What’s in a name? 03.24.2011
Here is how my family came to bear the last name Rhone. This is from a letter written by my Great Uncle to my Great Grandfather:
Your grandfather was named Abernathy. He was an Irishman who came for Ireland to North Carolina and was a farmer and whiskey distiller… Our grandmother lived in the same place and was owned by a family named Rhone. Her name was Hetty. Since he did not own Hetty neither did he own her son, but made many unsuccessful efforts to buy the child from the Rhones… Meanwhile the Rhones got in a bad way and your grandmother’s family was sold to a family named Stowe. As was not always the case the family was not separated… Shortly after Freedom immigration agents came to the settlements and told great stories about the great State of Texas, most of it was fantastic and untrue, but they were greatly moved and decided to move to Texas, taking a steamboat to Galveston and finally settling near Brenham… Although they had come to Texas as Stowes, they decided at registration time to change back to the name for their master Rhone was good to them. while Stowe was very mean. So that is why we bear the name Rhone instead of Stowe or Abernathy.
My family chose the name Rhone. A choice driven in part not only by the past they wished to remember but also the future they wished to have going forward. Within that name were lessons about right and wrong, human suffering and dignity, and how we should treat those under our care. It defined them. It told the story they wished to tell to others about them.
For centuries, the names we have chosen have said much about who we are, what we do, what we believe, and how we wish to be remembered.
Johnson (John’s son). Schumacher (from “schuhmacher” German for Shoe Repair/Maker). Smith (Someone who crafts, forges, or makes).
All of these were chosen. All of these had something to say about the past, present, and future. All of these helped to shape the legacy of the families that chose them.
In the same way, today we also choose names for ourselves that, while not family names, still say as much about us as they have for centuries before us.
Mother. Democrat. Student. Thinker. Writer.
And, in choosing these names, they define us. They define our legacy. How we wished to be thought of in the present and remembered in the future. They tell others our story.
Here is how I came to bear the name Rhone:
I was born Patrick Davis. When my Mother became pregnant with me she got married to a man, who was not my father, with the last name Davis. He was a mean man who abused my mother. She divorced him before I was born. For many complicated reasons, the name remained. I was born a Davis.
My real father’s last name is Mason. I have known him as my father since I was three. We had occasional interaction as I was growing up. I was always drawn to him. I looked up to him. Despite many circumstances that kept us apart while I was growing up he was always my dad. We remain quite close today.
When I became a young man, I decided to choose a name. I did not wish to be named Davis as I had no connection or knowledge of the man (nor he of me). I considered Mason for a time. In discussions with both he and my mother over the years I came to feel, if time were reversed and given the opportunity, they would have never married. Therefore, I chose the story I wanted to tell about me.
I chose Rhone.