A Family’s Journey

Larry Sutton

September 14, 2013

Descendants of Cato and Louvenia Sutton, representing the heirs of Mary Sutton, Jacob Sutton, Ida Sutton, and Homie Sutton, gathered recently for their annual family reunion which was held at the Clement Civic Center in Autryville.

Like most former slaves or freed men following the Civil War, Cato Sutton remained in the South and migrated into Sampson County from the Warsaw area in the early 1870s , settling in the Honeycutts Township, in the Bearskin community, where he worked as a farm laborer. Shortly after moving to the Honeycutts Township, Cato met Lounvenia, affectionately called Venus, the daughter of Charity Fowler and Albert Oates, with whom he had a courtship and later married.

From this union began the Sutton family narrative, spanning over 140 years, from the post-Civil War period down to the present, a narrative that began during a time when African Americans enjoyed limited civil rights and liberties. Most worked primarily as sharecroppers, living in a “cycle of poverty and debt.”

Today, the descendents of Cato and Venus Sutton marvel at how far they’ve come and express an appreciation of the hardships their early ancestors endured. On Saturday, August 31, an afternoon of family, fun, and food, hosted by Jacob Sutton’s heirs, convened with the usual “meet and greet” and introductions, discovering that four of Cato and Venus’ deceased offsprings were represented at the reunion.

First, along with other Jacobs Sutton heirs, Isolene Pope, a child of the early roaring 1920s and the Great Depression was introduced as the only surviving offspring of Jacob Sutton, having witnessed the passing of eight brothers and five sisters. Next, Mary Sutton’s heirs were accompanied by her granddaughter Luerene Melvin, several members of the Howard Family Choir, all of Salemburg and from New York, Lynette Butler and her relatives and friends. Thirdly, Ida Sutton was represented by her grandson Edward Bennett and his wife Rebecca. Lastly, Homie Sutton’s sole heir at the family reunion was his 93-year-old daughter born in October 1919, the last year of Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, making her an invaluable eyewitness to much of the family narrative.

According to the Sutton family history, it was Cato’s son Jacob who chose to remain in the Bearskin community, where he became a landowning farmer, building a general store at the intersection of Bearskin and Five Bridge roads, which served the Bearskin community for many years.

At the completion of the reunion program, everyone in attendance had participated in a family celebration, remembering the hardships of their early ancestors and giving blessings for the freedoms and opportunities they enjoy today. Also, many shared the belief that the best was yet to come.