For more than fifty years, the Calhoun-McElmurray family has held a biannual family reunion. In 1976, the reunion took place in Lizella Georgia, our ancestral home. Lila Calhoun Davis, the last surviving child of Joshua Calhoun and Missouri McElmurray Calhoun, gave a talk on the family history. She spoke of her maternal grandfather Laverne “Fox” McElmurray. Old Fox, as she called him, died before she was born. None the less, Aunt Lila spoke of him with deep reverence and respect.
I had never before heard of this man who was my great-great-grandfather, and as I listened, I thought someone needs to sit with her and record her recollections. I returned home and didn’t follow through. Unfortunately, shortly after that Aunt Lila began to develop dementia and her memories were lost to the family.
Though I didn’t get the valuable information that could have been passed from her to succeeding generations, she lit a spark in me to find the lost members of my family and to share their story. Thus, began my search. For me, the most significant things that I learned about Fox were that he was born enslaved in Virginia and sold to a slave master in Georgia. He was emancipated in 1865 and on July 23, 1867, became the first person in our family to register to vote. This act of civic participation must have taken great courage in post-Civil War Georgia. He became prosperous, and he firmly believed in the importance of educating his children.
I also presume that he was a man of deep faith and believed strongly in family unity. These values have passed through at least seven generations and have served our family well. I give profound thanks to my great aunt Lila Calhoun Davis for shining the light for my journey and my sister Brenda Lilienthal Welburn for bringing Fox to life in The Time Travels of Annie Sesstry.