Daniel Smith, Sr., was buried Saturday in the county. You may not know his name, but Smith’s life is connected to the most painful part of our country’s history. He is believed to be the last living person born to parents who were enslaved.

Smith died earlier this month at the age of 98.

He was born in 1932 – 67 years after the passage of the 13th Amendment, which legislated to end slavery, when his father, Abram (AB) Smith, was a young child. Dan’s grandparents, William and Augusta Smith, were enslaved in the Masses Mill area of ‚Äč‚ÄčNelson County, Virginia.

AB Smith was 70 years old when Dan was born. He had something to tell his children.

“Siblings used to get together on Saturday nights in their parents’ bedroom,” said Dan Smith’s second wife, Loretta Neumann Smith. “[They’d] go around the bed and then father will start telling them stories.’

Neumann Smith also heard these stories about whipping posts, hanging from trees, and the cruelty of those times. One was a story about an enslaved person accused of lying by the enslaver.

“It’s the middle of winter and it’s freezing and he got him to put his tongue on the metal wheel on the van,” Neumann Smith said. – It froze, and when he pulled it off, he tore off half of his tongue.

One of the last known surviving children of enslaved parents, Smith was a treasure to his family.

“It’s confirmation that this horrible piece of American history wasn’t that long ago,” said Smith’s nephew Brendan Cody. “But he’s got a family that’s pretty strong and has been able to pull through.”

Smith’s father eventually moved his family to Connecticut. Dan Smith thrived throughout his life despite the fact that he also experienced discrimination. But he and his generation persevered.

“He grew up during the Depression,” said his niece, Margaret Reed. “They didn’t have any food. But they still lived life; they laughed and joked about it, and they still made it through.”

And Dan Smith also left some guidance for this generation.

Neumann Smith quoted his own notes from the book they worked on for the rest of his life, and Smith shared “how I took advantage of the many opportunities that life in America offered me and how I did my best through action and hard work to try to change things to politically and personally manage one’s future.’