PIQUA – In the final installment of his trilogy based on research of his family tree and stories told to him by his grandmother, Piqua author Larry Hamilton returns us to the world of former slave Lucy Sams – his great-great-grandmother – and her continuing struggle for freedom.
His first book, “Lucy’s Story: Right Choices But Wrongs Still Left” was set during the Civil War era and told of Lucy’s flight from slavery to be sheltered at Camp Nelson, a Civil War encampment south of Lexington, Ky., that was one of the largest recruiters of Black soldiers, where she befriends abolitionist, humanitarian and Berea College founder, the Rev. John G. Fee, and is courted by Allen Ross, a soldier who miraculously survives the Saltville Massacre and returns to marry Lucy with the Rev. Fee officiating.
The sequel, “Between Two Suns: The Berean Experience,” chronicles Lucy’s life with Allen during the Reconstruction and Jim Crow eras, as they struggle to maintain a cohesive family unit during the turmoil of racial violence. A secondary storyline focuses on their daughter Cynthia’s education at Berea College. The latest tome, “Refuge from the Deluge: On Being Railroaded” finds us in a new century as Lucy’s youngest son, Dee Ross, deals with racism and inequality, toiling in the Bradford rail yards, and being an unsung hero.
“The story told to me by my grandmother is that Dee was a hero during the 1913 flood,” Hamilton said. “There was a story in print about a train being stalled on a trestle and as told to me by my grandmother, her Uncle Dee was called upon to scale that trestle during the flood to make his way over to the engine area where there were passengers and crew members still aboard. He was said to have been called upon to traverse the top of the trestle and to dangle a rope or line to people and was successful in bringing to safety a number of people aboard the train.”
Hamilton said his research has shown that the story of the stalled train is accurate, “but when I look for a reference to Dee Ross, who may have engaged in an extraordinary act of heroism, his name isn’t found,” he said. Because of stories like that of Dee Ross, Hamilton hopes “Refuge” and its predecessors will shed light on the accomplishments and contributions by blacks in American history.
“I’m trying to increase awareness that many blacks did extraordinary things under the circumstances in which they were forced to live and because of that, they should be memorialized,” he said. “We need to use a standard or model different that we’ve always used when considering the heroism and the people worthy of being given honor in our society on a contemporary basis.
Like its predecessors, “Refuge” is a work of “historical fiction,” an amalgam of real historical events and supposition about things that might have happened given the era and the surrounding facts – for example, Lucy casting a ballot for the first time, an incident Hamilton says he doesn’t know whether or not took place.
“Much of the story is based upon fact, but in order to tell the stories in a narrative manner, there is some editorial license taken,” said Hamilton, who taught Black history, world history and current events at Piqua High School for 30 years.
As with “Lucy’s Story” and “Between Two Suns,” “Refuge” features cover art by Hamilton’s wife, Linda, an art teacher for Piqua City Schools. Though authored by Hamilton, the books were written by his former student, Christina DeLaet, whose parents Bob and Diane, own Eagle Publishing, where the book is sold.