Garret Buster - Story

Cover of Brighter Sun Manuscript, 1937
Cover of Brighter Sun as published, 1954
The Search for Garret Buster
Kelli and I Make Contact
Message on the Rootsweb bulletin board for Boyle
County from Kelli Weaver-Miner, of Champaign, IL,
looking for her ancestor, Garret Buster.
She was responding to a six-year old offer by a third
person to look up names on the Beers 1876 map of
Boyle and Mercer Counties.
I responded that I had the map, and so began our
correspondence and friendship.
Kelli told me the story of her ancestor, and the historical
novel, Brighter Sun, written by Garret’s grandson,
Greene Berry Buster (GB to keep from confusing him
with his father, also Greene Berry).
Brighter Sun, by G B Buster
Written by G B Buster after a 1937 visit to Danville
and the family home, published 1954.
Introduction described in great detail the house
where Garret and his family were enslaved, which
GB visited in 1937.
Told the highly fictionalized story of his grandparents’ lives, their children, their escape from
enslavement, and eventual move to Xenia, OH.
Brighter Sun, by G B Buster (2)
THE “FACTS” as we knew them:
Garret’s father, “Jim” was a slave of Colonel
Waring, of Monticello, Wayne County, and
supposedly the Colonel’s son by “Jenny”.
On Waring’s death, Garret and his wife and
children were inherited by Waring’s daughter, Mary
(Waring) Benson.
Mary had married “General” Benson, and they
operated Waring’s plantation near Danville, taking
Garret, Sophie and their children there.
Brighter Sun, by G B Buster (3)
The Elijah Harlan house, Salt River Road, fit the
description of the main house given in the introduction
The “Old Stone House”, also on Salt River Road, also fit
the description of “the old stone ruin,” but neither was
connected with a Waring or a Benson family.
Garret worked in a tannery near Danville, eventually
earning enough to buy the tannery.
He bought his freedom from Benson, then the freedom
of one of his sons, Greene, in Danville in 1855, who
then attended school in Danville.
Brighter Sun, by G B Buster (4)
His tannery business brought him into contact with
people in Louisville, Lexington and Cincinnati.
About 1857, after buying his wife and several
children, they left Kentucky at Maysville, then to
Xenia, Ohio, where they settled.
Greene’s freedom papers were mailed to Die Rowe
of Danville, who was supposed to give them to
Lewis to escape; GB mentions meeting Die on his
trip here, saying she was nearly 100 years old.
Brighter Sun, by G B Buster (5)
Lewis went to Danville, but Die was away, not to
return for several months, so he escaped anyway,
first to Ohio, then later to Canada, as Garret was
unable to purchase him; he later returned to Ohio.
Once in Ohio, Greene and Lewis enlisted in the
Greene married in Clarksville, TN in 1865.
After their marriage in 1865, Greene and his bride,
Mildred (Johnson) Buster, passed through Danville to
visit General Benson, whose wife had died.
Brighter Sun, by G B Buster (6)
Greene describes an old stone house, and another
of white-painted brick on the Salt River Road, along
with many graves (from the Battle of Perryville),
and that of his sister Elizabeth.
Greene and Mildred, after some harassment from
some people in Danville, took the train to Cincinnati,
then to Xenia, OH.
The True Story…Finding Garret
Working with these “facts,” we began looking for
Warings, Bensons and Busters in Boyle and Mercer
Only one found was Nimrod Buster, white, who came
from Monticello and settled on present-day Buster
Pike, on the Boyle-Mercer line near Burgin.
While at Mercer County Public Library, Barry
randomly picked up a book, and began leafing
through David H Streets, Slave Genealogy, from
back to front.
Breakthrough and Serendipity
Barry found this on page 80:
Know all men by these presents that I Joshua Buster of the County of
Wayne Ky in consideration of the Sum of five hundred dollars part of
which is paid and part to be paid and of the kind and benevolent
feeling that I have for Garret who has heretofore served me well, do
hereby forever manumit and set him free - and declare it as my
intention and wish and declare it as the intention of this writing that he
shall enjoy as full and perfect freedom as if he had been born free hereby releasing him from the obligations of Slavery and Servitude
forever. In Testimony whereof I hereunto Set my hand & Seal this the
27th day of February 1845. Attest Joshua Buster; witnesses S. Beard,
J. B. Collins.
State of Kentucky Wayne County Court Set March Court 1845.
I William Simpson Clerk of the County Court for the County Afsd do
hereby certify that the foregoing deed of emancipation from Joshua
Buster to his Servant Garret, has been duly recorded in my office.
Given under my hand this 6th day of December 1845. William
Simpson CWC
The True
Finding Garret
Garret’s Emancipation
Vol. I, p155, Wayne
County Courthouse
The True Story…Finding Garret (2)
So, Garret was NOT the slave of “Colonel Waring”
but rather of General Joshua Buster of Monticello,
Wayne County.
More work on the General’s family showed his
daughter, Sarah Buster, who married James
Granville Cecil. The Nimrod Buster we found in
Boyle County turned out to be Sarah’s nephew.
Both lived in Monticello, KY where Cecil was a very
successful businessman.
Cecil bought land on the Salt River Road west of
Danville and moved to Boyle County about 1848.
The True Story…Finding Garret (3)
Sarah (Buster) Cecil died in 1862, as the novel
J G Cecil became one of the largest landowners in
Boyle County and, with his sons, raised champion
race horses as well as other farm animals.
“Melrose” and “Cambus Kenneth” on US 127 north
of Danville, were owned by Cecil descendants.
We obtained some pages from GB’s original 1937
manuscript, which gave much new information. We
have since obtained the rest of the 300 page
manuscript but have not processed all of it.
The True Story…Finding Garret (4)
The death certificate of Garret and Sophie’s son,
Lewis, was found in Chicago, 1918. This document
says his father was “Garry”, his mother’s maiden
name was “Sisten” and that he was born in
“Granville” Ky. Clues yes, but not exactly.
Next, we were off to Monticello, where the Cecils
and Busters originated.
At the Wayne County Museum, we found some
wonderful helpers.
A Document That Should Not Exist
We dredged up every book and manuscript we could
find relating to the Cecils and Busters.
James and Sarah (Buster) Cecil had lived in Monticello,
across the street from the Museum. We also located the
original Buster plantation, where Garret was enslaved.
We were shown a document which was rescued from
the courthouse after a flood.
In 1854, Garret Buster drew up a will, mentioning that
he had purchased Sophia and two children from J G
Cecil. The will was never probated as Garret lived
another 49 years.
A Document That
Should Not Exist
The unprobated will of
Garret Buster, 15 August
1854, found by the
Wayne County Historical
Society. He mentions a
bill of sale for his wife
Sopha and his children
Nancy and Clark, dated
5 March 1853.
Garret Buster’s 1854 Will
I Garret Buster a free man of color, late the slave of Joshua Buster of the County of
Wayne and State of Kentucky, do hereby declare and publish this my last will and
testament, revoking and annulling all former wills made by me -1st Should I depart this life before my beloved wife Sopha, I desire and will to her
for the purpose of raising our children, all of my property and effects of every
description and at her death, all of my estate to be equally divided among my
children, Nancy, Clark & Sarah Jane, and such as may hereafter be born of my
said wife Sopha by me, -2. At my death my will and desire, is that my said wife Sopha and all her children
above named, and those she may hereafter have by me, be set free, full and
forever released from bondage, and to be forever thereafter entitled to all the
rights and privileges of free persons of color -- The said Sopha and her two
children Nancy & Clark being the same purchased by me from James G. Cecil, for
which I hold this bill of sale dated 5th March 1853.
Witness my hand and seal this 15th day of August 1854.
J T Wilhite
M P Buster
The 1860 Census of Boyle County
Garret Buster appears twice.
1860 lists him age 52, with Sophia, 42; Green, 20;
Nancy, 14; Sarah, 7, Clark, 9; and James, 3.
1860 Slave Schedule lists him as owner of 1 female
mulatto, 42; 1 male mulatto, 20; 1 female mulatto, 14;
1 male mulatto, 9; 1 female mulatto, 7; and 1 male
mulatto 3.
Note no Lewis listed -- as he was apparently still owned
by J G Cecil, escaping after April 1862.
Garret was in Boyle April 1862, Greene was in
Cincinnati Sep1862, must have moved to Ohio
between those dates.
Freedom in 1862
Boyle County Deeds, Vol 8, p 104
In consideration of the love and affection which I bear to the
persons named herein, to wit: My wife, Sophia Buster, aged 41
years [b 1821], My Son Green Buster aged 22 years [b1840],
Nancy, my daughter, aged 15 years. [b 1847], Clarke, my son,
aged 13 years. [b 1849], Sarah, my daughter, aged 11 years [b
1851], James, my son, aged 7 years. [b 1855], Alice my daughter,
aged 2 years [b1860] - all of whom are my slaves, being either
purchased by me, or born subsequently, to the purchase of my
said wife. I do now hereby, and by this instrument of writing, set
free and forever emancipate, each and every one of the persons
above named, and renounce all power, rights, and authority over
them as master, and declare them free persons.
Witness my hand in Danville, Boyle County, Kentucky, on this 21st
day of April 1862.
Attest,. Garret (his mark) Buster
M L Chrisman , J P Mitchell, State of Kentucky, Boyle County
Garret and Family, To Ohio
According to Brighter Sun, Garret, Sophia and
family left Danville, went through Lexington to
Maysville, crossed Ohio R by ferry, then headed to
This makes sense, as Greene was a member of the
“Black Brigade” in Cincinnati in September 1862.
They must have left Kentucky between April and
September 1862.
What about Lewis?
When he decided to escape in early June (year
unknown, but strawberries were ripe), he left
Danville, skirted Lexington, then back onto the main
road toward Maysville, forded Stoner Creek near
Paris, and by daylight he had hidden himself away
in a densely wooded tract not far from Carlisle.
On reaching Maysville, tried to take ferry across,
but ferryman recognized he was a runaway. Lewis
bolted, rode two miles downstream, swam the river.
Maysville, KY
Lewis would
have arrived
at the Ohio
here, in
The view is
where he fled.
Garret and
Sophia would
have taken the
ferry here.
Lewis was
unable to.
Lewis flees Maysville, KY
Underground Rail Road panel,
Flood Wall, Maysville, KY,
showing Rankin House in the
distance. This must have been
like what Lewis would have
Lewis in Ripley, OH
swimming the
river, Lewis
was told of a
house on the
hill where he
would be
safe. A
lighted star
would guide
The Rankin House, Ripley, OH
The John
Freedom? Not truly.
Looking back
across the Ohio
River to
Kentucky from
the Rankin
House, with
Ripley, OH on
the river. To be
truly safe, Lewis
had to leave
Ohio for
Canada for
several years.
By The Way…
While looking for Busters and Cecils, we had to
research the Harlan family as well.
Harlan Station (“The Old Stone House”) was built by
James Harlan about 1785 at what is now the end
of the Salt River Road west of Danville. His
grandson, John Marshall Harlan, the great Supreme
Court Justice, was born here in 1833.
Elijah Harlan, a son of James, built a brick house,
painted white, and a two-story stone slave house.
These houses are described by GB in great detail in
the introduction to Brighter Sun.
The Old Stone House, ca 1785
The Old Stone
House about
1910, shortly
after it had
abandoned. The
original building
was the left
(south) section
containing the
two fireplaces.
John Marshall
Harlan was born
here in 1833.
The Old Stone House, ca 1785
The house,
missing its
of Guy
The Old Stone House, ca 1785
The house and
its spring
house, about
1985, both
described by
GB Buster.
The spring
house was on
the Salt River,
and water
was carried
up the hill to
the house.
The Old Stone House, ca 1785
Site of the Old Stone House and
Ruins of the Spring House, 2012.
The Elijah Harlan House, c1828
On the left, the main
house, described by G
B Buster in 1937. On
the right, the slave
quarters, described as
two story limestone,
two rooms on the first
floor each with
fireplaces, and one
large room on the
second. In the center,
an addition connecting
the two parts, built
prior to 1950.
The Elijah Harlan House, c1828
Left, the Elijah Harlan House today. Right, the large upstairs
room in the slave quarters described by G B Buster.
The Aftermath…Later Busters
Garret Buster died in Xenia, OH in 1903
leaving many descendants in Ohio and Illinois.
Sophia died in 1894 also in Xenia.
Greene Buster was a member of the “Black
Brigade” of Cincinnati, formed to defend the
city against a Confederate attack. They built
fortifications all over northern Kentucky over a
3-week period. A memorial has recently
been erected in Cincinnati to the Black
Brigade. Greene and Lewis Buster later
enlisted in the 101st Ohio Volunteer Colored
The Aftermath…Later Busters (2)
The 101st Regt, US Colored Infantry was organized in Tennessee at large September
16, 1864. Attached to Defenses of Louisville & Nashville Railroad, Dept. of the
Cumberland, to March, 1865. Dept. of the Tennessee to January, 1866. Duty at
Nashville, Tenn., till October, 1864; then guard Louisville & Nashville Railroad, and duty
in Tennessee and Alabama till muster out. Affairs at Scottsboro and Larkinsville, Ala.,
January 8, 1865. Mustered out January 21, 1866.
Lewis, as a member of the F&S Company, mustered out as Commissary Sergeant. He is
listed on the African-American Civil War Memorial on Plaque C-100 and Plaque D-126.
He was also a member of Company G of the 123rd Regt, US Colored Infantry,
organized at Louisville, Ky., December 2, 1864. Duty at Louisville, Ky., and other points in
the Dept. of Kentucky till October, 1865. Mustered out October 24, 1865. His pension
record is M589 Roll 13, and on on Plaque D126 for this regiment. Organization Index
to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900, Publication T289,
contains his pension record.
101st Regiment, United States Colored Infantry, F&S Company, mustered out as
Quartermaster Sergeant. His military record is on M589 Roll 13, and he is on the
African-American Civil War Memorial on Plaque C-100. His pension file is in
Organization Index to Pension Files of Veterans Who Served Between 1861 and 1900,
Publication T289.
The Aftermath…Later Busters (3)
Greene was attending Wilberforce University, in Yellow
Springs, OH, when he enlisted in Sep 1864.
Greene and his wife Mildred could NOT have left Danville
by train, as no trains passed near Danville until 1867, and
none passed THROUGH Danville until the 1880s.
G B Buster, author of Brighter Sun, graduated Wilberforce
University in 1902, BS, University of Kansas in 1925, MS in
1931, founder and long-time principal of Sumner H.S., the
first Black high school in Kansas City, KS. Died in Los
Angeles in 1965. On his visit to Danville in 1937, he met
with the elderly Diadama Rowe, who had played such an
important part in his uncle Lewis’s life. And yes, she was
nearly 100 at that time.
The Aftermath…Later Busters (4)
Green Berry Buster married Katie Patterson,
daughter of an early automobile manufacturer in
Ohio. Their daughter Josephine Buster graduated
from the University of Kansas in 1937, and married
Percy McDavid. In 1965, she was the director of
special education for the entire county of Los
Angeles, CA. Their son is an astronomer, PhD, in Los
Other descendants were nurses, ministers, and
members of other learned professions. Education
was vital to the Buster family’s future, and still is.
Simplified Buster Family Tree
m Sophia CECIL
=== |--> Greene Berry BUSTER
m Mildred JOHNSON
=== |
|--> Lewis BUSTER
|--> Garrette BUSTER
|--> William BUSTER
m Sarah CONRAD
|--> Nancy BUSTER
|--> Elizabeth BUSTER
|--> Clark BUSTER
|--> Charles C BUSTER
|--> Sarah BUSTER
|--> Lizzie BUSTER
|--> James BUSTER
|--> Paul BUSTER
|--> Mary BUSTER
|--> Rufus BUSTER
|--> Milton BUSTER
|--> Greene Berry (GB)
m Kathleen PATTERSON === Josephine BUSTER
|--> Squire BUSTER
|--> Sadie BUSTER
|--> Lewis BUSTER
|--> Louis BUSTER
|--> Maud BUSTER
|--> Emma BUSTER
Buster Chronology
EVENT IN BRIGHTER SUN (approx in blue Italics)
Garret Buster born
"Colonel Waring" dies, Mary inherits Garret &c
Garret buys Green's freedom in Danville
Lewis Buster escapes to Canada then Xenia OH
Garret and Sophia move to Xenia OH
"Mary (Waring) Benson" dies
Greene marries Mildred Johnson
James Granville Cecil born
Garret Buster born
Sarah (Buster) Cecil born
Garret marries Sophia
Greene Buster Born
Lewis Buster born
Garret buys his freedom from Joshua Buster
J G and Sarah (Buster) Cecil move to Danville
Garret buys Sophia and 2 children from J G Cecil
Garret's will in Wayne County
Garret listed in Boyle County Census
Garret and Sophia move to Xenia OH
Garret frees his family in Danville
Greene in Cincinnati’s "Black Brigade"
Sarah (Buster) Cecil dies
Greene and Lewis enlist in Ohio Colored Infantry
Greene marries Mildred Johnson
Garret listed in Xenia, OH Census
Greene Berry (GB) Buster born
James Granville Cecil dies
Sophie dies
GB lives in Clark Twp, Clinton Co OH
GB graduates Wilberforce U
Garret dies
GB marries Kathleen Paterson
GB lives Kansas City, KS
GB dies in Los Angeles, CA
Buster Descendants about 1915
(A) Garrett Buster Jr. (one of Greene Sr's. sons). (B) Mildred (Johnson)
Buster. (C) Hattie, Mildred's sister. (D) Rae Buster. (E) Charles Buster (one
of Garrets Jr.'s sons). (F) Greene Berry Jr., the author of the book. (G)
Katie (Patterson) Buster (Greene Berry Jr.'s wife). (H) Josephine Buster.
What We Still Need To Know…
WHO were Garret’s parents? Brighter Sun infers that
“Colonel Waring” was the father of Garret’s father,
Jim. The “real” Colonel Waring, Gen. Joshua Buster,
was too young to have been Jim’s father.
WHEN did Garret Buster come to Danville and Boyle
County? He shows up in the 1850 Census living in
Placerville, CA.
WHEN did Garret Buster take his family to Ohio?
The novel states about 1857, yet they were in the
1860 Census for Boyle County. Garret emancipates
his family in April 1862, and Greene is in the “Black
Brigade” in Cincinnati in September 1862.
What We Still Need To Know…(2)
WHEN did Lewis, escape from enslavement? Again,
about 1857 is implied in the novel, but it may have
been later, probably in late spring1862.
When did Lewis go to Canada, where did he go, and
how long did he stay there? The novel says
Ohio’s “Personal Liberty” law passed 1857, should
have kept Lewis from being captured and returned to
Kentucky; the novel implies it was passed after Lewis
What We Still Need To Know…(3)
WHAT properties did James Granville Cecil purchase, if
any, from the Harlan family? Danville and Boyle County in
the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, says Cecil purchased
property from Silas Harlan in 1822 (exactly which
property is uncertain), but Cecil was only 19 years old at
the time and living in Monticello.
HOW is James Granville Cecil connected with the Elijah
Harlan house? Cecil owned members of the Buster family
in Monticello, and GB Buster describes the Elijah Harlan
house as the place where his ancestors were enslaved, but
as yet we find no deeds, directly or indirectly through
others, to Cecil from Harlan.
One Final Quirk of Fate
The historic “Great Tornado Outbreak” of 3
April 1974 spawned a tornado that nearly
destroyed “The Old Stone House.”
 About four hours earlier and 170 miles away,
an F-5 tornado began at the Cherry Grove
Cemetery in Xenia, Ohio, killing 36, and
destroying the gravestones of Garret and
Sophia Buster.
Thanks To …
Kelly Weaver-Miner
 Barry Sanborn
 Guy and Anna (Russell) Ingram
 Harlan Ogle
 Dr. Saundra Ardrey
 African American Genealogy Group of Kentucky
 Greene Berry Buster

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