PICKENS — The descendants of former slaves once owned by the Hagood family of Pickens flew in from all over the country for a family reunion at Hagood Mill to reflect and come together at the very place where their ancestors had lived and toiled.
Family historian Aaron Mair said is was a four-decade long process in making the connection.
According to records, Berry and Caroline McKenzie were listed among the “property” owned by the Hagoods along with their children. Berry and Caroline’s oldest son, Zion McKenzie, was Mair’s great-great grandfather.
“Slavery is never an easy thing to discuss,” said Mair. “Nobody wants to talk about it but this isn’t just some page out of a history book to us, this is our family history and it’s important to recognize what they went through. That’s why we wanted to do this, it was important for us to reconnect, mourn and heal.”
Rather then keep it in the family, the McKenzie descendants invited the community to join them at the Mill on Aug. 12 to tour the mill, listen to speakers and witness the laying of flowers in the “slave section” of the Hagood family cemetery where some of the family’s ancestors are believed to have been buried.
“There are no carved headstones for them, only field stones marking where people rest,” said Mair. “So we have to mourn the entire field, we’re denied knowing exactly where they are.”
Local historians, city and county officials and others from the area joined with the family to show their support.
“I can’t properly express into words how much this means to all of us, ” Mair said at the reunion. “We’ve come home.”
Public support for a memorial or some kind of marker recognizing the black men and women who were enslaved by the Hagood family has grown.
“It’s an important piece of history that’s not being recognized,” said Mair. “It was the slaves who worked the mill, that plowed the fields, that made the leather of such quality it was shipped to and sold in Europe. They were skilled craftsmen — and unpaid.
“It’s about time to pay them back, they’ve more than earned it.”