A television and movie star’s look into his father’s family history has brought him to eastern Missouri’s Warren County.
Bill Paxton has been in numerous Hollywood movies including Aliens and Apollo 13, in recent years he starred in the HBO series Big Love, and appears as Sam Houston in the upcoming television mini-series Texas Rising. He will be featured on TLC’s Who Do You Think You Are? Sunday night.
Paxton discovers his great-great-great-great-grandfather Benjamin Sharp fought in a historic battle during the Revolutionary War at age 14. Sharp later worked in civil service, helping elect senators, laying out districts, and building new communities in Virginia before spending the remainder of his life in Missouri.
Executive Producer Dan Bucatinsky said Paxton was disturbed to find out his ancestor owned slaves.
“There’s sort of an inevitability of it and there’s also having to come to terms with our own connection to ancestors who may have in fact owned slaves, but he has a very emotional and intelligent way of contextualizing that,” said Bucatinsky. “There’s a record that he discovers in Missouri at the end of his life that makes him realize that even for the time that he was living, Benjamin Sharp was someone who thought about, cared about, and had empathy for his slaves.”
Paxton met with the director of the State Historical Society of Missouri, Gary Kramer, to go over Sharp’s original will to find out what happened to the slaves after his death. Kramer also reveals that Sharp’s grave is nearby on land Sharp once owned.
Research Manager Aleta Rozanski said the film crew was able to find the grave site of Paxton’s ancestor deep in the woods of Warren County.
“We we’re lucky that the current property owners were able to help us trek back there on our scout,” said Rozanski. “So, we were able to locate the grave before we shot and decided it would be a really incredibly, powerfully, moving location for Bill to visit at the very end.”
Last year the program brought a former Sex in the City star to the Missouri State Penitentiary, and Paxton’s story isn’t the last time this season the show will visit Missouri.