6 Dec 1901--VISITS HER FORMER SLAVE
From the Kansas City Star
Whatever has been written in fiction or story about the bond of affection that exists between mistress and slave, none has a more substantial foundation that that which has brought together Mrs. Emma Florence Cockrell Follin, of Bowling Green, Ky, and her former slave, Mrs. Alice Harris of 612 Cottage Lane, Kansas City. Mrs. Follin came to Kansas City last night and is now visiting for a day the negro woman whom she has not seen for nearly forty years. Whatever some may think of the lack of propriety of such an act one has only to see Mrs. Follin in the negro home to realize that what she is doing is right, because it is she who is doing it. She is a gentle woman in speech and action, coming from one of the best Missouri families and having as her cousin, Francis M. Cockrell, United States senator from this state.
When the war broke out Mrs. Follin was then Emma Florence Cockrell, Daughter of T. N. Cockrell, of Glasgow, Mo. The Cockrells were slave owners. On their place were from twenty-five to thirty negroes. Just before the war "Miss Florence," as all the negroes called her and as they still call her, was 8 years old. At this time a girl-baby was born in one of the negro cabins. The child was named Alice and she was given to Miss Florence. Until she was 5 years old the negro child was almost constantly with her girl mistress.
The rebellion finished, Alice was taken by her father and mother to Leavenworth, Kas, where she grew to womanhood and was married. She came to Kansas City in 1883. In the meantime the Cockrell family had separated, Miss Florence marrying Mr. Follin and removing to Kentucky. Ever since, however, the negro woman has had a vague remembrance of her young mistress and as she grew older the longing became stronger to once more see her. On February 22, this year, she wrote a communication to the Star explaining the facts and asking for Miss Cockrellís address, should any one know it. She received several answers, two being from Texas. All told the circumstances of Miss Cockrellís marriage and her address in Kentucky. A correspondence followed. A few days ago Mrs. Follin came to Glasgow to visit and wrote that she would come on to Kansas City last night to spend Saturday night and Sunday with Alice. It was there a reporter for the Star found her last night.
She is a woman about 50 years old and speaks with an accent characteristic Of native Missourians and Kentuckians. The house in which she was stopping wasscrupulously clean and neat. "It has been my desire for years," said Mrs. Follin, "to see some of the slaves from the old place, and especially Alice, but I presumed I should go down to my grave without having my wish gratified. So you see how glad it made me when I discovered where she was. We were always together, she being my particular property.
There were no white children near, and even if there had been I doubt it I should have chosen them for playmates over Alice. There was no distinction of color. I remember once I was swinging her and she called out "Higher Miss Florence,". I obeyed and down she came, unconscious. Gracious, there were two frightened mothers--hers and mine. Another time we were playing in the attic and Alice crawled into an empty trunk. The lid fell and locked her in. I shall never forget how I wrestled with that lock and the joy I felt when I managed to open it. That time Alice was nearly smothered. "I believe", continued Mrs. Follin, "That there is a celebrated poem called "Genevra," which relates to a similar experience of a bride, although the ending was far more gloomy. Itís strange I never thought of the coincidence before." She chatted thus for some time with an occasional remark from Mrs. Harris. At no time however, was there the slightest touch of familiarity on the part of either, although their conversation was thoroughly companionable.
That Mrs. Harris was lookup upon as honored by mrs. Follinís visit was easily seen by the stir that it occasioned in Cottage Lane, which is an exclusively Negro street, or rather alley, between Charlotte and Campbell streets south of Indepenence Avenue. All the afternoon the Harris home was the center of attraction of all the neighborhood.
Men and women stood in their own doorways, or sat at their windows and looked at the place with an air almost akin to reverence. During the day Mrs. Harris was the busiest person in Cottage Lane. Every nook and corner of the house was gone over with soap and water and when a reported for the Star went to the house early in the afternoon, expecting to find Mrs. Follin there, he found four Negro men busy with scrubbing brush, stove polish and broom. The pictures, representing the Twenty-fifth United States infantry (negro), and the Ninth cavalry (negro) going up San Juan hill were fairly resplendant. Not one piece of furniture had been overlooked and it is doubtful if anyone found a cleaner house in which to sleep than did Mrs. Follin last night.