PROSPERITY — The Town of Prosperity honored the Rev. Elaine Eskew and Laura Mattie Davis Oxner at its February town council meeting in observance of Black History Month.
Eskew is the pastor of Shiloh A.M.E. Church in Prosperity and has served the church for the past nine years. As pastor, she provides training and supervision to two ordained clergy. She is also a board member of Howard Junior High Restoration organization.
This junior high was started by Shiloh A.M.E. and the working relationship continues under the direction of Bishop F.C. James, a lifelong member.
Eskew also is active with the Mid-Carolina Ministerial Alliance which includes pastors from Lutheran, Southern Baptist, United Methodist and A.M.E. denominations. She is also an adjunct professor at Allen University.
Eskew retired from the Department of Social Services in 2001 but continued her love of education and religion with course work in social work at the University of South Carolina, seminary at Columbia International University, and has received her master’s degree in religion/STM from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. Eskew is currently working to receive her doctorate in ministry from Wesley Theological Seminary.
Eskew, born and raised in Lexington, is the daughter of Hester and Arnette Johnson. She has been married to John Eskew for 41 years. They have two daughters, Kayla Eskew and Patera Martin.
Her committee and board service includes Columbia Annual Conference Board of Examiners, Newberry-Spartanburg Ministerial Orders, Women in Ministry conference and district, District Board of Christian Education and Columbia Annual Conference Judicial Committee.
Oxner’s youngest daughter, Elsie Wicker, accepted the honor for her mother at the Feb. 19 meeting.
Oxner, a Prosperity native, was born in 1918. Her mother died when she was just three weeks old, leaving her grandmother, Laura McFall, to raise her.
Oxner went to Howard Junior High in town but did not finish because she worked in the fields. It was Oxner’s children who helped her learn to read as they read to her.
Oxner married Vernon Lee Oxner and they had six children: Minnie Criss (the late McArthur Criss), George (Doris), Mattie Mae and Elsie (Beamen). Anette and Vernon Jr. are deceased.
In addition to her six children, she had five grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and two great-great-grandchildren.
For many years, Oxner worked in the Prosperity area. Her most recent jobs were with William and Mirrian Leaphart and Glenn and Jeanette Hamm.
Aside from her jobs and family history, Oxner influenced many people with her cooking and mentoring.
Oxner cooked for many family reunions and church groups. A favorite was making jelly and homemade bread. She also owned Oxner Poolroom where people could find her roasted and boiled peanuts.
“Ms. Mat has been a mother to so many children in the Prosperity area and some of them never forget to call or come by to see her,” Wicker said. “That means, she (has) been a good mentor to some because they never forget her. I don’t have to write a book about our mother because the work in the community speaks for her.”