This Week's Story

George W. Carver's mother is kidnapped by bushwhackers, who abandon him. He finds a private world of discovery.

This Week’s Story relives American history and the Bible through brief inspiring stories presented on mp3 audio recordings and text for reading.

The Gift of Possible, part one

When George was eight, he knew he was different from anyone else he knew.  He had questions no one around him was asking or answering.

Neighbors and family friends got hints of his difference when he talked or cared for plants.  His mind was an encyclopedia of information about plants. He made no paper records, because he could not read or write, but he had a prodigious memory.

He had a private world of discovery.  In nearby woods he had a large garden. Adults called him The Little Plant Doctor.  In his garden he planted one specimen of every new plant he found in the woods.  He learned the needs of each plant.  How much shade and sun did it need?  Should it be planted in a hollow or on a mound?  How much water should it drink?  Adults asked his advice for indoor and outdoor sick and dying plants.

His abilities at eight were uncommon. So was much of his young life.  He’d been a very sick baby, kidnapped, and abandoned. A reminder was his voice, high and squeaky from illness.  His family was biracial.  His parents, Uncle Moses and Aunt Susan Carver, were white and he was black. Missouri was a tough place for such a family in the 1860’s and 1870’s.

At age eight he learned what happened to his birth mom. She was thirteen, a slave, when Carvers bought her.  By time she was nineteen, George’s father had been killed in a logging accident, and she had baby George and little Jim. They lived with the Carvers.  Through the hard times of the Civil War they became a family.  One night Mary and sick baby George were grabbed by bushwhackers. Mary screamed, George whimpered, and the attackers vanished with them into darkness.

Carvers hired a Union scout to find Susan and George.  His reward, if he succeeded, was hefty--forty acres of good timberland and a racehorse.  The deal appeared foolish, as the Union Army at this time seemed likely to win the war and slaves to be set free.  That did not stop the Carvers, but Mary was never found.  The scout heard of a baby, who had been dropped off at a farmhouse. George was recovered. When President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation freeing all slaves in the United States, the Carvers unofficially adopted George and Jim.

The brothers were loved. The family worked hard on their farm.  Every practical skill needed was known by Aunt and Uncle. George could learn much from working with them.  But by age eight he could not escape the questions from his private studies with plants, observations of animals and bugs. He wished he could go to school, but it was 1872.  The only nearby school was for white kids. Uncle Moses thought reading and writing were unnecessary.  After all there was plenty of farm work to do.  Yet Aunt Susan could read.

One day George asked nervously, “Aunt Susan, is there some way I could learn to read and write?”

She seemed to understand him. “George, here’s a copy of Webster’s Elementary Spelling.  I’ll help you with the sounds.  You’ll have to practice them.”

He practiced for weeks, memorized the entire book.  He could make the sounds, put the letters into words, and read them.  But it was not enough.

It was time to find a school, but he needed more confidence.  One night he had a peculiar dream that came true.  It was the boost he needed.  Maybe God was the one who gave him the dream and would watch over him.

Soon, in part two of our historical account, we will discover more from the life of George Washington Carver.

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