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Writer,Quilt maker,Folkartist, from Freestone County, Tx.


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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Edward "Ned" Titus: Unsung Hero

Edward "Ned" Titus was born in l826 as a slave in South Carolina. He died at Brown's Creek,Freestone County, Texas in l900. He was brought to Steward's Mill, Texas by the Simeon and Nancy Lake family, in 1852. Little is known about his parents,except that his father was born in Africa and his mother was born in Virginia.

 Ned's wife Clora Dunbar, was brought along with him from South Carolina. All that is known about her is that her parents were from Virginia and she, too, undoubtedly was born as a slave during the early l800 era. Her role in creating the Titus family lineage of descendants, nonetheless is very significant and not to be dismissed.

Freestone county in the l800's was an ideal location for new settlers with slaves. It was an agricultural region with an abundance of the cash crop cotton, as well as, wheat, corn, peas, beans and sweet potatoes.

As of l860, Freestone county had no free Blacks, and the slave population actually surpassed the white population. As with most Texas communities, slavery was officially ended January 1, 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation, but slavery in Texas did not actually end until June 19,1865.

Fourteen years later on March 4,1879,Ned and three of his sons purchased 320 acres of land in Freestone county, Texas, from Willie Lane and her husband C.B. Lane. The land was located at Brown's Creek, some ten or eleven miles East of Fairfield in the northeastern Part of Freestone County, where the Txu Electric Plant now stands.

Though Ned was illiterate and inexperienced, he and fellow ex slaves ,Ben Lee and Jim Keeton, survived in an environment that was not always friendly. They were instrumental in forming a predominantly Black community called Titus Farm. They were able to provide (what was considered a good life for their families for the times).

Ned and his wife Clora had 13 children.Their names were:
  1. Mary
  2. Sudie
  3. Frances
  4. William Timothy
  5. James
  6. Harriet
  7. Walter
  8. Henry Edward 
  9. Emma
  10. Willie
  11. Levi
  12. Clora
  13. Guy
The oldest children had also been slaves.

Ned took the leadership in establishing Hopewell Methodist Episcopal Church (which is now a part of Jones Chapel Church of Fairfield),Titus Farm Grammar and Junior High School (which later became a part of Dogan High & Elementary school; then later still in l968-69 with the Integration policies instituted, a part of Fairfield Independent School District), and finally he helped to established  Hopewell Cemetery. His descendants have studied in some of the best educational Institutions of the nation and have found employment in all walks of life, even representing the U.S. government diplomatically.

The farm remained in the family until the l960's when the residents were forced by the Texas Utility to sell it. Texas Utility wanted the land for coal strip mining and threatened to evoke imminent domain laws to forcible seize the land if the residents did not agree to sell it. Operating on the land today, is Big Brown Mining Plant that produces electricity from coal.

Adjacent to Big Brown Mining Power Plant is Hopewell cemetery, the only remaining landmark from what was once a thriving Titus Farm Community. It was saved from destruction as the results of actions taken by a great granddaughter of Ned Titus, who in l968 fought the Texas Utility to preserve this ancestral burial place.

Edward Ned and Clora are at rest at Hopewell Cemetery near Fairfield, Texas.

This information was provided to me, by Mr. Wilbur T. (Bill) Titus--Official Titus Family Historian and Last official resident of Titus Farm Community.

For further detailed information about Edward "Ned" Titus and Titus Farm Community ,please contact:

                                        Wilbur T. Titus
                                         A.M.Hunter-Titus Charitable
                                          Cultural Center,Inc.
                                          903-389-3482 or  email: wilburttitus@windstream.net

                                                              That's All for now. Enjoy!!!

                                                                                 Sherry Ann

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sherry Byrd's Quilt Gallery I


  That's it for now. Tune in later for more tasty treats.Bye now.

Sherry Ann

Learn more about my quilts at:



Tuesday, June 22, 2010


In 1852 a planter by the name of Simeon Lake, his wife Nancy, and their children migrated to Freestone county, Texas from South Carolina, via Arkansas, in four wagons, pulled by 10 oxen. They brought with them, five slaves, Edward "Ned" Titus, his wife Chlorie (Dunbar) Titus and their children. The male slaves helped with the outside work and the females did all the cooking and housework. The household chores consisted of cleaning, washing , ironing, sewing, cooking,and quilt making, etc.

Among Edward "Ned" and Chlorie's eleven children was born a son, named Walter, in 1856. When Walter matured, he took as wife, Miss Patsie Reddick. They were the parents of one daughter, Ellen Anna Titus, born in 1884.

Patsie was considered to be a good housekeeper, cook and mother. She was talented at quilt making. She had all the skills a man was taught to look for in a woman. She taught all these skills  to her daughter, Ellen Anna, at a very early age. Ellen Anna wed at the age of 15 to Willie Anderson Durham. They had eleven offspring of which four were daughters. Ellen Anna taught her daughters the same skills her mother had passed on to her. She started their training as early as eight years old; her youngest daughter Katie Mae Tatum, is quoted as saying. Katie Mae was born in 1917 and her mother died when she was around 12 years old.

With these two African American women began a legacy of African American M-provisational Folk art Quilt making that has survived the rigors of time through five, and going on six generations. The Titus family lineage has culminated into the creation of a series of reversible family story quilts which Patsie's great, great granddaughter, Sherry A. Byrd works on passionately, in her spare time.

Sherry was born and raised in Fairfield, Texas, Freestone county in 1951, the centennial year of the town. The place where she was born is not many miles from Ward's Prairie and Brown's Creek, areas in which Edward "Ned" and his family were settled. She is the mother of eight children and her parents are Connie and Laverne (Henry) Brackens. Laverne is the great granddaughter of Patsie (Reddick)Titus and Walter Titus. Laverne's mother, Gladys (Durham) Henry is Patsie's granddaughter.

In the l950's when Sherry was growing up, she had plenty of exposure to quilt making as her grandmother, Gladys, served as Nanny for about 20 of her own grandchildren, while their mothers worked away from home on secular jobs. "Big Mama", as all called her, had plenty of chores to keep these energetic hands busy and active at all times. One of these tasks was "tacking' quilts. Big Mama sewed, pieced and quilted five days per week. Many times Sherry was drafted for this monotonous chore. Probably because as a young girl she could not resist the enticing sounds made by her grandmother's Singer sewing machine. Nor could she resist the beautiful colorful cloth patches and the erratic designs of  her grandmother's "throw together" quilts. She loved watching the process of completing a quilt happen and wished she could make something pretty too. But the string tying was boring and playing outside making mud cakes with Big Mama's real chicken eggs was far more exciting. Maybe one day when she grew up she would make a quilt but not now. On the other hand, Sherry did like to  make doll clothes  and occasionally Big Mama would give her cloth scraps , a needle, and some thread to do so. Once, she even let her try out out her sewing machine.

May l969, Sherry graduated from High School. In the fall, she entered Sam Houston State University in Huntsville, Texas. Her twelfth grade homeroom teacher, Mrs. Pattie Jones, believed she had the possible making of an artist and helped secure a small scholarship and a part time job to help  pay her way through school. In l972, Sherry graduated with a BA in History and  Art.

While attending Sam Houston State University, Sherry met Curtis Byrd, Sr., her future husband. They were married in 1973. Now her life became extremely hectic with child bearing, child rearing, religious activities, and assisting her husband in his secular self employment of recycling. There was still  no time for quilt making.

l984 brought a dramatic change to Sherry's life. Her seventh child, a son, was stillborn. To cope with the grief and depression, Sherry turned to quilt making. She started with a cribsized quilt and then made several more. She distributed these to friends who had given birth. Her confidence was elevated by the success of these smaller projects so she felt ready to tackle a full-sized quilt. Her first one ever. Before she could finish it, her husband, Curtis claimed it as his own and therefore the quilt was named "Dad's Quilt". It still adorns the couple's bed every winter.

1986--Sherry came across an ad in a supermarket tabloid paper that simply stated, "I buy quilts, old and new." She called the phone number listed and made acquaintance with Mr. Eli Leon, a collector and scholar who was researching African American quilts. This relationship directed her quilt making on a journey that has taken many twists and turns. The journey has been and still is a wonderful one.

Sherry introduced Eli to her mother and grandmother. He traveled to Texas and purchased quilts and tops from both of them. He also purchased tops from Sherry's daughter, Bara. These quilts were exhibited as a group at the High Museum  in Atlanta, GA___ in the exhibit, "No Two Alike", 1996-97.

The success of these exhibits stirred in Sherry the desire to know why so many people were becoming interested in throw together quilts. So she began a research of the topic that has led to the discovery of a wonderful and fantastic family legacy of quiltmaking.

During this research period, other amazing events occurred which has added to the richness of the experience. In 1997, British Airways commissioned fifty ethnic artworks from around the world to have painted and displayed on their over 300+ Boeing jet tail fins. They wanted to create a new image for themselves. Sherry's quilt, "Champagne" was chosen as one of those artworks. Her quilt became a part of British Airway's" Sky high Gallery."

Next,in 1998, Texas Folk life Resources gallery director, Pat Jasper, contacted Sherry and her mother. She curated the exhibit "Quilts of Color"Three generations in an Afro-Texan Family". This exhibit included quilts created by Sherry's( grandmother), Glady's Henry, (her great aunt), Katie Mae Tatum,( her mother), Laverne Brackens and Sherry. It included percision made as well as M-privosational  quilts. The Titus family speaks two quilt making languages fluently. Also several Titus family apprentices took part in a workshop that was a part of the exhibit. They were Sarah E. Byrd, Nikki Brackens, Tysha Brackens and Cephas Byrd.

At the "Quilts of Color" workshop, September 18, l999, Sherry presented to the public for the first time ever the story quilt "Homegrown/Handmade/Passed-On Family ." This was a brainchild that culminated from her previous research into the family's history. She had worked on it progressively for close to three years and it still had not been completed. Homegrown story quilt Chronicles the background of the Titus family, basically from around 1852-2000. The crowd loved it even though it was still incomplete.

The quilt had such a great impact that, Suzanne Seriff, a guest curator attending the workshop for the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum, invited Sherry to exhibit the quilt at the new opening of the state museum for their inaugural exhibit titled "It Ain't Braggin' If It's True". By the time of the inaugural opening, Sherry had managed to bring the story quilt to a relative conclusion.

The crowds loved it once again as the following quotes reveal:

July 2,2001__"...I cannot tell you how much the visitors to the museum have raved over your quilt. So many stop, and look, and study it, and try to read the script and tease the stories out of the images! It is really something else!..."
Suzanne Seriff, Guest Curator
"It Ain't Braggin If It's True"
Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum
Austin, Texas

December, 2001__Dear, Mrs Byrd,...The exhibit has been a great success...thanks to lenders such as yourself sharing artifacts with a wider audience...

January, 2002__ ...We are pleased to have had your wonderful quilt in our exhibit "It Ain't Braggin' If It's True"...thank you for your participation in our exhibit. Over 500,000 visitors have come to see the museum since we opened last April!

Meredith Sutton
Museum Registrar
Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum

The greatest honor resulting from the Bob Bullock Museum experience was the fact that President George W. Bush, First Lady Laura Bush, Mrs. Jan Bullock, Governor Rick Perry, former Texas governors Preston Smith, Dolph Briscoe, and Bill Clements along with a crowd of 500 Texas state government officials and their families were among the over 500,000 visitors who had the opportunity to view "Homegrown" at the inaugural opening  of the State Museum. African American "Throw Together" M-provisational quilts have come a long way in the history making process...from covering slave beds to works of Art on Museum walls! It is truly amazing and a wonder to behold.

The joy experienced by the family members is unbridled. What will happen next in this unique journey? Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, Sherry continues to create. For 20 years, since l986, she has been collecting quilt blocks from family quilt makers to create a reversible sampler and story quilt commemorating the long held tradition of passing on sewing skills and quilt making skills in the Titus family. This reversible quilt is the second one in a series of reversible story quilts that the artist plans to construct based on the history of Freestone county and her family's life story. The Series holds the title of "Homegrown "N" Freestone".

On July 26, 2007, Sherry Byrd was invited to give a "High Noon Talk" at the Bob Bullock, Texas State History Museum to talk about her second story quilt "Jazz With a Needle and Thread," who's composition included elements pieced by four generations of African American quilters found in her family's lineage. She also related and shared tales of her family's unique quilt making tradition and why it is worthy of its international acclaim. With their relaxed unconventional mode of piecing, bold and vibrantly electric colors, and asymmetrical designs, these quilts embody the flavor of Texas Two-Stitching M-privisational Pride. They also uncover the history of a Lone Star State's family quilt making Legacy. Sherry's work "Jazz With A Needle and Thread" was on exhibit in the Pride Section of the special 5-year anniversary exhibit "It (Still) Ain't Braggin if It's True," which explored the qualities of Texas Vision, Friendship, Perseverance, Pride, Showmanship, and Swagger through One-of-a-kind objects and the stories they tell.

The "High Noon Talk" was a wonderful experience and success...with an audience of 70+ (including adults and children) fully involved as they o-o-o-ohed and a-a-a-ahed over the M-provisational Masterpieces flashed & displayed before them. The Tell & Show session was declared by the museum staff to be the Best-of-the-series of High Noon Talks given over the summer of 2006, at the museum, as the audience was so highly enthusiastic, captivated and engaged.

Now we move on. "Homegrown" has made its permanent mark on Texas Floklore History, "Jazz With A Needle &Thread has captivated and dazzled its audience.. so what will happen as Sherry plows into developing the third story quilt in her series called "LoneStar Braggin' Rights: It's A Texas Thang!
It is hard to tell...but hopefully it will all be just as exciting and history making as the previous two story quilts have been.

Bye for now...see you in the next post.
Sherry Ann

More About My Famiy And Me (Sherry Ann Byrd)

Sherry A. Byrd is my name. I was born in Freestone county,Texas, in 1951, in the town of Fairfield,which is approximately an hours' drive south of Dallas and approximately one hour west of of Waco. This town is the county seat and 1951 was its centennial year.

As a child I was introduced to quilt making via my maternal grandmother, Gladys Celia Durham-Henry. She came from a long lineage of African American quilt makers. That lineage stretches back as far as slavery times.

I did not learn to quilt by actually making a quilt of my own when young,but instead, for the first 18 years of my life I observed quietly as my grandmother created beautiful folk art pieces. Occasionally, she commandeered my assistance in tacking (tying strings) when adding a lining to a top to complete one of her amazing creations.

Quilt making at the time I was maturing, was on the decline, not only in Texas, but nationwide.  No longer was it mandatory  for young girls to learn the skill so as to be prepared to keep their families warm in wintertime, after marriage. Yet because of my close association with my grandmother, and her strict adherence to the traditional things her mother and grandmother had taught her as a child, she greatly affected and molded my viewpoints on life, quilting and many other things. Therefore quilt making continues to thrive in our family even to the present.

In September of 1969, I left home to seek higher education at Sam Houston State University, in Huntsville, Texas. I graduated in 1972 with a BA in History (my major) and Art (my minor). Little did I realize back then that over the next forty plus years, I would be putting both these areas to very good use in chronicling my own familys' history and legacy pertaining to America, Texas and Freestone County. The history of my ancestor Edward "Ned" Titus and his family , who were brought to this county in 1852 by the Simeon and Nancy Lake Family soon became one of my main focal points for family history research. Then came the Six generations of African American quilt makers and their quilts.

There was so much to learn. Things I had no clue existed, because as children ,we were not aware of this family history. We became aware of it only when researching genealogies became popular during the 1960's.. My cousin Wilbur T. Titus had a enormous effect on my desire to learn more. He was born in 1919 and is officially considered by family members to be the Titus Family Historian. He collects photos, and all kinds of information about our family and deposits it in his Myfamily.com website for viewing by family members and others who may be interested. Bill, as he is affectionately referred to by family members and friends, is 91 years old. Old enough to have been personally acquainted with family members who were slaves and ex slaves, as well as many of the members of the younger generation. He has compiled an extensive and detailed  generation by generation family genealogy chart. He has also established the A. M. Hunter-Titus Foundation (named after his loving mother Amanda Marie Hunter-Titus) thru which his assists family members to know their ancestral roots. He freely shares this information . Thru him I learned a great deal about the quilt makers. His own mother was a  wonderfully  skilled quilt maker herself and later on in this site I will share some of her quilt images, as well as, quilts by many other Titus family quilters.

Descendants of  Edward "Ned" Titus and Chlorie Dunbar-Titus, still populate Freestone county, but are also to be found located in almost every nook and cranny of our American geography. They are to be found in all walks of life too. There are doctors, lawyers, judges, teachers, ambassadors, writers, folk artists, entertainers, athletes, and on and on. All this progressed from the desire of  "Ned" to create a better life for his children and descendants. Soon after emancipation he and his sons bought 320 acres of land on which they established the Titus farms community. Here they built a church which served also as a school for the children to be educated. The cemetery and church are the only remaining  land marks of this once thriving community.They are right next door to the Big Brown Coal Mining Plant located in Freestone county. "Ned" and Chlorie are buried in the cemetery along with other family members. Wilbur T.(Bill) Titus was the very last descendant to have lived  at Titus Farms Community.

At the same time that the males were creating an educational legacy for the family, the females of the family were also,unknowingly, creating an artistic legacy, via the necessity to keep the family warm in the wintertime.
Apparently none of them ever ventured to dream that one day the quilts they created would become works of art hung on museum walls. The year my grandmother Gladys died,(1996) her quilts were included in and exhibit  at the High Museum in Atlanta ,Georgia, during the time that the Olympic Games were taking place. I'm sure she must have been mighty proud of that fact. That exhibit was called "No Two Alike" and the 11  quilts created by our family members, along with the others by non family members have been favorably compared to those oh so famous Gees Bend Quilts, from Alabama. (A note I'd like to insert here is that many of the pioneer citizens that settled Freestone county, Texas and brought their slaves here, originally came from Alabama. Make of it what you want, but it is a thought to chew on.) Anyway you can read about the comparisons at www.planetpatchwork.com. There is a "No Two Alike" exhibit review and a book review on Gees Bend Quilts. Enjoy!( These articles have been archived on the planetpatchwork website, but you can also access them by doing a "No Two Alike Exhibit search on your favorite browser.)

Both these Titus Family Legacies have had long lasting effects on Freestone county and our family as a whole. You may read more details in the next post, a story about me and my quilts.


Reversible Story quilt_
    Side Two

This story quilt chronicles the history of the Titus family from Africa to the present. you may read more details at Irving Sandlers Artist file at  http://local-artists.org/user/823 on my webpage.


       Story quilt_ Side One     


   No Two Alike Exhibit - 1999               

Monday, June 21, 2010

Passionate About History ,Quilts and Genealogy

My name is Sherry A. Byrd. I am a historian and Folk art quilt maker from Freestone County, Texas. I was born in 195l, in Fairfield,Texas, in the centennial year of the town.

My mission in creating this site "Quilts in Freestone County, Texas and Beyond" is to document the relationship of the people of Freestone county to their love of quilt making and tie this love to the countys' genealogy and history.

Therefore my site is devoted to recording the history of Freestone county, as related to quilts and the history of the slave Edward "Ned" Titus, his family and their quilt making lineage. This African American quilting lineage extends back six generations. There are many more families in the area that have similar quilt making legacies. This extends into all cultures that have resided in this county.

As this story develops, hopefully, you will discern that there are many intimate ties, over lappings and interweavings of the family histories and the art of quilt making. There is so much information, I will only be able to scratch the surface, but in doing so maybe someone will be inspired to take up where I leave off and continue this fascinating journey into our countys' history.

These Freestone county quilts, sometimes act as the only documents to the "living legacies" that families or individuals of the area have left behind as citizens of this county. The quilts may eventually help genealogy buffs of Freestone county and maybe even outsiders, to connect with links in their family lineages to this area. I sincerely hope so.

Via quilt making we will explore life in Freestone county, Texas "As It Was" and "As It Is Today". Also, how it relates to the greater universe outside these local boundaries in the quilt world and the art world.

If after examining the information within this site, you as a visitor, have and would like to contribute more details and facts about Freestone county quilts and/or family histories, etc., please send the information via email to syncopatedaccents@hotmail.com. I welcome help in making the site as factual and fascinating as possible.

Freestone county, to me, is one of the most interesting and fascinating places on this earth. Like most other places it has its good and bad sides, but I still strongly feel that it deserves to have a permanent place on the historical road map, especially so, concerning its quilt making heritage.

So please come back and visit my site often. I have a lot to tell you and hope you will enjoy every minute of your visit each time. I'll try not to bore you too much. I will probably try to post something new at least once a month or even more frequently if I can carve out the time.

So bye for now and I hope you'll visit again "Real Soon!!"

Sherry Ann


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