5th RTB reunites Family with former homestead
December 11, 2013
FORT BENNING, Ga., (Dec. 11, 2013) -- For years the rugged terrain of Dahlonega, Ga., has been home to the 5th Ranger Training Battalion. The children of former landowner Tate Black visited Camp Merrill on Friday to see the cabin that was once the family homestead on Black Farms Road and Black Falls.
Black sold the land to the U.S. Forest Service in the 1930s for what is now the setting for the mountain phase of Ranger School. For the first time in more than 30 years, Bill Black, his sister AnniBelle Justus and their families toured the land they once called home.
Bill Black's son David said it was the first time in almost 35 years since his father had seen the cabin where he and his seven siblings used to have family picnics. The land was passed down from his great-grandfather Henry "Hen" Black in the late 1800s.
"My family has an amazing history," Black said. "Back then they didn't have any electricity or running water. It's amazing how they survived in those conditions back then."
Black said a chance encounter with 5th Ranger Training Battalion Sgt. 1st Class Keith King led to the opportunity place after they met through a mutual friend.
"He made a couple of phone calls and the next thing I knew he asked if there was anyway that we could come on Dec. 6 for a tour of the camp," he said.
Black said it was a dream come true for his family.
"I'm 54 and I hadn't seen that cabin in 35 years, but when I met Sgt. King everything just started falling back into place," he said. "We went to the places where my dad used to play. I presented my two sons with their great grandpa's old shotgun that was passed down to me. I could not have asked for a better day with the family."
Black said he is proud to see that his grandfather's land is used to train the nation's military and serves unique historical lesson for his own family.
"We all are still pretty close knit and live in the Dahlonega area," Black said.
"My wife and my two sons who are 20 and 26 were more fascinated than anybody. It was a day that they will never forget."