#52Ancestors – In the Courthouse: Assault with intent to murder one Randall Farnell

When searching for information on one’s ancestors on Google, one usually hopes to find obituaries, marriage notices, birth notices, stories of how one’s ancestor helped found a town or church, not how someone tried to murder them. Of course, in genealogy, any information is good information, even negative information, so I was excited to see my great grandfather’s name, “Randall [sic – usually spelled “Randel”] Farnell.”

Randel Farnell
Randel Farnell, 1844-1928

According to the Southern Reporter,[1] in 1887, some of my great grandfather’s livestock died. He believed they were poisoned. My great grandfather, who lived in Live Oak, Suwannee County, Florida, sued a neighbor, Perry Davis, accusing him of being the one to poison the livestock. My great grandfather lost the case, Davis was acquitted. However, that was not the end of it.

Shortly after Davis was acquitted, a large number of my great grandfather’s geese tuned up dead. He assumed Davis was responsible. The dead geese were in a lane near both properties, attracting other neighbors who gathered around the geese. The report doesn’t say, but it could be assumed my great grandfather was loudly accusing Davis and those gathered were speculating also about Davis’ involvement. The speculation apparently angered Davis. He went and got his shotgun, came back and confronted my great grandfather. According to the report, Davis leveled the shotgun at my great grandfather at point blank range. He threatened to kill my great grandfather, telling him the shotgun was loaded. Ultimately, Davis did not shoot. My great grandfather accused Davis of attempted murder. The State prosecuted Davis in Circuit Court. He was convicted in a jury trial. However, his lawyer filed an appeal saying that the State had not proved its case and that Davis had been wrongfully convicted and should have been acquitted. The case went to the State Supreme Court.

Davis’ attorney claimed that 1) the verdict was contrary to the law; 2) the verdict was contrary to the charge of the court; 3) the verdict was contrary to the evidence and the weight of the evidence; and 4) the evidence was not sufficient to sustain the verdict.[2] According to Davis’ attorney, the most significant evidence against the conviction was that Davis had not killed my great grandfather. The attorney argued that Davis had the shotgun aimed directly at my great grandfather. He could easily have shot him if that was his intention. Thus, the fact that he had not shot him proved he had no intention of shooting him, even though Davis had said, and others testified that he told my great grandfather he intended to kill him. Furthermore, the attorney argued, there was no proof that the shotgun was loaded, even though Davis had said it was loaded. In the end, the Court agreed with Davis’ attorney:

Held, that this evidence does not show an assault with intent to murder.[3]

Davis v State-Southern Reporter
Davis v. State, Supreme Court of Florida, March 4, 1889

I would love to know what my great grandfather had to say about that.

References

[1] Davis v. State (Supreme Court of Florida, March 4, 1889). The Southern Reporter, 5:803-804. Retrieved from: The Southern Reporter

[2] Davis v. State (Supreme Court of Florida, March 4, 1889). The Southern Reporter, 5:803. Retrieved from: The Southern Reporter

[3] Davis v. State (Supreme Court of Florida, March 4, 1889). The Southern Reporter, 5:803. Retrieved from: The Southern Reporter

 

 

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#52Ancestors – Family Photo – Easter Sunday 1907

I am fortunate to have a number of family photos of various family members, but I chose this one, which is a particular favorite, because my Dad is the little boy in front, Herbert Randell Williams, “Herbie.” He was three years old at the time. His older sister, Lute Odette Williams, “Aunt Lutie,” told me this was taken on Easter Sunday morning. It was she who identified the other family members in the picture for me when I was still very young.

017 (2)
Easter Sunday 1907, 312 Woodward Ave., Jersey City, New Jersey. L-R: Rear: Iva, Lute, Jessie, Lela, Charlotte Williams L-R in front: Herbert, ((seated) and Charlton {standing) Williams

In front: Herbert Randell Williams, “Herbie,” my Dad. He was born on 10 August 1904 in Jersey City, New Jersey. He died on 2 April 1982, in Forest Hills, Queens, New York. He was married first to Emma Scott. They had two sons, Robert Arthur Williams, and Harvey Scott Williams. He married second, my mother, Margaret Lilly Lee. He was inurned at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, on K St. NW, Washington, DC. My Dad told me that he was sitting on his favorite stool that he took everywhere h could. It reminds me that I used to have a favorite stool I took around the house following my Mom or Dad.

Standing just behind and to the right: Charleton Joshua Williams, Sr. “Uncle Jimmy.” He was my Dad’s brother. He was born 13 May 1897 in Live Oak, Suwannee County, Florida. He died May 1978, in Queens, New York. He married Julia Sinkler. 27 May 1917, in Manhattan, New York. They had two sons, Charleton Joshua Williams, Jr. and Earle Williams. Earle was killed by a car when stepping off a curb when he was still a child. His brother, who took on the Earl name, but we called him “Son,” never married or had children. Uncle Jimmy was buried in the family plot at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens, New York. There are several amusing stories about Uncle Jimmy. One I remember is that he loved to walk and could walk great distances. Once he walked from Queens across one of the bridges to Manhattan. At some point a policeman stopped him because the dog looked so exhausted. When the policeman discovered how far they would have to walk to get home, he put them in a cab for the trip, reportedly saying he would lock my uncle up and take the dog away if he saw them in a similar condition again.

Standing Left to Right in the rear:

Iva Mae Williams, “Aunt Babe.” She was the youngest of my grandfather, William Gainer Williams’ (not pictured here) siblings. She was born 10 Feb 1887, in Live Oak, Suwannee County, Florida. She died 22 February 1953, in New York City. She married first Milton Harry Johnson. They had one daughter, Helen M. Johnson, who died young. She married next Elmer Augustus Dade, a vaudeville star and agent. They had one son, Elmer A. Dade, Jr. He was not known to have any children. She is buried in the family plot in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens, New York.

Lute Odette Williams, “Aunt Lutie.” She was my Dad’s sister. She was born on 25 August 1895, in Live Oak, Suwannee County, Florida. She died 13 June 1985, in Jersey City, New Jersey. She was married to Guy Mann. They divorced. She never remarried. She had no children. She is buried with her parents in New York Bay Cemetery, Jersey City, New Jersey. I adored Aunt Lutie. She was the one to first tell me about my Williams-Farnell family history. You can read more about her here.

Jessie Williams, “Aunt Missy.” She was my grandfather’s sister. She was the next to youngest. She and Aunt Babe did everything together. She was born in May 1886, in Live Oak, Suwannee County, Florida. She died 23 Feb 1954, in New York City. She was married first to Benjamin Austin Powell. She married second, Rex Wilson. She had one daughter with Rex Wilson, Norma Wilson, who died young. Aunt Missy was buried in the family plot at Mount Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens, New York.

Lela Virginia Farnell Williams, my grandmother. She was born 28 September 1876, in Lake City, Columbia County, Florida. She died 28 March 1914, in Jersey City, New Jersey. She married my grandfather, William Gainer Williams, on 12 February 1893, in Live Oak, Florida. They had four children, Lute Odette Williams (Aunt Lutie), Charleton Joshua Williams (Uncle Jimmy), William Gainer Williams, Jr. (he died in infancy), and my father, Herbert Randell Williams. My grandmother is buried with my grandfather and Aunt Lutie in New York Bay Cemetery, Jersey City, New Jersey. You can read about her autograph book from her years at Florida Normal College (now Florida A & M) and its influence on me here

Charlotte Williams, “Aunt Trim.” She was my grandfather’s sister. She was born 29 March 1881 in Live Oak, Suwannee County, Florida. She died in December 1965, in Elmira, Chemung County, New York. She married first, Sam Hadley, in Live Oak, Florida. They had one son, Henry “Harry” Hadley. She married second, Eddie Hall, in Manhattan, New York. They had no children. She married third, Josephus Silas. They had no children. She married last, Major Stewart, in New York. They had no children. She is buried in the family plot in Mount Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens, New York. Aunt Trim loved horse-racing. A favorite activity was to go to Saratoga, New York for the racing season. She reportedly had a picture of her grandmother, Frances Gainer, but when Aunt Lutie went to retrieve it after Aunt Trim died, her husband, Major Stewart, said that he had thrown it out with other old “junk.” Aunt Lutie was heartbroken.

 

 

Will Anderson Walden Please Stand? Distinguishing between two men of the same name

Waldens in Randolph County and neighboring Moore County are sometimes difficult to sort out. Each of the family groups seem to use similar names for their children generation after generation. Walden and Lytle families’ researcher, Rik Vigeland has recently sorted out the two 19th century William Walden families of Randolph County in an upcoming article in the Genealogical Journal of the Randolph County Genealogical Society.[1] Similarly, there continues to be confusion between Anderson Walden of Randolph County, son of William Walden, a free man of color, of southeastern Randolph County and Anderson Walden of neighboring Moore County, an enslaved man. Time lines and attention to location, spouses, and children can help sort the two nineteenth century Anderson Waldens.

In the Census

The first Anderson Walden (herein, Anderson-1) was a free man of color born about 1800. He was the oldest of the four sons of William Walden and Levina Goins Walden.[2] They lived in the Southern Division of Randolph County in 1840[3] and 1850.[4] In 1860, the census divided the county into Eastern and Western Divisions, rather than Northern and Southern.  Anderson-1 was living in the Eastern Division of Randolph County, in the Foust Mills P.O. community.[5] In 1870, Anderson-1 was living in Wake County, in the home of his nephew, Haywood Walden,[6] son of Anderson-1’s younger brother, John Chavis Walden and wife, Martha Evans Walden[7], who were living next door.[8] Anderson-1 has not been identified in census records after 1870.

Anderson Walden, Haywood Walden & John C Walden in 1870 Census
Anderson Walden in home of nephew, Haywood Walden, next door to brother, John C. Walden, Wake County, NC, 1870 census.

The second Anderson Walden (herein, Anderson-2) was born enslaved about 1817, most likely in Moore County. There is no evidence he ever lived in Randolph County, but without knowing who all his enslavers were, there is no way to say definitively. His wife, Julia Ritter Walden, and children[9] were also from Moore County. Anderson-2 Walden never appears in any census records because he was known to be enslaved prior to 1865. He does not appear in the 1870 census, the first census to be taken after the end of slavery, because he died in 1869, as reported in the US Federal Mortality Schedules.[10]

Anderson Walden in Mortality Schedules-Moore Co.
Anderson Walden, blacksmith, died October 1869, Ritters Township, Moore County, North Carolina, 1870 US Mortality Schedules.

Family members

Anderson-1 married Sally Walden, 30 Nov 1830, in Randolph County.[11] Her parents have not been identified to date. Anderson-1 and Sally had the following known children: Thomas, Delana, Mosley, Brantley, and John W. Sally was apparently dead by 1850, when all names of household members are recorded on the census. In 1850, the household of Anderson-1 included all his known children, but Sally was missing.[12] In 1860, his household included “Bartley” [sic] and John.[13] In 1870, as noted previously, Anderson-1 was living in Wake County, with his nephew, Haywood Walden, son of his brother, John Chavis Walden.[14]

Anderson Walden in 1850 census Randolph County
Anderson Walden and family, Southern Division, Randolph County, North Carolina, 1850 census

Anderson-2 did not live long enough to be included with his family in any census records, having died in 1869.[15] He was known to be the husband of Julia Ritter Walden, of Moore County who had also been enslaved. Anderson-2 and Julia Ritter Walden had twelve known children: Bethania, Elizabeth, John W., Anderson Jr., James A., General B(ranson), Tima, Rebecca, Rhoda, Julia Ann, Margaret, and Henry Ruffin. In 1870, the first census after the end of slavery, Julia is living with eight of her children: Anderson, James, General B., Tima, Rebecca, Rhoda, Julia Ann, Margaret, and Henry Ruffin.[16] Bethania was already married to Jerry Ritter,[17] Elizabeth was married to Samuel Ritter.[18] John W. might be the John Walden, with Mary Walden (his first wife was said to be Mary Caveness[19]) and a small boy, McKay, on the 1870 census,[20] but in 1874, he married Margaret Ann Myrick, in Moore County.[21]

Julia Walden in 1870 Census
Julia Walden and children in Ritters Township, Moore County, North Carolina, 1870 census

Other Factors

Naming patterns.

The names of the children of Anderson-2 and Julia Ritter Walden point to possible other relationships. The name “Tima” was given to one of their daughters.[22] She may have been named for another family member named Tima Walden. There was a Tima Walden, born about 1820, an appropriate age to be a sibling of Anderson’s, who married Brantley Strickland in Randolph County.[23] Like Anderson-2 and Julia, she does not appear before 1870 and the end of slavery.[24] It is assumed she was previously enslaved.

Tima Walden Strickland in 1870 Census
Tima Walden Strickland (“Stricklin”), husband, Brantley, and children, Brower’s Township, Randolph County, North Carolina, 1870 census

Anderson-2 and Julia also had a son General Branson Walden. This child may have been named for another possible sibling, Branson Garner/Walden. Branson Garner/Walden was enslaved and the father of (Alfred) Islay Walden.[25] According to Islay Walden, Branson escaped west on falsified papers.[26] The potential sibling relationship between Anderson-2 and Branson is supported by the fact that Julia and her youngest son, Henry Ruffin Walden moved to Strieby after the death of Islay to help Islay’s widow, Elinora W. Walden, with the school.[27] Henry married Elinora in 1888.[28] Julia remained in the Strieby area, where she died in 1907, and was buried in Strieby Church Cemetery.[29] Julia and Anderson-2’s daughter, Tima Walden McLeod, and her husband, Jerry McLeod, also moved to Strieby, where she was named Postmaster in 1907.[30]  Tima and Jerry McLeod, were also buried in Strieby Cemetery.[31]

Julia Ritter Walden 1822-1907 (2)
Julia Ritter Walden, 1822-1907

Two sons named John W.

Both Anderson-1 and Anderson-2 had sons named John W.

There is no concrete information on what became of John W., son of Anderson-1. There are John Waldens in the records, but nothing to prove any one of them was this John Walden.

John W. son of Anderson-2, first married Mary Caveness, second, Margaret Myrick as noted above, after her probable death, he married Sarah Martin Ritter.[32] They lived in Moore County, but he died in Laurinburg, Richmond County.[33] He is buried in Moore County.[34]

Was there a relationship between Anderson-1 & Anderson-2?

There is no concrete information known to exist that can answer that question. However, it is plausible. Researchers have speculated for years that Islay Walden was a son of William D. Walden, Anderson-1’s brother. However, as shown, research has uncovered that Islay himself reported that his father’s name was Branson. He reported further that his father had been enslaved, but he had escaped from his enslavers by using falsified identity papers. However, it might be that the family oral history that Islay’s father was a free man, may have conflated the generations. Could it have been Islay’s grandfather, Branson’s father, who was the free man of color?  Again, all evidence is strictly circumstantial.

If it is assumed that Anderson-2, Branson, and Tima Walden were siblings, the fact that the two men have the same names as Anderson-1 and his brother, Stanford B., whose middle name is believed to have been “Branson,” points to potential family relationship. It could mean that one of the free Walden brothers had a relationship with a slave woman who was the mother of the presumed siblings, prior to a legal marriage to a free woman, but which brother?

Anderson-1 was old enough to be the father of the three presumed siblings, Anderson-2, Branson, and Tima. He was born about 1800,[35] making him about 17-18 when Anderson-2 was born. No age is known for Branson, but Tima was born around 1820,[36] making Anderson-1 about 20 when she was born. Tima was also found to be living in Brower’s Township in 1870,[37] where Anderson-1’s brother, William D. Walden was also living[38] and where he and his brothers had grown up. Branson was likely born about the same time period. Those facts combined with the fact that Anderson-1 did not marry until 1830[39] and the oldest of the presumed enslaved siblings, Anderson-2, had the same name as Anderson-1, potentially making them Senior and Junior, point to Anderson-1 being the likely candidate. What about the other brothers?

John Chavis Walden was born about 1807.[40] He was too young, being only 10 years old in 1817 and only 13 in 1820. Neither William D., born about 1817,[41] nor Stanford B., born about 1828,[42] were old enough. Thus, the most plausible candidate for the father of the three potential siblings, Anderson-2, Branson, and Tima, is Anderson-1. However, there is no evidence known to exist that can corroborate or refute this theory. Therefore, it is merely a working hypothesis.

Genealogical Summary

Anderson Walden (William1), called here, Anderson-1, was born about 1800, the son of William Walden and wife, Levina Goins Walden.  They lived in the southeastern part of Randolph County, North Carolina.[43] He died sometime between 1870 and 1880, most likely in Wake County, where he was last found living in 1870.[44] He married Sally Walden, 30 September 1830, in Randolph County.[45] She died before 1850. They had the following children:  Thomas, Delana, Mosley, Brantley, and John W. Walden.[46]

Family Record of Anderson and Julia Walden, by Henry Ruffin Walden, 1909
Family Record of Anderson and Julia Walden, by Henry Ruffin Walden, 1909.

Anderson Walden (father unknown), called here, Anderson-2, was born about 1817.[47] He was presumed to live most of his adult life in Moore County, where he died in October 1869.[48] He was married to Julia Ritter, date unknown. They were both enslaved.[49] Julia was born about 1822 in Chatham County.[50] She died, 15 January 1907, in Strieby, Randolph County, where she is buried in Strieby Church Cemetery.[51] Anderson-2 and Julia Ritter had the following children: Bethania, Elizabeth, John W., Anderson Jr., James A., General B(ranson), Tima, Rebecca, Rhoda, Julia Ann, Margaret, and Henry Ruffin.[52]

References

[1] Vigeland, R. (2019). Untangling Two William Waldens of Randolph County (Unpublished manuscript).

[2] North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [Database on-line]. William Walden, Probate Date: 1842; sons: Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[3] 1840 US Federal Census; Census Place: South Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; William Walden, head. NARA Roll M704-369; Page 56; Family History Library Film: 0018097. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

And 1840 US Federal Census; Census Place: South Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Anderson Walden, head; and John C. Walden, head. NARA Roll: M704-369; Page: 57; Family History Library Film: 0018097. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[4] 1850 US Federal Census; Census Place: Southern Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Anderson Walden, head. NARA Roll: M432-641; Page: 88B; Image: 182. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[5] 1860 US Federal Census; Census Place: Eastern Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Anderson Walden, head. NARA Roll: M653-910; Page: 320; Family History Library Film: 803910. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[6] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: White Oak, Wake County, North Carolina; Haywood Walden, head; Anderson Walden, birth year about 1803. NARA Roll: M593-1163; Page: 439B; Family History Library Film: 552662. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[7] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Haywood Walden and Lucrettie Walden, married: 13 Sep 1893, Wake County; Father: John C Walden; Mother: Martha Walden. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[8] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: White Oak, Wake County, North Carolina; Haywood Walden, head; Anderson Walden, birth year about 1803. NARA Roll: M593-1163; Page: 439B; Family History Library Film: 552662. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[9] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: Ritters, Moore County, North Carolina; Julia Walden, head. NARA Roll: M593-1149; Page: 579A; Family History Library Film: 552648. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[10] U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 [Database on-line]. Anderson Walden, Blacksmith, married; died: Oct 1869, Ritter’s, Moore County, NC. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

11] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Anderson Walden and Sally Walden, married: 30 Sep 1830, Randolph County. Retrieved from:  Ancestry.com

[12] 1850 US Federal Census; Census Place: Southern Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Anderson Walden, head. NARA Roll: M432-641; Page: 88B; Image: 182. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[13] 1860 US Federal Census; Census Place: Eastern Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Anderson Walden, head. NARA Roll: M653-910; Page: 320; Family History Library Film: 803910. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[14] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: White Oak, Wake County, North Carolina; Haywood Walden, head; Anderson Walden, birth year about 1803. NARA Roll: M593-1163; Page: 439B; Family History Library Film: 552662. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[15] U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 [Database on-line]. Anderson Walden, Blacksmith, married; died: Oct 1869, Ritter’s, Moore County, NC. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[16] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: Ritters, Moore County, North Carolina; Julia Walden, head. NARA Roll: M593-1149; Page: 579A; Family History Library Film: 552648. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[17]  1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: Ritters, Moore County, North Carolina; Jerry Ritter, head; Bethany Ritter. NARA Roll: M593-1149; Page: 577A; Image: 273916; Family History Library Film: 552648. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[18] 1870; Census Place: Ritters, Moore, North Carolina; Samuel Ritter, head; Elizabeth Ritter/ NARA Roll: M593-1149; Page: 576B; Image: 273903; Family History Library Film: 552648. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[19] Walden, H. R. (1909). John Walden. Family Record of Anderson and Julia Walden: From 1822-1907. (Rockingham, NC: the author), pp. 8.

[20] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: Sheffields Township, Moore County, North Carolina; John Walden, head. NARA Roll: M593-1149; Page: 607A; Family History Library Film: 552648. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[21]  1900 US Federal Census; Census Place: Carthage, Moore County, North Carolina; John Walden, head; Margaret Walden, wife; married about: 1874. Page: 8; Enumeration District: 0068; FHL microfilm: 1241207. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[22] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: Ritters, Moore County, North Carolina; Julia Walden, head. NARA Roll: M593-1149; Page: 579A; Family History Library Film: 552648. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[23] North Carolina, Deaths, 1906-1930 [Database on-line]. Adline Chestnut, deceased, 7 Dec 1917, Randolph County; Tima Walden, mother; Brandley Strickland, father. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[24] 1870 US Census; Census Place: Browers, Randolph County, North Carolina; Brantley Stricklin, head; Tima Stricklin. NARA Roll: M593-1156; Page: 317B; Family History Library Film: 552655. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[25] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Alfred I.  Walden and Amelia Frances Harriss, married: 17 October 1867, Wake County, “Son of Branson Walden and Rutha Walden.” Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[26] The Evening Post (2 July 1879). An Interesting Ordination (New York, New York). Retrieved from: Fultonhistory.com

[27] Williams, M. L. (2016). From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie “Back Country” of Randolph County, North Carolina (Crofton, KY: Backintyme Publishing), pp 93-98.

[28] North Carolina, Marriage Index, 1741-2004 [Database on-line]. H R Walden and Eleanor W Walden, married: 13 Dec 1888, Randolph County. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[29] Strieby Congregational United Church of Christ Cemetery. Julia Walden, 15 Jan 1907 (Asheboro, Randolph County, North Carolina). Find A Grave. Retrieved from: Findagrave.com

[30] U.S., Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 [Database on-line]. Tima S. Walden, 30 Dec 1907, Strieby, Randolph County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[31]  Strieby United Church of Christ Cemetery. Tima S. Waldon McLeod, died 4 May 1908; Jerry McLeod, died 26 Apr 1908. Cemetery Census. Retrieved from: Cemeterycensus.com

[32] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011[Database on-line]. John Walden and Sarah Jane Ritter, married 8 Apr 1903, Moore County. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[33] North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909-1976 [Database on-line]. J W Waldn, died: 14 Nov 1926, Laurinburg, Richmond County. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[34] U.S., Taylortown Community Cemetery, John W. Walden, 18 Mar 1844 – 14 Nov 1926 (Taylortown, Moore County, North Carolina).. Find A Grave. Retrieved from: Findagrave.com

[35] 1850 US Federal Census; Census Place: Southern Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Anderson Walden, head. NARA Roll: M432-641; Page: 88B; Image: 182. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[36] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: Browers Township, Randolph County, North Carolina; Brantley Stricklin, head; Tima Stricklin, wife. NARA Roll: M593-1156; Page: 317B; Family History Library Film: 552655. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[37] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: Browers Township, Randolph County, North Carolina; Brantley Stricklin, head; Tima Stricklin, wife. NARA Roll: M593-1156; Page: 317B; Family History Library Film: 552655. Retrieved from: Anceestry.com

[38] 1870 US Census; Census Place: Browers Township, Randolph County, North Carolina; William D. Walden, head. Roll: M593-1156; Page: 319A; Image: 87; Family History Library Film: 552655. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[39] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Anderson Walden and Sally Walden, married: 30 Sep 1830, Randolph County. Retrieved from:  Ancestry.com

[40] 1850 US Federal Census; Census Place: Western Division, Wake County, North Carolina; John Walden, head, age: 43. NARA Roll: M432-647; Page: 198B; Image: 400. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[41] 1850 US Federal Census; Census Place: Southern Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; William D. Walden, head, b. 1817. NARA Roll: M432-641; Page: 88B; Image: 182. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[42] 1850 US Federal Census; Census Place: Southern Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Stanford Walden, head, born 1828. NARA Roll: M432-641; Page: 88B; Image: 182. Ancestry.com

[43] 1840 US Federal Census; Census Place: South Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Anderson Walden, head; and John C. Walden, head. NARA Roll: M704-369; Page: 57; Family History Library Film: 0018097. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[44] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: White Oak Township, Wake County, North Carolina; Haywood Walden, head; Anderson Walden, birth year about 1803. NARA Roll: M593-1163; Page: 439B; Family History Library Film: 552662. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[45] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Anderson Walden and Sally Walden, married: 30 Sep 1830, Randolph County. Retrieved from:  Ancestry.com

[46] 1850 US Federal Census; Census Place: Southern Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Anderson Walden, head. NARA Roll: M432-641; Page: 88B; Image: 182. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[47] U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 [Database on-line]. Anderson Walden, Blacksmith, married; died: Oct 1869, Ritter’s, Moore County, NC. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[48] U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885 [Database on-line]. Anderson Walden, Blacksmith, married; died: Oct 1869, Ritter’s, Moore County, NC. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[49] Walden, H. R. (1909). Julia and Anderson Walden. Family Record of Anderson and Julia Walden: From 1822-1907. (Rockingham, NC: the author), pp. 4-5.

[50] Walden, H. R. (1909). Julia and Anderson Walden. Family Record of Anderson and Julia Walden: From 1822-1907. (Rockingham, NC: the author), pp. 4-5.

[51] Walden, H. R. (1909). Julia and Anderson Walden. Family Record of Anderson and Julia Walden: From 1822-1907. (Rockingham, NC: the author), pp. 4; And Strieby Congregational United Church of Christ Cemetery. Julia Walden, 15 Jan 1907 (Asheboro, Randolph County, North Carolina). Find A Grave. Retrieved from: Findagrave.com

[52] Walden, H. R. (1909). Her Christian Character. Family Record of Anderson and Julia Walden: From 1822-1907. (Rockingham, NC: the author), pp. 8-10.

#52Ancestors – Surprise! Elmer Augustus Dade, My Great Uncle and Vaudeville Star. Who Knew?

In fact, I did know that Elmer Dade was my great aunt, Iva Mae Williams’ husband and that they had a son, Elmer Dade Jr., who was buried with his mother in our family cemetery plot, at Mount Olivet Cemetery, in Maspeth, Queens, New York City.[1] So it stood for many years. I had found everyone in the census of 1930[2] and 1940,[3] but I wasn’t researching my great aunt and uncle, I was trying to push our family line backwards, beyond her parents, my great grandparents, Joshua W. Williams and Ellen Wilson Gainer Williams. I’m not sure what happened first, but at some point, I did read the occupation column and noticed that Elmer Sr. was an actor. Given the time period he lived in, it was not a stretch to imagine he was possibly involved in Vaudeville. Little did I know!

Iva Mae Williams "Babe"
Iva Mae Williams, Aunt Babe, circa 1910

About three or four years ago, I was contacted by Deborah Lowe Wright, Director of the Pickaway County Historical Society, from the Pickaway County, Ohio,[4] asking if I had additional information about Elmer, other than what was in my on-line Ancestry tree and that there was an annual luncheon in Ohio honoring the founding families and others of note, from Pickaway County. I was encouraged to attend the following year’s event. I had a conflict and did not attend.

Subsequently, I set about adding documentation to Elmer’s Ancestry profile. In 2016, I was contacted again by Deborah Lowe Wright. She provided me with additional information about Elmer’s background. She told me that Elmer’s family originated in Orange County, Virginia, moving later to Pickaway County.[5] She asked if I had much information about his career in Vaudeville. She hadn’t found much at that point. I went out to Google to look for information and found for the first time that Elmer was a well-known performer and agent![6] I was wishing my parents and especially my father’s sister, Lute Williams Mann, were still alive. I knew that “Aunt Lutie” knew her “Aunt Babe” well. Surely, she had more information. Alas, I will never know.

In the intervening years, additional newspaper articles mentioning Elmer and his public appearances have become available on-line. Deborah Lowe Wright had created clippings that made my research easier.[7] His appearances around the country were met with great acclaim. He and his dance partner, and then wife (before he was married to my great aunt), Malinda Allen, were called “Royal Entertainers.”[8]  How exciting! However, there were other surprises, not totally unexpected, but nonetheless jarring.

Right now, in Virginia, there is a great upheaval over the discovery of pictures believed to be the governor, when he was in college, attending a party in black-face.[9] So, it is a subject in the forefront of my thought as the governor’s behavior and responses are hotly debated. Thus, it was more startling than it might have been at another time, to find that Elmer was known for some of his “black face” performances.  Before the current controversy, I would have considered it simply an historical reality, not having any immediate relevance to my current world. While certainly a racist image, it was what white audiences wanted to see. Thus, even African American performers sometimes felt obliged to perform in black face (I’m sure begrudgingly) in order to survive financially in a hostile world.

In 1925, the Cincinnati Enquirer noted that,

Malinda and Dade, whose ancestors hailed from Africa, are programmed as royal entertainers, and they are. It is not related to what court they are attached, but yesterday’s audience set up a court of its own and voted Malinda and Dade its prime jesters. Dance? Of course, in typical plantation style …[10]

Malinda and Dave "plantation dance?
Cincinnati Enquirer, 2 November 1925

The Muncie Evening Press wrote,

The Keith-Albee vaudeville will include Malinda and Dade, a clever tea mof [sic] blackface comedians who give negro dialect and song offerings.[11]

The Pittsburgh Press said,

Malinda and Dade, chocolate colored entertainers from the southland, will sing and dance in that whimsical fashion of the real Negro.[12]

The “real Negro?”

On the other hand, The Philadelphia Inquirer noted that Malinda and Dade were, “a pair of colored singers and comedians who are exceptionally gifted.”[13] Am I just feeling jaded and suspicious? “Exceptionally gifted?” Was that a genuine compliment? Does it mean exceptionally gifted despite being chocolate colored, blackface, royal jesters who sing and dance like real Negroes? I’m feeling sad, uneasy, and angry.

I have a hard time picturing my great aunt or any of my Williams family as “prime jesters,” or “plantation style” dancers, or being sympathetic to such behavior. Did Aunt Babe know exactly what he was doing? Did she just ignore it, content that he brought the money home? Was she more enamored with the fame than bothered by racial indignities? Did it seem removed from her life as homemaker and mother? I’ll never know.

I did find an article that dated from the time period during which Elmer and Aunt Babe were married, a 1939 funeral notice for another vaudeville star, Mae Brown, who performed with her deceased husband, Garland Howard as Howard and Brown. [14]  The funeral services were at historic St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church, in Harlem.[15] Among those mentioned as having sent floral arrangements were, “Mr. and Mrs. Elmer Dade.”[16]

There are some interesting anomalies regarding my great aunt and Elmer. I have yet to find their marriage record. They are listed as married in the 1930 census,[17] the 1940 census,[18] and his World War II registration.[19] According to the Social Security Death Index, he died in 1971 in the Bronx, New York.[20] However, I have not found a death record for him. I suspect that is because the New York City death index records later than 1965 are not public.[21]

Elmer Dade WWII Draft Registration
Elmer Augustus Dade, World War II Draft Registration.

Despite my discoveries about my great uncle’s blackface performances, I still take pride in his career. He was part of theater history, the good and the bad. As usual, I wish I had known more about this earlier, before everyone who had first hand knowledge was dead. That’s the eternal lament of a genealogist and family historian.

References

[1]  Burial plots of Iva Mae Williams Johnson Dade and Elmer Dade Jr. Section R, Mount Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens, New York. Certificate in possession of the author.

[2] 1930 US Federal Census; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Christina Hill, head; Elmer Dade, brother-in-law; Iver Dade, sister. NARA Roll: 1574; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0930; Image: 275.0; FHL microfilm: 2341309. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[3] 1940 US Federal Census; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Elmer Dade, head; Iva Dade, wife. NARA  Roll: T627-2650; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 31-1108. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[4] Collins, S. (18 Jan 2018). Author presents research on Circleville’s African American History. Circleville Herald (Circleville, Ohio). Retrieved from: circlevilleherald.com

[5] 1900 US Federal Census; Census Place: Circleville Ward 3, Pickaway, Ohio; Elmer Dade, “father’s birthplace: Virginia.” NARA Roll: 1313; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 0102; FHL microfilm: 1241313. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[6] Uno. (19 Jan 1952). Burlesque Bits. The Billboard (Nielson Business Media, Inc.), p. 46. Retrieved from: Google Books

[7] Dlowewright.  Retrieved from: newspapers.com

[8] Elmira Star-Gazette. (5 Jan 1924). At the Elmira Theaters, Majestic (Elmira, New York), p. 7. Retrieved from: newspapers.com

[9] Kelly, C. (7 Feb 2019). Virginia governor apologizes for ‘racist and offensive’ costume in photo showing people in blackface and KKK garb. CNN. Retrieved from: cnn.com

[10] The Enquirer. (2 Nov 1925). B. F. Keith’s–Vaudeville (Cincinnati, Ohio), p. 5. Retrieved from: newspapers.com

[11] Muncie Evening Press. (25 Oct 1925). Theaters: Wysor Grand (Muncie, Indiana), p. 12. Retrieved from: newspapers.com

[12] The Pittsburgh Press. (18 Nov 1923). Joe Brown at Davis Theater in New Act (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), p. 45. Retrieved from: newspapers.com

[13] The Philadelphia Inquirer. (9 Oct 1923). ‘Miss Philadelphia’ and ‘King Neptune’ (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), p. 15. Retrieved from: newspapers.com

[14] Snelson. F. B. (25 Nov 1939). Mae Brown, Well Known Actress Dead. The New York Age (New York, New York). Retrieved from: newspapers.com

[15] St. Mark the Evangelist Catholic Church. (n.d.). Our History. Retrieved from: stmark138.com

[16] Snelson. F. B. (25 Nov 1939). Mae Brown, Well Known Actress Dead. The New York Age (New York, New York). Retrieved from: newspapers.com

[17] 1930 US Federal Census; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; Christina Hill, head; Elmer Dade, brother-in-law; Iver Dade, sister. NARA Roll: 1574; Page: 4B; Enumeration District: 0930; Image: 275.0; FHL microfilm: 2341309. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[18] 1940 US Federal Census; Census Place: New York, New York, New York; Elmer Dade, head; Iva Dade, wife. NARA  Roll: T627-2650; Page: 9B; Enumeration District: 31-1108. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[19] U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942 [Database online]. Elmer Augustus Dade. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[20] U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014 [Database on-line]. Elmer Dade, Date of Death: Aug 1971. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[21] New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. (12 Jul 2017). New NYC death indexes available, 1949 – 1965. Retrieved from: newyorkfamilyhistory.org

 

#52Ancestors – At the Library – Emsley Phillips Lassiter in the Lawrence Carter Papers

Carthage Public Library-Aug 2013
Henry Henley Public Library, Carthage, Indiana. Photo by Margo Lee Williams, 2013

In 2013, I was researching the story of my 4th great uncle, Emsley Phillips Lassiter, born free around 1811, he was the oldest of the children of my 4th great grandparents, Miles Lassiter and Healy Phillips Lassiter, from Randolph County, North Carolina. Emsley had moved with the Quaker migration of the 1830s to Indiana. I had gone to Indiana to visit the community to which he moved, called the Beech Community, near Carthage Indiana. With the help of friend and distant relative, Nancy Barry Kline, and Carthage library board member, Claire Mercer, I was able to do research at the Henry Henley Public Library in Carthage, Indiana, even though the library was technically closed for the afternoon. This library was very important to my research because it is the home of the original, but unpublished, collection called the Lawrence Carter Papers.

Emsley Phillips Lassiter in the Lawrence Carter Papers

Lawrence Carter home - Carthage, Indiana - Aug 2013
Lawrence Carter Home, Carthage, Indiana. Photo by Margo Lee Williams, 2013.

Lawrence Carter was born in 1905 and descended from a Beech Community family. Carter wrote several notebooks about its history, especially the families of Beech Community.[1] He devoted a small section to my 4th great uncle, Emsley,[2] in which he first quoted Thomas Newby (who had published information on those whom he called the “colored pioneers” of Carthage[3]), reiterating that Emsley traveled with Henry Newby (Thomas’s father) in 1832, and that Emsley lived with and worked for Newby in those early years in Indiana. However, that cannot be completely corroborated. Henry Newby is listed in the 1840 census, but there were no people of color counted as living in his household.[4] Since Emsley married Elizabeth Winburn on 03 Apr 1845,[5] in Rush County, they should have been listed in the 1850 census, but they were not. They could not be accounted for as living in her father’s, (Tommy Winburn) household either.[6]  Even a page-by-page search did not yield their whereabouts. Searches of other counties, even other states, have yielded nothing.  However, Carter mentioned that at one point “Em” lived in the “old Baptist Church House,” which may explain it. A census taker, who was not from the immediate community would not likely think there was anyone living in a church. That may explain 1850, but it did not answer the question of where he was in 1840. His whereabouts in the 1840 and 1850 censuses was even more puzzling based on his real estate purchases during the same time period.[7]

Margo Williams under Henry Henley portrait at Carthage Public Library-3 Aug 2013
The Author in front of Henry Henley Portrait, Public Library, Carthage, Indiana. Photo by Nancy Barry Kline, 2013.

Again, like Newby before him,[8] Carter also claimed that another Beech resident, Farley Lassiter, was a cousin of Emsley’s. This author had never heard of a Farley (also known as Farlow) before. Inquiry of various Lassiter family members in the Lassiter Mill community in Randolph County revealed no one there had heard of Farley either.

Margo Williams at Carthage Public Library-4 Aug 2013
The Author at the Front Desk, Henry Henley Public Library, Carthage, Indiana. Photo by Nancy Barry Kline, 2013.

In the 1840 Rush County census it was noted that there were two Lassiter (“Laston/Laster”) families of color: one was “Farlow,”[9] the other was “Patient” (“Patience”).[10] Farlow’s household only had one adult male and one adult female, presumably he and his wife, Martha (Bass). Patient’s household listed two possible adult males: one in the 10-23 age category; the other in the 24-35 age category. Judging from later census records, one of those adults was most likely Seth Lassiter, born about 1814-1815,[11] which hovers around the crossover age of 23-24. Emsley, on the other hand, would be firmly in the 24-35 age category based on the birth year of 1811, which was most consistent over time, making him 29 in 1840.

This also seemed to eliminate the possibility that he was living at his father in-law Thomas Winburn’s home. Winburn’s household showed no males in that age category.[12] Thus, the most likely explanation was that Emsley was living in the Patient/Patience Lassiter (Laston/Laster) household.

Because of the way the 1840 census is recorded, generally listing families alphabetically, it is often difficult to determine who is neighbor to whom. However, Farlow/Farley is listed on page 42, with John Roberts and Willis Roberts (both families of color originally from Northampton County, North Carolina), while Patient/Patience is listed only one full page away from Henry Newby. She is on pages 409-410, and he is on pages 411-412.  It should be noted that although Patient/Patience and Farlow/Farley have been determined to have come from Randolph County, the exact nature of their kinship bonds to Emsley has not been determined.[13]

Margo Williams at Carthage Public Library Aug 2013
The Author Reviewing Pages from Lawrence Carter’s Notebooks. Photo by Nancy Barry Kline, 2013.

Carter’s essay on Emsley mentions several other pieces of information. According to Carter, Emsley had a sister named “Penn,” presumably short for “Penina,” a name which he and Elizabeth gave to one of their daughters.[14] However, since all the children of Miles and Healy (Phillips) Lassiter have been identified through Randolph County, North Carolina records as well as private, Lassiter family, records, this is unlikely.[15] On the other hand, his wife, Elizabeth, did have a sister named Penina. This is most likely the “Penn” to whom Carter was referring.[16]

Carter also claimed Emsley moved to Grant County and died there. The above census review indicates otherwise. However, he did move to Grant County. According to historian Stephen Vincent, in his book, Southern Seed, Northern Soil, he moved there about 1865.[17] It is not clear why he moved to Grant County. Although there was a Weaver community there and his daughter, Mary Anna, later married a Weaver,[18] he was not living in the Weaver community. He was living in Fairmount, near Henry Winslow, from North Carolina, and probably a member of the large Quaker Winslow family that migrated to Indiana about the same time as Henry Newby. As noted above, however, Emsley returned to Rush County by 1880. Again, in contrast to what Carter wrote, Emsley died in Indianapolis, on 10 March 1892.[19] Exactly when he moved to Indianapolis is not known, but sometime in the late 1880s, since he does not appear in available city directories before that time.

Margo Williams at Carthage Public Library-rev-2 Aug 2013
The Author at the Henry Henley Public Library, Carthage, Indiana. Photo by Nancy Barry Kline, 2013.

Emsley’s widow, Elizabeth, was found living with daughter, Cristena Laster Overman,[20] in Center (Marion), Grant County, in 1900.[21] Elizabeth died there on 21 April 1908. She is buried at Estates of Serenity, Marion, Grant County.[22]

 

References

[1] Moore, W. L. (Processor) (2012). Lawrence B. Carter Notebooks, N.D. In Manuscript and Visual Collections Department, William Henry Smith Memorial Library. Indiana Historical Society. Retrieved from: IndianaHistory.org

[2] Carter, L. (n.d.). “Emsley Lassiter,” in original unpublished notebooks at the Henry Henley Public Library, Carthage, Indiana (Copies provided by Nancy Barry Kline).

[3] Newby, T. T. (1916). Colored Pioneers: Emsley Lassiter. Reminiscences of Thomas T. Newby (Carthage, Indiana). Retrieved from: Archive.org

[4] 1840 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: 93; Page: 209; Image: 425; Family History Library Film: 0007729, Henry Newby, head. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[5] Rush County, Indiana. General Index to Marriages, 1822-1907, FHLM #1630369 Items 3-4, and Marriage Records v. 6-8: 152, 1843-1861; Emsley Lassiter and Elizabeth Winburn. Family History Library Microfilm #001630189. See also: Ensley Lassiter, “Indiana, Marriages, 1811-1959,” Retrieved from: FamilySearch.org

[6] 1850 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: M432-170, Page: 537B; Image: 336. Family Number: 728, Thomas Winburn, head. Retrieved from Ancestry.com

[7] Williams, M. L. (2014). The Emsley Lassiter Family of Randolph County, North Carolina and Rush County, Indiana. Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, 32, 59-78.

[8] Newby, T. T. (1916). Colored Pioneers: Farlow Lassiter. Reminiscences of Thomas T. Newby. Retrieved from: Archive.org

[9] 1840 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: 93; Page: 214; Image: 435; Family History Library Film: 0007729; Farlow Laston, head. Retrieved from Ancestry.com

[10] 1840 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: 93; Page: 208; Image: 423; Family History Library Film: 0007729; Patient Laston, head. Retrieved from Ancestry.com

[11] 1850 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: M432_170, Page: 550B; Image: 362, Family Number: 916; Seth Lassiter, head. Retrieved from Ancestry.com

[12] 1840 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: 93, Page: 211; Image: 429; Family History Library Film: 0007729; Thomas Winburn, head. Retrieved from http://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&db=1840usfedcenancestry&rank=1&new=1&MSAV=1&msT=1&gss=angs-d&gsfn=Thomas&gsln=Winburn&msrpn__ftp=Indiana&uidh=hx1&pcat=CEN_1840&fh=0&h=2040288&recoff=7+19+20&ml_rpos=1.

[13] Williams, M. L. (2014). The Emsley Lassiter Family of Randolph County, North Carolina and Rush County, Indiana. Journal of the Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, 32, 59-78.

[14] 1870 US Census, Fairmount, Grant, Indiana;  NARA Roll: M593_317; Page: 41B; Image: 86; Family History Library Film: 545816;  Emsly Lasters, head. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[15] Williams, M. L. (2011). Miles Lassiter (circa 1777-1850), An Early African American Quaker from Lassiter Mill, Randolph County, North Carolina: My Research Journey to Home (Palm Coast, FL & Crofton, KY: Backintyme Publishing, Inc.) pp.103-130.

[16] 1850 US Census, Ripley, Rush, Indiana; Roll: M432-170; Page: 537B; Image: 336; Thomas Winburn, head. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[17] Vincent, S. A. (1999). Southern Seed, Northern Soil: African-American Farm Communities in the Midwest, 1765-1900 (Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press), p. 200, n14.

[18] Indiana Marriage Collection, 1800-1941 [database on-line] Grant County, Marriage Records Volume II Book 7:199.  James Weaver and Mary Lassiter. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[19] Indiana Deaths, 1882-1920 [database on-line]. Name: Enssly [sic] Laster. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[20] Indiana, Marriages, 1810-2001 [Database on-line]. Cristena Laster and Joseph Overman, 29 April 1881, Rush County. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[21] 1900 US Federal Census Place: Center, Grant, Indiana; Joseph Overman, head; Elizabeth Lester [sic], mother-in-law. NARA Roll: 373; Page: 23B; Enumeration District: 0030; FHL microfilm: 1240373. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[22] U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1700s-Current [Database on-line]. Elizabeth Laster, 21 April 1908, Estates of Serenity, Marion, Indiana. Find A Grave. Retrieved from: Findagrave.com

 

#52Ancestors (2019-1) My First United States Colored Troops (USCT) Ancestor: Silas Lightfoot (1844-1884), Co. A, 2nd Inf. USCT

I had no family oral history of anyone serving during the Civil War. I had not found any names of any direct ancestors when searching databases for the Civil War, specifically, none of my ancestors of color, either in the regular military or in the USCT. However, when planning for a trip to Tallahassee, I looked up places of interest to visit. I was going to be visiting the Eaton Archives at Florida A & M, to donate some items that belonged to my grandmother, Lela Virginia Farnell Williams, who had been among the first students.[1]  I thought I might have time to see some other places before leaving town (I didn’t as it turned out). I found the website of the 2nd Infantry USCT Living History Association,[2] which had a muster roll of those in the units.[3] On it was Silas Lightfoot. I knew that the name of the husband of my great grandmother’s sister, Harriet Jacobs was Silas Lightfoot. I had a USCT ancestor, albeit a collateral in-law, but who’s quibbling? I began to research his background.

Silas Lightfoot was born on 25 December 1844,[4] in Southampton, Virginia.[5] He was my 2nd great uncle by marriage, being married to Harriett Jacobs,[6] sister of my great grandmother, Sallie Jacobs Farnell. On 23 June 1863, he enlisted in Company A, 2nd Regiment US Colored Volunteer Infantry, on Craney Island, Virginia,[7] located in the waters of the Elizabeth River where Hampton Roads, Portsmouth, Newport News and Norfolk converge. It was off the waters of Craney Island that the Merrimac was sunk in 1862. Craney Island was thus under Union control.[8]

craney island
Craney Island, Virginia

In 1863, General Benjamin Butler, at nearby Fort Monroe, the Old Point Comfort, was faced with the decision of whether to return fugitive slaves, since President Lincoln had said the war was not about slavery. Butler chose not to do that, resulting in over 1600 freed slaves, identified as “contraband,” seeking refuge on Craney Island.[9] Apparently, Silas was one of them.

Silas was described in his enlistment papers as 19 years of age, 5 feet 9 inches, dark skinned, with dark eyes, dark hair, and a farmer. He was enlisted by a Captain Wilder for three years and subsequently mustered in by Captain Cogswell. He was assigned to Fort Monroe,[10] where he would serve until February of 1865, when he was transferred to Fort Taylor on Key West, Florida, where he served as the Post baker.[11] His service records, however, indicate that he had several different occupations. In April 1864, he was assigned as a carpenter with the Quartermaster’s department.  In May 1864, he was assigned to the Medical Director. He served in that capacity until November, when he was assigned as a hospital attendant.

miusa1861m_089621-00566 (2)
Enlistment Record of Silas Lightfoot

Silas mustered out of the military 5 January 1866, in Tallahassee, according to the record of military service in the Bureau of Pensions file, for his widow, Harriet, dated 13 November 1890.[12] On 6 October 1868, he married Caledonia Hinton there.[13] They had two children, Robert and Frances (“Fanny”).[14] Caledonia died 28 May 1874, in Madison, Madison County, according to a neighbor, Sallie Garvin.[15] and the children went to live with relatives.[16] Subsequently, on 7 November1874, in Live Oak, Suwannee, Florida, Silas married Harriett Jacobs.[17]  They would go on to have three children: Silas Jr., Charlotte, and Willie Caledonia.[18] Charlotte was most likely named after Harriett’s mother, Charlotte Jacobs,[19] and Willie Caledonia appears to have been named for his first wife, Caledonia.

th-1951-31502-8286-31 (2)
Marriage License of Silas Lightfoot & Harriet Jacobs, 6 November 1874, Suwannee County, FL

By 1880, Silas was working for the railroad and was living in Orange County, in what would become Sanford, now in Seminole County.[20] However, on 25 March 1884, he died[21] intestate. Harriett petitioned the court to be named Administratrix of the estate and was so granted.[22] The following year, on 21 August 1885, she sold her property in Live Oak, Suwannee County, to her sister, Sallie Jacobs Farnell, with the contingency that, on her death, it be passed next to Sallie’s daughter, Lela Virginia Farnell, my grandmother.[23]

img_3528
Widow’s Pension of Harriet Lightfoot

In 1890, Harriett filed for a widow’s pension, which was granted.[24] In support of her application, her brother, Green Jacobs, submitted testimony that he was personally aware of the date of death for Silas Lightfoot.[25] In 1916, in support of an application for an increase in pension benefits, another of Harriet’s brothers, Richard Jacobs, provided a statement in support of her claim, commenting that their family members were dead, except a younger brother “Joe.”[26] It is assumed he meant other than her children. Also, as part of the request for increased benefits, friends John Morague and A. S. Stokes provided testimony wherein Harriet was described as a woman with,

“no property except a small lot and house thereon that she resides on in Sanford, Florida, and that said claimant … has to work to maintain herself and family and that she has no other means of support than her labor… derived from washing and cooking and that she has no other source of income whatever.”[27]

The increase was granted.

silas lightfoot tombstone (2)
Silas Lightfoot Tombstone, Page Jackson Cemetery, Sanford, Florida (Photo from Find a Grave).

Harriett died 24 August 1945, in Sanford, Florida.[28] There is no headstone for Harriet, but it is assumed she is buried next to Silas in Page Jackson Cemetery, in Sanford, Florida.[29]

References

[1] #52Ancestors—Heirloom: The Autograph Book (Blogpost). Personal Prologue: Family Roots and Personal Branches. Retrieved from: margoleewilliamsbooks.com

[2] 2nd Infantry Regiment United States Colored Troops Living History Association. Retrieved from: the2ndusctlha.org

[3] Silas Lightfoot (#716), Company A, Private In/Private Out. In Muster Roll of the Officers and Soldiers of the 2nd Infantry Regiment United States Colored Troops. Retrieved from: Muster Roll–2nd Infantry USCT

[4] Silas Lightfoot (25 December 1844-25 March 1884). Find A Grave. Retrieved from: Findagrave.com

[5] U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[6] Florida, County Marriages, 1823-1982 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot and Harriet Jacobs, 7 Nov 1874, Suwannee County, Florida. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[7] U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[8] Craney Island – Virginia Places. Retrieved from: Virginiaplaces.org

[9] Craney Island – Virginia Places. Retrieved from: Virginiaplaces.org

[10] U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[11] U.S. Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[12] Military Service: Silas Lightfoot in Pension Application # 447.541 (13 Nov 1890). War Department Record and Pension Division. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.

[13] Florida, County Marriages, 1823-1982 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot and Caledonia Hinton, 6 October 1868, Tallahassee, Leon County, Florida. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[14] Declaration for Original Pension of a Widow, Child or Children under Sixteen Years of Age Surviving: Harriet Lightfoot. “His by a former marriage: Robert, born 1870; Frances, born 1873.”  Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.

[15] General Affidavit of Sallie Garvin18 April 1892. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.

[16] 1880 US Federal Census Place: Precinct 1 and 2, Putnam, Florida; Nathaniel Hinton, head; Fanny Lightfoot, niece. NARA Roll: 131; Family History Film: #1254131; Page: 37A; Enumeration District: 130. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

And, Florida, State Census, 1867-1945 [Database on-line]. Edith Austin, head; Robert C. Lightfoot, great nephew. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[17] Florida, County Marriages, 1823-1982 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot and Harriet Jacobs, 7 Nov 1874, Suwannee County, Florida. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[18] Widow’s Pension: Harriet Lightfoot, 447541. Silas, born 16 Dec 1879; Charlotte, born 18 September 1881; Willie Caledonia, born 18 July 1883.  Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.

[19] 1870 US Federal Census, Place: Subdivision 9, Suwannee, Florida; William Jacobs, head; Charlotte Jacobs, Harriet Jacobs. NARA Roll: M593-133; Page: 686A; Image: 507; Family History Library Film: #545632. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[20]  1880 US Federal Census, Place: Precinct 2, Orange, Florida; Silas Lightfoot, head. NARA Roll: 131; Family History Film: #1254131; Page: 429B; Enumeration District: 126; Image: 0501. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[21] Declaration for Original Pension of a Widow, Child or Children under Sixteen Years of Age Surviving: Harriet LightfootVeterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.

[22] Florida, Wills and Probate Records, 1810-1974 [Database on-line]. Silas Lightfoot, Deceased; Hattie Lightfoot, Administratrix. Probate Packet 91, Orange County, Florida. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[23] Suwannee County Deed Book I:431-432. Harriett Lightfoot to Sallie Farnell and Lela Virginia Farnell, 21 August 1885. Family History Library Film #008584052. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[24] Widow’s Pension: Harriet Lightfoot, 447541. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.

[25] General Affidavit, Green Jacobs, 9 February 1892 and 18 April 1892, Sanford, Florida, in support of Claim for Pension by Harriet Lightfoot. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.

[26] Notarized Statement of Richard Jacobs, 22 December 1916, Sanford, Florida, in support of Claim for Increase in Benefits by Harriet Lightfoot. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.

[27] General Affidavit, John Morague and A. S. Stokes, Sanford, Florida, in support of increase of pension benefits, Harriet Lightfoot. Veterans Application Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.

[28] Death Compensation or Pension Award Account Card, Payee: Harriet Lightfoot, Died 8-24-45. Veterans Administration Claim File XC2666685. Copy in possession of author.

[29] Silas Lightfoot (25 December 1844-25 March 1884). Find A Grave. Retrieved from: Findagrave.com

1891, the Year of the African American Woman Postmaster: Elinora Wilhelmina Farmer Walden of Strieby, Randolph County, North Carolina

Recently, I saw a Fb post noting that Minnie Cox, of Indianola, Mississippi, was the first African American woman postmaster. In searching for information on her, I learned that she was appointed by Benjamin Harrison in January 1891,[1] however, the town of Indianola made her life difficult, complete with death threats. Despite these difficulties, Cox was reappointed by McKinley and Teddy Roosevelt. During her third term, as anti-black attitudes increased and her situation became increasingly dangerous, Cox attempted to resign. Teddy Roosevelt, who was now the President, refused her resignation, preferring to close the post office and reroute the mail to a different town rather than cave to the bigotry of Indianola.  Cox left town for her own safety. When the post office reopened, Cox did not return as the postmaster. She did return to Indianola, but never again as postmaster.[2] The story was compelling, but I was certain she was not the only African American woman postmaster from the time period. I had to check, but I knew that Elinora W. (Farmer) Walden had been postmaster in Strieby, Randolph County, North Carolina, in the same time period. I quickly looked it up.

I was right. Elinora Walden had been appointed in the same time period. In fact, she was appointed in May 1891, the same year as Minnie Cox.[3] Minnie may have been the first, but clearly President Harrison was willing to appoint others, like Elinora.

Elinora Wilhelmina Farmer Walden

Elinora Wilhelmina Farmer was born in New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey 28 November 1857,[4] to John A. and Catherine Farmer.[5] Elinora was the oldest of seven siblings; she had one brother and five sisters. At this time, nothing is known about the specifics of her education, however, she went to Randolph County (NC) as a teacher indicating she probably had some formal training. In addition, she had been involved in a school program in New Brunswick.

1870 census john farmer family new brunswick nj
1870 Census, John Farmer Family, including daughters, Elinora and Phoebe Farmer, Newark, New Jersey

Elinora and her family were very likely members at historic Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church, founded in New Brunswick in 1827.[6] It was here that she probably met New Brunswick Theological Seminarian, (Alfred) Islay Walden.[7] Walden preached at the church at least occasionally, including just before his graduation at the end of June 1879.[8] Also, Elinora and her sister, Phoebe,[9] were involved apparently at the Students’ Mission, that Islay ran during his years at the seminary (1877-1879). They were most likely the E. Farmer and P. Farmer mentioned in an article about the mission that appeared in the New Brunswick Daily Times.[10]

The relationship with Walden very likely included writing letters (none of which are known to still exist) after he returned to southwestern Randolph County, in 1879, as a missionary with the American Missionary Association (AMA).[11] In 1880, Walden established the First Congregational Church of Randolph County and started a school in an area of the Uwharrie Mountains, called Hill Town because of the large number of Hill families living there, including Walden’s sister. He was also charged with leading a church called Salem, about eight miles away.[12] Having a partner for his life and mission must certainly have seemed appealing, because Walden returned to New Jersey in 1881 and married Elinora.[13] Elinora returned with Walden to Randolph County, becoming the Principal and primary teacher of the school. In addition to the typical academic subjects, Elinora worked with the youth, helping to develop their spiritual and prayer life.

old strieby church w people
Original Strieby Church Building, Randolph County, North Carolina

In late 1882, or early 1883, Walden petitioned the federal government for a new post office to be placed in the community of Hill Town, which by then also had a general store. The post office would eliminate the long trip to the Lassiter’s Mill Post Office that had been serving the community. He also proposed that the new post office be known as “Strieby,” after the Rev. Dr. Strieby, Corresponding Secretary of the AMA, whom Walden admired.[14] The Post Office was established in 1883; Walden was the first Postmaster, appointed 31 May 1883. No longer known as Hill Town, the community would henceforth be known as Strieby, including the church and school, which became Strieby Congregational Church and School.

Walden’s tenure was short. The following 2 February 1884, he died from acute Bronchiteis (more likely pneumonia).[15] Elinora was widowed, in charge of the school, but the Rev. Zachariah Simmons came from Salem Church to be the pastor. Also coming to help her with the teaching was Henry Ruffin Walden, a cousin from neighboring Moore County and a student at Hampton College in the Normal program.[16] Though several years her junior, Elinora and Henry would marry on 13 December 1888.[17]  Henry would finish his studies at Hampton and return to Strieby to help Elinora with the teaching.

In 1890, Elinora’s sister Phoebe married Harris Dunson,[18] who lived in the nearby Lassiter Mill community, about three miles away, situated along the Uwharrie River. It seems likely that Phoebe helped with the school, which may have been the reason she came to Randolph County. She probably came to help her sister after the death of Islay Walden.

appointment of elinora w. walden as postmaster
Appointment of Elinora W. Walden as Postmaster, Strieby, Randolph County, North Carolina, 7 May 1891

On 7 May 1891, Elinora was appointed Postmaster at Strieby.[19] In a strange replay of the tenure of Islay Walden, Elinora died in February of 1892.[20] Having no children, Henry, as Administrator of her estate, distributed $400 to her sister, Phoebe Dunson.[21] She was buried in Strieby Church Cemetery alongside her first husband, Islay Walden.

figure 31-eleanora walden gravestone
Gravemarker of Elinora W. Walden, Strieby Church Cemetery, Randolph County, North Carolina. Photo by Margo Lee Williams

Elinora’s death was considered a terrible loss to the community, especially because a secondary school at Strieby, called Garfield Academy, with Elinora as Headmistress, seems to have been abandoned. The academy would have eliminated the necessity for students to leave home to attend boarding schools in order to further their education.  With Elinora’s death the secondary school was discontinued. There’s no written record this researcher has found to date that explains why.[22]

Henry Ruffin Walden who was teaching at Salem School, returned to Strieby to take over the School. Eventually, he would remarry. He married a teacher, Theodosia Hargraves,[23] who did not come from Randolph County. Henry and Theodosia would leave Strieby after a few years. Like his cousin, Islay, Henry would go on to become a Congregational minister, serving churches in Charlotte and High Point,[24] before dying in Winston Salem.[25]

A Final Thought

It Is remarkable that at a time when Jim Crow laws were becoming more prominent, when women and people of color could not vote, at least these two women, Minnie Cox and Elinora Walden were trusted with the authority of being Postmaster of their local post offices. I can’t help but suspect there were others whose names have been lost to history, but whose stories need to be told.

References

[1] U.S., Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 [database on-line]. Minnie M. Cox, appointed 16 Jan 1891, Indianola, Sunflower, Mississippi. Record of Appointment of Postmasters, 1832-1971 Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[2] Boyd, D. and Chen, K. (2014). Minnie M Cox: A Postmaster’s Story. The History and Experience of African Americans in America’s Postal Service. Retrieved from: Smithsonian National Postal Museum

[3] U.S., Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 [database on-line]. Elinora W. Walden, appointed 7 May 1891, Strieby, Randolph, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[4] New Jersey, Births and Christenings Index, 1660-1931 [Database on-line]. Name: Farmer, Gender: Female; Father: John Farmer. Date: 28 Nov 1857, New Brunswick, Middlesex Co., New Jersey. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[5] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: Newark Ward 2, Essex, New Jersey; John Farmer, head; Elenora Farmer, age 11 [sic]. NARA Roll: M593-879; Page: 167B; Image: 339; Family History Library Film: 552378. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[6] Mount Zion African Methodist Episcopal Church. (2015). Our History: About Us. Retrieved from: Mount Zion AME Church

[7] NBTS Anti-Racism Transformation Team. (25 February 2016). Slavery, Justice, and New Brunswick Theological Seminary: First African American Graduates. New Brunswick Theological Seminary. Retrieved from: New Brunswick Theological Seminary

[8] The Daily Times. (30 June 1879). City Matters. (New Brunswick, NJ), 3. Retrieved from:New Brunswick Free Public Library

[9] 1870 US Federal Census; Census Place: Newark Ward 2, Essex, New Jersey; John A. Farmer, head; Phebe A. Farmer, age 4. NARA Roll: M593-879; Page: 167B; Image: 339; Family History Library Film: 552378. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[10] The Daily Times. (3 January 1879 & 4 January 1879). Shoes for the Poor. (New Brunswick, NJ), 3. Retrieved from: New Brunswick Free Public Library

[11] 1880 US Federal Census; Census Place: Union, Randolph, North Carolina; Islay Walden, Boarder. NARA Roll: 978; Family History Film: 1254978; Page: 196C; Enumeration District: 224; Image: 0683. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[12] Williams, M. L. (2016). Return to Hill Town. From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie “Back Country” of Randolph County, North Carolina (Crofton, KY: Backintyme Publishing) pp. 81-88.

[13] New Jersey, Marriage Records, 1670-1965 [Database on-line]. Alfred I. Walden and Elenor W. Farmer, married: 18 May 1881, New Brunswick, Middlesex, New Jersey. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[14] Williams, M. L. (2016). Return to Hill Town. From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie “Back Country” of Randolph County, North Carolina (Crofton, KY: Backintyme Publishing) pp. 90-91.

[15] National Council. (1885). Vital Statistics.  The Congregational Yearbook, 1885. (Boston: Congregational Publishing Society) Volume 7:37. Retrieved from: Google Books

[16] Williams, M. L. (2016). A Widow Carries On. From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie “Back Country” of Randolph County, North Carolina (Crofton, KY: Backintyme Publishing) pp. 93-94.

[17] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. H. R. Walden and Eleanor W. Walden, married: 13 Dec 1888, Randolph County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[18] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Harris Dunson and Phoebe Farmer, married 3 Apr 1890, Randolph County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[19] U.S., Appointments of U. S. Postmasters, 1832-1971 [database on-line]. Elinora W. Walden, appointed 7 May 1891, Strieby, Randolph, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[20] American Missionary Association (AMA). (1892). Obituary: Mrs. Henry R. Walden. The American Missionary, 46(3):91. Retrieved from: Google Books

[21] North Carolina, Wills and Probate Records, 1665-1998 [Database on-line]. Administrators Bonds, Henry R. Walden, Administrator; Estate of Elinora W. Walden. Probate date: 17 Feb 1892, Randolph County Court. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[22] Williams, M. L. (2016). A Widow Carries On. From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie “Back Country” of Randolph County, North Carolina (Crofton, KY: Backintyme Publishing) pp. 96.

[23] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Henry R. Walden and Theodosia E. Hargrave, married:11 Sep 1898, Randolph County. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[24] Williams, M. L. (2016). A Widow Carries On. From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Association in the Uwharrie “Back Country” of Randolph County, North Carolina (Crofton, KY: Backintyme Publishing) pp. 96-98.

[25] North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909-1976 [Database on-line]. Rev. Henry Ruffin Walden, date of death: 20 Jan 1951. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com