Buck Martin never married. At the end of his life, he and his bachelor brother Alfred lived together in the “home place,” perhaps the house they had grown up in, which Buck owned. Just down the road lived another unmarried brother, Dortch, and their widowed sister, Virginia “Jenny” Martin Herring.
A few months before his death, Buck drew up a will that insured that Alfred would keep a roof over his head and that, more importantly, his younger children and their mother, Sarah Barfield, would not be dispossessed of the house and acre of land upon which they lived. By its terms, the will provided that the Barfields could remain on the property for the duration of their lifetimes and those of their survivors, after which it would revert to his brothers or their heirs. In fact, they did not stay quite so long. Sarah Barfield died in 1942, and the property reverted to Buck’s brother Ira’s children. Lillie Barfield Holmes bought the house from them, but it later burned down.
[Sidenote: Buck Martin died 18 June 1928 of sarcoma of the right thigh. His brother Ira died of heart failure exactly ten days later.]
Me: In her pictures she always looked stern.
My mother: Grandma?
Ma: Grandma Carrie? I know it. But she was funny. She was funny to me. She could say some of the, she could say some funny stuff. I know that’s where Mama gets it from. The little sayings.
Statesville Landmark, 20 December 1957.
My grandmother didn’t think much of Charles V. Taylor:
Course she met this guy and married him that she had known him when she was a child. Taylor. And went to New Jersey. She came back home, and Mama had high blood pressure, you know. But she kept, her doctors kept it in check. But he hadn’t let her go to the doctor for two times, and she had a stroke and died. Oooo. I could have killed that man. I was so mad with that man I didn’t know what to do. And when we went down there, Mama just got worse and worse. She went to the hospital, and they did everything they could at the hospital, and then they let her come home. And I went down there to see her one time, while she was at home, you know, and she couldn’t talk. She couldn’t talk, I mean. And she would try her best to tell me something. And I just cried and cried and cried and cried and cried. And I didn’t know what she was trying to tell me. So my sister lived not far from her. And she was a cafeteria manager, but she would come to see Mama between the meals. You know, in the morning breakfast and lunch, and then after dinner she’d come. She really did take care of Mama when she was living with that Thing. And she went to the hospital and stayed awhile, and he wouldn’t pay the hospital bill. And I took a note out at the bank, and Louise paid her doctor’s bill and everything, and when she died, he tried to make us pay all the burial expenses. And his brother came over there and told us, said, “Don’t you pay a penny. ‘Cause he’s got money, and he’s supposed to use it for that.” And said, “Don’t you do it. Don’t you give it to him.” And that man and the undertaker got together and planned all that stuff against us, you know. The three of us. It was terrible. And Mama had a lot of beautiful clothes, you know, because this man bought her things. And they were all in there looking at them. I said, “I don’t want a thing. I don’t want not one thing.” I think I got a coat. It was just like a spring coat. It was lined. And I think Louise insisted that I take it, but that was the only thing that I took.
Remembering Caroline Martha Mary Fisher Valentine McNeely Colvert Taylor, who died 56 years ago today.
Interviews of my mother and Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.
Three sons of John W. Aldridge and their first cousins, sons of George W. Aldridge:
George’s son Prince A. Aldridge appears on a list titled “Negroes Certified” (US Lists of Men Ordered to Report to Local Board for Military Duty 1917-1918, ancestry.com), but it is not clear whether he ever enlisted and served. He moved to Wilson NC after the war and worked as a plasterer and occasional tobacco factory worker. Prince died 15 May 1953.
Prince’s brother Blanchard (“Blancher”) Aldridge was called up in July 1918 and ordered to Florida A&M’s Tallahassee, Florida campus. His gravestone indicates that he served in 78th Division, Provision Outpost, Machine Gun Training Center.
From his discharge papers: Blanchard Aldridge. #3022528. Priv, 78th Prov Co, 7th Prov Tr Gr MTDMGTC. Honorably discharged. Born in Goldsboro NC. Enlisted at 22 years of age. Occupation: Presser. Brown eyes, black hair, brown complexion. 5’8″. Camp Hannah GA, 6 Jan 1919. Enlisted 1 Jul 1918, Goldsboro NC. Not rated, marksmanship. No battles, no wounds, normal physical condition. Single. Excellent character. Entitled to travel pay from Camp Hannah GA to Goldsboro NC.
Johnnie Aldridge was the only one of John Aldridge’s sons to remain a farmer in the Dudley area. He was newly married in 1917. I wish I knew the story of the broken skull. Johnnie died 13 April 1964.
Though, as a medical student, he probably had fewer resources than his brothers John and Zebedee, Tom Aldridge claimed responsibility for the support of his widowed mother and unmarried sisters. He also asserted that his own health was poor. He had already begun to shave years off his age — he was born in 1886, in fact — but had not yet changed the spelling of his surname to “Aldrich.” Tom was enrolled at Meharry School of Medicine at the time he registered, and his obituary reports that he served in the Army Medical Corps in 1918. Tom died in Saint Louis MO in February 1968.
Zebedee Aldridge, the oldest of John Aldridge’s sons, had been living in Virginia for nearly 20 years by time he registered. He was in his late 30s and was not called to serve. Zebedee died August 1958.
The first in a series of posts revealing the fallability of records, even “official” ones.
The “true facts”: Caswell C. Henderson was born in 1865 in Sampson County, North Carolina, to Lewis Henderson and Margaret Balkcum Henderson.
Nonetheless, this is what the records say:
(1) Marriage license, issued 1893 in New York City: Caswell C. Henderson was born in New York NY to Lewis Henderson and an unknown mother.
(2) 1900 federal census: Caswell Henderson was born in New York to New York-born parents.
(3) Marriage license, issued 1907 in New York City: Caswell C. Henderson was born in New York City to Lewis Henderson and Margaret Balcum.
(4) 1910 federal census: Caswell C. Henderson was born in New York. His father was born in Virginia; his mother, in New York.
(5) 1920 federal census: Caswell C. Henderson was born in New York to New York-born parents.
(6) Death certificate, issued 1927 in New York City: Caswell Henderson was born in North Carolina to an unknown father born in North Carolina and an unknown mother born in an unknown state.
Who was the source of this misinformation? Did Caswell claim to have been born in New York? Why?
Sidenote: Though Caswell’s middle initial, “C,” is almost always noted, I have never seen his middle name spelled out and have no idea what is it.
Rachel Barnes Taylor, Wilson NC – laundress, 1900s-1927.
Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver, Wilson NC – laundress, 1900s-1938.
Ella Mercer Barnes, Wilson NC – wife of Wesley Barnes; laundress, circa 1910.
Mary Mercer Barnes, Wilson NC – wife of Jesse Barnes; laundress, circa 1910.
Ida Colvert Stockton, Statesville NC – laundress, circa 1910.
Julia “Mollie” Henderson Hall Holt, Greensboro NC — washerwoman, circa 1910.
Agnes West Artis, Washington DC – wife of Adam T. Artis Jr.; laundress, circa 1910.
Lon W. Colvert, Statesville NC – owned and operated pressing & cleaning business, 1910s-1920s.
Bertha Taylor Reaves, Wilson NC – laundress, washerwoman, 1910s-1930s.
Selma E. Colvert, Statesville NC – laundress, 1910s.
Blanchard Aldridge, Fremont NC — pressing & cleaning, 1910s.
Hattie Mae Henderson Ricks, Wilson NC – laundress, 1920s-1930s.
Eliza Taylor Taylor, Wilson NC — laundress, circa 1920.
Greeman Taylor, Wilson NC – street bootblack, circa 1920.
Onie Miller, Salisbury NC — washing, circa 1930.
Daisy Barfield, Mount Olive NC — laundress, circa 1924.
Annie Artis Best, Wilson NC – laundress, circa 1930.
Sallie Wynn Manuel, Goldsboro NC — laundress, circa 1930.
Carrie McNeely Colvert, Statesville NC – laundress, 1930s.
Janie McNeely Taylor, Statesville NC – laundress, Statesville Steam Laundry, 1930s.
Frances McNeely, Statesville NC — laundress, Statesville Steam Laundry, 1930s.
Sarah McNeely Green, Statesville NC – laundress, Statesville Steam Laundry, circa 1930.
Sylvia Kornegay Smith, Goldsboro NC – wife of Johnnie Smith; laundress, circa 1930.
Madie Taylor Barnes, New York NY – presser, dress factory, 1930s-1940s.
Vera Barnes, New York NY – presser, dress factory, circa 1940.
Rachel Barnes Stevens, New York NY – presser, dress factory, circa 1940.
The fifth in an occasional series exploring the ways in which my kinfolk made their livings in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Ring the Court House bell at 10 o’clock every night and at all other times when necessary to alarm the citizens.
Arrest all slaves absent from home after the bell rings and after the calaboose is finished lock them up till day light. Give them 15 lashes and inform the magistrate of their names and owners.
Accept no pass unless the place or places where the slave is permitted to go is written in the same and arrest the slave if found off a direct line or road from one place to another.
Arrest all slaves engaged in a disturbance either with or without a pass.
A pass allowing a slave to visit his wife is good for one month and then must be taken up and another given or he will be arrested.
Iredell County slave ordinances, undated. North Carolina State Archives.
About ten years ago, when we were all in Newport News for a family reunion, I asked my uncle to take us on a tour of houses our grandfather built.
He designed every house he built. And there were a couple he designed that he didn’t build. I’ll show you those, too. One of them, he really hated to lose. That was a, Dr. Woodard was a dentist. I mean, a pharmacist. And so, he – that was one of the lots that Daddy had sold, and so I think Daddy was a little ticked with the guy. He sold him the lot and designed the house, then the man went to another contractor. But you know what was interesting at that time? There were about five or six good general contractors around, you know, that did small buildings. And Daddy was one of those, but these guys were pretty competitive. They had a decent market. Daddy built an average of about a house a year, I guess. The war cut him off, you know. He had to get reestablished after the war. But he had a friend named Buster Reynolds. And Buster Reynolds was reputed to have made his money in the numbers, and so when the numbers were getting real hot and heavy, when it was reputed that the Mafia was trying to take the numbers over, Buster got out. And he built this service station, and he had a Texaco franchise, and he had Daddy to build the station. And Texaco liked the work so much that Daddy built two more stations for Texaco. And both of the stations that were built in the black community are still up. They’re not gas stations anymore, but the buildings are still up. And the one that was built Overtown is gone. But even the station that was in the white community Texaco had him to build that one, too. And with the money Daddy bought – I’ll never forget – he bought an International truck, great big truck, to carry his materials around.
… the churches that he used to do expansions and modernizations on all the time, but I know one of ‘em is gone, and I don’t know where the other one is. I know the one – he used to take me down to that one from time to time. But I don’t know where they are now. The thing he did throughout all of these communities – he had a strong maintenance clientele, but Daddy was a – you see these cabinet shops now? Well, Daddy used to make, put in new cabinet work in people’s kitchens for them. And, so, that’s what carried him through the winter. ‘Cause he would also do designs and drawings for other contractors. Like Jimmy’s daddy. Mr. Scott. He used to do most of their design work, he’d sit there and draw those drawings for them. But that’s what got him through the winter. That and he used to do a lot of maintenance. Put in new windows, cabinet work, doors. Put little small additions to houses. But that was generally for a white clientele. He used to do a lot of work for the shipyard management people up in North Huntington Heights.
This house Daddy was building when he died. He was building it for a family named Kramer. A white family. See the one with the little entrance and the white wrought iron?
1316 – 22nd Street
The 800 block of Hampton Avenue, this is where Daddy owned those lots. Slow down … this house right here. This tan house. 855. This house was built at that time for the Tynes family, which owned a very nice house and property up in the next block.
855 Hampton Avenue
But the Tynes family ran into some – I guess it was financial difficulty. Anyway, that house was sold to Wendell Walker, who was a lawyer and a part of the Walker family. You know his father was a lawyer, who was William. And his son William jr. is Howard Walker’s father, who was my classmate. And then there were, like, four sons and a daughter, I believe it was. Three of ‘em were lawyers, and then Wendell and Phillip were lawyers. The son William was an engineer, but when he came back home, he was manager of Aberdeen. He went into real estate and insurance. Daddy sold him the lot, designed and built the house.
819 Hampton Avenue
Let me tell you about this house right here. This house was the undoing. This house was built for his friend Leroy Ridley. And there were, I think, four lots – four or three lots. Leroy Ridley was the son of John Ridley, who founded Crown Savings Bank with Pa Pa Allen. Okay? But he became – one of the Ridley sons, he became the one who took over the bank. And the man turned out to be not the most moral and forthright businessman. He talked into Daddy into $5000 worth of extras in this house, which was almost the same size as the house. And then when it came time to close the deal, he refused to pay Daddy because he said Daddy had not duly executed the extensions in the contract to do that. And not only that – Daddy had borrowed money from his bank. The long and short of the story is the last of that was paid when Pa Pa’s estate was executed [in 1961, 13 years after John Allen’s death.] We told Mother to pay that loan off ‘cause she still owed a thousand dollars. But this house turned out to be what kept Daddy from building Mama her house. ‘Cause he was gon build it on another lot. See? But when he got caught in that deal, then he couldn’t. So then he had to sell off all the lots that he had for houses, okay? So that’s when he sold this lot – the Woodard lot. And designed that house for Dr. Woodard.
Me: This incredible – this house right here?
My uncle: Yes. That’s Daddy’s design.
My cousin, J: Wow!
Me: Sheeze. Oh, my God.
He did not do it. He designed it. Okay. See, this was an extra lot. This is another one of the large lots he had. You see what I’m saying? And this house was across the street, that was his pride and joy. That was a Cape Cod. But I’m saying, the Ridley house was a fantastic house. I mean, you know, the design was great, but anyway, so this was done for his buddy Picott. Mr. Picott. He was president — well, he wasn’t president – yes, well, he was, of Virginia Education Association, which was the black unit of the National Education Association. He was one of the guys who lost their jobs over the equal rights fight with Mr. Palmer for black teachers to have equal pay. And he left and moved to Richmond, and that’s when he sold his house. But that was a beautiful home. Solid oak floors, cabinetry that Daddy built. All of that, that house. But that’s the thing that – she won’t talk about it too much – but that’s the thing that really embittered Mother, was when she lost the opportunity to build her house because of that deal.
816 Hampton Avenue
2107 Marshall Avenue, my great-grandparents’ house.
You know, he did all that for his father. He put the addition – designed that addition to go on the back. Right behind the bathroom window. Okay, that’s where the bathroom was. And then Daddy designed and started that addition for the house. And that’s when he went to the Army. And they put that addition up there so – so the bottom addition was the barbershop, remember? You remember the beauty shop? Yeah, the bottom addition was the beauty shop, and the upper addition was the bedroom for Aunt Nita for the war. Pa Pa did that for his children.
3105 [I didn’t note the street name]
On the corner here, similar to the Kramer house. Designed it and built it. That was done for Dr. Fultz, who was a dentist. Actually, he was the school dentist. He built 3015. This at that time was a predominantly white neighborhood. Yeah, that’s the house. See that little carpentry he did? Those little arched doorways? That’s the original wood. That’s Daddy’s work.
Remembering John Christopher Allen, Jr., carpenter, draftsman, builder, contractor, father of five, grandfather of eight, great-grandfather of six, born 107 years ago today.
Interview by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved. Photos taken by Lisa Y. Henderson, 2002.
Jack Henderson named his first child, born 24 September 1917, after his sister Bessie Lee Henderson. In the early years of World War II, she and her only child moved from Wilson to Baltimore, where she lived for 54 years.
Cousin Bessie is buried in Rest Haven cemetery, Wilson NC.