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The Legacy of Hattie Finney Banks

10 Aug

 

Secret

 

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Would you have kept this secret for two generations? Maybe my Grandmother Hattie Finney Banks kept secret the fact that my grandfather Hugh Banks killed my Great Grandfather Daniel Finney (Hattie’s Dad) so that she could keep her sanity.  Guilt, embarrassment, shame, humiliation. I’m sure in the beginning after the murder it was all there deep within her soul, mind and spirit. But My Grandmother Hattie Finney Banks kept the secret so she could raise her three daughters (one of whom Mable was to become my mother) in relative peace, quiet and safety without passing this terrible haunting to future generations.  No judgment from me, only understanding.

 

The Legacy of Hattie Finney Banks

Hattie Finney Banks

Grandmother Hattie Finney Banks

Hattie Finney was born Feb. 1905 in the poor coal mining hamlet of Davy, West Virginia.  A real looker in her youth blessed with a great sense of fashion and good taste Hattie though living in poverty was able to enhance her beauty through thrift and the ability to create something out of nothing.

With African and Sioux blood running through her veins her beauty soon caught the eye of the young men in the town. One named Hugh Banks seemed to have good prospects. Hugh like her Hattie’s dad Daniel R. Finney worked as a janitor. Not a high living job but one that could support a wife and future children. It also didn’t hurt that he was a strong strapping young man who was easy on the eyes.

They married sometime in the late 1920s when Hattie was in her early 20s looking forward to a bright future. Their first born child Mable Banks, (My Mom) was born May 2, 1930, and then came Helen on September 13, 1931 and finally Gladys on May 2, 1935. However as time progressed and the marriage wore on the initial first joys of wedded bliss gave way to drinking and horrible physical abuse from her husband Hugh. He regularly stayed out late getting drunk, spending the food and rent money on booze. A spirit of anger possessed him and he took out all the days slights on Hattie and their young children. Hattie always put herself between Hugh and the kids when he went on these violent tirades taking the brunt of the physical beatings and verbal abuse.

Finally on April 30, 1939 after a particularly horrible beating Hattie couldn’t take it anymore. In fear of her life she grabbed her three little girls and ran to the shelter of her parents’ house not far away. A very drunk Hugh Banks in hot pursuit of his wife followed her and demanded that Hattie and the girls return home with him. Hattie’s Dad, Daniel James Finney told Hattie to stay indoors while he went out to confront Hugh. Daniel Finney seeing Hugh in a violent drunken rage refused to allow his daughter and granddaughters to go with Hugh. An argument ensued and Hugh took out a pistol shooting Daniel Finney in the chest killing him instantly. Daniel’s brother Charlie Finney saw the murder, called the police and Hugh Banks was arrested.

Hattie and her mother Mary were devastated and in addition for many years Hattie carried the burden of guilt and shame that if she had not ran back to her parents’ house for protection perhaps her Dad, a strong healthy man would have lived even longer than his age of 75 years at the time of the shooting. Her choices haunted her for a long time but at least she found peace knowing that she had protected her three innocent young daughters and pride in the great love her Dad had for his family laying down his life for them.

Newspaper Clipping of the Murder

Daniel Finney Murder Newspaper Clipping

My Grandmother strong in her Baptist Faith eventually forgave her wayward husband supplying the information for my grandfather’s death certificate after his untimely death in prison from tuberculosis at age 30. No one from my grandfather’s family came to claim the body and he is buried  in the Potters Field attached to the prison.

Hugh Banks Death Certificate

Grandfather Hugh Banks Death Certificate

Daniel James Finney

Daniel James Finney Death Certificate

Shortly after the trial my Great Uncle Clarence came for Hattie and her daughters taking them to Dayton, Ohio where my mother grew up and later met and married my Dad Edward G. Palmer a union of 40 years that produced me and my brother Stephen.

Fast forward to the year 2000 when by then both my parents and my grandmother had gone onto glory. I met my common-law husband who like my grandmother’s relationship with her husband started off with great dreams and hope for the future but gradually deteriorated into an abusive relationship from which I too sought escape. For our final year together when the emotional, physical and psychological abuse was at its worst I prayed to God that this man would leave me and he did. He left me for a younger woman. A sigh of relief. A burden lifted from my shoulders. However though his physical presence was gone his psychological presence was rooted in my mind and soul. Though I had forgiven him it took years to dig up the roots and weeds of self-doubt and self-hate he had planted within me. Spirit never fails and after a brush with death from a minor stroke at age 49 and being Blessed to see 50 I began to experience a Change of Life. Not just from menopause which began physical changes within my body but spiritual and emotional changes. During all this upheaval my ancestors were with me, guiding me every step of the way. Each succeeding year as I progress through my 50s has brought me greater enlightenment and spiritual growth. Once I made the decision to answer my calling in this life doors open, thus here I am today to carry forward my Grandmother’s Legacy and be a blessing to survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse.

But unbeknownst to my Grandmother and Great Grandmother a little girl cowering in front of a dusty little used attic window had peered out becoming an eyewitness to her Grandfather’s being shot to death by her Dad. Mable was always the quiet one of the three girls who took in many things but let out little.  As the Bible says  of conversations concerning Mary and Jesus, Mable Finney Banks was a small girl who took in and absorb all the things around her and pondered them in her heart……………….  From now on the events of that day would follow her all through childhood, young womanhood, and as a married woman with children and as she battled her own demons of schizophrenia. I shall take up Mable’s story in the next segment.

Thank you Sisters and be Blessed!

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Lamentations of the Righteous

15 Aug

Lamentations of the Righteous

Revelation: I don’t have to be Super Christian! Studying I Kings 19:1-18. I realize it’s okay when we are fearful, tired and just plain overwhelmed. God did not get angry with Elijah when he was going through a rough time. God sent an Angel to feed him and allowed him to get some rest.  Elijah was at the end of his rope and I’m sure he was thinking, “A little help here please.” God answered his needs. God did not berate him. The Lord understood that Elijah was frustrated and afraid.  God met him where was at. In verse 8 “the Lord came again a second time, and touched him, and said, Arise and eat; because the journey is too great for thee.” God knew Elijah needed several hours of good peaceful sleep and healthy food to tackle what was ahead. He did not send him out on his journey a nervous wreck but gave him time to rest and regroup.

Elijah felt discouragement, Jeremiah is known as the “Weeping Prophet” and the book of Lamentations is attributed to him. Elisha, Isaiah and Daniel all had their detractors. Hosea wed the harlot Gomer who continued to cuckold him throughout their marriage. How his heart must have broken at Gomer’s infidelities. Many are the nights he must have cried not only for himself but also for the young innocent children who suffered due to Gomer’s indiscretions.

Lamentations 1

New International Version (NIV)

How deserted lies the city,
    once so full of people!
How like a widow is she,
    who once was great among the nations!
She who was queen among the provinces
    has now become a slave.

Bitterly she weeps at night,
    tears are on her cheeks.
Among all her lovers
    there is no one to comfort her.
All her friends have betrayed her;
    they have become her enemies.

Even though I know this verse of scripture is discussing Israel’s abandonment of God’s laws many times I have felt this pain personally. I don’t for a moment compare myself to the Major or Minor Prophets found in the Bible but their feelings of betrayal and anguish concerning people they love who continuously hurt themselves resonates with me. Yes I experience the personal pain of words thrown at me in anger much like daggers to my heart but the worst feeling is when loved ones turn away from reason and begin a campaign of self-destruction sometimes taking along innocent people with themselves. All Biblical prophets expressed grief at the stubbornness and unwillingness of their people to change.

Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane

Sometimes we just need to get away from it all. Being afraid is not a sin. We are human beings not robots. Even Jesus had to get away to a desert place. Anyone who works in any type of customer service job knows that you can become overwhelmed by the multitudes of people asking questions or with their hands out wanting, pulling at you, pushing you, all trying to get your attention, not even giving you time to catch your breath. Jesus knew what it was like to be on your feet all day long with little time to sit down for a break. It is recorded that Jesus went to a desert place or sometimes up to a mountain so he could sit, think, regain his energy to face the crowds once again.

It’s okay. It really is. With the help of God I can hurdle this storm.

Bebe and Cece Winans

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOkijBvJ5Yw&feature=colike

Jesus was also known as “The Man of Sorrows and the Stone that the Builders rejected.”

What is the shortest verse in the Bible? “Jesus Wept.” Jesus wept not only in the Garden of Gethsemane the sorrow and upcoming pain of the crucifixion but for his people. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which kills the prophets, and stones them that are sent unto you; how often would I have gathered your children together, as a hen does gather her brood under her wings, and you would not! Luke 13:34

Oh the grief and distress in Jesus heart as he cries for his people. The sadness in his heart as they continued to cling to falsehoods when the truth was before them. How many times do we feel the same sting we castoff by those who are supposed to love us?

Why does God allow us to experience pain, sorrow, rejection and betrayal? Certainly not because he enjoys seeing us hurt or in tears but we suffer because we inhabit an imperfect world. However God is able to bring us through the fire and not let us get burnt. We may get a little singed but the fires of trials and tribulations will not consume us.

Today I’m thankful that I don’t have to be perfect. God still loves me warts & all. He sees my tears, sorrows and emotional pain, but it’s okay. Jesus knows what I’m going thru. God is not going to dump me just because I get nervous or have some other normal human emotion. Rather than keeping my emotions bottled up inside and getting sick I cry out to the Lord. With Jesus I can just be myself. Thank you Jesus for being my understanding friend. Today I experience God’s undying, never ending, unfailing love for me and my loved ones. God’s love has redeemed me from the hand of the enemy and made me Victorious over all my circumstances!

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