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Centennial History of Hurricane (1994 Edition): Matthews Family VII

In 1988, The Centennial History of Hurricane, WV was published to commemorate the town’s 100th anniversary. In 1994, the Centennial Committee published a follow up book which included family histories which were not submitted in time for the 1988 Centennial History. This week’s selection is the 31st history from The Centennial History of Hurricane WV Continued — 1994.

Parts VII
Aunt Viney Carrington

Lavina was born a slave. By her own admission, she was sold at a slave auction in Richmond, Virginia, when she was about 10 years old. She related how that “they” stood her on a chopping block and sold her to the highest bidder. The highest bidder was my Great-Grandfather, William Matthews. This was about 1825.

There are many things we don’t know about Vina and many things we do know. Her name for instance, she was always known to family and neighbors as Aunt “Viney”. We aren’t sure what her real name was. On one record she is listed as Lavina, on another as Melvina Carrington. Family sources say that she married a man named Carrington, age 26, and that they went to housekeeping in the smokehouse. However, he eventually left. I suppose that is how she got the name Carrington. She lived with William and Lucinda and later with Grandpa John Matthews. Her age is also questionable. She thought she was 10 when sold at the auction, and about 15 when she came to Cabell (Putnam) County with the Matthews. In the 1870 Census she was listed as 51, in 1880 as 65. It is difficult to determine her birth year.

In the early days, when the farm was being developed, it is said that Viney worked in the fields just as hard as the men as well as working in the house and helping with the children. It is not known of certainty when Viney was given her freedom, some think before the Civil War and some think after — but the circumstances would fit either. When she was told she was free and could go where she pleased, she replied, “Go where? This is my home.” So, by choice, she stayed with the Matthews, in essence, as a family member.

The family made her welcome to sit at the table and eat with them, but she would not, not thinking it proper. Old ways die hard. But she had dignity, and this was her decision. She helped raise the Matthews children and my Dad said she kept them in line and had spanked him more often than his parents. In the tin-type picture I have of Aunty Viney and Daddy when he was a little boy she is wearing a very fancy dress. Daddy told us that her only request was to have a silk dress to wear to church.

Aunt Viney died in 1900 when she was about 85 years old. She was the very first person to be buried in the Sycamore Cemetery, and as far as is known, the only black person to be buried there. Her grave is marked by a concrete slab poured by Uncle Budge. He used a nail to etch her name in the concrete.

Aunt Viney was a definite part of the Matthews family history. It was because of her character, her dignity, and her loyalty, that she was held in the highest esteem, both by the family and those in the community.

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