Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

Nicholson reunion.

These were Harriet Nicholson Hart‘s people, though I can guarantee you she was not there:

Nich Reunion 1 8 17 22

nich reunion 2 8 17 22

Statesville Landmark, 17 August 1922.

Nich Reunion 8 9 1923

Statesville Landmark, 9 August 1923.

Nich Reunion 8 12 1926

Statesville Landmark, 12 August 1926.

The North Carolina branch of the Nicholson Family descended from Revolutionary War veteran John Stockton Nicholson, born 1757 in Princeton, New Jersey, and his wives, Mary McComb Nicholson (1760- 1783) and Catherine Anne “Caty” Stevenson Nicholson (1766-1843).  The Nicholsons and Stevensons arrived in America from England in the mid-17th century.  The McCombs were perhaps Irish.  John and Mary had one child, James Nicholson (1783-1850). John and Caty had a passel: John Stockton Nicholson Jr. (1787-1868), Mary Nicholson Walker (1788-??), Elizabeth Nicholson Beeson (1790-??), Rebecca Nicholson Clampett (1793-1880), George Nicholson (1796-1802), Moses Pinckney Nicholson (1799-1844), Anderson Nicholson (1801-1879), Catherine Nicholson Clampitt (1804-1841), Phoebe Nicholson Barron (1806-1882), and Hannah Nicholson Idol (1811-1877).

Harriet was descended from both of John S. Nicholson’s wives. Mary’s son James married Mary Allison (1792-1857), daughter of Theophilus and Elizabeth Knox Allison, in 1815. They had two children, Thomas Allison Nicholson (1816-1886) and John McComb Nicholson (1820-??). Thomas married his first cousin, Rebecca Clampett Nicholson (1817-1903), daughter of Caty’s son John S. Nicholson Jr. and Mary Fultz.  Thomas and Rebecca’s children were: James Lee Nicholson (1841-1871), John Wesley Nicholson (1843-1913), Mary Jane Nicholson Smith (1846-1922), George Watson Nicholson (1848-1913) and Rebecca Ann (or Annie Rebecca) Nicholson Barnard (1860-1925). As detailed here, J. Lee Nicholson was Harriet’s father.

Nearly all of the reunion attendees mentioned by namein these articles were descended from Thomas A. Nicholson’s children Lee, George and Annie. Rev. W.L. and W.T. Nicholson, for example, were Lee’s sons, and the Barnards were Annie’s children and grandchildren. Dr. J.P. Nicholson, however, was Rebecca C. Nicholson Nicholson’s brother and Dr. W.G. Nicholson, her nephew. I’m not sure who the octogenarian John N. Nicholson was.

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Migration, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

Age 121?!?

ImageOn March 30, 1932, in Lucy, Tennessee, just north of today’s Memphis International Raceway, an old man closed his eyes a final time. His doctor described his death in an unusually detailed, almost poetic, passage: “causes due to advanced age weakening of heart muscles beats slowing down until stopping quietly but regular.” He was, according to the death certificate, 121 years old, and his name was Guy Lane.

Guy Lane?!?!

I scanned the rest of the form: farmer … living in Shelby County … born in North Carolina … son of Guy Lane … an informant named Lillie ….

My great-great-great-great-grandmother, Vicey Artis, born free in or near Wayne County around 1810, had a sister named Sylvania. Both women married enslaved men. (And their brother Daniel married an enslaved woman.) On 31 August 1866, Vicey Artis and Solomon Williams and Sylvania Artis and Guy Lane registered their decades-old cohabitations in Wayne County and thereby legalized their marriages. Old Man Guy died before 1880, but ….

Sylvania and Guy Lane’s twelve children, who used both parents’ last names, were born over the course of more than twenty years.  Morrison Artis, born 1837, was first, followed by Mary Artis (1839), Jane Lane Sauls (1842), Daniel Artis (1843), Mitchell Lane (1845), Mariah Artis (1846), Guy Lane Jr., Penny Lane (1850), Dinah Lane (1851), Julie Lane Sutton (1853), Washington Lane (1855) and Alford Lane (1859).

In 1869, Guy Lane Jr. married Dinah Dew in Wayne County. They appear together in the 1870 and 1880 censuses and had at least six children: Ora, Moses, Lizzie, William, Mary S., Milton F. Lane, and a girl. By 1900, though, Guy and his family are nowhere to be found in North Carolina. Instead, they surface 800 miles due west, just outside Memphis. (Had they been Exodusters sidetracked on the way to Arkansas?)  Guy had a new wife, of four years — Eliza, born in Tennessee — but his youngest two children, Milton and Guy Jr. (actually III), both born in NC, were with him. In 1910, on the Memphis & Shakerag Road, 60 year-old Guy and Eliza Lane are listed with eight year-old daughter Lilly. Both reported that they had been married twice, and Eliza reported that only one of her nine children was living. In the 1920 census, the couple are living with Lillie and her husband Robert Burnett. Guy continued to work as a farmer, and his age is reported as 78. Ten years later, in 1930, Guy and Liza are living alone again, and his age has leapt inexplicably to 114. By time he died in 1932, Guy had gained another seven years.

The credible evidence suggests that cousin Guy Lane, in fact, was born about 1848, making him a more reasonable 84 years old when his heart slowed down until stopping quietly. He is not forgotten.

Maternal Kin, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Vocation

Where we worked: hotels, clubs and boarding houses.

Caswell C. Henderson, Raleigh NC – porter, Yarborough House, circa 1886.

yarborough house

Richard Morgan, Asheville NC – husband of Elvira Colvert Morgan; saloon servant, circa 1900.

Larry R. Artis, Washington DC — porter, public house, circa 1920.

Rufus Williams, Charlotte NC — husband of Carrie Reeves Williams; porter, club, circa _____; waiter, clubhouse, circa _____.

John E. Reeves, Boston MA — hotel waiter, circa ___________.

Ira Braswell Sr., Norfolk VA — husband of Mattie Brewington Braswell; hotel bellman, Atlantic Hotel, circa 1910s-1920s; head waiter, Atlantic Hotel, circa 1930.

atlantic hotel

Lewis Renwick Sr., Statesville NC – husband of Louise Colvert Renwick; porter, Battery Park Hotel, Asheville, 1917; bellman, Vance Hotel, 1920s-1950s.

Edward McNeely, Statesville NC – bellboy, Hotel Iredell, circa 1916; hotel porter, Hotel Iredell, circa 1917.

Lafayette Artis, Washington DC – bellboy, Harrington Hotel, circa 1917.

Earle M. Hagans, Norfolk VA – waiter, Southland Hotel, circa 1918.

Toney Brewington, Norfolk VA – bellman, Southland Hotel, circa 1918.

Ned Barnes, Raleigh NC – porter in club, circa 1920.

Quincy E. McNeely, Asheville NC – waiter, boarding house, circa 1930.

Curtis Braswell, Norfolk VA — hotel waiter, circa 1930.

Freeman Ennis, Wilson NC — bellboy, 1930s.

Hattie Brewington Davis, Atlantic City NJ – worked at Ostend Hotel, circa 1937.



The second in an occasional series exploring the ways in which my kinfolk made their livings in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Maternal Kin, Migration

Where we lived: Constable Hook, Bayonne, New Jersey.

My grandmother said that her aunt Emma was the first of the McNeelys to move to Bayonne, New Jersey. She and her husband, Irving Houser, who had a job with Standard Oil, settled there around 1910. Over the next 15-20 years, most of the McNeelys followed. The family settled in an area a few blocks square, not far from the refinery that dominated Bayonne life:


(1) 87-A West 16th Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — The “home house,” as they say. This was Minnie McNeely‘s house, I believe, though her mother Martha Miller McNeely was the nominal head. Luther McNeely and his wife lived here for a stretch, as did Irving “Jay” McNeely when he moved North after his mother’s death. Margaret Colvert Allen stayed in this house during the summers she spent in New Jersey, and it is likely that Sarah McNeely Green also spent time here. Louise Colvert Renwick and Launie Mae Colvert Jones finished high school in Bayonne, and they probably lived on West 16th, too.

(2) 79 West 19th Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — John McNeely, wife Laura and stepdaughter Marie lived here.

(3) 88 Andrew Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — another of John McNeely’s addresses.

(4) 92 Andrew Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — the home of Emma and Irving Houser and children.

(5) 95 Andrew Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — another of the Housers’ addresses.

(6) 392 Avenue C (corner of 17th) — Wallace Temple AME Zion Church, location of funerals of Martha M. McNeely, Wardenur Houser Jones, Henry A. Houser.

(7) 421 Avenue C (between Andrew Street and 18th) — another of the Housers’ addresses.

(8) 454 Avenue C (between 19th and 20th) — the home of Edward McNeely at the time of his death.

(9) 41 West 20th Street (between Avenue C and Broadway) — Friendship Baptist Church, location of John McNeely’s funeral.

(10) 73 Andrew Street (between John F. Kennedy Boulevard and Avenue C) — perhaps the first of the Housers’ addresses.

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Funeral Program Friday: Bettie Aldridge Saunders.


Betty Cecilia Aldridge Saunders was born in Dudley, Wayne County, North Carolina, the second daughter among John and Ora Bell Mozingo Aldridge‘s 11 children.  She died in 1990 and was buried in the cemetery of the church to which Aldridges have belonged since the 1870s.

Henderson group shot DudleyL. to R.: Horace “Snook” Henderson, Cecilia A. Saunders, William Saunders, Catherine Aldridge Davis, Frances Henderson Taylor, Carrie Lee Henderson Hill, ??, Johnnie “Dink” Henderson, Annabelle Henderson. Dudley NC, 1970s. Snook, Frances and Dink were Cecilia’s first cousins. Their mother, Nora Aldridge Henderson, was a sister of Catherine A. Davis and Cecilia’s father Johnnie Aldridge. Carrie was the Hendersons’ cousin on their father’s side.


(The first of an occasional spotlight on these funeral staples.)

Births Deaths Marriages, Education, Migration, Military, Newspaper Articles, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Col. Oscar Randall.

There were surely many more veterans than that, I thought, and I started poking around my files, looking for men and women I might have missed. Oscar Randall was a possible World War I veteran, but his draft card cast doubt — he claimed a service exemption on the basis that he was “rejected by recruiting officer.”


Nonetheless, I Googled Randall and was stunned to find that not only did he serve, he led troops in battle in France during World War I, received a Purple Heart for wounds sustained in Italy during the Second World War, and achieved the rank of colonel. The most amazing find: two photos of Randall from the Chicago Sun-Times archives for sale on eBay!  I ordered them immediately, and they arrived in yesterday’s mail.

The first photo, taken after the First World War, depicts a smooth-faced, heavy-jowled man in officer’s uniform. Its reverse carries a scrap of newspaper article, as well as a note that the photo was copied from a portrait hanging in Randall’s living room.

O Randall 1921

The second photo, taken in 1982, shows a solemn-faced old man, silver hair swept back from his forehead, his eyes rheumy but mouth set firmly. Light from a window creates a dramatic chiaroscuro. On the back: a slightly longer clipping from the same article, detailing the colonel’s military achievements.

O Randall 1982

Back O Randall 1982

Oscar Randall was born 30 November 1896 in Washington DC, the first of George and Fannie Aldridge Randall‘s children born after their migration from Wayne County, North Carolina. After the War, he returned to college and received a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from the University of Illinois. (He served as president of Tau chapter, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, while there.) Randall taught mathematics at Chicago’s DuSable High School for many years and also worked as a civil engineer for the city’s sanitation department. In the 1950’s, he served as Chief of the U.S. Military Mission to Liberia, which advised that country’s military on training and defense. He married twice, but had no children.

Oscar Randall died three years after his Chicago Sun-Times interview. He was 88 years old.

A memorial service for Oscar Randall, 88, a civil engineer, will be held at 11 a.m. June 9 in St. Thomas Episcopal Church, 3301 S. Wabash Ave. Mr. Randall, of the South Side, died April 8 in Veterans Administration Lakeside Medical Center. A native of Washington, D.C., Mr. Randall graduated from the University of Illinois and worked for the Chicago Sanitary District for nine years. Mr. Randall also taught mathematics at Du Sable High School. In 1918 he joined the 8th Illinois infantry regiment, one of the nation’s first black-led military units. He also served in World War II. Survivors include his wife, Hilda; a stepdaughter, Vera Levy; two stepgrandchildren; two stepgreat-grandchildren; three sisters; and a brother.  

— Chicago Tribune, 23 May 1985.


[Sidenote: Pete Souza, who photographed Cousin Oscar, is now Chief Official White House photographer for President Barack Obama and Director of the White House Photography Office.]

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Perhaps even the custom.

A Social Note: Miss Florence [sic: should read “Frances”] Ann Henderson married her first cousin, Israel H. Wynn. This relationship was very common in her youth, perhaps even the custom, she believes. Rev. R.B. Johns officiated at her marriage on December 12, 1908 in her parents’ home. Many friends and relatives attended including Val Simmons, Milford and Freddie Carter, Mrs. Eva Kornegay, and Mrs. Tina Hagans. In fact, there were so many guests that the floor of the house gave way under the weight of the people.

— from the souvenir booklet commemorating the 100th anniversary of the First Congregational Church, United States of Christ, Dudley NC, 1870-1970.


Israel & Frankie

Frances Ann “Frankie” Henderson was the daughter of John H. and Sarah Simmons Henderson. Israel Henderson Wynn was the son of John’s sister Hepsie Henderson and her husband, Washington F. “Frank” Wynn.  Marriages among descendants of Wayne County’s free families of color were certainly the custom in the 50 years or so after the Civil War, and cousin marriages (if not first cousin) were concomitantly common.

Copy of photograph in possession of Lisa Y. Henderson.

Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Oral History, Photographs

Mildred Wardenur Houser Jones.

Wardenur was a pianist, and played an organ for WOR radio station in Jersey City.  In Jersey somewhere.  Honey, she was — girl, she could play the piano.  And she played this organ, you know, they would have plays and have organ music, and she did that for them.  She could play.  And when I was up there one time, I went with her to take her piano lessons, and the lady said, ah, “What – you do play the piano or organ?”  I said, “No, ma’am, I don’t….”  Look like she looked at me like she thought I was about the worst she had ever seen.  [Laughs.] And her father made her take piano lessons. And the teacher graded her, and if she got anything below a B, her father would punish her severely.  But, honey, she could play a piano and organ.  She was good.

But she took TB and died.


She was lovely — Wardenur. She was about 15 here, palling about with my grandmother, her older cousin, vying for the attention of the college boys mooning about them that summer in Bayonne.


New York Age, 21 June 1930.

Wardenur graduated from the Lee Music School a couple of summers later and in February 1931 finished Bayonne High School.  A few years after that, her elopement was reported in the Age.

ImageNew York Age, 16 March 1935. 

Happy times did not last long. Wardenur contracted tuberculosis, the disease that had killed her aunt Elethea and beloved cousin Jay, and spent her last months in a sanatorium.  A short notice appeared in the 20 September 1941 issue of the Bayonne Times:

JONES – Mildred (nee Houser), of 421 Avenue C, on September 18, 1941, devoted wife of Willard Jones and beloved daughter of Irving and Emma Houser and sister of Henry and Irving Houser Jr.  Reposing at Wallace Temple A.M.E. Zion Church from 9 p.m. Sunday until funeral services at 2 p.m. Monday, September 22.  “Murray’s Service.”

She was 28.



P.S. The taskmaster piano teacher was probably the inimitable Miss L.A. Lee of 100 Kearney Avenue, Jersey City, who, according to the Age, opened her well-regarded music school in 1907.

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

Births Deaths Marriages, North Carolina, Photographs

Family cemeteries, no. 1: Matthew Aldridge family.

A low brick wall, crumbling on its back edge, outlines the plot in Elmwood cemetery that holds the remains of Matthew W. Aldridge and his family. Elmwood, Goldsboro’s African-American cemetery, is easily overlooked by cars whizzing down US 117 Bypass South.  A tree-shrouded branch divides a newer section from an older one behind, and it is in the latter that the Aldridge graves can be found.


Matthew W. Aldridge is here, and perhaps his wife, Fannie Kennedy Aldridge, though no stone for her is apparent. His marker is at the bottom right corner of the photo above.


Few other graves in the enclosure are marked, though one memorializes one of the eight of Matthew and Fannie Aldridge’s children that died in childhood. Only three daughters — Daisy Aldridge Williams, Fannie Aldridge Randolph, and Mamie Aldridge Abrams Rochelle — reached adulthood.  Daisy, her husband Clarence and daughter Daszelle Williams are buried elsewhere in Elmwood.

Photos taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, March 2013.