jenny”. On Waring’s death, Garret and his wife and children were inherited by Waring’s daughter, Mary (Waring) Benson.

Mary had married “General” Benson, and they operated Waring’s plantation near Danville, taking Garret, Sophie and their children there.

Brighter Sun, by G B Buster (3)

 The Elijah Harlan house, Salt River Road, fit the description of the main house given in the introduction  The “Old Stone House”, also on Salt River Road, also fit the description of “the old stone ruin,” but neither was connected with a Waring or a Benson family.

 Garret worked in a tannery near Danville, eventually earning enough to buy the tannery.

 He bought his freedom from Benson, then the freedom of one of his sons, Greene, in Danville in 1855, who then attended school in Danville.

Brighter Sun, by G B Buster (4)

 His tannery business brought him into contact with people in Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati.

 About 1857, after buying his wife and several children, they left Kentucky at Maysville, then to Xenia, Ohio, where they settled.

 Greene’s freedom papers were mailed to Die Rowe of Danville, who was supposed to give them to Lewis to escape; GB mentions meeting Die on his trip here, saying she was nearly 100 years old.

Brighter Sun, by G B Buster (5)

    Lewis went to Danville, but Die was away, not to return for several months, so he escaped anyway, first to Ohio, then later to Canada, as Garret was unable to purchase him; he later returned to Ohio.

Once in Ohio, Greene and Lewis enlisted in the army.

Greene married in Clarksville, TN in 1865.

After their marriage in 1865, Greene and his bride, Mildred (Johnson) Buster, passed through Danville to visit General Benson, whose wife had died.

Brighter Sun, by G B Buster (6)

 Greene describes an old stone house, and another of white-painted brick on the Salt River Road, along with many graves (from the Battle of Perryville), and that of his sister Elizabeth.

 Greene and Mildred, after some harassment from some people in Danville, took the train to Cincinnati, then to Xenia, OH.

The True Story…Finding Garret

 Working with these “facts,” we began looking for Warings, Bensons and Busters in Boyle and Mercer Counties.

 Only one found was Nimrod Buster, white, who came from Monticello and settled on present-day Buster Pike, on the Boyle-Mercer line near Burgin.

 While at Mercer County Public Library, Barry randomly picked up a book, and began leafing through David H Streets, Slave Genealogy, from back to front.

Breakthrough and Serendipity

  Barry found this on page 80: Know all men by these presents that I Joshua Buster of the County of Wayne Ky in consideration of the Sum of five hundred dollars part of which is paid and part to be paid and of the kind and benevolent feeling that I have for Garret who has heretofore served me well, do hereby forever manumit and set him free - and declare it as my intention and wish and declare it as the intention of this writing that he shall enjoy as full and perfect freedom as if he had been born free hereby releasing him from the obligations of Slavery and Servitude forever. In Testimony whereof I hereunto Set my hand & Seal this the 27th day of February 1845. Attest Joshua Buster; witnesses S. Beard, J. B. Collins.

State of Kentucky Wayne County Court Set March Court 1845.

I William Simpson Clerk of the County Court for the County Afsd do hereby certify that the foregoing deed of emancipation from Joshua Buster to his Servant Garret, has been duly recorded in my office. Given under my hand this 6th day of December 1845. William Simpson CWC

The True Story… Finding Garret (1)

Garret’s Emancipation Document, Vol. I, p155, Wayne County Courthouse

The True Story…Finding Garret (2)

    So, Garret was NOT the slave of “Colonel Waring” but rather of General Joshua Buster of Monticello, Wayne County.

More work on the General’s family showed his daughter, Sarah Buster, who married James Granville Cecil. The Nimrod Buster we found in Boyle County turned out to be Sarah’s nephew.

Both lived in Monticello, KY where Cecil was a very successful businessman.

Cecil bought land on the Salt River Road west of Danville and moved to Boyle County about 1848.

The True Story…Finding Garret (3)

   Sarah (Buster) Cecil died in 1862, as the novel inferred.

J G Cecil became one of the largest landowners in Boyle County and, with his sons, raised champion race horses as well as other farm animals. “Melrose” and “Cambus Kenneth” on US 127 north of Danville, were owned by Cecil descendants.

We obtained some pages from GB’s original 1937 manuscript, which gave much new information. We have since obtained the rest of the 300 page manuscript but have not processed all of it.

The True Story…Finding Garret (4)

 The death certificate of Garret and Sophie’s son, Lewis, was found in Chicago, 1918. This document says his father was “Garry”, his mother’s maiden name was “Sisten” and that he was born in “Granville” Ky. Clues yes, but not exactly.

 Next, we were off to Monticello, where the Cecils and Busters originated.

 At the Wayne County Museum, we found some wonderful helpers.

A Document That Should Not Exist

    We dredged up every book and manuscript we could find relating to the Cecils and Busters.

James and Sarah (Buster) Cecil had lived in Monticello, across the street from the Museum. We also located the original Buster plantation, where Garret was enslaved.

We were shown a document which was rescued from the courthouse after a flood.

In 1854, Garret Buster drew up a will, mentioning that he had purchased Sophia and two children from J G Cecil. The will was never probated as Garret lived another 49 years.

A Document That Should Not Exist

The unprobated will of Garret Buster, 15 August 1854, found by the Wayne County Historical Society. He mentions a bill of sale for his wife Sopha and his children Nancy and Clark, dated 5 March 1853.

Garret Buster’s 1854 Will

 I Garret Buster a free man of color, late the slave of Joshua Buster of the County of Wayne and State of Kentucky, do hereby declare and publish this my last will and testament, revoking and annulling all former wills made by me - 1st Should I depart this life before my beloved wife Sopha, I desire and will to her for the purpose of raising our children, all of my property and effects of every description and at her death, all of my estate to be equally divided among my children, Nancy, Clark & Sarah Jane, and such as may hereafter be born of my said wife Sopha by me, - 2. At my death my will and desire, is that my said wife Sopha and all her children above named, and those she may hereafter have by me, be set free, full and forever released from bondage, and to be forever thereafter entitled to all the rights and privileges of free persons of color -- The said Sopha and her two children Nancy & Clark being the same purchased by me from James G. Cecil, for which I hold this bill of sale dated 5th March 1853.

Witness my hand and seal this 15th day of August 1854.

Witness: J T Wilhite M P Buster Garret his X Buster mark

The 1860 Census of Boyle County

     Garret Buster appears twice.

1860 lists him age 52, with Sophia, 42; Green, 20; Nancy, 14; Sarah, 7, Clark, 9; and James, 3.

1860 Slave Schedule lists him as owner of 1 female mulatto, 42; 1 male mulatto, 20; 1 female mulatto, 14; 1 male mulatto, 9; 1 female mulatto, 7; and 1 male mulatto 3.

Note no Lewis listed -- as he was apparently still owned by J G Cecil, escaping after April 1862.

Garret was in Boyle April 1862, Greene was in Cincinnati Sep1862, must have moved to Ohio between those dates.

Freedom in 1862

Boyle County Deeds, Vol 8, p 104

In consideration of the love and affection which I bear to the persons named herein, to wit: My wife, Sophia Buster, aged 41 years [b 1821], My Son Green Buster aged 22 years [b1840], Nancy, my daughter, aged 15 years. [b 1847], Clarke, my son, aged 13 years. [b 1849], Sarah, my daughter, aged 11 years [b 1851], James, my son, aged 7 years. [b 1855], Alice my daughter, aged 2 years [b1860] - all of whom are my slaves, being either purchased by me, or born subsequently, to the purchase of my said wife. I do now hereby, and by this instrument of writing, set free and forever emancipate, each and every one of the persons above named, and renounce all power, rights, and authority over them as master, and declare them free persons. Witness my hand in Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky, on this 21st day of April 1862. Attest,. Garret (his mark) Buster M L Chrisman , J P Mitchell, State of Kentucky, Boyle County

Garret and Family, To Ohio

 According to Brighter Sun, Garret, Sophia and family left Danville, went through Lexington to Maysville, crossed Ohio R by ferry, then headed to Cincinnati.

 This makes sense, as Greene was a member of the “Black Brigade” in Cincinnati in September 1862. They must have left Kentucky between April and September 1862.

What about Lewis?

 When he decided to escape in early June (year unknown, but strawberries were ripe), he left Danville, skirted Lexington, then back onto the main road toward Maysville, forded Stoner Creek near Paris, and by daylight he had hidden himself away in a densely wooded tract not far from Carlisle.

 On reaching Maysville, tried to take ferry across, but ferryman recognized he was a runaway. Lewis bolted, rode two miles downstream, swam the river.

Maysville, KY

Lewis would have arrived at the Ohio River approximately here, in Maysville. The view is looking downstream, where he fled. Garret and Sophia would have taken the ferry here. Lewis was unable to.

Lewis flees Maysville, KY

Underground Rail Road panel, Flood Wall, Maysville, KY, showing Rankin House in the distance. This must have been like what Lewis would have seen.

Lewis in Ripley, OH

After swimming the river, Lewis was told of a house on the hill where he would be safe. A lighted star would guide him.

The Rankin House, Ripley, OH

The John Rankin House was Lewis’s goal.

Freedom? Not truly.

Looking back across the Ohio River to Kentucky from the Rankin House, with Ripley, OH on the river. To be truly safe, Lewis had to leave Ohio for Canada for several years.

By The Way…

    While looking for Busters and Cecils, we had to research the Harlan family as well.

Harlan Station (“The Old Stone House”) was built by James Harlan about 1785 at what is now the end of the Salt River Road west of Danville. His grandson, John Marshall Harlan, the great Supreme Court Justice, was born here in 1833.

Elijah Harlan, a son of James, built a brick house, painted white, and a two-story stone slave house.

These houses are described by GB in great detail in the introduction to Brighter Sun.

The Old Stone House, ca 1785

The Old Stone House about 1910, shortly after it had been abandoned. The original building was the left (south) section containing the two fireplaces. John Marshall Harlan was born here in 1833.

The Old Stone House, ca 1785

The house, empty and missing its northern portion, about 1968. (Courtesy of Guy Ingram)

The Old Stone House, ca 1785

The house and its spring house, about 1985, both described by GB Buster. The spring house was on the Salt River, and water was carried up the hill to the house.

The Old Stone House, ca 1785

Site of the Old Stone House and Ruins of the Spring House, 2012.

The Elijah Harlan House, c1828

On the left, the main house, described by G B Buster in 1937. On the right, the slave quarters, described as two story limestone, two rooms on the first floor each with fireplaces, and one large room on the second. In the center, an addition connecting the two parts, built prior to 1950.

The Elijah Harlan House, c1828

Left, the Elijah Harlan House today. Right, the large upstairs room in the slave quarters described by G B Buster.

The Aftermath…Later Busters

  Garret Buster died in Xenia, OH in 1903 leaving many descendants in Ohio and Illinois. Sophia died in 1894 also in Xenia.

Greene Buster was a member of the “Black Brigade” of Cincinnati, formed to defend the city against a Confederate attack. They built fortifications all over northern Kentucky over a 3-week period. A memorial has recently been erected in Cincinnati to the Black Brigade. Greene and Lewis Buster later enlisted in the 101 st Ohio Volunteer Colored Troops.

The Aftermath…Later Busters (2)

LEWIS BUSTER  The 101st Regt, US Colored Infantry was organized in Tennessee at large September 16, 1864. Attached to Defenses of Louisville & Nashville Railroad, Dept. of the Cumberland, to March, 1865. Dept. of the Tennessee to January, 1866. Duty at Nashville, Tenn., till October, 1864; then guard Louisville & Nashville Railroad, and duty in Tennessee and Alabama till muster out. Affairs at Scottsboro and Larkinsville, Ala., January 8, 1865. Mustered out January 21, 1866.   Lewis, as a member of the F&S Company, mustered out as Commissary Sergeant. He is listed on the African-American Civil War Memorial on Plaque C-100 and Plaque D-126.

He was also a member of Company G of the 123 contains his pension record.

rd Regt, US Colored Infantry, organized at Louisville, Ky., December 2, 1864. Duty at Louisville, Ky., and other points in the Dept. of Kentucky till October, 1865. Mustered out October 24, 1865. His pension record is M589 Roll 13, and on on Plaque D126 for this regiment. Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, Publication T289, GREEN BUSTER  101st Regiment, United States Colored Infantry, F&S Company, mustered out as Quartermaster Sergeant. His military record is on M589 Roll 13, and he is on the African-American Civil War Memorial on Plaque C-100. His pension file is in Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, Publication T289.

The Aftermath…Later Busters (3)

   Greene was attending Wilberforce University, in Yellow Springs, OH, when he enlisted in Sep 1864.

Greene and his wife Mildred could NOT have left Danville by train, as no trains passed near Danville until 1867, and none passed THROUGH Danville until the 1880s.

G B Buster, author of Brighter Sun, graduated Wilberforce University in 1902, BS, University of Kansas in 1925, MS in 1931, founder and long-time principal of Sumner H.S., the first Black high school in Kansas City, KS. Died in Los Angeles in 1965. On his visit to Danville in 1937, he met with the elderly Diadama Rowe, who had played such an important part in his uncle Lewis’s life. And yes, she was nearly 100 at that time.

The Aftermath…Later Busters (4)

  Green Berry Buster married Katie Patterson, daughter of an early automobile manufacturer in Ohio. Their daughter Josephine Buster graduated from the University of Kansas in 1937, and married Percy McDavid. In 1965, she was the director of special education for the entire county of Los Angeles, CA. Their son is an astronomer, PhD, in Los Angeles.

Other descendants were nurses, ministers, and members of other learned professions. Education was vital to the Buster family’s future, and still is.

Simplified Buster Family Tree

Garret BUSTER m Sophia CECIL CHILDREN === |--> Greene Berry BUSTER


m Mildred JOHNSON |--> Lewis BUSTER


m Sarah CONRAD |--> Nancy BUSTER |--> Clark BUSTER |--> Sarah BUSTER |--> James BUSTER |--> Mary BUSTER |--> Milton BUSTER === | GRANDCHILDREN |--> Garrette BUSTER |--> William BUSTER |--> Elizabeth BUSTER |--> Charles C BUSTER |--> Lizzie BUSTER |--> Paul BUSTER |--> Rufus BUSTER |--> Greene Berry (GB)


m Kathleen PATTERSON === Josephine BUSTER |--> Squire BUSTER |--> Sadie BUSTER |--> Lewis BUSTER |--> Louis BUSTER |--> Maud BUSTER |--> Emma BUSTER

Buster Chronology

EVENT IN BRIGHTER SUN (approx in blue Italics)

Garret Buster born "Colonel Waring" dies, Mary inherits Garret &c

Garret buys Green's freedom in Danville

Lewis Buster escapes to Canada then Xenia OH Garret and Sophia move to Xenia OH "Mary (Waring) Benson" dies

Greene marries Mildred Johnson 1800 1864 1865 1870 1878 1881 1894 1900 1902 1903 1913 1915 1965 1808 1809 1820 1835 1838 1839 1845 1848 1853 1854 1855 1857 1860 1861 1862 1862 1862 EVENT IN FACT James Granville Cecil born Garret Buster born Sarah (Buster) Cecil born Garret marries Sophia Greene Buster Born Lewis Buster born Garret buys his freedom from Joshua Buster J G and Sarah (Buster) Cecil move to Danville Garret buys Sophia and 2 children from J G Cecil Garret's will in Wayne County Garret listed in Boyle County Census Garret and Sophia move to Xenia OH Garret frees his family in Danville Greene in Cincinnati’s "Black Brigade" Sarah (Buster) Cecil dies Greene and Lewis enlist in Ohio Colored Infantry Greene marries Mildred Johnson Garret listed in Xenia, OH Census Greene Berry (GB) Buster born James Granville Cecil dies Sophie dies GB lives in Clark Twp, Clinton Co OH GB graduates Wilberforce U Garret dies GB marries Kathleen Paterson GB lives Kansas City, KS GB dies in Los Angeles, CA

Buster Descendants about 1915

(A) Garrett Buster Jr. (one of Greene Sr's. sons). (B) Mildred (Johnson) Buster. (C) Hattie, Mildred's sister. (D) Rae Buster. (E) Charles Buster (one of Garrets Jr.'s sons). (F) Greene Berry Jr., the author of the book. (G) Katie (Patterson) Buster (Greene Berry Jr.'s wife). (H) Josephine Buster.

What We Still Need To Know…

   WHO were Garret’s parents? Brighter Sun infers that “Colonel Waring” was the father of Garret’s father, Jim. The “real” Colonel Waring, Gen. Joshua Buster, was too young to have been Jim’s father.

WHEN did Garret Buster come to Danville and Boyle County? He shows up in the 1850 Census living in Placerville, CA.

WHEN did Garret Buster take his family to Ohio? The novel states about 1857, yet they were in the 1860 Census for Boyle County. Garret emancipates his family in April 1862, and Greene is in the “Black Brigade” in Cincinnati in September 1862.

What We Still Need To Know…(2)

 WHEN did Lewis, escape from enslavement? Again, about 1857 is implied in the novel, but it may have been later, probably in late spring1862.

 When did Lewis go to Canada, where did he go, and how long did he stay there? The novel says “Chatham.”  Ohio’s “Personal Liberty” law passed 1857, should have kept Lewis from being captured and returned to Kentucky; the novel implies it was passed after Lewis escaped.

What We Still Need To Know…(3)

  WHAT properties did James Granville Cecil purchase, if any, from the Harlan family? Danville and Boyle County in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, says Cecil purchased property from Silas Harlan in 1822 (exactly which property is uncertain), but Cecil was only 19 years old at the time and living in Monticello.

HOW is James Granville Cecil connected with the Elijah Harlan house? Cecil owned members of the Buster family in Monticello, and GB Buster describes the Elijah Harlan house as the place where his ancestors were enslaved, but as yet we find no deeds, directly or indirectly through others, to Cecil from Harlan.

One Final Quirk of Fate

The historic “Great Tornado Outbreak” of 3 April 1974 spawned a tornado that nearly destroyed “The Old Stone House.”

About four hours earlier and 170 miles away, an F-5 tornado began at the Cherry Grove Cemetery in Xenia, Ohio, killing 36, and destroying the gravestones of Garret and Sophia Buster.

Thanks To …

Kelly Weaver-Miner

Barry Sanborn

Guy and Anna (Russell) Ingram

Harlan Ogle

Dr. Saundra Ardrey

African American Genealogy Group of Kentucky

Greene Berry Buster