Stolen land; stolen legacy
By Starla Vaughns Cherin
African American David Irving purchased 110 acres of property in Saluda, South Carolina in 1917. A beautiful parcel of land bordered on the north by Clouds Creek. On the map it’s near Prosperity High-way and a remembrance of the American Revolution, the Clouds Creek Massacre of American patriots in 1781.
Irving paid $2,750 on Nov. 28, 1917 in a deed that includes his heirs, 13 children, six boys and seven girls and their heirs. When Daddy Irving died in the 60’s his sons took over the land and began working it. When the last son died in 2001, Thelma Joyce Irving, Daddy’s baby girl, last surviving daughter began paying the land taxes.
In 2003, Daughter Irving, now living in Chicago, received a phone call from her nephew in Saluda, saying Attorney Billy Coleman and the Irving’s neighbor, Richard Clark, are offering $5,000 to purchase land interest from Irving heirs. Coleman had been a family friend and once helped when one of the sons was in trouble, but Daughter Irving didn’t think he would do this. She called him and said “Leave my family alone!”
Someone please help!
Twelve years later, at age 86, Daughter Irving is still fighting for the life of her family’s land and her father’s legacy. She employed an attorney who fought back two attempts at purchasing the property but has now decided to leave the case. She needs help.
Daughter Irving is in need of a bull dog lawyer to stand up for her rights in Saluda County. She’s been issued a check for $14,000, supposedly her portion of interest in the land but she has not cashed it. She is contesting the sale of her father’s 110 acres.
She has until the end of August when the check expires. She’s holding it hoping someone will come to her family rescue and represent them in this land grab case.
“In 1935 after the Depression, a lot of Black people sold their land and moved north. My oldest brother was already living in Chicago making $15 a week but my daddy kept his land. He wanted it owned by the family until at least the sixth generation. This is the fifth generation,” says Thelma Joyce Irving.
“My father was a smart Black man and a hard worker. Even the insides of his hands were Black. He was a very aggressive man and knew what he wanted. He didn’t like anyone who wouldn’t work or wasn’t smart. His family came out of slavery and he worked to purchase a horse and buggy and 110 acres on the east side surrounded by whites. We got along alright because my daddy had everything we needed on the farm.
“I’m here to carry out what my daddy wanted. Did anyone ever call me and ask to purchase the property? No, they didn’t. My brother signed everything over to his wife when he died. I don’t know how these in-laws get into it. I can see if a husband and wife work together on the land or for the land but how can a husband give away our father’s house?”
Divide and conquer
Son Robert Irving (Uncle Buster) was the last son acting as executor over the land. He had six children; three of his sons farmed the land and did the upkeep throughout the years. When Uncle Buster died his will left his portion of the land interest to his wife. According to this will the land would revert to the children upon their mom’s death.
Three years after Uncle Buster’s death, His daughter Patsy received power of attorney from her mother who was declared incompetent.
On Dec. 15, 2003, Patsy signed over her and her sibling’s interest to Coleman for $5,000. The other five children had no idea.
One of the sons was dead but his interest should have gone down to his children – Uncle Buster’s grandchildren.
Debrah Irving, daughter of Thelma Joyce, says she doesn’t believe the will was real. “I don’t believe that will because my Uncle Buster would not have left his sons, who worked the land, out of his will until his wife died. They were the ones taking care of the land and he wouldn’t have left them with nothing. It wasn’t like him to write something like that.”
Need an attorney
“My Granddaddy’s deed to the property specifically states to his heirs the language is so clear. We know Uncle Buster would have honored that. All of us feel this deed is a point of pride in our family signifying what our grandfather did,” Irv-ing says.
It reads: “Together with all and singular Rights, Members, Hereditaments, Appurtenan-ces, to the said Premises be-longing or in appertaining TO HAVE AND TO HOLD, All and singular, the said Premises be-fore mentioned to David Irving and His Heirs and I Eva Lou Mitchell do hereby bind myself and my heirs Executor and ad-ministrators to warrant and for-ever defend all and singular the said Premises unto the said David Irving and his Heirs. Purchased, Nov. 28, 1917 for $2750 a plot of land 110 acres lying on Clouds Creek to the north in the county of Saluda, South Carolina.”
For 10 years we have been working with Attorney Willie B. Heyward, giving him money for title searches and to go to Saluda and Charleston to file motions and appear at hearings. He fought back two attempts – one in 2006 and another in 2008. Now he has stopped talking to us,” Irving says.
David Irving’s daughter Thelma Joyce wonders if she’ll be able to recover her father’s legacy. “I’m sorry they all say because of law. Or our office doesn’t handle that call the U.S. Attorney. We have. The South Carolina Bar Association gave two names but both told me the heir’s property cases are too complicated. They have all the money to pay for lawyers and false documents and we can’t find a lawyer. I’m afraid waiting for the check to get outdated. Their lawyers say if we don’t cash the check or the dead people’s heirs don’t show up, the money goes to the state.
Next week, Irving Uncles planted timber 20 years ago, cut and sold by Billy Coleman’s law firm while the land still under litigation. How much interests was sold and why was family not informed of hearings about the property.