After my trip to Virginia, I was planning to go to Indiana to meet other descendants of Spencer at a family reunion.
I had to find out if Spencer was really a slave. What a grenade this could be to lob into the reunion.
Ann Miller, a dogged Virginia historian who has helped me immensely, unearthed the answer.
A 1782 tax list described Spencer Mozingo as the head of his household, not a slave. In that same list, the Taylor family's "taxables" included a slave named Mozingo.
The diary I had read sometimes said "Spence Mozingo" and other times just "Mozingo," who did indeed seem like a slave in notations like this: "Mozingo says a Mad Cow died today, & if it should be skinned wch. I directed to be done."
They apparently were different people.
"Pretty amazing that you have two individuals named Mozingo, both with some sort of association with the Taylor family — what are the odds?" Miller said.
The name was too rare in America for this to be a coincidence; fewer than 30 people had it when Spencer was born. Maybe he and the slave Mozingo were cousins or half-brothers. Maybe the slave was Spencer's son by a female slave. Maybe Taylor named his slave after Spencer.
Sometimes you wish you could ask the dead a few questions.
Spencer, his six children and their spouses trekked from Virginia to Kentucky around 1805. His sons bought land surveyed by Daniel Boone on Raven Creek, in Harrison County. Spencer died there in poverty in 1831.
Before the reunion in Indiana, I spent a few days in Kentucky, looking at yellowed records and lichen-spotted tombstones, feeling how transient our turn on this planet is. I couldn't even find a grave for Spencer.
One afternoon, I sat under the hickories and alders on Raven Creek, smoking a gas-station cigar, looking at the polliwogs, listening to the warblers and larks.
This was the knowable beginning. I didn't know exactly where Spencer had lived in Virginia, didn't know how he was connected to Edward, the Bantu warrior. But he had been here, likely watching this water drifting by on a spring afternoon.
The year after Spencer died, his grandson, Henry, set out west. In the rocky frontier of Decatur County, Ind., where the government had just removed the last Indians, Henry built a log cabin next to a creek, cleared timber and went back to Kentucky for his family.
His mother, father and his younger brother (my great-great-great-grandfather Joe) made the journey with him and settled near his cabin. Henry's descendants stayed put, multiplying fast, with as many as 15 children per couple.
They live all over Decatur County, a close but fractious clan.
"I am the patriarch," Marlon "Bud" Mozingo, 74, my fourth cousin once removed, declared on a warm night at his ranch southeast of Greensburg.
"You're not the patriarch — Dale is," rasped his 78-year-old first cousin, Amy Osting, also my fourth cousin once removed.