|Midwife, Mandy Jones Wheat (1892-1977)|
I wonder what it must have felt like to look out over that congregation and remember that she birthed so many generations between 1930 and 1960 into the world. Mandy was a midwife for at least thirty years. Not only was she a midwife who delivered thousands of babies, but she was also a herbalist and healer in her community during the days when African Americans and Italian immigrants were not allowed to be treated in hospitals.
Antoinette first became curious about Mandy after interviewing her son, Bishop Willie K. Gordon, Sr. who shared what he could remember of her. Fortunately, Antoinette felt a deep desire to learn more about Mandy especially because the story of the midwife is most often neglected by researchers. "This is noteworthy history that would otherwise go unmentioned. How could you not talk about the midwife who did so much to bring lives into the world?" said Antoinette. She could not find any records to document Mandy, so she posted what she had gathered from Gordon on Facebook. Miraculously, Michael Daniel saw the post and responded that Mandy was his grandmother.
We are far from reaching the fullest potential of Facebook for genealogical research. Hopefully, we can learn from the successful ways the Antoinette uses it to locate extended family and share her many research finds while in the field (Follow Antoinette on Facebook). Antoinette called Michael and met with him at the Amite Branch Public Library where he shared a wealth of photos and midwife records of Mandy Jones Wheat.
Mandy delivered some of her grandchildren and thousands of other African Americans and children of immigrant Italians. She would walk to their homes if they did not come to get her by mule pulled wagons. She would stay at the homes of those she assisted sometimes for great lengths of time providing care.
Mandy rarely had a quite moment because she also tended those who were sick, and she was the only person in the area where people could find care. "Mandy understood the herbs that it took to heal. She saved many lived with her wisdom and knowledge about herbs, tree bark, and tonics," said Antoinette Harrell.
|Historical home of Mandy Jones Wheat in Amite, LA|
Michael Daniel shared the fact that even after hospitals started treating African Americans, the community still kept going to Mandy because of the trust she had established during her many years of dedicated service. It is important to understand as well that while Mandy was a very prosperous landowner, the community could not always pay her for her service using money. They bartered using chickens and other items. They were good neighbors who learned how to live and survive with each other using what they had.
During times when her family had little, she kept them from going without. She was a female black farmer who owned her land and grew everything. She raised livestock and grew fresh vegetables. She knew how to preserve meats and would call her family to "come down to d'house. We got something," recalled her grandson, Eugene Edwards. She would have smoked beef for them. He remembers his grandmother giving his family their first cow.
|Cow named Lillie Bell on Mandy Jones Wheat's place|
She as affectionately called D'Mandy because of her dialect. She would often use the letter "d" in front of words. According to her grandson, Michael, this was a mixture of the English and Creole languages. Michael shared his appreciation for the work Antoinette is doing to share the history of midwives, "I am glad someone is trying to preserve this history" which occurred at a time where African Americans and Italian immigrants could not find healthcare. Michael's mother, Ruby Wheat Daniel, is the daughter of Mandy and also the person who kept the photographs and history before it was passed to Michael. It was Ruby who taught her mother to read.
|Ruby Wheat Daniel, shared by son, Michael Daniel|
Michael even remembers some of the things he was given by his grandmother when he was sick:
- boiled pine tree sprouts mixed with honey and lemon (colds)
- bolied roots
- boiled corn shucks
If anyone knows the names of any of the people who Mandy Jones Weeks birthed or treated please contact us:
Antoinette Harrell 504-858-4658