Truly Bea Davis was born around the year 1815; she didn't know exactly when. She first saw the light of day in Starkville, Mississippi, where her parents were slaves on the farm of Harold Davis.
Truly Bea grew up on the same farm, and never moved, until later in life. She was to help Lucinda, Mr. Davis' middle daughter, to be a personal companion and nanny. As such, Lucinda, when a little girl, addressed her as "Manny", which was an attempt to pronounce the word "nanny". The name stuck, and Lucinda had long forgotten Truly Bea's real name; she was "Manny", and so it was.
When Lucinda, or "Lucie" grew up and married, she took Manny with her. Manny would cook and clean house, as was expected of her. There was certainly love between the two, as much as two people grow up with each other, even though living in different worlds. Manny was a part of the family, and helped bring Lucie's two children into the world. Jacob and Ruth grew from infancy with Manny as a part of their lives.
One day, in the year 1850, Ralph Wilkins, Lucie's husband, made up his mind to sell everything and go to California, and pan for gold. Certainly instant wealth was theirs. So, that day, Lucie offered Manny her freedom: "Manny, you can go with us, or you can stay. Either way, you are free. You are hereby given your freedom. It's not right that anyone "owns" you. You have been very dear to me, all these years, and I hope you come with us. However, the choice is yours."
"Mizz Lucie, I been wi'choo all yo' life. I knowed you since you was a baby; I don't know any other way but to be a part o' yore family. I'd come, I'd be delighted to come; I got no other place to go."
And so it was. The Wilkins and Manny set out from Jefferson City, Missouri and joined a wagon train going west.
Some of the other pioneers took their slaves with them, but Manny was the only free woman of color. She never acted better or complained; she did her work and enjoyed the company of her "chilluns" as she called little Jacob and Ruthie. Manny would help drive the horses, and push wagons stuck in mud. She could repair damaged canvas with the dexterity of a sailor. There was very little she couldn't do. In the evenings, she would sit with the children and tell them stories of local folk heroes, mysteries, and other tales that had delighted her when she was young.
One time, on the plains of Nebraska, the wagon train was attacked by Sioux. Manny stayed with Jacob and Ruthie inside the wagon, while Lucie and her husband, with the other pioneers, shot at the hostiles. One of the braves ran up to the wagon and jumped in. When he raised his tomahawk to strike young Jacob, Manny hit the red warrior with a cast iron skillet, knocking him senseless.
When the attack was over, Manny was complimented by the others for her bravery.
Later, in eastern Colorado, Manny got sick with a fever. She slowly got weaker and knew the Grim Reaper was on her trail. She lingered in pain, laying in the wagon, as Ralph drove the horses as gently as he could. They could not leave Manny there, to recover, as no one was around to care for her.
Sadly, Manny died, somewhere near the present city of Colorado Springs. She was buried in a shallow grave with a wooden marker. Lucie and the kids said they would return someday and giver Manny a decent headstone; they never did.
Ralph died in 1860, in an accident, falling off a building. Jacob was killed at Gettysburg, in 1863. Ruthie married and had two kids of her own, whom she told about Manny.
Manny lay lonely and cold, in the ground, and still lays there today, with only coyotes howling somewhere, out on the Great Plains.