Daniel Quarles' descendant retraces former slave's steps
Originally published Sept. 21, 2013, in the Hannibal Courier-Post
Mary Lou Montgomery
Black soil, sifting through his fingertips, sparked one of the most overwhelming moments of Larry W. Mccarty's life. As participant of an archaeological dig at the Quarles farm near Florida, Mo., a few years ago, "I felt as if I could feel my ancestors' life blood running through me." Mccarty, of Grand Prairie, Texas, is a direct descendant of John Quarles' slave, Daniel. Sam Clemens, who spent much time at the Quarles farm during his childhood, spoke often of the influence that the Quarles family slaves had upon his life and writing. Mccarty will speak at 2 p.m. today at the Best Western on the River, 401 N. Third. His talk is part of the grand opening celebration for the Huck Finn Freedom Center, Jim's Journey, 509 N. Third St. The event is open to the public. Those familiar with Twain's writings know that the author referred frequently to Daniel and Blind Hannah, who are Mccarty's great-greatgreat grandparents. They were parents to Harve, who John Quarles gave to his son, Ben, who subsequently traded Harve for a piece of land. Harve, Mccarty's greatgreat grandfather, was thus forever separated from his Missouri family and traveled to Texas with his new owner. Back in Missouri, John Quarles freed Daniel in 1855. Why he set Daniel free a decade before Missouri's emancipation remains a point for speculation. John and Daniel were boys together, but their relationship went beyond master and slave, Mccarty said. In Texas, Harve had a daughter, Dora, who had a son, Will Green. Will is the father of Annie Mae Green Mccarty, Larry Mccarty's mother. Former slaves, including Harve Quarles, were interviewed in 1936, and their stories became part of the Slave Narratives. In his interview, he con-firmed that his father was Daniel and his mother was Hannah from the Quarles farm in Missouri. In the last few years, Mccarty was able to reconnect with a Quarles family descendant from the Missouri line of the family, a woman now living in Keokuk. The first 15 minutes of their initial phone conversation consisted of tears, he said. On Friday, Mccarty walked around, seeking out important spots in the community's diversi-fied past. "I want to feel the dirt under my feet," he said. The research Mccarty has conducted over the course of the last 25 years "has become a part of who I am," he said. "My ancestors left this for me to find, and I feel blessed." He has spoken on this topic at colleges, universities and family reunions. "I'm so excited to have the opportunity to deliver this story in Hannibal," he said. He has written a book on the subject, which is awaiting a publisher: "A Family Separated by Bondage of Slavery is Reconnected 153 Years Later."