Births Deaths Marriages, Enslaved People, Land, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

All of my possessions to have and to hold.

COLVERT -- W Colvert Will_Page_1

COLVERT -- W Colvert Will_Page_2

Born 40 years into American independence, and less than ten after the importation of African slaves was banned, Walker Colvert could have prayed for, but never foreseen, that he would gain his freedom just past the midpoint of his life and that he would die possessed of something to leave his wife and son.

 

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It could stand some hard pruning, and the music is awfully jaunty, and if there’s any mention of slaves at all, I missed it. (After all, this is a plantation tour.) Needless to say, I might have done this differently. Nonetheless, for the light it sheds on the larger community in which my ancestors lived, I hold my tongue and present.

Births Deaths Marriages, Paternal Kin

Where we lived: 5549 Wyalusing Avenue, Philadelphia.

From old journals, notes from my last two visits to my grandmother’s house in June 2000 and April 20-22, 2001.  Both are tinged with the sadness that overwhelmed me in her final year. Though they do not reflect the warmth and happiness of my years of wonderful visits to 5549 Wyalusing Avenue, they do capture place in a way that has helped me hold on to those memories.

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One old exhausting voyage. My grandmother’s health is failing. My uncle is not equipped to take care of her. My father is exasperated by his inability to get either to do what they need to do.

I had a premonitory 15-minute massage in terminal D. Dreamy. Painful. …

What is the story with the landscaping at Philadelphia International? Where is the mulch? The poor young trees stand bare-ankled, save weeds. I am hardly prepared for the 50-some degree weather I encounter. The SEPTA train runs through wetlands on its trek to 30th Street Station. I can barely make them out through the window’s grime. I spot wildflowers in profusion, but cannot identify them readily. Still, behind Franklin Field, I spy spiderwort.

Mother Dear and Uncle Jesse have adopted two kittens, born to a stray they kept for a while. They appear to be perhaps seven or eight weeks old. One is white with a gray face and a few gray patches. The other — larger, bolder — is white with black ears and a black tail. They are shot out with fleas. My grandmother calls them both “Becky.” An older kitten, Beckys’ broke-down half-sibling, lurks on the front porch. Though it is a lovely black and white, it has a large head and crooked legs.

In a vacant lot near the old Super Fresh, a viney thing with purple-tinged leaves and a small, purple flower. What? It is chilly. I don’t recall Wyalusing Avenue being so desolate. And the crackheads! I had forgotten how pervasive ….

The Wyalusing Inn has a new name. After all these notorious years. Club 421 is still the same, though rode hard.

I find a photo from the 1940s that shows the shotgun house at 1109 Queen Street that my father grew up in. Out front, there is a profusion of what appear to be white petunias.

The patience of the poor. Ooo. I would not call this place — District Health Center No. 4 — chaotic, but it is as far removed from my private healthcare experience as night from day. I am joined on a row of chairs by a jittery piper who, when I come out of the conference with the nurse, demands, “What she say? What she say?,” as if we were all sitting here joning for methadone. Or whatever. The epidemic has not slowed in Philadelphia. I am so fucked up – I don’t want to sit next to anyone.

My grandmother lives in a two-story rowhouse, three-over-three. 5549 Wyalusing Avenue. At 56th Street. Girard Avenue runs a few blocks north, Haverford Avenue slants a block south. Downstairs, there is a living rom, dining room and kitchen. Upstairs, three bedrooms and a bathroom. Once, a short passage jutted into the living room behind the front door. It was gone long before I was born, but on the ceiling you can see the faint ridges left when it was torn out. Whan I was a child, Miss Sarah’s house next door still had its vestibule, which Mother Dear pronounced with an “f.” I faintly recall it lined with narrow white tile laid subway-style.

The walls and ceiling of the living room are plaster; they join in a seamless curve. The floors are hardwood, but have been painted light brown as long as I can remember. They are covered with rugs. The room’s highlight is the fireplace, which probably originally contained gas jets. All my life, the “opening” has been a solid surface, scored faintly in imitation of tile, with an ornate register cover lodged in its bottom edge. The mantel is elaborately carved.

There are two couches in this room, both much older than I. In fact, my father slept on one as a child.  My grandmother has cushioned its shot-out springs with several layers of old blankets. Above the mantel hangs a yellowed reproduction of some idyllic Rhine Valley vista. It is flanked by a pair of vaguely Art Deco lamps, probably ’50s-era. On the wall: two circular plaques, their backgrounds silver glitter, featuring black silhouettes of a fairy bathing in a blossom and a swimming swan. In the corner, a floor-to-ceiling pole hung with cone-shaped adjustable lamps. (We had one of those on Carolina Street. I think my aunt still does.) The front door is original. Its top two-thirds has eight lights. There’s a mailslot below. Hanging nearby, a round mirror with roses etched at its border. One large window overlooks the porch and, beyond, the street. There are photographs of us on the wall above one couch, as well as some sort of mirrored, gilted shelf thing.

Upstairs I hear murmurs. My father is attempting to prise from my grandmother’s porous memory the whereabouts of her medicine and the money she has stashed.

The garden is a forlorn rectangle, perhaps twelve feet by seven, overrun with weeds. A hollyhock struggles to glory in one corner. A hydrangea is smothered under large clumps of something that looks mightily like miniature chrysanthemums. A clothesline depends from side to side. The bag holding clothespins is shaped like a tiny dress.

There are nine open porches going east from the bar at the corner, and then the first enclosed one. This has been the case all my life. I vaguely remember the two old white women, sisters, who lived at 5551 when I was very young. They were the last of the European immigrants, mostly Jewish, that used to dominate West Philadelphia. The rail between my grandmother’s porch and 5547 is the last of the original wooden balustrades. The rest have been replaced by rickety black wrought iron. Mother Dear’s house is faced in a fine-textured, dark reddish-brown brick. The mortar also is oxblood. There are cement steps – two, then a sort of mini-stoop, then another. The cellar window is barred. The porch floor is plywood over damaged tongue-and-groove. She has three green metal lawn chairs and one small white table. The chairs have been painted repeatedly.  5549 is painted in gold numerals on a transom above the front door. Beside the door is a small, tarnished plaque: “J.C. RICKS.” The street was once lined with mature sycamores. Perhaps 15 years ago, some sort of blight began to wipe them out, one by one. I can see a few standing down toward 55th street, but the loss here is stunning. In summer, the light and heat are unbearable.   [June 6, 2000]

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April 20-22. Philadelphia. The Last Time.

I love that: the demarcation between land and water. [As we fly over the Chesapeake Bay.]

Fingers, tufts of land, cut by water. Tiny patches of woodland. A river breaks free, asserts itself. [Is this Maryland?]

What appear to be solid woods, then sun reflects from water glinting beneath the trees.

A marsh, like crackled glaze.

First glimpse of Center City. Of Camden. Could I have remained here? Above the Walt Whitman Bridge, block after indistinguishable block of South Philly. Below, the drydocks of the Naval Yard, where Uncle Lucian left his lungs.

Being in Mother Dear’s house was not as overwhelming as I’d expected. Her spirit was already so far gone from the place. It was sad and shabby, but not in the grief-filled way I was expecting. I just had to let the loss of the Hoosier cabinet go [a picker had tricked my ailing uncle into selling everything of real value] and focus on the things we were able to save — letters, pictures, Bibles, bills, knick-knacks. The barber scissors, her Sweet 16 ring, the gourd. I found a letter from Mother Dear to her children, never mailed, in which she describes how she met their father. And a letter from Uncle Caswell to Aunt Sarah. [20-22 April 2001]

 

 

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Land, North Carolina, Oral History, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

The lots.

Said my grandmother:

And Johnnie [Aldridge], he called me, and I was working to the hospital. And he called me and told me, at least he called the hospital and wanted to speak to me: “Well, if you want to see your daddy – you said you ain’t never seen him before – come down here. He’s down here now. So, don’t let him know I told you.” [Laughs.] So, I went down – I said, well, I’m gon go down there and see Silas Cox ‘bout selling the lots where Grandma Mag’s house was on. So, I got off. So, I got Mr. Fisher to take me down there. I said, “Mm, I wanna see that man.”

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My grandmother inherited two lots in Dudley from Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, her great-aunt and foster mother. (Because she had been informally adopted by Sarah and her husband Jesse Jacobs, my grandmother used the surname Jacobs until adulthood, when she reverted to Henderson.)

Mama had the lot where the house was, where Grandma Mag lived. Had that house built for her. The house they was staying in was up by the railroad, was just about to fall down. Somewhere down up there by where the Congregational Church is. And she built that house down there next to Babe Winn. I don’t think it was but one room. The porch, one room, and a little shed kitchen, a little, small, like a closet almost, and had the stove in it. Then had a stove in the room where she was, one of them round-bellied stoves where you take the top off and put wood in it. I remember that. And Sis Winn, her name was Annie, and she had a daughter, and she named her Annie after her. So they called the mother Sis, and they called the daughter Annie. And they were living in the house right next to her, Grandma Mag’s house. As I can remember. And after Grandma Mag died, the old preacher stayed in there and burnt it up.

I posted a query to my cousins:

Can someone tell me if the Dudley VFD was at its present location in the 1960s? I’m trying to figure out where two lots were on a 1967 plat. The plat mentions NC Secondary Road 1120 (which seems to run east-west), Simmons Street (abandoned) and Walnut Street (abandoned). James Newkirk and William Newkirk owned land on either side of where the fire station was on 1120. Thank you!

No luck.

Dudley Volunteer Fire Department is now on Highway 117 Alternate, south of its intersection with O’Berry Road.  A Google search revealed that O’Berry was formerly known as Secondary Road 1120, so I now know that the fire department has moved around the corner.  My father recalled that his mother’s lots were just west of the intersection, behind Silas Cox’s feed silos.

Here’s an aerial view of Dudley today: dudley intersection

Other then Road 1120/O’Berry Road at (4), there’s not much of anything that matches the plat. However, with the clue about the (1) feed or fertilizer silos, I’ve identified (2) as the approximate location of Grandma Mag’s house and the lots. (3) is Highway 117 Alternate.

My grandmother finally sold her lots in the late 1960s, ending more than 90 years of land ownership in Dudley by my line of Hendersons.

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Interviews of Hattie Henderson Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved. 

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Enslaved People, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

The husband might become a slave of his children.

To the Honorable the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina now in Session – The Petition of Lovedy Henderson a free woman of color, respectfully represents that your Petitioner intermarried some years since with a certain man of color by the name of Horace, then a slave, but with the consent of his owner. That since their marriage by care and industry, she has been enabled to purchase her said husband at the price of Eight Hundred & Seventy dollars of Hugh and John G. McLaurin Executors of Duncan McLaurin deceased. That she has paid the purchase money & has a Bill of Sale duly executed by the said Executors. That your Petitioner now has two children by her said Husband & as by possibility her husband might become the slave of her children, your petitioner is induced to ask the interference of your honorable body, as the only tribunal authorized to grant the relief prayed for. Your Petitioner would not presume to ask this indulgence in her favour, in contravention to the policy of the Laws of the Land, but from the peculiar circumstances of her case & the belief that she will be enabled to establish for her Husband such a Character as to entitle him to the favourable notice of your honorable body. For this, she relied on the certificates of highly respectable gentlemen both in Fayetteville & the City of Raleigh, where they have lived since their intermarriage. Your Petitioner therefore prays the passage of an Act, emancipating her said husband Horace Henderson, and she in duty bound will ever pray &c. /s/ Lovdy Ann Henderson

We Hugh McLaurin & John C. McLaurin Executors of Duncan McLaurin dec’d unite in soliciting the passage of an Act for the emancipation of Horace Henderson as prayed for by his wife and we are free to say that we have long known said Horace who is a Barber and a boy of unexceptionable good character and of industrious & moral habits. /s/ H. MacLaurin for himself and John C. MacLaurin

We the undersigned citizens of Fayetteville freely unite in soliciting the General Assembly to pass an Act emancipating the negro man Horace, that we have known said Horace as a Barber & a Boy of good character, industrious habits and as we believe of the strictest integrity. /s/ J.H. Hooper, John MacRae, John Kelly, Thos. L. Hybart, [illegible] Cochran, John Lippitt, D.A. Saltmarsh, Chas. B. Jones, [illegible] Hawley, William S. Latta, Jas. Huske, Duncan Smith, Henry W. Ayer

We the undersigned citizens of Raleigh freely unite in soliciting the General Assembly to pas an Act emancipating the negro man Horace, that he has lived in the place for the last three or four years as a Barber, and has conducted himself with the utmost propriety, that in his deportment he is humble & polite, free as we believe from any improper intercourse with slaves, industrious & honest. /s/ M. Stokes, R.M. Saunders, Jo. Gales, B.W. Daniel, Geo. Simpson, J. Brown, John Primrose, Hazlett Wyle, Richard Smith, S. Birdsall, Jno. G. Marshall, A. Williams, Fabius J. Haywood, Robert Staniroy

Ninety years after this petition was filed, a Horace Henderson was born into my extended family, but I know no connection between my Hendersons, who were originally of Onslow County, and Lovedy Ann Henderson.

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General Assembly Session Records, November 1832-January 1833, Box 5, North Carolina State Archives.

This family is found in the 1850 census of Greensboro, Guilford County: Horace H. Henderson, 40, barber, and wife Love, 39, both born in Fayetteville; children James, 18, farmer, Mary Ann, 17, and Timothy, 14, born in Raleigh; and Albert, 10, Sarah, 8, Thomas, 4, and Alexander, 3, born in Greensboro; all mulatto.

 

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Births Deaths Marriages, Civil War, Enslaved People, Military, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

They would not have taken them in church.

Part II of Bailham and Hannah Sauls Speight’s pension application file arrived today, and here are some extracts from witnesses deposed 4 June 1904:

  • Hannah Speight – “I claim pension as the widow of Bailham Speight but who served during the Civil War in the U.S. Army under the name of Bailham Edwards.” His brother Lafayette Edwards “lives at Bull Head which is eight miles from Goldsboro.” “I was born on Appletree Swamp near the town of Stauntonberg, Greene County. N.C. and was a slave; was owned by Lawrence Brown. I am the daughter of Rosetta Sauls. My father was Sheppard Sauls. I was known as Hannah Sauls prior to my marriage to Bailham Speight. … [A]fter our marriage we lived as husband and wife till he died December the 21st 1902.” “My husband was born and raised in Greene County. He was about six years older than I was still I knew him before he was grown….” “After his discharge he went to Georgia and was there just twelve months I do not know in what part of Georgia he was. No, I guess it was South Carolina where he went for he went away with Capt. Bill Taylor to work turpentine. … I married my husband about four years after the close of the war and we were married in the month of November in Snow Hill….” Married at Rebecca Bess’ house. She is deceased, as are witnesses Martha Sheppard, Luke Sheppard, and Charles Moseley. Maria Lofton did not witness, but could testify to marriage. She lives on Dr. Parrott’s plantation near Falling Creek. Amos Ellis, Lafayette Edwards, and Violet Edwards would have heard of the marriage, as would Isaac Lynch. … “My husband was raised five miles from Snow Hill on the Betsey Edwards place.” “My husband had a woman before the war. She might be called a slave wife and her name was Jennie. My husband told me she died in Newbern about the close of the war.” “At date of death of my husband I had one child under 16, viz., George Speight and he was fourteen on the 26th of last September. I never had George’s age set down by I remembered it all the same and I have always celebrated the twenty sixth of September as being his birthday and I am absolutely sure that he is now fourteen going on fifteen.” Midwife Mariah Moore lived one mile from Kinston in Harveytown. “After my marriage I lived for twelve months on the place of Dr. John Harvey and then I moved down here; moved here in the Fall of 1870 and have been here ever since. Everybody both white and black know me around here.” Deposition A.
  • Hannah Speight — Sixty-one years of age and lives four miles from Kinston. “I have had eleven children – ten by Bailham Speight and one by Loderick Artist. I never lived with Loderick Artist for during the time he came to see me I was living in the house with my mother and father. We were engaged to be married but after he got me in trouble he went and married another woman. He married her before I married Bailham Speight. He married a woman named Mandy and lived with her till he died ten years ago. He died in the neighborhood of Speights Bridge. No, I never went under the name of Artist nor was I ever known as his wife and never lived with him a day. Our relations were all of a secret nature.” Deposition B.
  • Rosetta Sauls – “I think I am 85; I can do no work and live with my grandson.” “Hannah Speight is my daughter.” … “I did not see her married because she married in Snow Hill and I was living in the country but Bailham come and got her from her my house and took her to Snow Hill where they were married and then they came right back to my house where they lived some three or four months and then they moved in a house to themselves.” “No, my daughter was never married to Loderick Artist and they never did live together but he was the father of her oldest child. He deceived my daughter and got a child by her and then went and married Mandy. All the time he was keeping company with my daughter she was living with me. My daughter never went under the name of Artist nor did she ever go under any name except Sauls and Speight. …” “Bailham Speight and Hannah were both members of the Baptist Church and had they been living improperly and not regularly married they would not have taken them in church.”
  • Lemon Speight – “On the 27th of last April I was 37 years of age.” Farmer four miles from Kinston. “Hannah Speight is my mother. I am the son of Loderick Artist who died ten years go. He never married my mother and I am the only child she ever had except those belonging to Bailham Speight. My father had a wife and her name was Mandy.” “I was married December the 12th 1889 and my brother George was born September the 26th 1889.”

And a letter dictated by Bailham Speight himself:

February 11th 1896, Kinston N.C.

Mr. I.S. Kurtz       Dear Sir, Relative to my age and the way that my name has been spelled. Now I wished to informs you that I used to belong to the old man kames Edwards before the war (white) Therefore I enlisted in the Military Services of the United states. I enlisted by the name of Bailham Edwards and I answered at roll call. Bailham Edwards. But the Yankees, they called the name some what like this. Balum Edwards. But however you is speaking to the same man after all. …” [The letter is written in very florid hand, and the signature does not show "his X." However, other documents reveal that Bailham Speight could not, in fact, read or write.]

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Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Remembering Uncle Jesse.

My grandmother’s second boy. Smooth. Dapper. Slick. Artistic. A chef. A painter. A hustler. A beloved uncle.

Happy birthday, Jesse Adam Henderson (17 April 1929-5 August 2005)!

ImageLucian and Jesse Henderson, circa 1932, Wilson NC.

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 Jesse, circa 1938, Wilson NC.

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 Circa 1944, Wilson NC.

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 With wife Jean and my grandmother, probably in the late 1950s, perhaps at the Jersey Shore.

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Always “clean,” posted at the bar, 1960s.

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One of my favorite photos of my uncle, with my niece, who adored him. Philadelphia, 2001.

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