Our Black History – George Dallas Finley and Julia Larkin Finley

My maternal grandmother’s grandparents were George Dallas Finley and Julia Larkin Finley. They lived and died in Sumpter County, Alabama, and are the main nexus of the Finley/Larkin clan. The Finleys, Larkins, and Tidmores (my grandfather’s people) were three of the main black families in Sumpter County. Not only because they were quite a large clan and because they collectively owned most of the land, but also because they were close kin to the Irish families they were related to. Finley, Larkin, and Tidmore weren’t only the names of the families that owned them or their ancestors, but the names of acknowledged related family members. The Larkins were, apparently, particularly proud of their Irish blood and light skin. Something that will come up again when I tell the story of my grandmother’s mother.

The speakers here are myself, my cousin Richard, my great-aunt Peggy, and my grandmother. Colors denote who is speaking, I’m in black.

George Dallas Finley

Grampa Dallas was a reverend. He was a preacher, my grampa was.

Yes, George Dallas Finley.
My remembrance of my grandfather
he was a great philosopher
he never really say
“Don’t do this or that.”
He always would tell a story.

He always would tell you a story
and bring it back to the subject,
you know.
I can remember him sayin’ to me
after I got old enough to date,
I can remember him,
and I was goin’ out on a date,
goin’ to the movies
the movies that was in Bellamy
and I can remember him sayin’ to me
“You goin’ out of here clean,
I want you to come back clean.”
and I said
“Well what that mean?”
and he said
“Well, think about it.”

And he never raised his voice,
he was a soft spoken person.
He was a minister.
He studied
you know
he read all the time.

He was also an activist.
He would register people to vote.
Black people to vote.

How was that with him being an activist?
I mean, was it dangerous at the time?

Sure.
Get black folks to register to vote.

But grandfather was
a well-respected man.
He
like I said,
he never was a loud person,
he was quiet and spoken
and the white people knew him
and they didn’t bother him.
A lot of times
in those days
if you got out
and screamed
and hollered
about ‘oh I wanna do this
and I wanna do that,’
they may say
“Oh let Dallas
go ahead on and do that.”
That kind of stuff.
So he wasn’t ever harassed.
They knew him, they respected him.

And as I said,
he would take issues
that needed to be brought
to the white folks attention
and he would bring them there.
Now he was a calm man,
not a rabblerouser,
but there was still
some substance to him
that’s what I’m trying to say.
He was just not somebody
who would let
something go unsaid
or let it change by itself.

I think it’s significant to note
that they don’t really remember
or know
when Grampa Dallas,
George Dallas Finley
was born
so they gave him a birthdate
of 1865
so when he died
he was 83 years old
but in point of fact
he may have been
five or six years older than that.
So he lived a good long life.

Gramma Julia

Julia was Kate’s stepmother.
See, when Gramma Julia first married
she married a mulatto
his name was Hicks.

They had three kids:
Tea-Rosa / Rostie
Daughter
Mae Henri

He was a real fair guy,
he had the red hair,
ya know
but you could tell
he was black.
Aunt Rostie showed me
his picture
one day.

Grampa Dallas had
four children
I believe
when his wife died.

Sally
Bill-ed
Kate
George

So then
you know
Gramma was
without a husband,
I think he died.
Grampa Dallas was
without a wife,
so they married.
Then I think it was six more kids.

Mose,
Willie,
Eliza/Sis,
Ida,
John Henry/Doc,
Walter/Shank.

Gramma had a daughter
named Tea-Rosa,
we called her Aunt Rostie
and Aunt Rostie
and Aunt Kate
were about the same age.
And the story that I like to tell is
Gramma Julia had dressed
Kate and Aunt Rostie
in the same kinda dress
that she had made them
the same kinda dresses
to wear.
And she took them to
York with her.
York, Alabama was the next largest town.
And she went to buy dry goods,
she was going to buy some more
cloth to make some more
dresses, probably.
And she had told
Aunt Kate and Aunt Rostie
to hold hands
cuz they were sisters.
“You’re sisters, hold hands!”
So they were holding hands and walking.
When they got into the store
gramma saw one of her
white cousins.
And she said,
“Julia, what’re you doin’ with them
black babies?”
Gramma went off on her.
And I said,
“Gramma was a tough chic.”
And Grampa Dallas
couldn’t have been
a scardy cat himself
because he married her.

I was a little girl that would tell
everything on everybody.
it was Ida
and my sister Ree
and his mother Eliza
the three of them
were about the same age.
Grew up together.
Datin’ together.
And Gramma Julia
didn’t allow certain boys
at her house
you know
they weren’t workin’
or they have somethin’ on their minds
they couldn’t go there
up to the house
with Sis and them
–which we call Eliza Sis.
And they come to our house
my mother’s house
and I was a little girl,
oh about three
or four years old,
but around them
and their boyfriends
and stuff
you know
I’d make them pay me
to not tell on them.
Because they knew
Gramma Julia
would get me up in the kitchen
makin’ cookies with her
and she’ll start questioning me about
“Uh Peggy,
who was down to your house last night?
Was Sis and them down there?”
“Yes gramma, they was down there.”
“What boys was down there?”
There was one boy and
gramma Julia
couldn’t stand him.
So she wanted me to tell if
Floyd
his name was Floyd
was there or not.
And I would tell it
if they didn’t pay me.
If they had paid me
I wouldn’t tell,
I would say,
“Well no, gramma, he wasn’t there.”
And then I would go back and tell them
“Y’all better pay me.”
with my hand out.

finley-larkin family
Left to right: Mae Henri, Ida, Tea-Rosa; Eliza (Sis), John Henry (Doc), Julia Larkin Finley, Cousin ‘Cat’ (daughter of Tea-Rosa), Walter (Shank), George Dallas Finley, Silvia Hunter


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5 Responses

  1. Madam C.J. Walker was a true pioneer. Just want to remind folks about her. Here is some more info on her: http://www.mixedchicks.net/historyandhair.html

  2. […] was Julia Larkin Finley’s father. He was more tolerant of darker-skinned folks because Julia’s husband, Dallas, […]

  3. i’m black and proud to be

  4. Hello,

    I am also a decendant to this family. My gandmother, Ada Larkin, was the daughter of Homer Larkin. I believe her gandfather or great-grand father was John Larkin. Were you at the Family Reunion last year in Atlanta? Are you going to the family reunion this year in Alabama??

  5. I recently viewed a CD of the 2004 family reunion in Fourth Creek, Alabama, while honoring my great uncle Willie’s 96th birthday. I noticed all of Mose Finley’s children were not listed. Only Fred his son was listed and not my mother Judith, nor her sister Ruth. Mose Finley had Judith, Fred, and Ruth in that order. He had these three children with Evelyn Agee his wife. If possible, would you please add them to the family tree as well as send me a copy of the CD mentioned above? I will send money to pay for it. We were looking to attend this year’s reunion in Forth Creek. We had already registered and reserved a hotel room, but unfortunately are unable to attend. I look forward to hearing from someone soon.

    Thank you,
    Tiffany R. Mixon

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