history-channel-magazineIn the spring of 1837 my great-grandfather Arthur Watts was born in Randolph County, Missouri. He was the son of his master and a mulatto slave named Silvia. Arthur was raised a slave, but his father favored him a bit and allowed him to work as a houseboy. The master’s wife detested the blue-eyed slave boy immensely so when the master was away from the farm, Arthur took to the woods. His friends and relatives would bring him food until his father’s return.

Arthur tended horses and tobacco crops. He witnessed the atrocities of slavery and survived a horrible kick to the head from a horse. A week or so after the kick, he passed out; the wound had become gravely infected. His father had the wound cleaned out, cauterized, and treated with a mixture that included beeswax, alcohol, and mineral oil. He then had a blacksmith heat and sterilize a silver coin, which he cooled and placed in the wound before dressing it. “You can see it,” my grandfather would tell me and point to the back of his head. “Ol’ Arthur’ll never be broke.”

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