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

Honorary commissioner.


In a nod to his relative political and economic clout, Napoleon Hagans was named an Honorary Commissioner of the 1884 World Industrial and Cotton Centennial.  (The certificate is little hard to read, but that’s his name at the center fold.) According to the official program, Hon. H.K. Bruce [sic, this was surely Blanche K. Bruce, Republican Senator for Missouri 1875-1881] was Chief of Department, Colored Exhibits, and North Carolina’s “Honorary State Commissioners (Colored)” were J.S. Leary of Fayetteville and Jno. H. Williamson of Louisburg.

The 1884 World’s Fair was held in New Orleans, Louisiana, at a time when nearly one third of all cotton produced in the United States was handled in that port city. The Cotton Planters Association first advanced the idea for the fair, dubbed “World Cotton Centennial” because 1784 marked the earliest surviving record of export of a shipment of cotton from the United States to England.

The U.S. Congress lent $1 million to the Fair’s directors and gave $300,000 for the construction of a large Government & State Exhibits Hall on the site. However, the planning and construction of the fair was marked by corruption and scandals, and the Louisiana state treasurer absconded abroad with $1.7 million of state money, including most of the fair’s budget.

Despite such serious financial difficulties, the Fair succeeded in offering many attractions to visitors. It covered 249 acres stretching from Saint Charles Avenue to the Mississippi River and could be entered directly by railway, steamboat, or ocean-going ship. The main building enclosed 33 acres and was then the largest roofed structure ever constructed. The building was illuminated with 5,000 electric lights – still a novelty at the time and said to be ten times the number then existing in the rest of New Orleans. There was also a Horticultural Hall, an observation tower with electric elevators, and working examples of multiple designs of experimental electric street-cars. The Mexican exhibit was particularly lavish and popular, constructed at a cost of $200,000 dollars, and featuring a huge brass band that was a great hit locally.

On December 16, 1884, two weeks behind schedule, President Chester Arthur opened the Fair via telegraph.  It closed on June 2, 1885. In an unsuccessful attempt to recover financial losses, the grounds and structures were reused for the North Central & South American Exposition from November 1885 to March 1886. Thereafter the structures were publicly auctioned off, most going only for their worth in scrap.

The site today is Audubon Park and Audubon Zoo in Uptown New Orleans.

Adapted from World Cotton Centennial, Copy of certificate courtesy of William E. Hagans.

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Military, Other Documents, Photographs, Virginia

Edward N. Allen.

After John C. Allen‘s birth in 1876, Graham and Mary Brown Allen had four children together. Emma, their only daughter, was followed by Willie, Alexander and Edward Noble.

Edward N. Allen grew up in Charles City County, but followed his half-brother John to Newport News some time after 1910. He was working there as a laborer for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad when he registered for the draft at the outbreak of World War I. (And had had a tough life, as he reported missing three fingers on his right hand.)

ImageEdward survived the war, but his life over the next 15 years is hidden from history. He apparently never married or had children. Unless he is the Virginia-born Edward Allen that is listed as a farmhand in upstate New York in 1920, he appears in neither that nor the 1930 census. He was back in Charles City County by the early 1930s, though, and died in early 1933 at the U.S. Marine Hospital in Norfolk. He was only in his early 40’s, but beset with an old man’s diseases.


Edward Noble Allen is buried in Hampton National Cemetery.


North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Infant baptisms.


From the records of the First Congregational Church of Dudley NC, an excerpt from a list of infant baptisms that reveals the centrality of the Henderson family in the church’s early congregation.  In 1896, two of the nine babies baptized were siblings Minnie and Daniel Simmons, born in 1887 and 1895, children of Hillary and Ann Elizabeth Henderson Simmons.

The following year, Hendersons comprised two-thirds of the infants baptized. Clement Manuel (1897) was the grandson of Edward and Susan Henderson Wynn. (His parents were Alonzo and Sallie Wynn Manuel.) Bessie and Jesse Henderson, born in 1891 and 1893, were children of my great-great-grandmother Loudie Henderson, and Hattie Jacobs (1895) was Sarah Henderson Jacobs‘ daughter.


Copy of entry made from originals held by First Congregational Church, Dudley NC.

Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Oral History

Carrie, formally.

Me: Well, I wonder where she got her name from?

My grandmother: Who?

Me: Your mama. Your mother. Caroline Mary Martha –

My grandmother: Yeah.  Who ever heard tell of such as that?

Me: Fisher Valentine McNeely.  Well, I know where the Martha came from, ‘cause that was her mother’s name.

My grandmother: Yeah.

Actually, it was Caroline MARTHA MARY Fisher Valentine McNeely. And “Caroline” was the name of her aunt, Caroline McConnaughey, Martha Miller McNeely’s sister. But Mary and Fisher and Valentine?


Interview of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Virginia

And then there were …

It’s beyond heartbreaking, even given the terrible infant mortality rates of times.  Of Jasper and Matilda Holmes’ 11 children, only three lived to see the 20th century. Matilda herself died giving birth to her last child, who lingered a few months before slipping away. Others died in clumps, compounding the family’s grief to unimaginable intensity.

Robert, the first child, was born in 1864. He lived long enough to be recorded in the 1880 census of Charles City County, but was dead before his father’s estate opened in 1899.

Walter and Angelina, born in 1868 and 1870, died within six months of each other in 1887, felled by tuberculosis.

William and Joseph, born in 1871 and 1874, died on consecutive days in January 1875, victims of whooping cough.

Emma, born in 1876, lived long enough to marry Cornelius Jefferson in November 1899 and to give birth to son, Jesse Holmes Jefferson, the following January. (Though, oddly, she is not listed in a transfer of property to Jasper’s heirs on 30 December 1899.) She died when Jesse was an infant, however, and the boy was reared in his aunt Agnes’ family.

My great-grandmother Mary Agnes, born in 1877, lived into her 80s. Her death in 1961 came more than 60 years after the death of all but one of her siblings.

Martha, called “Mattie,” born 1879, married Jesse E. Smith, in May 1899. She received a share of her father’s estate in 1899, but died during the next decade.

Julia Ellen, born in 1882, lived the longest of all the children. She was close to 90 in 1961 when she was listed in her sister’s obituary as the sole remaining Holmes.

The last babies, unnamed infants, died at or within months of birth.  The first, a boy, died in 1880 at the age of 2 days; the second, a boy, in 1884 at the age of 6 days; and the last in 1885, weeks after his mother gave birth to him.

Civil War, Free People of Color, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Confederate Citizens File: Adam Artis.

Adam T. Artis was 30 years old at the start of the Civil War, a farmer and carpenter who had already begun to amass relative wealth. Men much poorer than he lost stock and provisions to foraging Union soldiers, and I wondered why he had not filed with Southern Claims Commission to recoup any losses. Perhaps he had none, but the more likely answer is that, because he supplied fodder and other items to the Confederate government, he knew he was ineligible for reimbursement from the United States.

Form of the estimate and assessment of agricultural products agreed upon by the assessor and tax-payer, and the value of the portion thereof to which the government is entitled, which is taxed in kind, in accordance with the provisions of Section 11 of “an Act to lay taxes for the common defence and carry on the government of the Confederate States,” said estimate and assessment to be made as soon as the crops are ready for market.

Adam Artis by wife

Cured Fodder     Quantity of gross crop. — 1500     Tithe or one-tenth. — 150     Value of one-tenth. — $4.50

I, Adam Artis of the County of Wayne and State of North Carolina do swear that the above is a true statement and estimate of all the agricultural products produced by me during the year 1863, which are taxable by the provisions of the 11th section of the above stated act, including what may have been sold of consumed by me, and of the value of that portion of said crops to which the government is entitled.   /s/ Adam X Artis

Sworn to and subscribed to before me the 3 day of December 1863, and I further certify that the above estimate and assessment has been agreed upon by said Adam Artis and myself as a correct and true statement of the amount of his crops and the value of the portion to which the government is entitled.  /s/ J.A. Lane, Assessor.

Page 6

The Confederate Papers Relating to Citizens or Business Firms, 1861-1865 (NARA M346), often called the “Confederate Citizens File,” is a collection of 650,000 vouchers and other documents relating to goods furnished or services rendered to the Confederate government by private individuals and businesses.  The “Citizens File” was created by the Confederate Archives Division of the Adjutant General’s Office from records created or received by the Confederate War and Treasury Departments that were in the custody of the U.S. War Department. The Citizens File was created to aid in determining the legitimacy of compensation claims submitted for property losses allegedly inflicted by Union forces. The records were used by the Treasury and Justice Departments, Southern Claims Commission, Court of Claims, and congressional claims committees to determine whether the claimant had been loyal to the Union or had aided the Confederate government and thus not eligible for compensation.


Document accessed at

North Carolina, Oral History, Paternal Kin

Papa’s sons.

Jesse Jacobs Jr.’s first wife, Sarah “Sally” Bridgers, died shortly after the birth of their youngest child, Annie Bell in 1895.  A year later, he married Sarah Daisy Henderson, who reared Sally’s children alongside her own daughter and her sister’s two children. Jesse’s sons, James Daniel Jacobs (1881-1952), Dock Davis Jacobs (circa1888-1944), and Reddick Jacobs (1889-1921), were grown by time my grandmother came to live with Jesse and Sarah.  They were not her blood kin, but were family nonetheless.

Jim Daniel.  Jim Daniel Jacobs.  He and Roxie lived down in Clinton down there, and he come to Wilson when they got married, before they had a family.  I remember that.  They talked about me coming to visit, but he used to come up to bring tobacco.  I remember, “Why in the world he had to come all the way to Wilson …?” I just do remember him, by him – lots of times they would come by the house, see Papa, wanted to know how he was doing, and whatever.  They didn’t stay no time, had to get back and see what time they was gon sell tobacco.  So, I don’t know whatever became of him.  Now, Mamie went down when Jim Daniel got married.  He married Roxie, a girl named Roxie, and they was still down there in Clinton, wherever, somewhere down …  anyway, I know it wasn’t Mount Olive, and so when Roxie got pregnant, then Jim Daniel wanted Mamie to come down there and stay with his wife.  He said, “I’ll pay for her to look after her, stay with her in the house,” ‘cause he was working down in the field and needed some one to look after her.  So Mamie went down there to stay.  Didn’t stay, but …  I never did go down there.  I never did see ‘em, after Jim Daniel brought up some corn one time to see Papa ‘cause he was sick.


James D. and Roxie Simmons Jacobs.

Dock, now he married a lady named Nettie.  I met her.  She was brown-skinned, small, brown-skinned lady, and they had about six, seven children.  He met her, they got married up there in New York and had all these children, and I think, I think they had a falling out, and he went to stay with somebody else.  I don’t know.  Yeah.  I went to their house.  Nettie, I saw her one time.  And her hair was ‘bout like that, I reckon.  ‘Cause it looked like it was plaited.  She tucked it under.  But she was very pretty and nice….  Well, she wont pretty to me.  But I remember where she was a very sweet and nice person.

Dock, like his siblings Carrie and Reddick, migrated to New York City. In 1923, Jesse and Sarah H. Jacobs deeded their house at 303 Elba Street, Wilson, to Jesse’s surviving children Carrie, Jim Daniel, Dock and Annie Bell.  On 15 Apr 1938, Dock filed a deed for the sale for $20 of his undivided interest in the house to my grandmother (then called Hattie Jacobs). He used the money to buy a train ticket back to New York, and my grandmother used the deed to claim a share in the sale of the only home she’d ever known.


Dock Jacobs.

The other brother, the younger one.  Reddick.  He was one that got shot in the café.  He was getting ready to leave, and say him and another fellow got to arguing, and the man shot him.  Well, they brought him home.  Papa was living then.  They brought him home, and they had to bring the body up to the house.  And me and Mamie had to go examine it, you know.  But I didn’t put my hands on him.  I went in there and looked at him, and I said, “Well, where did he get shot?”  After he was all dressed up, laying out there in the casket.  And so Mamie said, she said, “Girl, don’t you see?  They shot him right in his face.  Right there.”  And I said, “I don’t see nothing.”  And then she had to put her finger right in his eye.  And it was in his left eye.  It went right in through there and come out the back of his head.  He was sitting at the restaurant, and a fellow shot him.


Congregational Church cemetery, Dudley NC


Photograph of James and Roxie Jacobs courtesy of Carla Carter Jacobs. Original photograph of Dock Jacobs in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson. Photograph of gravestone taken by Lisa Y. Henderson in March 2013. Interviews of Hattie H. Ricks by Lisa Y. Henderson, all rights reserved.

Maternal Kin, Photographs, Virginia

Speaking of Aunt Julia …

Here she is.


Pretty much the way I remember her, though this photograph probably dates from the mid to late 1950s, ten to fifteen years before I knew her.  Her hair was always in pincurls behind the ears with a curly fluff of bang bunched up front. She always wore cotton print dresses, often with a bibbed apron. Her skin was a uniform pale, pale yellow, marshmallow soft on cheeks and upper arms, and smelling of … what? Powder? Faint perfume? My memory fails me; my mother will know.

I spent much of a summer with her when I was two, which I don’t at all recall but later Aunt Julia told me this: It is lunch time, and she has placed a biscuit on a plate before me, and as she bustles about to serve Uncle Bobby, I lay my cheek on this tiny warm pillow and fall straight into sleep.

My grandfather died long before I was born, and of his sisters and brother who lived into my childhood, she was the only one I knew. The return home from every visit to my grandmother in Newport News began with a slight jog to the left, a turn down Marshall Avenue to see Aunt Julia before we got on the road.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Eureka, no. 1.

In an old notebook, I found this comment scribbled in 1988:

“Polly Ann Price married Lewis Martin at Calvin Dail’s house. Calvin Dail’s wife was Susan Price. Polly and Susan were near enough in age to be sisters.”

Lewis H. Martin and Polly Ann Price‘s son was Joseph “Buck” Martin, father of my great-grandmother Bessie and her brother Jack Henderson. I have not given them much thought over the years, it is true.  Tapping into the research of others, I have long been able to extend Lewis Martin’s lines back a few generations into Caseys, Lewises, Grants, Utleys and Selfs. Polly Ann’s parentage was a mystery, though, a full stop, and I never got beyond wondering if Susan Dail was a key.

Five minutes on the internet today — searching for Susan Price Dail — and, voila, she and Mary “Polly” Ann were indeed sisters, and their parents were James Price (1805-circa1870) and Margaret Herring (1809-1898). Several family trees claim the couple, but posit differing — and occasionally impossible — individuals as their parents. I’ll examine the possibilities soon. (And hope a revelation comes in fewer than 25 years!)