“A Mark of Ancestry”

Photo by Dina Denord (CC by 4.0)

Stumbling upon this small pioneer house was one of life’s small but good surprises, like finding a dollar in a pair of jeans or a stranger paying it forward in a coffee shop. Interestingly enough, we spoke during our last class about geographic ancestors, meaning the people who were there and the people who settled there.

Mr Wagner was an immigrant from Germany who grew up in the US and was a Mexican War veteran. Mr Wagner and his wife had what was considered an illicit relationship because she was a free black woman and he was a white man. This was before the Civil War. 

Éveline Wagner, Mr Wagner’s wife holds an interesting connection to me and my ancestry, personally. I went into FIU’s digital collections to see if I could find anything on her, never expecting to do some serious digging. Mrs Wagner was born in South Carolina, the child of a Haitian runaway slave. 

During the time of Mrs Wagner’s birth, Haiti was undergoing the slave revolt, and a small group of those slaves landed in Charleston, South Carolina. My ancestors stayed in Haiti, but I found this an interesting note in our history, considering the gargantuan amount of Haitians that call Miami home.  

Thinking about this I realized that my parents are pioneers of a sort, because they are first generation immigrants. They settled in a location with few people that looked like them (Hartford, CT) and had to quickly learn how to make a living and be able to live successfully in a place that was nothing like home. 

This small house holds a lot of history. It shows the simple way people lived in that time and plain fashion. Coincidentally, we followed this location up with Vizcaya, the grandiose, bodacious mega mansion owned by James Deering. The stark contrast between these two locations was not lost on me. The people who paved the way, immigrants and slaves, and then the rich people who profited off of the backs of those people.

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