After years of living apart, the Arnwine family gathered at Cooke Park recently to enjoy being together once again and recount the family´s rich history.
In 1870, former slave Bart Cleage changed his last name to Arnwine as the recently-freed family stayed in the Niota area where Bart lived.
Through the years, however, members of the family began moving to various parts of the country from Mississippi all the way to New York. There were members of the family who had never met each other before.
That changed recently as the family held its first reunion to catch up with family members they haven´t seen in years and to meet some they had never met.
Frances Williams, one of the organizers of the reunion, said more than 100 people attended.
Our family just spread out, Williams said. We´ve got cousins who have never met. It was time to bring the family back together again.
Everybody at the reunion was a descendent of Bart and Mary Arnwine. Family members came from New York, South Carolina, Ohio, Georgia, Tennessee and Mississippi.
The oldest family member at the event was soon-to-be 80-year-old Vera West, and the youngest was 2 1/2 year-old Raen Williams.
I think it´s great, West said. I´m glad they did it.
The family reconvened at Cook Park where they cooked hot dogs and renewed friendships or made new ones. Elbert Arnwine is the designated historian of the group and knows all about the family´s history.
I think it´s beautiful, Arnwine said. It´s nice getting the family together on a happy occasion.