Posted on 13 Comments

Martha Peterson of Newtown: The Woman in the Iron Coffin

I don’t usually write blogposts about non-family members or non-members of my family’s communities of origin, however, this story takes place in a community near where I grew up and involves a church and cemetery with which my family has been associated. First, for most of my life, St. Mark’s A(frican) M(ethodist) E(piscopal) Church was located not far from the church I attended growing up, The Episcopal Church of the Resurrection (now Grace and Resurrection), in East Elmhurst, Queens, New York. In addition, my paternal uncle, Charleton “Jimmy” Williams had attended church there. I have his prayer book. Second, many of my Williams family members, including my great grandmother, Ellen Gainer (Wilson/Wilkinson) Williams are buried at Mount Olivet Cemetery (Maspeth, Queens, NY). This is where many of the bodies from the original African burial grounds in Elmhurst were re-interred, including Martha Peterson. So, while not about my family, this story has significance for me.

Martha Peterson
The reconstructed face of Martha Peterson by forensic anthropologists.

An Iron Coffin Was Found

In 2011, an excavation to prepare to build a parking garage in Elmhurst, Queens, New York, unearthed a body buried that had been buried in an iron coffin. Elmhurst was originally part of a community called Newtown, which had a large African American community. The excavation site had been a 19th century African American cemetery.[1] The iron coffin had preserved her body nearly perfectly, so much so that the smallpox lesions from the disease that undoubtedly killed her were still visible on her body, leading to examination by the medical examiner and consultation with the CDCs to be sure they were not still viable. They were not viable.[2]

Iron Coffin
An Iron Coffin

Preliminary research determined that this young woman was most likely Martha Peterson living with William (Mead) and Josephine Raymond (probably as a house servant), next door to Almond D(unbar) and Phoebe Fisk, a “stove manufacturer” on the 1850 census in Newtown.[3] They also determined that she probably died about one year after the census, in 1851, from the smallpox that had attacked her brain. Among some of the remarkable things revealed were the cloths and accessories with which she was buried. She was in a nightgown, stockings, hair braided with a bone hair comb.[4] Although she was living with William Raymond and next door to Almond Fisk, his brother-in-law and business partner (Fisk and Raymond Co., not reflected on the census) in whose coffin she was buried?[5] Her burial attire suggested she was part of a family that could be considered of some means for an African American family of the time. Who was that family? What place did they hold in the Newtown African American community?

Martha Peterson 1850 census
Martha Peterson in the 1850 Census

What do we know about Martha’s potential family?

Preliminary research determined that Martha was likely the sister of Elisha Peterson of Newtown, who named one of his daughters “Martha.”[6] In 1850, Elisha was still living in the home of his parents, John and Jane Peterson.[7]  In 1870, Elisha was married with his own family, including the baby Martha and her twin, Matilda.[8] His father, John was living next door.[9]  An entry in the occupation column for John Peterson indicates that he was a sexton.  A sexton, as occupation, is someone who provides custodial care for a church. What church?

Elisha Peterson & John Peterson 1870 census
Elisha Peterson and family, as well as John Peterson in the 1870 Census.

The History of the African American Church in Newtown

The earliest outreach to the African American community of Newtown appears to have been from the First Presbyterian Church.[10] In New York City at this time the Presbyterians had a large outreach to the African American communities including at least two churches in Manhattan, Spring Street and Laight Street, churches which were integrated.[11] In 1822, the First Colored Presbyterian Church, later called Shiloh Presbyterian Church, as founded. It became an active part of the Underground Railroad and was where the well-known, escaped formerly enslave, James Pennington, an active abolitionist, was a minister in the 1850s.[12]

First Presbyterian sanctuary-front
First Presbyterian Church, Elmhurst (formerly Newtown), Queens, New York. Courtesy of the First Presbyterian website

James W. C. Pennington

James W. C. Pennington was born a slave in Maryland from where he escaped, first living with a Quaker family in Philadelphia, later moving to Brooklyn where he worked, as a coachman for the Leverich family. It is while living in Brooklyn, “with the family of an Elder of the Presbyterian Church,” in 1829, that he met the Rev. Samuel Hanson Cox, pastor of the Laight Street Presbyterian Church.[13] Cox was a staunch abolitionist and firmly believed in the equality of all. Laight Street Church was an integrated community, and though illegal, he was known to secretly marry interracial couples. Pennington reported that the effect of his meeting with Cox was profound and, invited by Cox, was “moved” to attend services at the Cox’s church.[14] It was these experiences as well as his commitment to the abolition of slavery, his help of escaped slaves, and his involvement in the National Colored Convention movement, that led him to believe that he should enter the ministry, but he was also concerned about his limited finances. It was during this time that he was offered a teaching position at a school, reportedly the school in Newtown, called the African Free School, established in 1830.[15] Additional evidence of his presence in Newtown at this time may be the baptism of the young son of John and Jane Peterson in 1837. The name of the child was recorded in the First Presbyterian Church records as John James Pennington Peterson, clearly an honorific for Pennington.[16]

James Wc pennington
The Rev. James W. C. Pennington

In 1834, convinced he should become a minister, Pennington sought admission to Yale (then Yale College). He was their first black student, although he was not allowed to use the library or officially be enrolled, and he had to sit in the back of the room silently. After completing his courses, he was ordained by the Congregational Church. He reportedly returned to Long Island to pastor a church, most likely the church in Newtown. This would have been about 1837-38.[17] It is interesting to note that Pennington made no mention of this time in Newtown in his autobiography, The Fugitive Blacksmith. In 1840, he moved to Harford, Connecticut to become the pastor of the Talcott Street Church, now Faith Congregational Church.[18] He did not return to New York until about 1851, after formally being freed by John Hooker, when he moved to Manhattan, becoming a pastor at Shiloh Presbyterian Church.[19] Pennington was also one of the founders of what would become the American Missionary Association.[20] He died in 1870 in Jacksonville, Florida a few months after arriving to establish a new church congregation there.[21]

Second Presbyterian Church of Newtown

Second Presbyterian, an outgrowth of First Presbyterian, was where the Newtown African American community had worshipped, though segregated.[22] Evidence of this relationship can be found in the recording of the baptism of one of John and Jane Pennington’s sons in 1834, John James Pennington Peterson, referenced above. The community was able to purchase land in 1828.[23]

“Black worshipers at Newtown’s First Presbyterian church, long accustomed to second-class seating, probably planned the separate congregation as early as 1826. The members of this United African Society founding group (named by an elderly church member in 1919) included five men who “acted as purchasers”-John Potter, Thomas Johnson, John Peterson, John Coes, and George Derlin. The first three are listed as black Newtown household heads in the 1830 census, as are a John ‘Coles’ and a George ‘Dushing.’ The last of these names is probably Carter G. Woodson’s misreading of the handwritten ‘Durling’; also listed in 1830 were Henry Durling, Peter Dorland, and Abraham Dorlon, no doubt alternative spellings, like Derlin or Durland, of the same family name. In 1911, the Newtown Register recorded as ‘some of the first members and founders’ of the church John Peterson, George and Henry Durland, and four women-Mrs. Nancy Jackson, Freelove Johnson, Jane Peterson, and Judith Schenck.”[24]

The congregation that had become synonymous with the United African Society, which had purchased the land that included the church and cemetery, became divided over with which worship community to be affiliated, the Presbyterians (who themselves had become divided over issues of race) or the Methodists. Based on the 1873 map, it appears the Methodists had won, since the parcel is marked, “M. E. Ch. African Cem.”[25] In 1902, after a period of neglect the property was back in the hands of the church then called the Union Ave African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church after the street’s name at the time. In 1906, the church applied to be affiliated officially with the African Methodist Episcopal denomination. In 1929, the congregation sold the Union Avenue property and moved to 95th Street in Corona, a community that was also originally part of Newtown. The congregation took the new name of St. Mark’s AME Church.[26] The church applied to the city of New York for permission to transfer all the bodies from the old cemetery to Mount Olivet Cemetery in Maspeth. The City refused the request, but at least 20 bodies were moved to Mount Olivet.[27] It is there that Martha Peterson was reinterred. St. Mark’s also moved again and is now located on Northern Blvd. in a new building.[28]

Mt Olivet Cemetery
Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens, NY. Courtesy of Find A Grave.

A Genealogical Record:

John Peterson was born about 1800. He reports in the 1850,[29] 1860[30], and 1870[31] censuses, that he was born in New York, however, most census reports of his children and, where indicated, their death certificates say he was born in Pennsylvania, for example, the death record of his son John James Pennington Peterson, which indicates specifically, Philadelphia.[32] John lived most of his adult life in Newtown, Queens, New York as evidenced by his presence on the 1830,[33] 1840,[34] 1850,[35] 1860[36] and 1870[37] censuses. According to his Findagrave memorial, he died in October 1873.[38]

John was married to Charity Jane Peterson, born about 1798 in New York, according to the 1850,[39] 1860[40] and 1870[41] censuses and the death record of her son, John James Pennington Peterson.[42] It appears she and John may have separated after 1860, since they are not in the same household in 1870. The William Peterson found living with her in 1870,[43] was probably the same as the William Seymore found living with John and her in 1860.[44] Jane was not found on the census after 1870. It is presumed she died before 1880.

The Children of John and Jane Peterson were likely:

  1. Henry Peterson, 1815-? Henry Peterson never appears in the household of John and Jane Peterson. However, his age on the 1850 census, 35 years old, suggests that he could be the oldest of the Peterson children, possibly born to Jane before marrying John.[45] Henry is living in the William Raymond household in 1850, along with Martha Peterson. There is no additional information on Henry. He is not the Henry Peterson found living in Flushing, Staten Island, or Hempstead, each of whom can be tracked in those places before 1850 and after 1850. He cannot be definitively identified in any census records after 1850. It is possible that he also died from smallpox.
  2. Martha Peterson, 1824-1851.
  3. Mary Peterson, 1828-? Mary Peterson appeared only on the 1850 census.[46]
  4. Josephine Peterson, 1830-? Josephine Peterson appeared only on the 1850 census.[47]
  5. Elisha B. Peterson, 1832-1915. Elisha B. Peterson was born about 1832, in Newtown, Queens, New York. He was the son of John and Jane Peterson.[48] In 1864, he enlisted in the 20th Infantry, United States Colored Troops (USCT). He was mustered out, 24 September 1865, in New Orleans, Louisiana.[49] Sometime before 1870, he married Mary Butler.[50] Mary was from the nearby community of Astoria, Queens, also considered part of greater Newtown.[51] The Elisha and family moved to Manhattan about 1880.[52] It appears that Elisha may have sought better employment opportunities, because he moved to New Jersey about 1883.[53] He seems to have moved in and out of New Jersey over the next few years, returning to New Jersey permanently[54] after Mary died in New York in 1892.[55] Elisha died 25 April 1915, in Passaic, New Jersey.[56] His final Veteran’s claim payment was made to his daughter, Martha Peterson McCormick (Martha J. McCormick). Elisha Peterson and Mary Butler had seven known children: Josephine Peterson, Joseph H. Peterson, John B. Peterson, Edward Vincent Peterson, Martha Jane Peterson (McCormick), Matilda S. “Millie” Peterson, and Elisha E. Peterson.[57]
Elisha Peterson mil record
Elisha Peterson’s Civil War Veteran’s record.
  1. Harriet Jane Peterson, 1834-1919. Harriet is found first on the 1850 census living with her parents.[58] In 1870, she was living with her father, in the house of her brother, Elisha Peterson.[59] She is most likely the Jane Peterson on the 1892 New York State Census, living in Newtown, near the family of a William Peterson.[60] This was possibly the same William Seymore/Peterson living with her parents in 1860,[61] then with her mother in 1870.[62] In 1910, she is a 60 year old woman, working for a “private family.”[63] Harriet died 25 April 1919, in Queens, New York. She was 85 years old.[64]
  2. John James Pennington Peterson, 1837-1892. John James Pennington Peterson was born in October 1837. He was baptized at First Presbyterian Church on 1 November 1837, and named for James Pennington, who had been a teacher at the African School and was possibly newly returned from Yale as well as newly ordained.[65] John J. P. Peterson died 19 December 1892, in Manhattan, New York City.[66]

References

[1] Laterman, K. (2019. 14 June). This Empty Lot Is Worth Millions. It’s Also an African-American Burial Ground. The New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/14/nyregion/african-american-burial-ground-queens-newtown.html

[2] Thirteen Productions, LLC. (2018). Secrets of the Dead: The Woman in the Iron Coffin. PBS. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/woman-in-the-iron-coffin-about-the-film/3923/

[3] 1850 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; Martha Peterson, age 26. NARA Roll: M432-583; Page: 86A; Image: 75. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4203136_00075?pid=8128235&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D8054%26h%3D8128235%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044750656%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044750656&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[4] Thirteen Productions, LLC. (2018). Secrets of the Dead: The Woman in the Iron Coffin. PBS. Retrieved from: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/woman-in-the-iron-coffin-about-the-film/3923/

[5] Warnasch, S. (2019). Inventors. Iron Coffin Mummy: Steam Age Travelers and Their Mummiform Time Capsules. Retrieved from: http://ironcoffinmummy.com/inventors/

[6] 1870 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; Elishua Peterson, head; Martha Peterson, age 10/12. NARA Roll: M593-1080; Page: 130A; Family History Library Film: 552579. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4276962_00264?pid=32014780&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D7163%26h%3D32014780%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044750767%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044750767&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[7] 1850 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head; Elisha Peterson, 18. NARA Roll: M432-583; Page: 111B; Image: 126. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4203136_00126?pid=8130361&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid%3D8054%26h%3D8130361%26indiv%3Dtry%26o_vc%3DRecord:OtherRecord%26rhSource%3D8054&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[8] 1870 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; Elishua Peterson, head; Martha Peterson, age 10/12 and Matilda, age 10/12. NARA Roll: M593-1080; Page: 130A; Family History Library Film: 552579. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4276962_00264?pid=32014780&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D7163%26h%3D32014780%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044750767%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044750767&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[9] 1870 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head. NARA Roll: M593-1080; Page: 130A; Family History Library Film: 552579. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4276962_00264?pid=32014801&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D7163%26h%3D32014801%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044750657%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044750657&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[10] First Presbyterian Church of Newtown. (2017). History. Retrieved from: http://www.fpcn.org/history

[11] NYC AGO. (n.d.). Spring Street Presbyterian Church. Retrieved from: http://www.nycago.org/Organs/NYC/html/SpringStPres.html

[12] The History Box. (22 May 2012). Brief Histories of the Churches Connected with the Presbytery of New York. Pre: 1949 Part IV: First Colored Church-Shiloh Church (Dissolved). Retrieved from: http://thehistorybox.com/ny_city/nycity_worship_histories_churches_presbyterian_pt_IV_article00558.htm

[13] Pennington, J. W.C.  (14 May 2017 edition). The Fugitive Blacksmith: Or, Events in the History of James W. C. Pennington, Pastor of a Presbyterian Church, New York, Formerly a Slave in the State of Maryland, United States (hereinafter, The Fugitive Blacksmith.) (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform), p. 66.

[14] Pennington, J. W. C. (14 May 2017 edition). The Fugitive Blacksmith, 66-67.

[15] Sanjek, R. (1993). After Freedom in Newtown, Queens: African Americans and the Color Line, 1838-1899. Long Island Historical Journal, 5(2), 158. Retrieved from: https://ir.stonybrook.edu/jspui/bitstream/11401/60288/1/i002.pdf and Pennington, J. W. C. (14 May 2017 edition). The Fugitive Blacksmith, p. 68.

[16] New York Births and Christenings, 1640-1962, [Database on-line], John James Pennington Peterson, Baptized:  01 Nov 1837; citing Presbyterian Church, Newtown, Queens, New York. FHL microfilm 974.7B4 NE V. 8. Retrieved from: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:V2H5-

[17] Sanjek, R. (1993). After Freedom in Newtown, Queens: African Americans and the Color Line, 1838-1899. Long Island Historical Journal, 5(2), 158. Retrieved from: https://ir.stonybrook.edu/jspui/bitstream/11401/60288/1/i002.pdf

[18] Connecticut Humanities (n.d.). Reverend James Pennington: A Voice for Freedom. ConnecticutHistoy.org. Retrieved from: https://connecticuthistory.org/reverend-james-pennington-a-voice-for-freedom/

[19] UNC-Chapel Hill. (n.d.). John Hooker, from Frederick Douglass’ Paper 26 June 1851. Documenting the American South. Retrieved from: https://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/penning49/support1.html

[20] United Church of Christ. (2018). Blacks and the American Missionary Association. Retrieved from: http://www.ucc.org/about-us_hidden-histories_blacks-and-the-american

[21] Connecticut Humanities (n.d.). Reverend James Pennington: A Voice for Freedom. ConnecticutHistoy.org. Retrieved from: https://connecticuthistory.org/reverend-james-pennington-a-voice-for-freedom/

[22] First Presbyterian Church of Newtown. (2017). History. Retrieved from: http://www.fpcn.org/history

[23] Sanjek, R. (1993). After Freedom in Newtown, Queens: African Americans and the Color Line, 1838-1899. Long Island Historical Journal, 5(2), 158. Retrieved from: https://ir.stonybrook.edu/jspui/bitstream/11401/60288/1/i002.pdf

[24] Sanjek, R. (1993). After Freedom in Newtown, Queens: African Americans and the Color Line, 1838-1899. Long Island Historical Journal, 5(2), 158. Retrieved from: https://ir.stonybrook.edu/jspui/bitstream/11401/60288/1/i002.pdf

[25] St. Mark AME Church. (2014). The History of Saint Mark A.M.E. Church. Retrieved from: http://www.stmarkamenyc.org/our-history.html

[26] St. Mark AME Church. (2014). The History of Saint Mark A.M.E. Church. Retrieved from: http://www.stmarkamenyc.org/our-history.html

[27] St. Mark AME Church. (2014). The History of Saint Mark A.M.E. Church. Retrieved from: http://www.stmarkamenyc.org/our-history.html

[28] St. Mark AME Church. (2014). The History of Saint Mark A.M.E. Church. Retrieved from: http://www.stmarkamenyc.org/our-history.html

[29] 1850 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head. NARA Roll: M432-583; Page: 111B; Image: 126. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4203136_00126?pid=8130361&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid%3D8054%26h%3D8130361%26indiv%3Dtry%26o_vc%3DRecord:OtherRecord%26rhSource%3D8054&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[30] 1860 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head. NARA Roll: M653-843; Page: 694; Family History Library Film: 803843. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4236779_00358/48378554?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044750657/facts/citation/902061247075/edit/record#?imageId=4236779_00358

[31] 1870 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head. NARA Roll: M593-1080; Page: 130A; Family History Library Film: 552579. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4276962_00264?pid=32014801&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D7163%26h%3D32014801%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044750657%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044750657&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[32] New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949, [Database on-line], John Peterson, Birthplace: Philadelphia,” in entry for John P. Peterson, 19 Dec 1892; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,322,850. Retrieved from: https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W6Z-JNS

[33] 1830 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head; total 7 Free People of Color. NARA Series: M19; Roll: 104; Page: 15; Family History Library Film: 0017164. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8058/4410629_00032/40955?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044750657/facts/citation/902059040018/edit/record&lang=en-US

[34] 1840; Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York Henry Peterson, head. Total 7 Free People of Color.  NARA Film Group M704; Page: 129; Family History Library Film: 0017203. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8057/4409546_00958?pid=3292425&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D8057%26h%3D3292425%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044750657%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044750657&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[35] 1850 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head. NARA Roll: M432-583; Page: 111B; Image: 126. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4203136_00126?pid=8130361&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid%3D8054%26h%3D8130361%26indiv%3Dtry%26o_vc%3DRecord:OtherRecord%26rhSource%3D8054&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[36] 1860 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head. NARA Roll: M653-843; Page: 694; Family History Library Film: 803843. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4236779_00358/48378554?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044750657/facts/citation/902061247075/edit/record#?imageId=4236779_00358

[37] 1870 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head. NARA Roll: M593-1080; Page: 130A; Family History Library Film: 552579. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4276962_00264?pid=32014801&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D7163%26h%3D32014801%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044750657%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044750657&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[38] John Peterson. (  ). Findagrave Memorial #193272790. Mt. Olivet Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens, New York. Retrieved from: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/193272790

39] 1850 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head. Jane Peterson. NARA Roll: M432-583; Page: 111B; Image: 126. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4203136_00126?pid=8130361&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid%3D8054%26h%3D8130361%26indiv%3Dtry%26o_vc%3DRecord:OtherRecord%26rhSource%3D8054&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[40] 1860 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head; Charity Peterson. NARA Roll: M653-843; Page: 694; Family History Library Film: 803843. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4236779_00358/48378554?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044750657/facts/citation/902061247075/edit/record#?imageId=4236779_00358

[41] 1870 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; Charity Peterson, head. NARA Roll: M593-1080; Page: 130B; Family History Library Film: 552579. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4276962_00265/32014829?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044752745/facts/citation/902061249782/edit/record

[42] New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” [Database on-line], Jane B. Peterson in entry for John P. Peterson, 19 Dec 1892; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,322,850. Retrieved from: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W6Z-JN3

[43] 1870 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; Charity Peterson, head. William Peterson. NARA Roll: M593-1080; Page: 130B; Family History Library Film: 552579. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4276962_00265/32014829?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044752745/facts/citation/902061249782/edit/record

[44] 1860 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head; Charity Peterson; William Seymore. NARA Roll: M653-843; Page: 694; Family History Library Film: 803843. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4236779_00358/48378554?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044750657/facts/citation/902061247075/edit/record#?imageId=4236779_00358

[45] 1850 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; Henry Peterson, age 35. NARA Roll: M432-583; Page: 86A; Image: 75. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4203136_00075?pid=8128235&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D8054%26h%3D8128235%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044750656%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044750656&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[46] 1850 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head; Mary Peterson, 22. NARA Roll: M432-583; Page: 111B; Image: 126. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4203136_00126?pid=8130361&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid%3D8054%26h%3D8130361%26indiv%3Dtry%26o_vc%3DRecord:OtherRecord%26rhSource%3D8054&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[47] 1850 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head; Josephine Peterson, age 20. NARA Roll: M432-583; Page: 111B; Image: 126. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4203136_00126?pid=8130361&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid%3D8054%26h%3D8130361%26indiv%3Dtry%26o_vc%3DRecord:OtherRecord%26rhSource%3D8054&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[48] 1850 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head; Elisha Peterson, 18. NARA Roll: M432-583; Page: 111B; Image: 126. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4203136_00126?pid=8130361&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid%3D8054%26h%3D8130361%26indiv%3Dtry%26o_vc%3DRecord:OtherRecord%26rhSource%3D8054&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[49] U.S., Colored Troops Military Service Records, 1863-1865 [Database on-line]. Elisha Peterson. NARA Roll: M1823-13. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/1107/miusa1861m_088412-01395?pid=94370&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D1107%26h%3D94370%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044750767%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044750767&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[50] U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007 [Database on-line]. Martha Peterson McCormick; Mary Butler, mother; Elisha Peterson, father. Retrieved from: https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?viewrecord=1&r=an&db=Numident&indiv=try&h=13507758

[51] New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” [Database on-line] Elisha B. Peterson in entry for Mary S. Peterson, 22 Mar 1892; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,322,836. Retrieved from:
www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W63-4DR

[52] 1880 US Federal Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; May T. Peterson [sic], head; Elisha Peterson, husband. NARA Roll: 880; Page: 99C; Enumeration District: 279. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4242248-00141?pid=2751097&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D6742%26h%3D2751097%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044752407%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044752407&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[53] U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [Database on-line]. Elisha B. Peterson, 1883.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2469/11096913/583089041?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044750767/facts/citation/902104686942/edit/record

[54] U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995 [Database on-line]. Elisha B. Peterson, 1894.  Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/2469/11136030/587555298?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044750767/facts/citation/902059423720/edit/record

[55] New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” [Database on-line] Elisha B. Peterson in entry for Mary S. Peterson, 22 Mar 1892; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,322,836. Retrieved from:
www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W63-4DR

[56] United States Veterans Administration Pension Payment Cards, 1907-1933, [Database on-line with images], Elisha B Peterson, 25 Apr 1915; citing NARA microfilm publication M850 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,635,801. Retrieved from: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QJDQ-7SJX

[57] 1880 US Federal Census Place: New York City, New York, New York; May T. Peterson [sic], head; Elisha Peterson, husband. NARA Roll: 880; Page: 99C; Enumeration District: 279. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4242248-00141?pid=2751097&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D6742%26h%3D2751097%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044752407%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044752407&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[58] 1850 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head; Harriet Peterson, age 16. NARA Roll: M432-583; Page: 111B; Image: 126. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/8054/4203136_00126?pid=8130361&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?dbid%3D8054%26h%3D8130361%26indiv%3Dtry%26o_vc%3DRecord:OtherRecord%26rhSource%3D8054&treeid=&personid=&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[59] 1870 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head; H. Jane Peterson, age 29 [sic]. NARA Roll: M593-1080; Page: 130A; Family History Library Film: 552579. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4276962_00264?pid=32014801&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D7163%26h%3D32014801%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044750657%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044750657&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true

[60] New York, State Census, 1892 [database on-line]. Jane Peterson, age 40, Column 2, line 11; William Peterson, Column 2, line 4. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/3212/41121_B125834-00348?pid=2991385&backurl=https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv%3D1%26dbid%3D3212%26h%3D2991385%26ssrc%3Dpt%26tid%3D154826296%26pid%3D302044834987%26usePUB%3Dtrue&ssrc=pt&treeid=154826296&personid=302044834987&hintid=&usePUB=true&usePUBJs=true&lang=en-US

[61] 1860 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; John Peterson, head; Charity Peterson, George Seymore & William Seymore. NARA Roll: M653-843; Page: 694; Family History Library Film: 803843. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4236779_00358/48378554?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044750657/facts/citation/902061247075/edit/record#?imageId=4236779_00358

[62] 1870 US Federal Census Place: Newtown, Queens, New York; Charity Peterson, head; William Peterson. NARA Roll: M593_1080; Page: 130B; Family History Library Film: 552579. Retrieved from: https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7163/4276962_00265/32014829?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044752745/facts/citation/902061249782/edit/record

[63] 1910; Census Place: Queens Ward 2, Queens, New York; Harriet J. Peterson, head. NARA Roll: T624-1066; Page: 10B; Enumeration District: 1192; FHL microfilm: 1375079. Retrieved from:

https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7884/4449999_00614/19740926?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/154826296/person/302044834987/facts/citation/902061237911/edit/record

[64] New York, New York, Extracted Death Index, 1862-1948 [Database on-line]. Jane Peterson, Date of Death: 25 April 1919. Retrieved from: https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=9131&h=2373259&ssrc=pt&tid=154826296&pid=302044834987&usePUB=true

[65] Sanjek, R. (1993). After Freedom in Newtown, Queens: African Americans and the Color Line, 1838-1899. Long Island Historical Journal, 5(2), 158. Retrieved from: https://ir.stonybrook.edu/jspui/bitstream/11401/60288/1/i002.pdf

[66] New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949, [Database on-line] John P. Peterson, Date of Death: 19 December 1892; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 1,322,850. Retrieved from: https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2W6Z-JN3

Advertisements
Posted on 1 Comment

#52Ancestors: Tricky — Same names, different couples: Differentiating between the two Elizabeth and Andrew Leaks.

In a previous post, I wrote about Mary Polk/Pope and her children, Harriett, Katherine, Sarah, Lunda, and Malcom. At that time, I was not certain what had happened to Elizabeth, “Lissie.” Looking back through the records I had about the other siblings, I realized that she was living next door to Malcom, her brother Malcom Pope/Polk, and his wife, Nancy (Smitherman) in 1880 in Richmond County adjacent to Montgomery County, which is adjacent to Randolph County.[1]

Andrew and Lissie Leak 1880
Andrew and Elizabeth “Lissie” (Pope) Leak, 1880 Census, Richmond County, NC

Elizabeth and her husband Andrew Leak, along with their children had not shown up in the census until 1880. At that time, they could be found living in Steeles Township, in Richmond County, North Carolina. Richmond County abuts Montgomery County where her mother and brother could be found living previously.[2] In the home, are their children: Archie, Sarah, Lissie A(nn), Martha A., James, and (Le)Nora. Having found them in 1880, I tried to find them in 1870. That was not quite as easy.

Andrew and Lissie Marr Cert
Marriage Certificate for Andrew Leak and Elizabeth Pope, 13 April 1875, Montgomery County, NC

One curious discovery was that Andrew and “Lissie” didn’t marry until 13 April 1875, in Montgomery County.[3] Thus, of the children named in 1880, only Martha, James and Nora were born after their reported marriage. So, what about Archie, Sarah, and Lissie? They could be found in 1870  in Steeles Township, Richmond County, living with Rachel Little. So where were Andrew and Lissie? Good question.

Archie and Sarah Leak 1870
Mary C., Archie, Sarah, and Ann E. Leak, 1870 Census,  Steeles Township, Richmond County, NC

In 1866, an Andrew Leak and Eliza Hunsacker married in Richmond County.[4] In 1870, their household, in the Mineral Springs Township of Richmond County, included Andrew, Eliza, and three children, Thomas, Annie, and Mary.[5] Were these Andrew and Eliza the same as Andrew and Elizabeth Pope/Polk? If so, why were they living in Mineral Springs Township, while Mary, Archie, Sarah, and Ann E. (Lissie) were living in the Steeles community with Rachel Little?

Andrew and Eliza 1870
Andrew Leak and Eliza (Hunsacker) Leak, 1870 Census, Richmond County, NC

In 1880, Andrew and Eliza were in Williamson Township in Richmond County. They were living there with their children: Anna, Charlie, Jessie, Winston, Della, and Thomas.[6] Meanwhile, Andrew and Elizabeth Polk/Pope were living in  Steeles Township of Richmond County with their children: Archie, Sarah, Lissie, Martha, James, and (Le)Nora.[7] These clearly were not the same couple.  In addition, Andrew, who lived in Steeles, was born about 1827, while Andrew living in Rockingham was born about 1846. These were not the same Andrew. Despite these differences, some have become confused by the similarity of names and location in the same county, not noticing that they were of different ages, in different communities with different children. Thus examining the records showed that Andrew and Eliza Hunsacker were not our Andrew and Lissie. So, what happened to our Andrew and Lissie?

Sometime after 1886 when their youngest child Dovie was born, Lissie moved to Arkansas.[8] She probably traveled with her children. There in 1888, daughter Sarah married her cousin, Milton Hill who was born in Strieby, Randolph County, North Carolina.[9] Milton was the son of Nathan and Sarah Polk/Pope Hill.[10]  Sarah was Elizabeth’s older sister. There’s no evidence for whether Andrew, made the trip to Arkansas. According to the 1900 census, Lissie was widowed.[11] Thus, there is no additional information about Andrew. Lissie would continue to live amongst her family members, including her children and grandchildren, until her death sometime after 1920, when she appeared in the census for the last time.[12]

Lissie Leak in 1920
Elizabeth “Lissie” (Pope) Leak, 1920 Census, Jefferson County, Arkansas.

Over time, Lissie’s descendants and Milton’s family in North Carolina lost touch with one another. Lissie’s descendants knew they were from Randolph County, but didn’t know many details. Sadly, the family left in North Carolina had no idea about Milton and Sarah’s family in Arkansas. It was their DNA matches that helped reunite the two branches of the family. In 2018, they were able to reunite at a family reunion in North Carolina, during which Milton and Sarah’s descendants were able to visit Strieby Church and Cemetery Cultural Heritage Site, where Milton’s ancestors are buried.[13]

Figure 129-Strieby Cultural Heritage Sign
Strieby Church, School & Cemetery Cultural Heritage Site Marker, Randolph County, NC

 

References

[1] 1880 US Federal Census: Steeles, Richmond County, North Carolina; Andrew Leak, head; Dwelling/Family #125; Macam Pope, head; Dwelling/Family #126. NARA Roll: 978; Family History Film: 1254978; Page: 231D; Enumeration District: 165; Image: 0755. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[2] 1850 US Federal Census (Free population): Montgomery County, North Carolina; John McLeod, head; Mary Pope, age 40; Malcom Pope, age 4. NARA Roll: M432-637; Page: 127B; Image: 264. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[3] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Andrew Leak and Elizabeth Pope, 13 April 1865, Montgomery County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[4] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Andrew Leak and Eliza Hunsacker, 5 Aug 1866, Richmond County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[5] 1870 US Federal Census: Mineral Springs, Richmond County, North Carolina; Andrew Leak, head. NARA Roll: M593-1156; Page: 568A; Family History Library Film: 552655. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[6] 1880 US Federal Census: Williamson, Richmond County, North Carolina; Andrew Leak, head; Eliza Leak, wife. NARA Roll: 979; Page: 349C; Enumeration District: 171. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[7] 1880 US Federal Census: Steeles, Richmond County, North Carolina; Andrew Leak, head; Dwelling/Family #125. NARA Roll: 978; Family History Film: 1254978; Page: 231D; Enumeration District: 165; Image: 0755. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[8] 1900 US Federal Census: Jefferson, Jefferson County, Arkansas; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0087;  James Leak, head; Dovie Leak, Sister; Born Feb 1886; born North Carolina; Lissie Leak, Mother. FHL microfilm: 1240063. Retrieved from Ancestry.com

[9] Arkansas, County Marriages Index, 1837-1957 [Database on-line]. Milton Hill and Sarah Ann Leek, married 26 May 1888, Jefferson County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[10]  1880 US Federal Census: Union, Randolph County, North Carolina; Nathan Hill, head; Sarah Hill, wife; Milton Hill, son. NARA Roll: 978; Family History Film: 1254978; Page: 196C; Enumeration District: 224; Image: 0683. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[11] 1900 US Federal Census: Jefferson, Jefferson County, Arkansas; Page: 5; Enumeration District: 0087; James Leak, head; Lissie Leak, “widowed.” FHL microfilm: 1240063. Retrieved from Ancestry.com

[12] 1920 US Federal Census: Pastoria, Jefferson County, Arkansas; Leroy Hampton, head; Elizabeth Leek, grandmother. NARA Roll: T625-67; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 124; Image: 421. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[13] 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, Inc.

Posted on 6 Comments

#52Ancestors (Cousins) – Found! How cousin DNA matches helped me break through my most persistent brick wall

I’ve written about and lamented what seemed like an unsolvable ancestry brick wall, the identity of my great grandfather Joshua W. Williams’s paternal line. I had researched his life from the first time he showed up in public records on marrying my great grandmother, Ellin Wilson/Wilkinson in 1868.[1] I’d been told some information by my aunt, Lute Williams Mann, his granddaughter, however, he died in 1893,[2] a year before she was born, thus she never knew him personally. I was able to confirm most of what my aunt told me through research and learn even more. However, with a name like Williams, I could never determine which, if any, of the many other Williamses living in Live Oak, Florida, were related to my great grandfather, especially since his widow and children (including my grandfather, William Gainer Williams) left Florida for the New York/New Jersey area about 1899. [3] With no information about extended Williams family members, I turned to DNA.

photo (6)
William Gainer Williams, my grandfather

Because I was looking for a paternal line, I knew Y-DNA would be very important to helping me solve the puzzle, along with autosomal DNA. However, I’m a female. I don’t have Y-DNA. Unfortunately, my father and grandfather are both dead. My paternal uncles are both dead. My male paternal cousin is dead. Alas, both my half-brothers (my father’s sons from his first marriage) are also dead. Fortunately, I still had two options, my nephews Keith Williams (KW) and Christopher Williams (CW). I asked KW if he would take the Family Tree DNA (FtDNA) Y-DNA test. It showed that he had a European haplotype, R-M269, and one that is common in the United Kingdom. That was not a surprise, the family had always said Joshua’s father was of European descent.

The results didn’t seem to yield anything useful. His close matches had a variety of surnames, not just Williams. There was Jackson, Scott, and Hope. I tried to figure out their ancestral information, but in the absence of family trees, it wasn’t going anywhere. I was eventually contacted by two of the closest matches at the 67-marker level, one a Williams, the other a Hope. They were the two closest matches. The Hope contact was from the Clan Hope of Craighall Society. They invited us to join and offered help with the genealogy. Unfortunately, they were unable to make any more progress than I had.

The Williams contact was also a close match at the 111-marker level. The account manager, the niece of the match, provided family tree information. That family had roots in Arkansas and had also moved to Florida. Tracing the family back led to Tennessee and a Jeremiah Williams, but then the trail ran cold. Although my great grandfather had lived out his life from 1868 until his death in Florida, he and our family had maintained that his roots were in South Carolina – York, South Carolina, specifically. He had never lived in Tennessee as far as anyone knew or I could find through research. I figured that our connection went back additional generations, either to South Carolina or perhaps further to somewhere like Virginia or even the UK itself. However, we couldn’t figure it out. We just couldn’t find a link.

I followed another Y-DNA match from a lower marker match back through his line. It led from Arkansas to Tennessee to Virginia. There was no evidence that the family had a South Carolina connection. I concluded that we might be related back in Virginia, but clearly our closer ancestors had taken different paths. I needed to find a Williams family that went to South Carolina – York, South Carolina. It was time to turn back to my autosomal results.

York County, South Carolina
York County, South Carolina [Red inset]. Retrieved from Ancestry.com
I have tried to maximize my autosomal information by testing multiple family members. I have personally tested at AncestryDNA, 23 and also got Family Finder results for my nephew KW. I tested other family members, including CW at 23 (and me); my daughter Turquoise Williams  and my niece, Melody

(MWM) at AncestryDNA. I uploaded my daughter’s and my niece’s results to Family Finder and Gedmatch. I uploaded KW’s results to MyHeritage and Gedmatch. I knew that our mutual matches should help identify our Williams family line. There was also a grandniece, Monica (MTM), who had tested with AncestryDNA. That meant there were four of us in AncestryDNA from the Williams line, two of us in 23 and me, three of us in Family Finder, and two of us in My Heritage. There were also three of us in Gedmatch. I was fortunate enough to know also that there were other family members who had tested and that their tests could help me further narrow my results.

Keith in uniform
Keith V. Williams, Sr., my nephew

The most helpful person who had tested in Family Finder was a half first cousin, once removed, NT. She was the granddaughter of my father’s half-brother, Willard Leroy Williams (WLW). Since WLW had a different mother than my father, any matches with his daughter had to be Williams-line matches. That could help separate those who might match us because of my father’s mother’s family.

Leroy
Willard Leroy Williams, my father’s half-brother

[My father’s mother’s surname was Farnell. Several of those cousins have also tested with AncestryDNA, 23 and me, and Family Finder. Some of them have also uploaded to Gedmatch. Thus, I had a way to separate matches that are my Williams line from my father’s Farnell line. Sounds like it should have been easy to figure out, right? No, not at all.

I was able to sort my matches on AncestryDNA using the “Shared Matches” feature. As anyone knows who uses this database, many people do not have family trees linked to their results, or their trees are private, or the few people on their trees are living and therefore marked private. In other words, there was little to help figure out how these matches were related to my Williams family.

As it happens, most of my close cousin matches are from my mother’s family. I could quickly mark off my second cousin match and most of my third cousins, including those related to my paternal grandfather’s mother’s family (Ellin Wilson/Wilkinson). I found a few fourth cousin matches that were shared among our family test group, but none of the trees seemed to be helpful. I went back to look at the Y-DNA matches. I decided to drop back to look at the 12 marker matches. I found a couple of matches who hadn’t tested at higher markers but who listed a George Williams as their farthest back ancestor with dates of birth and death. This George was born in Wales and died in Virginia.[4] I followed his family forward, but it didn’t lead to South Carolina.

At the same time, I decided to look more closely at my Ancestry matches. I found a 4th-6th cousin match who had a tree with Williams names in it. In fact, this match had two different Williams lines. I needed to determine to which Williams line I was most likely related. To a George Williams also in Virginia.[5] George was a common ancestor, but every indication was that we had a closer common ancestor. It appeared to be George’s son Fowler. George had lived in Virginia, but Fowler lived in South Carolina. However, he didn’t live in York County, but in neighboring Lancaster County.[6]

I had seven matches to descendants of Fowler that I had followed; four to his son Dr. James Jonathan Williams.[7] Thus, I thought it possible that I was descended from him. I attached him to my great grandfather to see how it might work out. However, I was still suspicious that I had the wrong son. My great grandfather, Joshua, had ended up in Florida. I noticed that none of Dr. Williams’s descendants went to Florida. Interestingly, the one whose tree I was following lived not far from me in Maryland. I decided I needed to look at my matches more carefully and the descendants of Fowler to see what else seemed plausible.

I had a third cousin match who didn’t have any tree. She was my closest shared match with my Williams test group and the other descendants of Fowler I was following. If I could figure out how she was related to the family, I might find the correct son who was my great-great grandfather. This effort was helped by the using Ancestry’s Thru-Lines. Thru-Lines uses your matches’ family trees to suggest (it’s only a suggestion) how you are related to each other. This was going to be challenging, however, because my third cousin match, MH, had no family tree information listed, not even an unlinked tree.

While working through the descendants of one of Fowler’s other sons, George Washington Williams, brother of Dr. James Jonathan, I noted that many of George’s descendants had moved to Florida sometime around the end of the Civil War. They were not living in the same county as my great grandfather, but that wasn’t particularly surprising. I’m sure everyone was in search of opportunity wherever it led them. Perhaps more importantly, George, unlike his siblings, had moved to York County![8]

In following the descendants down to my match, EW, I noticed something else important, her mother’s first name was M; her married name was H! She was almost certainly my third cousin match, MH. To try to verify this information, I ran a background report on the website, “Been Verified.” What I find helpful about this site is that it gives you not only most recent contact information, but also address histories, relatives and associates. In looking up both MH and EW, it showed them as relatives of each other. I felt certain I had the right brother this time.

I tried to find probate information, hoping that an inventory would list those enslaved as well as having information about descendants. Unfortunately, George died in 1868, after the Civil War was ended. I decided to look at the 1850 slave schedule for York County. George was listed. He only had 8 enslaved people. All were marked “B” for Black, except one: a male infant marked “M” for Mulatto.[9] Could this be my great grandfather. Joshua? He was reportedly born in 1850. He was the only infant listed. It certainly seems likely.

1850 slave schedule George W Williams
1850 Slave Schedule, York County, SC, George W. Williams, owner

I’m still hoping to find a document associated with George that names Joshua, my great grandfather, Joshua. It would be the icing on the cake. Nevertheless, based on the many matches whom I have been able to add to my tree by researching the suggested links from Thru-lines, and even going back to my match list and picking out individuals whose trees provide a basis for further research, I can confidently say that I am a descendant of Fowler Williams’s son, George Washington Williams of York County, South Carolina. At long last, a 43-year quest for the answer to the question of who my great-great grandfather was, the father of Joshua W. Williams, my great grandfather, has come to an end.

References

[1] Florida, County Marriages, 1823-1982 [Database on-line]. Marriage of Joshua Williams and Ellin Wilson, 5 Nov 1868. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[2] Florida, Wills and Probate Records, 1810-1974 [database on-line]. Probate of Joshua W. Williams, 26 Jun 1893, Live Oak, Florida. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[3] 1900; Census Place: Manhattan, New York, New York; William Williams, head; Ellen Williams, mother. NARA Roll: 1108; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0616; FHL microfilm: 1241108. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[4] George Williams Find A Grave Memorial, born circa 1727, Wales; died 5 April 1794, Fairfax County, Virginia. Retrieved from: Findagrave.com

[5] North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 [Database on-line]. George Williams, 1732-1777, Virginia. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[6] North America, Family Histories, 1500-2000 [Database on-line]. Fowler Williams, born 1778, Virginia; died 1841, Lancaster District, South Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[7] U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current [Database on-line]. Dr. James Jonathan Williams, born 21 Aug 1821, Lancaster District, South Carolina; died 15 Aug 1873, Union County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[8] 1850; Census Place: York, York, South Carolina; George Washington Williams, head. NARA Roll: M432-860; Page: 267B; Image: 309. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[9] 1850; Census Place: York, York, South Carolina, Slave Schedule; George W Williams, owner: Male, Mulatto, age: 3/12 yrs. (3 months). Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

 

Posted on 6 Comments

Racial Fluidity in Randolph County, North Carolina: Mary “Polly” Pope (Polk) and her multi-racial descendants

I first saw Mary “Polly” Polk/Pope’s name on the 1880 census. She was living in the home of Colier and Kate Lassiter, in the Lassiter Mill area of New Hope Township in Randolph County.[1] The area runs along the Uwharrie River on the edge of the Uwharrie Mountains in what is today the Uwharrie National Forest.[2] Mary was listed as “white,” the rest of the Lassiter family was listed as “black.” The census didn’t mention a relationship for Mary to the Lassiter family other than “boarder.” However, I already knew that Colier’s wife’s maiden name was “Polk.”

Figure 83-Granny Kate Polk Lassiter
Katherine Polk Lassiter

Colier and Katherine had married in 1854.[3] Unfortunately, the marriage records in that time period did not ask the names of parents. Nevertheless, I speculated that Mary was very possibly Katherine’s (Kate’s) mother. At that time, I thought the “w” for white might have been accidentally written instead of “m” for “mulatto.” (Census schedules were transcribed from field notes which could lead to errors.) Mary was not living with the family in either 1870 or 1860. I didn’t find either Katherine or Mary in 1850, at that time.

Colier Lassiter household 1880
Colier and Katherine (Polk), Mary Polk, and family, 1880 Census, Randolph County, NC

In 1853, the year before Colier and Kate married, Colier Lassiter posted bond for the marriage of Sarah Polk and Nathan Case (known as Nathan Hill in all census records). It seemed likely the two women were related.[4]  In 1860, Nathan, Sarah and their children were identified as black.[5] Like Katherine, I did not find Sarah Polk in earlier census records. Was it an oversight, part of an undercount?

Nathan & Sarah Polk Hill 1860
Nathan and Sarah (Polk) Hill, and family, 1860 Census, Randolph County, NC

Both Katherine and Sarah had married into large families that were founding members of the First Congregational Church of Randolph County, now called Strieby Congregational Church.[6] Another member of that church community was “Aunt Harriet” Cotton. Harriet had married Micajah McDuffie, also known as Micajah Cotton in 1854.[7] In 1860, Mary, called “Polly Pope,” was living with Micajah and Harriet.[8] They were all being called “mulatto” in 1860. Mary was also named as Harriet’s mother on her death certificate, where she was listed as “Polly Pope.”[9]

Micajah Cotton and Harriett Polk 1860
Micajah and Harriet (Polk/Pope) Cotton, and family, 1860 Census, Randolph County, NC

There was another Polk family in the area that seemed to be related, the Macam (Malcom) Polk/Pope family. Malcom married Nancy Jane Smitherman in 1865.[10] In 1870, Malcom was listed as mulatto, but Nancy was listed as black. Around 1881, Malcom and Nancy would leave North Carolina and move first to Mississippi, eventually settling in Arkansas. In 1900, Malcom and Nancy and some of their children were living next door to the family of her nephew-in-law, Thomas Julius Hill, son of Nathan and Sarah Polk Hill, in Jefferson County, Arkansas. [11]

Malcom Polk and Nancy Smitherman 1900
Malcom and Nancy J. (Smitherman) Polk/Pope, and family, 1900 Census, Jefferson County, Arkansas

I was still looking for more information on each of these Polk family members. The fact that Mary, “Polly,” was living in “Aunt” Harriet Polk Cotton’s home in 1860 and Katherine Polk Lassiter’s home in 1880, convinced me that Harriet and Katherine were likely sisters. Additional searches found Mary living in neighboring Montgomery County in 1850 with two children, Malcom and Lunda.[12] Mary was listed as white, but the children were listed as mulatto. They were living in the home of a John McLeod, just a few houses away from Micajah McDuffie, who was living in the home of Thomas L. Cotton.[13] It seemed from this that Mary was most likely white. It also confirmed that Katherine, Harriet and Malcom were most likely siblings. It also seemed likely that Sarah was a sibling, based on Colier Lassiter posting bond for her marriage. It seemed a reasonable conclusion since he would go on to marry Katherine Polk and Mary would live with them in her later years.

John McLeod-Mary Pope-Malcom Pope-Lunda 1850
Mary Polk/Pope, Malcom Polk/Pope, and Lunda Polk/Pope, in the home of John McLeod, 1850 Census, Montgomery County, NC

I also found Harriet in 1850.  Harriet Polk and Elizabeth Polk were living in the home of Levi Nichols. Harriet and Elizabeth were identified as white.[14] Levi Nichols would develop a relationship with Hannah McDuffie Cotton, sister of Micajah McDuffie Cotton who married Harriet. Levi and Hannah would have two children by 1860[15] and be charged with fornication[16] before they would eventually marry in 1867.[17] At that time, Levi adopted the identity of a man of color. Similarly, when Harriet married Micajah in 1854, she adopted the identity of a woman of color.[18] However, where were Katherine and Sarah in 1850?

Levi Nichols 1850 census
Levi Nichols, Harriet Polk, and Elizabeth Polk, 1850 Census, Montgomery County, NC. 

Looking over my research and the 1850 census again for the southern part of Randolph County, where these families lived, I realized that I had been looking at Katherine and Sarah all along. They were living in the home of an older couple, Jack and Charity Lassiter.[19] Jack was the half-brother of Colier’s father, Miles Lassiter.[20] Katherine and Sarah were being called Lassiter. At this point I was fairly certain that they were not related to Jack, but possibly were related to Charity. Charity was old enough to be their grandmother. Jack, Charity, Katherine and Sarah were all identified in this record as white. In 1860, Jack and Charity were identified as mulatto. By 1870, Jack had died, and Charity was living in the home of Colier and Katherine Polk Lassiter, who had a daughter named (Rhodemia) Charity.[21] The older Charity was identified as mulatto. Charity presumably died after 1870; she is not found again in the census.

Jack and Charity Lassiter 1850
Jack and Charity (Polk?) Lassiter, 1850 Census, Randolph County, NC. Katherine and Sarah Polk, are called “Lassiter” here.

Not everything about this family can be confirmed beyond a doubt. However, with the above information along with information from descendants (and DNA results), the following picture has emerged:

Mary “Polly” Polk/Pope was identified as white in 1850. Though identified as mulatto in 1860, she was identified again as white in 1880. She was not found in 1870. She is presumed to be the daughter of Charity (Polk?) Lassiter, identified as white in 1850, but mulatto in 1860. Mary is believed to have had the following children:

  • Katherine Polk, identified as white in 1850, who married Colier Lassiter, a man of color, in 1854 and was thereafter identified as a woman of color.
  • Sarah Polk, identified as white in 1850, who married Nathan Hill, a man of color, in 1853 and was thereafter identified as a woman of color.
  • Harriet Polk, identified as white in 1850, who married Micajah McDuffie Cotton, a man of color, in 1854 and was thereafter identified as a woman of color.
  • Elizabeth Polk, identified as white, but no further information is known at this time.
  • Malcom Polk/Pope, identified as mulatto in 1850. He married Nancy Jane Smitherman, a woman of color.
  • Lunda Polk, identified as mulatto in 1850. She was still living with John McLeod in 1860. No other information is known at this time.

It is difficult to know what prompted these women to choose men of color. Perhaps what is a better question is what about southwestern Randolph County made it a place where interracial marriages seemed to thrive with no obvious community opprobrium. I’m not suggesting that the surrounding white community was throwing these couples wedding celebrations. I am saying that unlike other areas in the South, these families were not being persecuted; the men were not being prosecuted or persecuted for having married these women. In fact, these families were landowners and leaders in their communities, reportedly respected by their neighbors, both white and black. What made Randolph County different?

Southwestern Randolph County was heavily Quaker and anti-slavery, but there was also a large Methodist population, some “Methodist Protestant,” some “Wesleyan.” There were also some enslavers, though very few had large numbers of enslaved people. Most people were family farmers with free laborer assistants. There was a significant number of free people of color, 92 in southwestern Randolph County alone in 1850. Many had been freed or born to those freed by their Quaker (primarily) enslavers in the 1790s or early 1800s as the Society of Friends began to require manumission of slaves as a prerequisite of membership.[22] Quaker influences were strong in this part of Randolph County, but that’s not all. Randolph County was not a typical southern community.

In her book, Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (1992), Victoria Bynum talked about Randolph County’s rebellious history.[23] Even today when talking to local historians they will tell you proudly that Randolph County was against secession. During the war, North Carolina had the greatest number of deserters from the Confederate army and Randolph County had the greatest number of these, 22%, compared with the state average of 12%.[24]

Unionism, as it was called, was heavy in the “Quaker Belt,” especially Randolph County, Bynum stated. This was not just a matter of politics, but also economics. There were growing textile and tobacco industries, she said, artisans and yeoman farmers who didn’t want the disadvantages of competing with slave labor, along with the religious objections to slavery of Quakers, Wesleyans, and Moravians .[25]

In discussing interracial relationships, Bynum said that counties such as Randolph’s neighbor to the south, Montgomery County, were more tolerant because they had only a small number of free blacks and a relatively homogeneous white population.[26] I’m not sure I agree with her. I think the larger population of free people of color and the more diverse white population made Randolph a more accepting community than Montgomery County. I notice that not only Mary Polk and her children moved into Randolph County, but Levi and Hannah McDuffie/Cotton Nichols and Micajah McDuffie/Cotton did as well.

It is notable that Levi Nichols (a white male) and Hannah McDuffie/Cotton (a free woman of color) had been brought into Montgomery County court on charges of fornication. However, on close examination it becomes apparent that the accusations weren’t only because they were in an illicit, interracial relationship as much as they were being targeted for revenge from an ongoing feud involving Levi’s brother and niece. It seems entirely likely that their move to Randolph County was an attempt to get away from what had become a round-robin of accusation and counter-accusation, leading to lawsuit and counter-lawsuit.[27]

Accusation of Fornication against Levi Nichols
Accusation of Fornication against Levi Nichols and Hannah McDuffie/Cotton, 1858, Montgomery County, NC (In Bynum, Unruly Women)

One might have expected greater outcry over the relationships of the Polk women who were reportedly white and married free men of color. Yet their relationships met no known violence or any legal obstacles in Randolph County. Martha Hodes in her book, White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth Century South (1997), points out that these white-black sexual liaisons (with or without marriage) in the antebellum South were not met with the violence that accompanied the post-Reconstruction and Jim Crow years, right into the Civil Rights era. She states,

“Scholars agree that the most virulent racist ideology about black male sexuality emerged in the decades that followed the Civil War, and some historians have recognized that the lynching of black men or the alleged rape of white women was comparatively rare in the South under slavery.”[28]

Hodes admits that statistics are difficult to gather in the ante-bellum period because these relationships were not found in historical records under one universal category. Rather they were gleaned from a variety of records covering such categories as domestic violence, murder, fornication, adultery, bastardy, assault, and others. She notes that even the word “miscegenation” was unknown before the Civil War era.[29]

Despite the lack of violence in the antebellum years, there was not necessarily acceptance or even tolerance, which she says implies a liberality of attitude. Rather, she says, these relationships were met with toleration, forbearance. She goes on to make the point that forbearance did not mean there wasn’t cruel gossip, or that individuals weren’t ostracized.[30] What changed after the Civil War?

Hodes said that Frederick Douglass explained that accusations of sexual transgressions against white women increased with black men’s new political power, with the conferring of citizenship and the right to vote. Ida B. Wells observed that lynching, often as a result of accusations of sexual assaults on white women, was intended to suppress the black vote by the threat of deatn.[31] By contrast, Hodes notes that these white-black relationships in the ante-bellum South did not threaten the overall social and political hierarchy.  She states that “[f]or whites to refrain from immediate legal action and public violence when confronted with liaisons between white women and black men helped them to mask some of the flaws of the antebellum Southern systems of race and gender.”[32] On the other hand, she notes that the children of these liaisons revealed those same flaws.[33] It was often the presence of children that forced the parents into court on charges of bastardy. It is interesting to note here, that Levi Nichols (white) and Hannah McDuffie/Cotton (of color), were accused only of fornication in 1858.[34] This despite the fact that by 1858, Levi and Hannah had two children, Elmina and Daniel. Nevertheless, they were not being charged with bastardy.[35]

Without further research, I can only conclude that the level of toleration seen in Randolph County was a function of both the Quaker values prominent in Randolph County and the overall southern ambivalence that meant the white majority did not feel threatened as long as the overall political control remained securely in their hands. Whatever the reason, these families thrived. They acquired property, education, and relative economic prosperity, providing a solid base for future opportunity for their children and grandchildren, even in the absence of political power.

References

[1] 1880; Census Place: New Hope, Randolph, North Carolina; Mary Polk, Boarder. NARA Roll: 978; Family History Film: 1254978; Page: 184A; Enumeration District: 223; Image: 0659. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[2] Uwharrie National Forest – Birkhead Wilderness Area/Lassiter Mill. Visit NC. Retrieved from: VisitNC.com

[3] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Calier Lassiter and Catherine Polk, married: 26 Sep 1854, Randolph County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[4] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Nathan Case and Sarey Poke, married: 11 Sep 1853, Randolph County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[5] 1860; Census Place: Western Division, Randolph, North Carolina; Nathan Hill, head. NARA Roll: M653_910; Page: 213; Image: 431; Family History Library Film: 803910. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[6] 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, Inc.).

[7] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Micajah McDuffee and Harriet Polk, married: 10 Sep 1854, Randolph County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[8] 1860; Census Place: Western Division, Randolph, North Carolina; Micajah Cotton, head. NARA Roll: M653_910; Page: 211; Image: 426; Family History Library Film: 803910. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[9] North Carolina, Death Certificates, 1909-1975 [Database on-line]. Harriet Cotton, died: 7 Oct 1920, Randolph County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[10] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Macon Pope and Nancy Jane Smitherman, married: 23 Sep 1865, Randolph County, North Carolina. Retrieved from:  Ancestry.com

[11] 1900; Census Place: Old River, Jefferson, Arkansas; Macon Polk, head. NARA Roll: 63; Page: 8A; Enumeration District: 0090; FHL microfilm: 1240063. Retrieved from:  Ancestry.com

[12] 1850; Census Place: Montgomery, North Carolina; John McLeod, head; Mary Pope, Malcom Pope & Lunda Pope. NARA Roll: M432_637; Page: 127B; Image: 264. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[13] 1850; Census Place: Montgomery, North Carolina; Thomas L. Cotton, head; Micajah McDuffie. NARA Roll: M432_637; Page: 127B; Image: 264. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[14] 1850; Census Place: Montgomery, North Carolina; Levi Nichols, head; Harriet Polk, Elizabeth Polk. NARA Roll: M432_637; Page: 142A; Image: 293. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[15] 1860; Census Place: Beans, Montgomery, North Carolina; Levi Nichols, head; Hannah McDuffie. NARA Roll: M653_905; Page: 483; Family History Library Film: 803905. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[16] Bynum, V. (1992). Punishing Deviant Women: The State as Patriarch. Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press), p. 99.

[17] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Levi Nichols and Hannah McDuffie, married: 28 Sep 1867, Randolph County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[18] 1860; Census Place: Western Division, Randolph, North Carolina; Micajah Cotton, head; Harriet Cotton. NARA Roll: M653_910; Page: 211; Image: 426; Family History Library Film: 803910. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[19] 1850; Census Place: Southern Division, Randolph, North Carolina; Jack Lassiter, head; Charity Lassiter, Catherine Lassiter, Sarah Lassiter. NARA Roll: M432_641; Page: 136A; Image: 278. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[20] 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).

[21] 1870; Census Place: New Hope, Randolph, North Carolina; Collier Lassiter, head; Catherine Lassiter, Charity Lassiter, age 75. NARA Roll: M593_1156; Page: 407B; Image: 264; Family History Library Film: 552655. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[22] Densmore, C. (n.d.). Quakers and the Underground Railroad: Myths and Realities. Quakers and Slavery. Retrieved from: Brynmawr.edu

[23] Bynum, V. (1992). The Women Is as Bad as the Men: Women’s Participation in the Inner Civil War. Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press), p. 137-140.

[24] Bynum, V. (1992). The Women Is as Bad as the Men: Women’s Participation in the Inner Civil War. Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press), p. 130.

[25] Bynum, V. (1992). The Women Is as Bad as the Men: Women’s Participation in the Inner Civil War. Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press), pp. 135-137.

[26] Bynum, V. (1992). Punishing Deviant Women: The State as Patriarch. Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press), p. 99.

[27] Bynum, V. (1992). Punishing Deviant Women: The State as Patriarch. Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press), pp. 98-99.

[28] Hodes, M. (1997). Telling the Stories: The Historical Development of White Anxiety. White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth Century South (New Haven, CT and London, UK: Yale University Press), p. 1.

[29] Hodes, M. (1997). Telling the Stories: The Historical Development of White Anxiety. White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth Century South (New Haven, CT and London, UK: Yale University Press), p. 2.

[30] Hodes, M. (1997). Telling the Stories: The Historical Development of White Anxiety. White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth Century South (New Haven, CT and London, UK: Yale University Press), p. 3.

[31] Hodes, M. (1997). Telling the Stories: The Historical Development of White Anxiety. White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth Century South (New Haven, CT and London, UK: Yale University Press), p. 2.

[32] Hodes, M. (1997). Telling the Stories: Contradictions, Crises, Voices, Language. White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth Century South (New Haven, CT and London, UK: Yale University Press), p. 6-7.

[33] Hodes, M. (1997). Telling the Stories: Contradictions, Crises, Voices, Language. White Women, Black Men: Illicit Sex in the Nineteenth Century South (New Haven, CT and London, UK: Yale University Press), p. 7.

[34] Bynum, V. (1992). Punishing Deviant Women: The State as Patriarch. Unruly Women: The Politics of Social and Sexual Control in the Old South (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press), p. 99n38.

[35] 1860; Census Place: Beans, Montgomery, North Carolina; Levi Nichols, head; Hannah McDuffie. NARA Roll: M653_905; Page: 483; Family History Library Film: 803905. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

Posted on 16 Comments

Against the Law: Hannah McDuffie, Levi Nichols, and Interracial Marriage in Reconstruction Randolph County, North Carolina

Recently, I was asked to research the ancestry of Elmina Nichols Spencer (1851-1928). It was around the time of the anniversary of the milestone Supreme Court ruling, Loving v. Commonwealth of Virginia. That ruling struck down the anti-miscegenation laws in Virginia, and elsewhere, that forbade interracial marriage.[1]

The legal restrictions on interracial marriage were never universal, although social mores against it were found everywhere. There were nine states that never had such laws: Alaska, Connecticut, Hawaii, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Vermont & Wisconsin. Eleven states repealed their laws in 1887; fourteen more repealed theirs between 1948 and 1967. However, sixteen states still had laws in place in 1967 when the Supreme Court heard arguments against the practice in the Loving v. Virginia case. [2] Among those sixteen was North Carolina.[3]

 

Malcom + Almina Spencer 1870
Macam Spencer & Almina (Nichols) Spencer, 1870 census

It was not difficult finding Elmina Nichols Spencer with her husband, Malcolm Spencer, and their baby, son, James, in the 1870 census.[4] Elmina and Malcolm married in 1868.[5] The marriage record said that Elmina was the daughter of Levi Nichols, “of color.” I looked then for Levi Nichols. I was able to find Levi and his wife Hannah in the 1870 census as well.

Malcom Spencer + Almina Nichols MC 1868
Macom Spencer & Elmina Nicols Marriage Bond, 1868.

The 1870 census showed Levi, his wife Hannah, and their son Daniel.[6] They were all listed as “Mulattoes.” Since the 1870 census listed Levi and Hannah as people with a mixed racial background, I thought it was possible that they could be found on the 1860 census as free persons of color. I knew that if I did not find one or the other that whichever person was missing was likely enslaved. I found both of them on the 1860 census, in neighboring Montgomery County.[7] They were both free, but that was not all I found.

Levi Nichols + Hannah McDuffie 1860
Levi Nichols & Hannah McDuffie, 1860 Census

Apparently not married yet, Levi and Hannah were living in the same household. Hannah was listed under her presumed maiden name, “Hannah McDuffie.” There were also two young children, “Elinor” (Elmina) and “Daniel W.” Their last names were listed as McDuffie. Levi was listed as a farmer, with real property valued at $500 and personal property at $350. Hannah was not listed as employed. However, it was their racial designations that caught my eye. Levi was listed as “w” for white, but Hannah was listed as “m” for mulatto.  The 1870 census had called them both “m” or “mulatto.” Had the census-taker made a mistake and omitted marking Levi’s column “m” for mulatto? I decided to take a look at the 1850 census.

Levi Nichols 1850 census
Levi Nichols, 1850 census

In 1850, Levi was listed as a farmer in Montgomery County, with real property valued at $300.[8] In his household were children, Harriet Polk, Elizabeth Polk, and William Northcot. They were all listed as “white.” I found Hannah McDuffie as well. She was living in the home of Elizabeth Hancock.[9] Hannah she was listed as “mulatto,” just as she had been in the 1860 and 1870 census. She did not have any children living with her.

There is no evidence of another Levi Nichols who was a white landowner or a man of color owning land. So, how did Levi Nichols go from being a white man to a man of color? He was claiming to be married to Hannah, but that would be against the law. So, what was their relationship?

Levi Nichols + Hannah McDuffie MC 1867
Levi Nichols & Hannah McDuffie Marriage Bond, 1867.

Additional research uncovered Levi and Hannah’s legal marriage record from 1867.[10] Both Levi and Hannah were referred to as “of color.” Levi’s parents on his marriage certificate were listed as John and Zelpha Nichols. I looked for them, wondering, “Were they white, too?”

John Nichols+Hannah McDuffie 1850
John & Zilpha Nichols, 1850. Hannah McDuffie is also on this page in the home of Elizabeth Hancock.

Looking at the 1850 census, I found John Nichols, his wife, Zilphia, and children, Thany, Noah, Mary, Gilbert, Amy, and Alby, who were all listed as white.[11]  They were enumerated just a few homes away from where Hannah McDuffie was living.

So, Hannah McDuffie, a free woman of color, a “mulatto,” who lived in the same general vicinity of the John Nichols family, of European descent, in 1850, went to live with Levi Nichols sometime after 1850, and was found living in his home by 1860, along with two small children.[12] In 1867, Levi and Hannah marry. However, with the laws against interracial marriage, their marriage was illegal.[13] It is safe to assume that Hannah could not pass for a white woman, especially if she remained in the community, but Levi could be considered a “light-skinned” man of color, a “mulatto,” even in his own community. I don’t have any information about how Levi was treated, but I am confident that his change of identity was not met with universal approval, whether from the white community or the African American community. How unusual was such a decision? It’s hard to say; there are no statistics of which I am aware. However, there are other examples in fiction and real life.

In Roots: The Next Generations (a fictionalized version of the last few chapters of Alex Haley’s Roots), Jim Warner, son of a former Confederate Army officer, falls in love with the Henning, Tennessee, African American school-teacher, Carrie Barden.[14] When Jim refuses to give up the relationship, his father disowns him. Jim marries Carrie and they live their lives within the segregated African American community.  Likewise, in The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, James McBride tells how he discovered that his white mother left her Orthodox Jewish family and community in Virginia and married two African American men (including McBride’s father), identifying herself as a “light-skinned” African American woman.[15]

In a post-Civil Rights era, the need to change one’s identity to be able to marry and live with a spouse from a different racial background has faded away. However, in Reconstruction North Carolina, with its anti-miscegenation laws, there were only two choices if one wanted to stay in North Carolina, either live together without marrying, adopting whatever public stance was needed to avoid arrest, or change one’s racial designation, in order to be able to legally marry. All evidence available indicates that Levi chose the latter path.

References

[1] Loving v. Virginia. Oyez. Retrieved from: www.oyez.org.

[2] Miscegenation. (n.d.). Retrieved from: Miscegenation Laws.pdf

[3] Lee, Robert E. (1963, 10 Nov.). NC Prohibits Any Marriage between Races. The Rocky Mount, N. C. Telegram. p. 7A. Retrieved from: Miscegenation Laws.pdf

[4] 1870 US Federal Census. Place: Back Creek, Randolph, North Carolina; Macon Spencer, head; Almira [sic] Spencer, inferred wife. NARA Roll: M593-1156; Page: 297A; Family History Library Film: 552655. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[5] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Randolph Marriage Bonds, 1800-1888]. Macam Spencer, of color, and Elmina Nicols, of color, 5 Mar 1868. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[6] 1870 US Federal Census. Place: Back Creek, Randolph, North Carolina; Levi Nicholds, head; Hannah Nicholds, inferred wife. NARA Roll: M593-1156; Page: 298A; Family History Library Film: 552655. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[7] 1860 US Federal Census. Place: Beans, Montgomery, North Carolina; Levi Nichols, head; Hannah McDuffie. NARA Roll: M653-905; Page: 483; Family History Library Film: 803905. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[8] 1850 US Federal Census. Place: Montgomery, North Carolina; Levi Nichols, head. NARA Roll: M432-637; Page: 142A; Image: 293. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[9] 1850 US Federal Census. Place: Montgomery, North Carolina; Elizabeth Hancock, head; Hannah McDuffie, age 28. NARA Roll: M432-637; Page: 142B; Image: 294. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[10] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Randolph Marriage Bonds, 1800-1888]. Levi Nichols and Hannah McDuffie, 28 Sep 1867. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[11] 1850 US Federal Census. Place: Montgomery, North Carolina; John Nichols, head; Zilpha Nichols. NARA Roll: M432-637; Page: 142B; Image: 294. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[12] 1860 US Federal Census. Place: Beans, Montgomery, North Carolina; Levi Nichols, head; Hannah McDuffie. NARA Roll: M653-905; Page: 483; Family History Library Film: 803905. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[13] Lee, Robert E. (1963, 10 November). NC Prohibits Any Marriage between Races. The Rocky Mount, N. C. Telegram. p. 7A. Retrieved from: Miscegenation Laws.pdf

[14] Margulies, S. and Volper, D. L., Producers. (1979). Roots: The Next Generations (TV Mini-Series 1979). Wikipedia. Retrieved from: Roots: The Next Generations (TV Mini-Series 1979) 

[15] McBride, J. (2006). The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother (New York: Penguin Books).

 

Posted on 8 Comments

#52Ancestors – At worship: The Rev. Islay Walden and the founding of Strieby Congregational Church

One hundred fifty years ago, on 2 July, Islay Walden, after graduating from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary, in New Brunswick, New Jersey, was ordained in the Second Reformed Church of New Brunswick (Reformed Church of America). By the end of the week he had left New Brunswick and was on his way back to North Carolina as a Congregational minister under the auspices of the American Missionary Association (AMA).[1]  By November 1879, he was back in Randolph County, North Carolina, where he had grown, having moved in with his sister, Sarah, and her family.[2] The area where they lived was known as Hill Town, because so many Hill family members lived in the small community in the Uwharrie Mountain area of southwestern Randolph County.[3]

Islay Walden Oval

When Islay Walden returned to the Lassiter’s Mill postal area of southwestern Randolph County, North Carolina, he established a Congregational church and “common school,” as AMA one or two teacher schools were called, in an area in the Uwharrie Mountains called “Hill Town.” It is likely that he ultimately decided to take this post because it was in the same community where his sister, Sarah (Callicutt/Walden) Hill, wife of Emsley Hill, lived.

The church reportedly was called first, “Promised Land Church.” According to Aveus “Ave” Lassiter Edmondson, in an article that appeared in Asheboro Magazine in 2011, Priscilla Hill (affectionately known as “Granny Prissy”), Emsley Hill’s mother, helped build the brush arbor that was used as this early meeting place.[4] Walden’s job as AMA missionary, however, was to plant a permanent Congregational church for the community. This church was called the First Congregational Church of Randolph County.[5] DeBoer (2015) noted that “If a church in the South is named First Congregational and was founded during Reconstruction, it is generally a predominantly black church started by the AMA.”[6]   Walden’s church would eventually be named Strieby Congregational Church and School, after the Rev. Dr. Strieby, the same prominent Congregational minister and Corresponding Secretary of the AMA who had attended his ordination.[7] Kate Lassiter Jones believed that it was Rev. Strieby who helped Walden found the church, but in fact it was the Rev. Joseph Roy, the Field Superintendent, who assisted.

In November 1879, Rev. Joseph Roy reported in The American Missionary, the magazine of the AMA, on Islay’s early efforts:

“The Field Superintendent assisted [Rev. Islay Walden] in organizing a Congregational Church of thirty members.”  Roy stated that a man in Hill Town offered “three acres of land and timber in the tree for all the lumber needed for a church school-house, and that man was an ex-slave.”[8]

It is not clear to whom he was referring since the Hill, Lassiter, Andy other families living in the area were primarily free families dating back before 1850.

In May 1880, Walden, as agent for the AMA, purchased a six-acre plot of land from a neighboring white family, Addison and Cornelia Lassiter, on which the church was built.[9] According to Kate Lassiter Jones, who grew up worshiping at Strieby:

“Men and women gathered from every direction to plan for the building. A two-wheeled ox cart hauled six huge rocks for the foundation. Logs, lumber and service were given. The weather boarding for the 60’x30’ building was finished by hand, mostly by our late Uncle Julius Hill.”[10]

Strieby Church original deed
Deed for Original First Congregational Church of Randolph County, North Carolina Property

Dr. Roy noted that he met with three committees, one from Hill Town, one from what would become Salem Church, in Concord Township about eight miles away, and one from Troy, in neighboring Montgomery County, where the AMA was in the process of establishing Peabody Academy. At this point the AMA did not have an ordained preacher for each location so it was decided there would be a circuit.

“So we organized a circuit for Brother Walden, one Sabbath at Troy and the other at Salem Church and Hill Town, with one sermon at each place. The Quakers promise a school at Salem. A public school will serve Hill Town for the present, and a competent teacher must be secured for the Academy.”[11]

Strieby Church tax plat
Strieby Church Tax Plat – Parcel 295967

The Church members at Hill Town quickly became involved in the wider life of the Congregational Church and the American Missionary Association. A report of the 1880 Conference held at Dudley, N.C., noted that representatives traveled 130 miles to attend. In describing the progress of the church at Hill Town, it said, “A gracious revival and a meeting-house under way are the fruits of the first six months of the life of this church.”[12]

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

The following year, in 1881, the report again mentioned Islay and others from the congregation:[13]

“Rev. Islay Walden and his delegate, Deacon Potter, together with three others, came fifty miles in a one-horse wagon to attend the Conference. One of the party, Mrs. Hill, now a widow, has had twelve children, forty grand-children and twelve great-grand-children. She had never seen the (train) cars nor heard a railroad whistle till she came to the Conference. …The sermon Friday night was by Rev. Islay Walden; text, the first Psalm.”

The “Mrs. Hill,” referenced here was most likely “Granny Prissy,” Priscilla (Mahockly) Hill, the matriarch of the Hill family of Hill Town in southwestern Randolph County. “Deacon Potter” could have been Thomas Potter, her son-in-law, married to her daughter Mary Jane Hill, or Thomas’ brother, Ira Potter, married to daughter Charity Hill.

Priscilla Mahockley Hill
Priscilla Mahockley Hill, 1792-1911

Just three years later, on 2 February 1884, at the young age of 40, The American Missionary reported Islay’s death and eulogized him:[14]

“… He rallied the people, developed a village with school-house and church, secured a post-office and became postmaster. Here he labored four years, blessed with revivals, and was honored by the people, black and white. His wife an educated and judicious missionary teacher was of great assistance to him in all his work …”

Islay was buried in the Strieby Church Cemetery.

Islay Walden gravestone
Gravestone of the Rev. Islay Walden, 2 February 1884, Strieby Church Cemetery

For the next 120 years, Strieby Church has served as the spiritual and cultural center for the Hill families and other families of color living in southwestern Randolph County. As time went on and the older community members died, many descendants of those families, moved away from the Strieby community, whether to other parts of Randolph County, other parts of North Carolina, or other parts of the country. However, many also return to Randolph County on the fourth Sunday of August for the annual Homecoming Service. In addition, many descendants continue to bury their loved ones in the church cemetery next to their ancestors whose lives were shaped and nourished by their worship at Strieby.[15]

Strieby Church with sign and bell tower 07-05-2014
Current Strieby Congregational United Church of Christ, Randolph County, North Carolina

References

[1] This account is based on the chapter, “Return to Hill Town,” in my book, 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, 2016), pp. 81-92.

[2] 1880 US Federal Census; Census Place: Union, Randolph, North Carolina; Roll: 978; Family History Film: 1254978; Page: 196C; Enumeration District: 224; Image: 0683. Emsley Hill, head; Islay Walden, boarder. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[3] Williams, M. L. (2016). Return to Hill Town. In, 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. 81-92.

[4] Grant, M. (2011). Strieby? Never Heard of It. Asheboro Magazine, 1(11), 56-58. Retrieved from: Asheboro Magazine On-line

[5] Addison and Cornelia Lassiter to H. W. Hubbard, (22 May 1880). Randolph County, North Carolina Deed Book. 42:199.

[6] DeBoer, C. M. (2015). Blacks and the American Missionary Association. Hidden Histories in the United Church of Christ (Volume I). Retrieved from: UCC.org

[7] Roy, J. L. (1879). The Freedmen. The American Missionary. Volume 33(11):334-335. The American Missionary

[8] Roy, J. L. (1879). The Freedmen. The American Missionary. Volume 33(11):334-335. The American Missionary

[9] Addison and Cornelia Lassiter to H. W. Hubbard, Islay Walden, Agent. (22 May 1880). Randolph County, North Carolina Deed Book. 42:199.

[10] Jones, K. L. (1972). History of the Strieby Congregational United Church of Christ. Souvenir Journal for the Dedication of the New Church Building: Strieby Congregational United Church of Christ (Strieby, NC: Strieby Congregational United Church of Christ), p. 2.

[11] Roy, J. L. (1879). The Freedmen. The American Missionary. Volume 33(11):334-335. The American Missionary

[12] American Missionary Association. (1880). Conferences: North Carolina Conference. Annual Report of the American Missionary Association (Volumes 30-39), 34(3), 72. Retrieved from: The American Missionary

[13] American Missionary Association. (1881). Anniversary Reports. The American Missionary Association (Volumes 30-39), 35(7), 211. Retrieved from: The American Missionary

[14] American Missionary Association. (1884). Items from the Field. The American Missionary, Volume 38:51. Retrieved from: The American Missionary

[15] Williams, M. L. (2016). Part V: Strieby Today. 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), 373-390.

Posted on 14 Comments

#52Ancestors – My First Road Trip to Randolph County, North Carolina

Perhaps the most significant road trip I’ve taken was the one I took with my mother in 1982. I had been doing genealogy for several years when I made contact with Kate Lassiter Jones, my maternal cousin, a descendant of Miles Lassiter, my 4th great grandfather, from Randolph County, North Carolina. Neither she, nor my mother, nor I had ever heard of one another. When she learned of our relationship, she was as excited as we were and suggested that my mother and I “come on down” to meet our many cousins. It would be an important trip for both my mother and me. My mother spent her first four years of life in Greensboro, North Carolina in neighboring Guilford County. After her mother died in the flu epidemic of 1918, her grandmother, Louise, took my mother and her baby sister to live with family in New Jersey. When her own mother, affectionately known as “Grandma Ellen,” became ill and died a couple of years later, “Mama” Louise, my mother and her sister, Vern went to Asheboro, in Randolph County, to care for Grandma Ellen, but after she died, Louise decided to stay. They stayed another three years before Louise decided to return to New Jersey permanently. My mother was seven years old. She had not been back to North Carolina again until our road trip, 61 years later.[1]

Louse Smitherman Phillips and Elinora Phillips Lee circa 1915
Louise Smitherman Phillips Floyd Ingram & Elinora Phillips Lee, circa 1916.

In September 1982, my mother and I made our pilgrimage to Asheboro and Randolph County. It had been 61 years since my mother had been in North Carolina. She marveled out loud that it was her daughter that was taking her back. She also lamented that my dad, who had   died in April, had not lived to make this trip—a trip he had often said he wanted to make. We had mapped out our route. We would travel south on I-95, past Richmond, Virginia, then south of Petersburg, we would take I-85 through southwestern Virginia, across the North Carolina border. I-85 would take us past the exits for Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Hillsboro, and Burlington. Once arriving in the Greensboro area, we would look for, and exit onto State 220, headed south. Finally, not far from the business district of Asheboro, we would exit onto State 49, going south toward Charlotte.

Margaret & Margo Williams 1982
Margaret Lee Williams and Margo Lee Williams, Christmas 1982. Photo by Elverna Lee Means.

We were very excited as we drove to meet our cousins, wondering if we would be welcome, if we would have things in common, if all would be congenial. We even made contingency plans – if we did not feel comfortable, we would stay a couple of days (instead of the planned week), make our excuses, and drive out to Asheville, in the Great Smokies.

Once on 49, we were to look for the second crossroads, where we would turn right and then left onto what is now called Lassiter Mill Road. As we made the turns, we passed Science Hill Friends Meeting. I recognized it from the book, Farmer, about the surrounding community known by that name. We were truly in the country as we rode along past farms and woodlands. We began to realize and be amused by the fact that we were now quite a few miles from the city of Asheboro, yet we knew that the postal address was still Asheboro. We would drive along these quiet, rolling country roads for almost half an hour before realizing that we were coming to the crossroads with what is now High Pine Church Road, the road on which Kate lived. As we approached the crossroads, I recognized a house to my left as being the one from the picture sent to me by Carolyn Hager, an historian at the Randolph County Historical Society, the one from the book, Farmer.

Lassiter Family Home, Lassiter Mill Road - 1982
Lassiter Family Home Place, Lassiter Mill Road, Asheboro, R Phoandolph County, NC. Margaret Williams, my mother is standing to the right. Photo by Margo Lee Williams

Driving around the corner onto High Pine Church Road, we were now approaching Kate Jones’ home. As we drove up the driveway, Kate, her husband, George “Ikie” Jones, and a couple of dogs greeted us. “Do we look related?” she asked with a big smile. Then, with hugs and kisses she ushered her new cousins into the house. Actually, we did look related, especially my mom (I look more like my dad’s people). How amazing to see people who looked like my mom after a lifetime of only seeing two people that looked like my mom: her sister, Vern, and me.

Margaret Lee Williams and Kate Lassiter Jones - 1982
Margaret Lee Williams & Kate Lassiter Jones, Asheboro, NC, September 1982. Photo by Margo Lee Williams

Kate was a medium brown color, browner than my mother, her face was oval rather than round like my mother’s, but it was the eyes that surprised me. They had the same shaped eyes. Later, when I met Kate’s brothers and sisters, they were varying shades of brown, some round-faced, others with longer more oval-shaped faces, but they had the same shaped eyes.

Descendants of Miles and Healy Lassiter
Family members, descendants of Miles Lassiter, assembled for a dinner in honor of our visit to Asheboro, North Carolina, September 1982. Photo by Margo Lee Williams.

.Kate  answered my questions enthusiastically, telling who married whom, the names of their children, where they lived. While she didn’t remember having ever heard of our family, or having met my mother, her brother, Will, claimed to have remembered my grandmother, my mother’s mother. Despite that, they knew many of the people and places my mother remembered from her early childhood, including her grandmother Louise’s sister, Adelaide, my 2nd great grandmother Ellen’s other daughter.

Margaret Williams, and Will Lassiter
Margaret Lee Williams & William Josiah Lassiter, “Will,” September 1982. Photo by Margo Lee Williams.

Kate promised to take us to see these places, even to go up to Greensboro, in neighboring Guilford County, to visit the street where my mother had lived briefly as a little girl before her own mother died in the Flu epidemic of 1918, and before moving to New Jersey the first time. The house there was next to North Carolina A & T University, where from her yard, during World War I, she could watch the “Colored” soldiers train. In addition, Kate invited many other cousins to come by the house to meet us. Again, while many of these relatives knew some of my mother’s other cousins (most of whom, like “Grandma” Ellen, were now dead) they were unfamiliar with my mother.

Margaret Williams at A & T University, Greensboro -1982
Margaret Lee Williams at North Carolina A & T University, September 1982. Photo by Margo Lee Williams.

During our stay with Kate, she took us out to see the land. She drove us around the Lassiter Mill area, (part of New Hope Township) along Lassiter Mill Road, pointing out the homes which had belonged to family members. She also drove us along High Pine Church Road, pointing out additional family homes, the fields that they farmed, and areas that they timbered. What I realized was that many of these homes were probably on the land that had been passed down to them by Colier Lassiter, Kate’s grandfather and brother of Nancy (Lassiter) Dunson, my 3rd great grandmother. Later, I asked Kate’s brother Will where the land was that he had bought from my 2nd great grandmother Ellen, daughter of Nancy. He said it was across the road (Lassiter Mill), going toward the Uwharrie River. He said he kept cows on the land.

Ellen Dunson Smitherman Mayo land
The pasture land that originally belonged to “Grandma Ellen,” Ellen (Dunson) Smitherman Mayo.

I was beginning to wish I had been able to be a part of this family during my growing up years. I realized I had missed something special, but I was grateful that I was now being embraced by my newly found cousins. I realized this was the most important road trip I had ever taken. I’m particularly grateful for the many visits we had after that. They are especially precious memories now because they are all gone now, Kate, all her siblings, including her brother Will, her husband “Ikie,” and my mother. I miss them all.

References

[1] This account is based on Chapter Two, “On the Road to Randolph County,” in my book: 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, 2011)

Posted on 2 Comments

#52Ancestors – DNA– My Great Grandmother: Ellin Wilson

Ellin Wilson/Gainer Williams was my great grandmother. She was married to my great grandfather, Joshua W. Williams.[1] My Aunt Lutie, who was my father’s older sister and our family historian, about whom I have written before,[2] grew up around Ellin, her grandmother and her aunts and uncles, the sisters and brothers of her father, William G. Williams, my grandfather.[3] Aunt Lutie told me that Ellin was the daughter of Fannie Gainer,[4] whose husband was Alex Gainer,[5] but who was not the father of Ellin. However, Aunt Lutie said that she used Gainer as her maiden name and she even gave it as a middle name to my grandfather,[6] her oldest child, as his middle name. Clearly, she had great respect for Alex Gainer. I was also told that Ellin and her mother Fannie left South Carolina and went to Florida in search of Fannie’s other daughter and Ellin’s half-sister, Carry,[7] after the end of the Civil War. To date I have not located any South Carolina records that definitively identify Fannie or Ellin in South Carolina, even though both were reportedly free-born, but indentured. Of course, until now, I really wasn’t sure what family’s records to investigate.

Ellin Wilson
Ellin Wilson/Gainer Williams, 1854-1924

The Research

I found Fannie and Ellin for the first time in the 1870 census. Fannie was living with Alex Gainer.[8] Ellin was married to my great grandfather, Joshua, with my grandfather, Willie, who was one year old.[9] They were all living in Suwannee County, Florida. Carry was living with her husband, George Manker.[10] Going further, I was able to locate the marriage record of my great grandparents. According to the record, my great grandmother’s maiden name was “Wilson.”[11] That was great to learn, except that wasn’t one of the names I had identified from other documents.

Death certificates of Ellin and those of her children that identified her as their mother had various surnames associated with her. Her own death certificate said her father’s name was “George Johnson.”[12] My grandfather’s death certificate identified her maiden name as Ellen Gaynor.[13] Those of at least two of her children said her maiden name was Ellen Wilkinson.[14] So, what was it? Standard genealogical research never turned up any more than this. I hoped that DNA might be helpful.

DNA Evidence

I made the assumption that whoever Ellin’s father was, his first name was very likely George. I could also surmise that his last name ended in “son.” Maybe it was Wilson; maybe it was Johnson; maybe it was Wilkinson; regardless, it probably ended in “son.” I began searching my DNA results for the different surnames in the various databases where I had tested and on GEDmatch, where I had uploaded my results. Neither Wilson nor Johnson provided any cluster of matches. Wilkinson, on the other hand, was more promising.

I began noticing that there were matches who all seemed to have in common that they were descendants of Samuel Wilkinson and Esther McBride, or their son, William Wilkinson and his wife, Drucilla Hampton. William and Drucilla Wilkinson had a son, George.[15] While the family had roots in North Carolina, many family members, including George, had migrated to South Carolina, to the York, South Carolina area that Aunt Lutie claimed Ellin told her she was from (this despite some records stating she was born in Georgia).[16]. With this information, I began to develop a family tree branch for the Wilkinsons, but I did not attach them to Ellin. I left the branch free floating in my tree database.

Recently, Ancestry has created something called Thru-lines, where their algorithms identify potential common ancestors based on DNA matches as well as information from family trees. However, it must be reiterated that I had not attached any Wilkinson family members to anyone who was on my family tree as an actual genealogical family member. In other words, the place on the tree where Ellin’s father’s name should be listed was blank. Despite that, Thru-lines placed William Wilkinson as a possible third great grandfather.  With that, I decided to add George’s name as Ellin’s father. Consequently, I was able identify thirty-eight individuals as DNA matches. These individuals represented descendants from virtually every child of William and Drucilla (Hampton) Wilkinson, as well as the siblings of Drucilla Hampton and the siblings of William Wilkinson.

Final Thoughts

I don’t have a document yet that places my great grandmother in the home of George Wilkinson or any of his family members. What I do have is enough presumptive evidence to begin researching the various family members’ records to see how I can make the definitive connection. However, even without a document, the many DNA matches tell me that somehow they are my family; somehow I am their family.

References

[1] “Florida Marriages, 1830-1993,” database with images, FamilySearch, Joshua Williams and Ellin Wilson, 05 Nov 1868; citing Marriage, Suwannee, Florida, United States, citing multiple County Clerks of Court, Florida; FHL microfilm 1,007,156. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[2] Williams, M. L. (2018, 6 Jan). Blogpost:  #52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Start: Lute Odette Williams Mann, 1894-1985. Personal Prologue. Retrieved from: margoleewilliamsbooks.com

[3] New Jersey, State Census, 1905 [Database on-line]. Ellen Williams, head; Lute Williams, age 11. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[4] “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch, Frances Gaynor in entry for Ellen Williams, 09 May 1924; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,031,493. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[5] “Florida Marriages, 1830-1993,” database with images, FamilySearch, Alex Gainer and Frances Gainer, 14 Jan 1874; citing Marriage, Suwannee, Florida, United States, citing multiple County Clerks of Court, Florida; FHL microfilm 1,007,156. Familysearch.org

[6] Death Certificate of William Gaynor Williams, 6 October 1953, New York, New York. Bureau of Records and Statistics, Department of Health, City of New York. Certificate #156-53-121719. Certified Copy in possession of author.

[7] “United States Census, 1880,” database with images, FamilySearch, Dwelling #52, Family #57 Alex Gainer, head, Frances Gainer, wife; Family #58 Carry Manker, head; Dwelling  #53, Family #59: Joshaway Williams, head; Ellen Williams, wife; citing enumeration district ED 145, sheet 286C, NARA microfilm publication T9 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d), roll 0132; FHL microfilm 1,254,132. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[8] 1870 US Federal Census: Subdivision 9, Suwannee, Florida; Alex Gainer, head; Francis Gainer. NARA Roll: M593-133; Page: 693B; Image: 522; Family History Library Film: 545632. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[9] 1870 US Federal Census: Subdivision 9, Suwannee, Florida; Josh Williams, head; Ellen Williams, wife. NARA Roll: M593-133; Page: 686A; Image: 507; Family History Library Film: 545632. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[10] 1870 US Federal Census, Subdivision 9, Suwannee, Florida: George Manker, head; Carry Manker. NARA Roll: M593-133; Page: 693B; Image: 522; Family History Library Film: 545632. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[11] “Florida Marriages, 1830-1993,” database with images, FamilySearch, Joshua Williams and Ellin Wilson, 05 Nov 1868; citing Marriage, Suwannee, Florida, United States, citing multiple County Clerks of Court, Florida; FHL microfilm 1,007,156. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[12] “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch, George Johnson in entry for Ellen Williams, 09 May 1924; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,031,493. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[13] Death Certificate of William Gaynor Williams, 6 October 1953, New York, New York. Bureau of Records and Statistics, Department of Health, City of New York. Certificate #156-53-121719. Certified Copy in possession of author.

[14] “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch (, Ellen Wilkinson in entry for Edward Williams, 19 Jun 1939; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,109,537. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org; And “New York, New York City Municipal Deaths, 1795-1949,” database, FamilySearch, Ellen Wilkinson in entry for Calvin Williams, 19 Apr 1933; citing Death, Manhattan, New York, New York, United States, New York Municipal Archives, New York; FHL microfilm 2,070,580. Retrieved from: Familysearch.org

[15] 1850 US Federal Census: Prosperity, Mecklenburg, North Carolina; William Wilkinson, head; Drucilla Wilkinson; George Wilkinson, age 11. NARA Roll: M432-637; Page: 52B; Image: 112. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[16] 1870 US Federal Census: Fort Mill, York, South Carolina; George Wilkinson, head. NARA Roll: M593-1512; Page: 410B; Family History Library Film: 553011. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

 

Posted on 6 Comments

Lindsey Ingraham’s Trail of Tears

Recently, I had the good fortune to speak with a family elder, Carlotta, with whom I had never spoken previously. In fact, I had only learned of her existence about a year before. She is in her eighties, with a mind that is sharp and she has family memories of which I had no knowledge. She is descended from my 2nd great grandmother’s sister, Mary Adelaide Dunson, who was married to a man named Solomon Kearns.[1] While talking to Carlotta during the Christmas holiday season, she began to tell me a story about Solomon’s father, whom she identified as “Lin Ingram.” I had seen his name before, but had not heard anything about him, nor could I find him in the 1870 census in Randolph County, North Carolina or after. Solomon’s mother Lydia or “Lettie” Kearns had children with another man, Noah Carter beginning around 1860, so I had assumed Lin had died. Carlotta told a different story.

Marriage License of Solomon Kearns and Fannie Brite

Marriage License of Solomon Kearns and Fannie Brite

Carlotta explained that Lin had been enslaved. He heard that he and others were going to be sold away from Randolph County. He was determined that it would not come to pass. Carlotta said he fought back when they tried to take him away. She said he fought hard. At some point his owner supposedly said that he had fought hard and he could see he was tired. The owner said that Lin should take a rest, it would be alright. Carlotta said that when Lin laid down to rest, the owner sent his men in to overcome Len, shackling him and leading him away. According to Carlotta, young Solomon watched as his father was led away. He reportedly told his children later that Lin kept trying to look back, as though to try to capture the memory of his family, understanding he might never see them again in life.

Lin was transported to Louisiana. He was part of what is now being called “Slavery’s Trail of Tears.”[2] It would have been a difficult and arduous journey on foot from the North Carolina Piedmont, through the Appalachians, south to Louisiana. Carlotta said that he did come home to Randolph County after the end of the Civil War and Emancipation. However, he didn’t stay. He went back to Louisiana, never to be heard from again. I wondered what happened to him.

Lindsey Ingraham, 1870 Census, LaFourche, Louisiana
Lindsey Ingraham, 1870 Census, LaFourche, Louisiana

It didn’t take long to locate Lin in Louisiana, under the name of Lindsay Ingraham, from North Carolina. That was the name found on a marriage record for Solomon and his first wife, Fanny Brite (Bright).[3] In 1870, Lin was living in a town called Raceland, in LaFourche County.[4] He was married to a woman named Mary. They had three children, Thomas, Clementine, and Randolph Ingraham. Unlike his children in North Carolina (Clarkson, Solomon, Sarah, Vinis, and Mariam), who went by the surname Kearns, their mother’s maiden name, Lin’s children in Louisiana used the Ingraham name. By looking at the birthdate of his presumed youngest daughter in North Carolina, Mariam,[5] the oldest of his children, Thomas, in Louisiana, it appears that he was transported to Louisiana between 1850 and 1854. Unfortunately, I have not been able to locate the family in the 1880 census. Since Lin and Mary cannot be found on the 1900 census either, it appears both may have died before 1900. Additionally, neither Thomas nor Randolph has been found in the census after 1870.  On the other hand, daughter Clementine has been identified from 1900[6] until her death in 1934.[7]

Clementine married Alfred Mack in 1894.[8] However, it appears their relationship had begun years before. Their first child is recorded as born in 1879.[9] There is no evidence that Alfred Mack had been married before Clementine. Together, Alfred and Clementine had ten children: Albert, Louis, Rebecca, Clara, Horace, Morris, Ressie, Lawles, Yulus, and Muriel.[10] Clementine died in 1934;[11] Alfred died in 1957.[12]

References

[1] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Solomon Kearns and Adelaide Dunson, 17 Apr 1890, Randolph County, North Carolina. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[2] Ball, Edward. (2018). Retracing Slavery’s Trail of Tears. Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved from: Smithsonian Magazine on-line.

[3] North Carolina, Marriage Records, 1741-2011 [Database on-line]. Solomon Kearns and Fanny Brite, 10 Apr 1886, Cabarrus County, North Carolina; Father: Lindsy Ingram; Mother: Lydia Kearns. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[4] 1870 US Federal Census; Ward 4, Lafourche County, Louisiana; Lindsay Ingraham, head; born: North Carolina. NARA Roll: M593-516; Page: 469B; Family History Library Film: 552015. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[5] 1880 US Federal Census, Tabernacle, Randolph County, North Carolina; Calvin Luther, head; Mary A. [sic], wife. NARA Roll: 978; Family History Film: 1254978; Page: 67D; Enumeration District: 214. Mariam “Emma” Kearns Luther died before death certificates were mandated in North Carolina. There is also no information about parents on her marriage records. However, she names at least two of her children after siblings who can be identified as the children of Lydia Kearns, including Solomon, before Lindsay is presumed to have been sold. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[6] 1900 US Federal Census, Police Jury Ward 10, Lafourche County, Louisiana; Page 3. Alfred Mack, head; Clementine Mack, wife. Enumeration District: 0036; NARA T623; FHL microfilm: 1240567. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[7] Louisiana, Statewide Death Index, 1819-1964 [database on-line]. Clementine I. Mack, died 25 Oct 1934, LaFourche County, Louisiana. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[8] Louisiana, Compiled Marriage Index, 1718-1925 [Database on-line]. Clementine Ingraham and Alfred Mack, married 10 Sep 1894, LaFourche County, Louisiana. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[9] 1900 US Federal Census, Police Jury Ward 10, Lafourche County, Louisiana; Page 3. Alfred Mack, head; Albert Mack, son, born Jul 1879. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[10] 1900 US Federal Census, Police Jury Ward 10, Lafourche County, Louisiana; Page 3. Alfred Mack, head. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com 

See also: 1910 US Federal Census, Police Jury Ward 10, Lafourche County, Louisiana; Albert Mack, head. NARA Roll: T624-517; Page: 32A; Enumeration District: 0048; FHL microfilm: 1374530. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[11] Louisiana, Statewide Death Index, 1819-1964 [database on-line].  Clementine I. Mack, died 25 Oct 1934, LaFourche County, Louisiana. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[12] Louisiana, Statewide Death Index, 1819-1964 [database on-line]. Ancestry.com. Alfred Mack, died 27 Jan 1957, LaFourche County, Louisiana. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

Posted on 6 Comments

#52Ancestors – (35) Back to School: Uharie Freedmen’s School

Uharie District Payment - Freedmen's Bureau
Freedmen’s Bureau record of payment for a school.

Not too long ago, a friend and supporter, Marvin T. Jones (Chowan Discovery Group, Inc.), was researching Freedmen’s Education records in an effort to identify the involvement of members of his community of Winton Triangle in Hertford County, North Carolina. He was reviewing receipts for monies received for rent or other supplies that were signed by Winton Triangle residents when he began to notice receipts referencing both Asheboro and “Uharie.” He downloaded copies and forwarded them to me. I noticed that receipts referencing “Uharie,” were signed by “A. O. Hill.”  I was not surprised to learn there was a school in Asheboro, but the school in Uharie (as it was spelled on the receipts) I did not know about. That school was of great interest to me.

Uharie School Receipt
Uharie District School Receipt signed by A. O. Hill

Uharie

While researching reports of the American Missionary Association (AMA) for my book, From Hill Town to Strieby: Education and the American Missionary Associaion in the Uwharrie “Back Country” of Randolph County, North Carolina (Backintyme Publishing, Inc., 2016), I came across a reference to a school already existing in the Uwharrie area when the Rev. Islay Walden returned to the area after graduation from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Jersey. I knew from my research that the nearby Quaker community had run a school in the area. I thought the reference in the American Missionary was to that school, but that school was further up the road, closer to the old Uwharrie Friends Meeting House. On the other hand, this Freedmen’s school seems to have been in the Uwharrie, possibly in the area called Hill Town. It may have been the basis of a public school referenced in the article.[1]

Priscilla Mahockley Hill
Priscilla Mahockley Hill, 1792-1911

Hill Town was said to be called such because of the large number of Hill family members that lived there. Most people have believed that it referred to the descendants of Ned Hill and his wife, Priscilla Mahockley Hill. However, there were also white Hills who lived in the area and A. O. Hill was one of them. Was there a connection between A. O. Hill and those people of color who lived in the Hill Town area of the Uwharrie that would have predisposed him to take responsibility for the school?

Uharie School receipt 2
Receipt signed by A. O. Hill for Uharie School District

“A. O. Hill” was Aaron Orlando Hill, born about 1840, son of Aaron Orlando Hill, Sr. and Miriam Thornburg, Aaron Sr.’s second wife. Aaron Sr. can be found on the 1840,[2] 1850,[3] and 1860[4] censuses. He died in 1863. Ned Hill was a free person of color also known to be living in the area. However, he could not be found any further back than 1850. Since the 1840 census only lists heads of families and enumerates others in the household, including any free people of color and slaves, it was very likely that Ned and his family were living in someone else’s household. The most likely places to look were the homes of any Hill families living in the area. They could have been living in some other family’s home, but the logical place to start was with Hill family members. After researching each of the families, it turned out that the only Hill family with free people of color living with them was Aaron Orlando Hill Sr.[5]

Uharie School receipt 3
Uharie District School Receipt signed by A. O. Hill

The Aaron Hill family were Quakers. It seems reasonable that he would have free people of color living with him. Ned’s family originally may have been slaves of Aaron’s parents, before Quakers condemned slavery and began freeing their slaves as well as helping slaves of non-Quakers to gain their freedom.  There were six free people of color living in Aaron’s household. Ned and Priscilla had four known children living at the time of the 1840 census (Nathan, Charity, Calvin, and Emsley),[6] which would equal six individuals. As stated above, Aaron’s was the only Hill household with any free people of color. While currently not proven beyond any doubt, the evidence supports the probability that these six people were Ned and his family. Certainly, such a close relationship and his Quaker background could have predisposed the younger Aaron to be willing to take responsibility for the Freedmen’s school that served the Uwharrie community.

Uharie School receipt 4
Signed Receipt by A. O. Hill for Uharie School District

By the time the Rev. Islay Walden had returned to the community in 1880, to begin his missionary work and start a school under the auspices of the American Missionary Association (AMA), Hill Town and the neighboring Lassiter Mill community were already primed to want a school and the educational opportunities it would bring. It was a logical next step to build their own school with the help of the AMA. Thus, Hill Town, which would later become Strieby, apparently already had a strong tradition of education by the time Walden returned, making them eager to have a school over which they could exercise leadership and direction for the first time. The Uwharrie Friends School and the Freedmen’s School had prepared them for this.

Aaron O Hill Tombstone-2
Aaron Orlando Hill Tombstone Retrieved from Find a Grave.

Aaron Hill did not remain in Randolph County. By the time Islay Walden was actively building the church and school in Hill Town, Aaron had moved to Carthage, in Rush County, Indiana, where many other Quakers, including several of his old neighbors from Randolph County, had moved. He died there in 1926.[7]

 Endnotes

[1] Roy, J. E. (1879). The Freedmen. The American Missionary, 33(11), 334-335. Retrieved from: Project Gutenberg

[2] 1840 US Federal Census, South Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Aaron Hill, head. NARA Roll: 369; Page: 77; Image: 160; Family History Library Film: 0018097.  Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[3] 1850 US Federal Census, Southern Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Aaron Hill, head, Dwelling 895, Family 814. NARA Roll: M432-641; Page: 135A; Line 19; Image: 276. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[4] 1860 US Federal Census; Western Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Aaron Hill, head. Dwelling, 1230; Family 1214. NARA Roll: M653-910; Page: 221; Line 11; Image: 446; Family History Library Film: 803910. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[5] 1840 US Federal Census, South Division, Randolph County, North Carolina; Aaron Hill, head. NARA Roll: 369; Page: 77; Image: 160; Family History Library Film: 0018097.  Retrieved from: Ancestry.com

[6] Williams, M. L. (2016). Descendants of Edward and Priscilla Hill: Generation 1 (pp. 163-172). 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 Inc.).

[7] Indiana, Death Certificates, 1899-2011 [Database on-line], Aaron Orlando Hill, died: 27 Mar 1926, as cited in Indiana Archives and Records Administration; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Death Certificates; Year: 1926 – 1927; Roll: 05. Retrieved from: Ancestry.com