Summer-time is known for neighborhood get-togethers and family reunions. That’s what the Worthington-Wellington family did this month in Wilson, North Carolina. But a big cook-out was not the highlight. This year, family gathered at Maplewood Cemetery to honor Private Frank Worthington – a member of the 14th Regiment North Carolina Colored Troops – Heavy Artillery. After years of letter-writing and historical research – Private Worthington finally has a Civil War Memorial Headstone – a rarity for African Americans.
Fontella Worthington: "On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other grounds sink in sand. Giving honor to God, distinguished guests, family and friends. I’m Fontella Worthington, the great, great, great granddaughter of Frank Worthington, the great, great granddaughter of Frank Worthington Jr., the granddaughter of Lola Worthington and the daughter of Patsy Sumler. And today, we as a family stand. Because our great grandfather stood as a slave, he stood as a soldier, but he died a free man."
Earl Ijames: "Good morning. My name is Earl Ijames and I am a curator with the North Carolina Museum of History, and I bring you greetings from the North Carolina Museum of History on this glorious day. And many of us have seen the movie Glory, and illustrating the freedom struggle of the Massachusetts 54th and 55th with just a minute portion of the U-S Colored Troops. But what about down in the south, where the majority of people of color, African Americans lived. Here in North Carolina, Frank Worthington was one of 335,000 enslaved men, women and children, a solid one-third of our population in 1860. And he escaped, he left his mother and his two brothers on Isaac Worthington’s Pitt County plantation and risked everything – slave catchers, the Confederate Army, to fight for his freedom..."
Lois Wellington-Bush: "My eyes are a little clouded, because when I look out and see all of kin-folk here honoring my great grandfather, I am just filled with joy."
David Lee Wellington: "My name is David L. Wellington, I’m the great, grandson of Frank Worthington who we are honoring here today with a government furnished Civil War Memorial headstone. And I’ve been working on this now, in terms of this particular event itself, for about a year and a half. But in terms of the research and with him, almost over two year, I mean 22 years."
So it was something that your family was truly adamant about doing, because you knew, as family members, his status, his stature.
David Lee Wellington: "But you had to prove it!"
So tell me, maybe you can explain quickly the Wellington, Worthington, Wellington, Worthington…
David Lee Wellington: "Again, the information we got from the archives, from his pension, his name, the man that owned him was named Isaac Worthington. And he was 20 years old when he joined the Civil War, and he knew how to say that correctly but he could not read or write. When he joined the Civil War, all we see is they have is his mark. So when people spelled his name whatever it was, he took it, because he didn’t know if it was right of wrong. And, of course that year in the military alone, they had him with three different names – Worthington, Weatherington and Wellington. After the civil War, Wellington stuck."