Thanks to the Internet, more and more families have been able to complete their family trees. For African American families, the trail has led them back to the slave plantations where their story began in this country. The Harrison and Boddie families of Nash County have been gathering for four decades. But for the first time, they celebrated their family reunion at the Rose Hill Plantation near Nashville.
There’s a long stretch of Highway 58 in Nash County that is owned by one family – The Boddie Family. Today, there’s less than 1,000 acres. Two hundred years ago the family owned closer to 10,000 acres. They also owned slaves. Fred J. Boddie III traveled to the Harrison – Boddie family reunion at Rose Hill Plantation from Silver Spring, Maryland.
“Just driving in here, it was so surreal, just to see the land where my great, great, grandfather helped build." said Fred Boddie.
Fred Boddie is a descendant of Cooley Boddie, who was born at Rose Hill in the 1830s. Like many slaves, Cooley Boddie was given the surname of his owner. Rose Hill is now a destination spot for weddings, corporate events and this past weekend – the family reunion. The 12,000 square foot mansion still sits prominently at the end of the winding driveway. There’s also a great room, pool, tennis courts and a skeet shooting range.
Fred Boddie says this is all new to him, but his father, Fred J. Boddie II, made sure the family was aware that the white Boddie’s from Nash County owned the Hardee’s fast food chain.
“When you go to any Hardee’s restaurant all over this country, you will see Boddie incorporated on the little gold plaques they have in Hardee’s. He always reminded us those were our slave owners," said Fred Boddie.
“If you don’t feel like standing up, just raise your hand. Mr. and Mrs. Mayo Boddie," said Carl D. Harrison, during an introduction of special guests.
Benjamin Mayo Boddie is Chairman of the Board of Boddie-Noell Enterprises that owns all those Hardee’s fast food restaurants. And he was a guest at this weekend’s Harrison–Boddie reunion.
“I was born here in 1929. So you don’t have to figure it out, I will tell you right quick, I’m 83," said Mayo Boddie, to an amused crowd.
Mayo Boddie was born during the Great Depression and his family lost Rose Hill during that time. The plantation was sold twice before Mayo Boddie and family were able to buy it back in 1979 and begin years of renovation.
After a hearty meal of baked and fried chicken, Nash County chopped BBQ pork and the fixins’, the family crowd of about 180 people from as far away as California, swapped family stories and pictures.
David L. Harrison is 87 years old and lives in Durham. He also recalls being born on the Rose Hill plantation. His father was a share cropper and because of the Great Depression, he was able to buy land in Nash County.
“So my daddy was able to get a loan through the Prudential Life Insurance Company and was able to buy 75 acres of land on Highway 58 and a house around 1934, for $4,000," said David Harrison.
"Uncle Don! Can you come on this side, over here!" shouts the family photographer. Uncle Don is Don K. Harrison who helped coordinate this event. “Here we go, nice. Beautiful. Ready. Hold it there. And the last one. Family! Thank you!”
You can’t have a family reunion without the group photo. The rain stopped just long enough for the pictures. And also making this photo, Mayo Boddie and his wife.
“I’m really impressed by the people and how much they talk about family and how important families are. Like I said before that is the basis of everything as far as I’m concerned," said Mayo Boddie.
As one family member said, it was a day when everybody felt they belonged.