Back behind Pleasant Valley Methodist Church in Foxworth is an old cemetery that the black community has been using as a burial ground for a long time. And a little wooden stake has been driven into the ground at the head of the grave of Sylvester Magee.
The stake marks the place where the Marion County Historical Society will erect a marker during Black History Month this year in honor of a most unusual man.
Jeanette Daniels tell us probably the most notable fact about him. >>
"He lived to be, according to history and the data that we've collected throughout the Internet, he was 130 years of age when he passed away in 1971" said Jeanette Daniels.
Sylvester Magee had no birth certificate, but chancery court records in Covington County list him and his father as being passed on to the next of kin when their owner died in 1859.
Mr. Magee always insisted his birthday was May 29th, 1841. Now as if being 130 years old when he died weren't enough, there are a couple of OTHER significant details about his life and death that sets him apart.
Not only was that old, but he was the last American slave to die. And, because he did service with the Union Army in the siege of Vicksburg, he was the last Union Veteran to die.
And since he started the war as an arms bearer to his master on the side of the South, he is perhaps also the last CONFEDERATE veteran to die.
He's listed in the book "Black Confederates." His accounts of the Union Army crossing the Big Black River after the Battle of Champion Hill on their way into Vicksburg convinced historian A. P. Andrews he had to have been there, since Mr. Magee couldn't read or write. How else could he have known all the minute details and names of the officers?
Ike Smith helped dig his grave back in 1971 and remembers Sylvester Magee and his stories.
"Well, yea he was tellin' them stories about them olden days but we didn't realize what he was talkin' about. We was young and wasn't caring about that. Only thing we was carin' about was playing" said Smith.
So when the marker for Sylvester Magee's grave is erected in February, it will need to be a pretty big marker.
To show that he was, as we say, he was the last Civil War veteran in America, the last slave in America" added Daniels.
And don't forget, he also lived to be 130 years of age.
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