Living just outside of Jones Mills for the last 35 years, West Virginia native Rock Foster has written his third historical novel based on family history.
He now splits his time between his home there and one he recently purchased in Summersville, West Virginia.
“My Name Is Isaac” follows the life of Isaac Sims, a slave who belonged to Foster’s fifth great-grandfather.
“He was sold his freedom in 1836 by my fifth great-grandfather at the age of 43, but he was married to another slave on a plantation about three miles away. They had two children and he visited them on the weekends.”
Foster said that at that time, Sims faced a real dilemma.
“If you were a free person of color, you had to leave the Commonwealth of Virginia, so he was faced with a decision to return to slavery or leave and abandon his family,” he said.
Over 230 reputable men, included his former master, his wife’s master and other slave owners in the area, petitioned the Virginia legislature to make him a permanent resident of the state.
“Back then, that was truly unheard of, but it spoke a great deal to the man that he was and about his integrity,” Foster said.
The state said no, but Foster said that wasn’t the end of the story.
Information on slaves is very hard to come by, said Foster.
“Some of the story came from historians, but mostly the stories were passed down through family reliance on historical documents from court records or other public documents,” he said, adding that this book is only about 40 percent actual history.
“I had to draw a lot of parallels between Isaac and his master as far as where he lived and what he was doing,” Foster said. “He was a very devoted servant to his master.”
The book follows two other novels written by Foster, which he said were 85 to 90 percent more history than fiction.
The first novel, “When Gauley Ran Blood,” was based on Foster’s great-grandfather and his life as a Confederate soldier in central West Virginia.
The second book, “On the Banks of Gauley,” which focused on the experiences of his third-great-grandfather who was somewhat of a frontiersman in West Virginia.
The newest release can be purchased at Tamarack restaurant, store and gallery in Beckley, West Virginia, or by sending $25 to Rock Foster at 4401 Rte 31, Somerset, Pa., 15501.