This Land Is Our Land: Descendants of Slaves Battle Coal Mining Company To Keep Family Land
Ida Finley, who is just weeks from her 102nd birthday and lives in a nursing home, is in a battle to retain her land in the area of Dirgin in East TX. The Luminant Mining Co. has tried for three years to purchase her 9.1-acre plot, which is now owned by her relatives who are spread across the country. “The company owns more than 75 percent of the parcel but can’t mine it because of a complex inheritance arrangement and the refusal of some family members to let go or accept Luminant’s offer,” reports the AP (via Black America Web).
According to Luminant, it has negotiated fairly with the owners and has offered them more than the land’s appraised value, plus full compensation to Ida Finley and her granddaughter for the homes on the land. These homes, Luminant claims, are not legally owned by the Finley family. So now, Luminant has sued some of the heirs, asking a court to equitably divide the land or force a settlement.
But the Finleys aren’t backing down.
“I don’t want to sell my family’s land. If I were to sell it, they would have to offer me a huge amount of money,” said Kay Moore, a Fairfield, Calif., woman who says Luminant offered her $3,000 for her piece of property.
Ida Finley’s granddaughter, Jacquelin Finley, is the driving a force behind the fight against Luminant. She still lives on the property in a decaying trailer, says the Associated Press. Ida Finley, called Big Momma by her family, raised her children and grandchildren and buried her husband there.
In the early 1800s, Dirgin, as did most of East Texas, featured large cotton plantations worked by slaves. When the Civil War ended in 1865, the slaves were freed, and some masters sold or gave them land. Ida Finley says “Old Man Martin” the master, gave her husband’s parents more than 100 acres. Luminant, however, says its records prove the family bought the land from two Confederate Army veterans. No matter how the Finleys came into possession of the land, sometime in the late 1880s it was theirs. When the Finleys who bought the land — Dick and Puss — died, they had no will, and the parcel was evenly divided among their five children, which included Ida’s husband, Adolphus.
In the 1970s, Tatum, Luminant’s predecessor, opened shop into the area to mine. “Ida Finley remembers the pressure applied on her husband, who finally sold 9.5 acres for $1,000 — the equivalent today of just over $4,300,” the article says.
About three years ago, Luminant claimed that since Ida’s husband died without a will, their children owned the land, and they sold it to Luminant. The company is also saying that it has made a number of offers to settle the situation to no avail. Now we wait to see that the courts will say.