By Cliff Harrington
MONROE --Information about Wary Clyburn had been tucked away for years in old records and the memory of his daughter, Mattie Rice.
There were records that showed he had been approved to receive a pension in 1926 after letters confirmed he was a Civil War veteran. And there are the memories Mattie Clyburn Rice has from conversations with her father.
Wary Clyburn was a slave.
On Friday, he was honored by the city of Monroe and Sons of Confederate Veterans as an African American Confederate hero. A diverse crowd of around 200 attended.
Wary was owned by Frank Clyburn, a plantation owner in Lancaster County, S.C. He went on to serve in the Civil War as a bodyguard for Thomas Clyburn, son of Frank, and later was a special aide to Gen. Robert E. Lee, documents show.
Wary died when his daughter, Mattie, was 8.
She was born in 1922. Her father was born about 1841 and died in 1930, according to records cited by Earl Ijames, a curator of the N.C. Museum of History.
Various documents spell Wary's name several ways: Werry, Weary and Wary. Rice says the correct spelling is Wary.
She was unable to attend Friday's memorial ceremony, even though she had worked for years to gather details about her father. Rice became sick and was taken to a local hospital early Friday.
The ceremony answered many questions.
In a statement Friday, Ijames said Thomas Clyburn joined the Confederate army at age 19. Wary then ran away from the plantation and went to join the Confederate Army with Thomas. Many believed the two had become friends during boyhood.
Rice this week recalled conversations with her father.
“We talked a lot about the war,” she said. “… He told me he just went to war with this fella he grew up with. He said his family wasn't treated like the other slaves around there.”
Ijames told the family that on two occasions Wary Clyburn carried Thomas away from deadly fighting and to safety.
“Here's a legacy that has endured more than 140 years, through his youngest child and her increase,” Ijames said. “She never wavered in the stories her father told her.
Among the large group of descendants at Friday's ceremony were four of Wary Clyburn's grandchildren: Mary Elizabeth Clyburn Hooks, Countee Hall, Valerie Frazier and Ruth Young. Young received an honorary flag given by the Sons of Confederate Veterans.
A new marker now stands at Wary Clyburn's grave in Monroe's Hillcrest Cemetery, with his name and military information for public viewing.
As a final part of the ceremony, his descendants filed past his resting place. Each dropped a rose on the grave to honor their patriarch.
The youngest was 2-year-old Kai Bryant – Wary's great-great granddaughter.