2018-02-24 / Features

Cash family steeped in tradition


Granddaddy John and Grandma Nola Granddaddy John and Grandma Nola As I read through one of my great-grandma Nola’s Bibles and consulted with extended family about our history, it was made clear to me that my family has always had a strong Christian faith. Growing up we were taught to trust God, have faith and pray without ceasing. Grandma Nola had written notes throughout her Bible. As I read them while at Aunt Frances’ home, I began to take notes because I believed Grandma Nola’s messages were for me and anyone else who may pick up her Bible to read.


The Cash family’s roots can be traced back to slavery in the Person County communities of Allensville and Mt. Tirzah and communities along the Granville County and Halifax County, Virginia border. Family research indicates that upon emancipation, many stayed in the very same communities as farmers and sharecroppers. It was my father’s generation that began to move out to other areas with a few migrating north as did some of my ancestors born in the early 1900’s.

My great-great grandparents were Jim and Celia Clayton Cash. Records show that they were married on December 1, 1887 at the home of Celia’s brother, Monroe Clayton. Her father, Frank Clayton, was a witness to the marriage as well as Grandma Nola’s father, Monroe Snipes. Jim and Celia had nine children: John (my great-grandfather), Joe, Ida, Mae Lizzie, Monroe, Christine, Sonny, Eugene and Roger Floyd. Only John, Joe, Sonny and Monroe remained in the area to farm the land. The parents of Jim Cash are recorded as Henry and Phoebe (Fereby) Cash. We have not been able to confirm that in our family research.

Monroe and Rosetta Lyons Snipes, also my greatgreat grandparents, had 12 daughters. We found that the census data between 1900 and 1920 listed the following children in the household and estimated dates of birth: Flora (1883), Mollie (1884), Orngia (1887), Anna (1889), Melissa Anne (1891), Nola (my great- grandmother) (1893), Catherine Rose (1894), Berter (1896), Adonia (1897), Carry (1899), Eula (1900) and Mamie (1902). Most of the daughters married and migrated north to places like Detroit, New Jersey, New York and Boston. Nola and Melissa Anne married brothers, John and Joe Cash, and remained in Person County all of their lives. The parents to my great-great grandfather, Monroe Snipes, were Frank Snipes and Piety Pettifoot (Pettiford). Older family members remember stories being told about “Grandma Pie.” It was only recently that she was discovered on an 1850 census by name and age, which was unusual during slavery.


Monroe Snipes Monroe Snipes Granddaddy John was born in Person County in 1892. He was a sharecropper and later a landowner. In addition to farming, there were times when he worked as a blacksmith and ran a small saw mill. Two of his children, my great-aunts, Mattie and Esther, built modest homes on property owned by their parents. I never met my Granddaddy John but have heard stories of how he was a hard-working man and that was instilled in his children and grandchildren. Grandma Nola outlived all of her siblings, passing at the age of 99 years 11 months. She often told stories about the difficulty of farming with an all-girl household. She shared that they had to work like men – clearing the land and planting the crops. She spoke of hard times like picking beans for 25 cents per day. In her later years, she was always making quilts – cutting and sewing pieces as she talked. Because of the houses being next to each other, I can remember as a child going to Aunt Mat’s (Mattie) house, then to Aunt Esther’s and ending up at Grandma Nola’s. She had the most beautiful flowers. My mother still has floral bushes in her yard that were given to her by Grandma Nola. I remember her sitting in her rocking chair in the house reading or writing. This poem, Living Alone, we believe Grandma Nola wrote later in her life:

Rosetta Lyons Snipes Rosetta Lyons Snipes I live alone, Dear Lord. Stay by my side.

In all my daily needs, be thou my guide.

Grant me good health, for that indeed I pray,

To carry my work from day to day.

Keep pure my mind, my thoughts, my every deed.

Let me be kind, unselfish in my neighbor’s needs.

And, when I am feeling low or in despair,

Lift up my heart and help me in prayer.

I live alone, Dear Lord, yet have no fear,

Because, I feel your presence ever near.

John and Nola Snipes Cash had 11 children: Charlie Cash, Annie Cash Clayton, Mattie Cash Hamlette Daye, Maggie Cash Holman, Roy Cash (my grandfather), Theodore “Thea” Cash, who served in World War II, George Cash, Willie “Will” Cash, Esther Cash Tuck, Daisy Cash Bumpass and Manie Cash Lawson. Of the 11 children, only Aunt Annie left the area, migrating to Washington, D.C. The rest of the children remained in the area, married and raised their families here. They grew up farming the land as sharecroppers. The siblings were close and their descendants remain close. They helped each other bring in crops, kill hogs and whatever else was needed.


When our ancestors lived in the areas of Allensville, Mt. Tirzah and Flat River, they were connected to Cash’s Grove, a church founded and build on land donated by Joe Cash, Cedar Grove, New Hope Granville and New St. James. When the family was sharecropping in the area of Hurdle Mills, they attended New Hope Person and Union Grove. My great-great grandparents, Monroe and Rosa Lyons Snipes, were instrumental in the founding days of New St. James Baptist Church in Timberlake. They moved to farm some land on John Oakley’s farm around the Helena area. The family most likely joined Clegg’s Chapel Baptist Church family around that time.

There is no doubt that church was a vital element of Granddaddy John’s and Grandma Nola’s household. One of Grandma Nola’s favorite songs was, Making up my Dying Bed.

Cash and Snipes family members remain strongly connected to Cedar Grove Missionary Baptist Church, New St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Timberlake, New Hope Person Missionary Baptist Church and Greater Clegg’s Chapel Community Missionary Baptist Church where my uncle, Rev. Louis E. Cash, is currently the pastor.


My granddaddy Roy was born Aug. 7, 1923 and died Sep. 7, 1990. Grandma Louise, who was from the Virgilina, Virginia area, was born June 7, 1927 and died June 14, 1991. Granddaddy Roy worked at a sawmill in Virgilina and met Clarence Tuck, who would later become his father in-law. Grandma Louise had siblings who would also marry two of Granddaddy Roy’s siblings, Willie and Esther.

My grandparents had seven children: Dorothy “Dot” Cash Harris (1944- 1985), Clyde Cash, Frances Cash Olowu-are, my father, Leroy Cash (1950-2001), Louis Cash, Melvin Cash and Carolyn Cash Henderson. Our family was, and remains, very close. My grandparents believed in family praying together and sticking together. To this very day, my uncles and aunts are more like parents and cousins are like siblings. My memories of my grandparents are of, once again, strong faith, hard-working and always willing to give a helping hand. I recall stories from my dad, uncles and aunts about farming and helping other family members on their farms.

Granddaddy Roy and Grandma Louise farmed tobacco, grew fruit trees, had multiple gardens, raised hogs and embraced family and friends. I remember as a child, staying with my grandparents during the summer and spending time with my Grandma Louise in her kitchen. Through the week, she cooked breakfast every morning for granddaddy and the young men he had helping him in the tobacco field. That was my brother’s (Aubrey Cash) summer job for a long time. Dinner was served at noon, when Granddaddy would be on his lunch break and supper was ready around 6 p.m.

My grandparents started family traditions with their children and grandchildren. One tradition that I miss is the Sunday dinners after church. It was like Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, meal at their house – every Sunday. Family would rush to Grandma’s apple pie first. I have never tasted pie like hers yet. Granddaddy and Grandma believed in family prayer. When we gathered for dinner every Sunday, we would also have family prayer. Another tradition that we have kept for over 48 years is coming together as a family every Christmas Eve.

My granddaddy Roy was a very comical man and a great cook. He was also a hunter and loved to fish. I remember him coming back from hunting and stopping at his smoke house with squirrels, raccoons or rabbits. He would also come back from fishing and may have a turtle with his bucket of fish on back of his truck. Whenever he would cook we would have to check with grandma to find out what was in the pan because he made everything smell so good. Food would be smothered in gravy or fried golden brown. If you asked granddaddy, it was always beef, chicken or pork until you took the first bite or finished your plate. At that point he would tell you what you really ate. My mother, Janice, was often a main victim of his cuisine, like eating bear when Granddaddy said he had made a beef stew.

The “coldest” day of the year, identified by my Granddaddy Roy, was also one of the most fun days for his grandchildren. That was hog-killing day. I remember my granddaddy with his sons, son-in-law, grandsons, brothers and nephews going to the hog pen and coming back with the hogs and doing what they do. The grandchildren patiently waited with their cups for the cracklin’ frying in the big cast iron pots by the smoke house. Grandma, her daughters, daughter-in-laws, sisterin laws, nieces, friends and, one time, my cousin Cynthia Cash Dixon would be sitting around big aluminum washtubs cleaning chitterlings. Later that day grandma would cook some type of meal using the fresh pork. There were other times when the family would come together at Aunt Esther’s home and cook stew. The stew was not sold but split up among family members as my granddaddy did when he killed hogs.

GGrandmad LLouisei was a homemaker. If she was not in the garden or at the tobacco barn, you would find her in the house cooking, cleaning, reading the Bible and singing. There were times when I and my cousins would be playing in the basement and you would think that there was an entire congregation upstairs because my grandmother would sing herself happy. Her favorite hymn was I Need Thee, Every Hour.

Praising God was and remains a staple in my family. The Spiritual Lites, a Gospel Quartet group of my uncles, my dad, their cousins and friends used to rehearse in the basement of my grandparent’s home turning it into, at times, a church service. The group is still going strong after more than 50 years with my Uncle Clyde Cash, a founding member, leading the group. Uncle Louis and my dad, Leroy, were also past leaders of the group. Here is an excerpt of one of the songs my dad wrote before he died in 2001 entitled, “Meet me There”:

Come on and meet me
Meet me there
Where no storm clouds
shall rise, oh yeah
Come on and meet me
Meet me there
Where no storm clouds
shall rise.
There’s nothing but joy
Over there
Where no storm clouds
shall rise.
There’s nothing but a
Over there
Where no storm clouds
shall rise….

Granddaddy Roy loved God. One of his favorite hymns was Amazing Grace. He was willing to give a honest day of work, willing to give a helping hand, quick to laugh, humble and wanted to give his children a better life. These are all attributes that he instilled in his children and grandchildren. These attributes also applied to my great uncles and aunts and their children.

We are still researching family history and trying to reconcile census data, stories passed down through generations and old documents. Because of the dedication of my cousin Rev. Lottie Lawson Sneed, who we have deemed as the family’s historian, we come closer to identifying unknown ancestors each year and appreciating the sacrifices that they made.

From roots in slavery, as sharecroppers and farmers in this community to now having descendants who are pastors, preachers, business owners, professional singers and musicians, law enforcement officers, educators, writers, athletes, social workers, therapists, nurses, engineers and the list goes on proves that undying strength, perseverance and faith in God are engraved in our DNA.

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