Civil War, Maternal Kin, North Carolina

Oath of allegiance.

Though he was of prime soldiering age, I have found no evidence that James Lee Nicholson, father of my great-great-grandmother Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart, ever enlisted or fought in the Civil War. He married in 1861, a few weeks after North Carolina seceded, and his wife Martha “Mattie” Colvert Nicholson gave birth to their first son in 1864. Otherwise, I have no idea how he spent the war years. Today, however, I found an oath he signed a couple of months after the Surrender, promising to abide by all laws made concerning the emancipation of slaves, i.e. those related to the newly won freedom of his four year-old daughter and her mother:

JL Nicholson oath

 

 

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Births Deaths Marriages, Enslaved People, Maternal Kin, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina

Collateral kin: the Hamptons.

On 30 Jan 1905, in Statesville, North Carolina, my great-great-grandfather John W. Colvert married Adeline Hampton.  The marriage was performed by J.H. Pressley, the same Presbyterian minister who would marry John’s son Lon and Caroline McNeely a year later.  John and Adeline had had four daughters together. Selma Eugenia, Ida Mae, Lillie Mae and Henrietta were born between 1889 and 1893, and I don’t know what kept John and Addie from marrying for so long — or finally induced them to tie the knot. Separate or apart, I’ve found none in the 1900 census.

Addie’s whole family, in fact, is elusive in enumeration records. Her marriage license and death certificate reveal that she was born about 1864 in Wilkes County, North Carolina — northwest of Iredell — to Horace and Myra Hampton. (Other death certificates report Myra’s maiden name as Russell.) In the 1880 census of Wilkes, Addie appears in Wilkesboro township with her parents, younger siblings Vance, Josephine and Henry, and nephews and niece Arthur, Horace and Emma Hampton. Ten years earlier, however, in the 1870 census, Horace and Myra cannot be found, and Addie seems to be living in a household headed by much older siblings.

The 1890 census has perished, but Horace Hampton, “the veteran bridge keeper,” appears in a brief congratulatory article in the Wilkesboro Chronicle on the prosperity and good behavior of the county’s colored people.

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Wilkesboro Chronicle, 14 January 1891.

Unfortunately, the family’s next mention is an obituary for Myra Hampton, which reveals a surprising number of siblings for Addie. Most of the children were adults before Emancipation, thus do not appear in census records with their parents. Also, though Myra’s age is given as “about 80,” the 1880 census suggests that she was closer to 70 at the time of her death.

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Wilkesboro Chronicle, 3 January 1900.

Just over a year later, the Chronicle mocked Horace Hampton’s efforts to reclaim his position as bridge tender on the Yadkin River.

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Wilkesboro Chronicle, 3 April 1901.

In June 1905, less than six months after his next-to-youngest daughter finally married the father of her children, Horace Hampton passed away.

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Wilkesboro Chronicle, 14 June 1905.

 Adeline “Addie” Hampton Colvert outlived her husband by almost 20 years. She is buried next to him in Green Street cemetery in Statesville.

Adeline H Colvert death cert

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Letters, Maternal Kin, Migration, North Carolina

The notebook in the shed.

The notebook in the shed yielded a number of treasures, some bittersweet.

I found a copy of a letter from my great-aunt Julia Allen Maclin, postmarked 11 May 1982, and another from my aunt, Marion Allen Christian, dated 14 August 1982, that push the date of my earliest genealogical inquiries back three years earlier than I remember. I knew I’d written to Aunt Julia early, but thought for some reason that it had been in the mid-’80s, when I was living in Massachusetts and researching in earnest. Though she opened the letter with a disclaimer — “I don’t think I can be of much help in tracing geneology of the Allen-Holmes family” — she in fact laid the groundwork, revealing her grandparents’ names (except her mother’s mother’s, which she did not recall) and telling me what she knew of her parents’ siblings. “All of my father’s and mother’s family are dead,” she concluded. My aunt followed up with a trip to Charles City County that shed a little more light. A few years later, I made copies of photos from Aunt Julia’s albums — her parents, her siblings as children, even a portrait of Joseph R. Holmes. (Which I unwisely gave to Eric Foner to use in Freedom’s Lawmakers: A Directory of Black Officeholders During Reconstruction just before I left graduate school in 1991. He misplaced it before the book was even published, and my cousin has not been able to find the original in what remains of Aunt Julia’s scrapbooks.)

There is also a letter from Ardeanur S. Hart, dated 16 October 1985 — almost exactly 29 years ago. I have no recollection of having written to or heard from her, which makes her note all the more poignant:

“Dear Lisa, It was a surprise, but pleasant one, to have a letter from you. I am sure you know I don’t remember you, were you there when the reunion was in Virginia?” (In 1982. I was not there; we had never met.)

“I will do the best I can to give you the names of the folk I know that live here, thier schools, Jobs etc. I don’t know, so I can only tell you thier names.” (Is this really what I asked her about?!? Did I squander an opportunity to go back in time for information about people still living? What could she have told me about Henry and Martha McNeely?)

“I hope this helps a little I can’t help more, please give my love to your mother & father. I hope I will be able to go to the reunion, if I keep well, I am 83 yr old now, and folk don’t care to be bothered with folk my age –” (Oh, Ardeanur. What I wouldn’t do to be able to bother now.)

” — but I am still singing and enjoying it, in my church chior, and in a choral group of senior’s. Sat Oct 19th I will do solo work at the ‘Hyet Regency’ downtown for the Columbus City widows which I am looking forward to.” (Wonderful!)

“I shall be looking forward to seeing you someday. Meantime write again some time, continue your studies, and take care of your self.” (Did I? Did I write again? And when I saw her the following summer, did I do anything besides take a photo?)

And then, after listing the Ohio McNeelys — basically descendants of her aunt Janie McNeely Taylor Manley — “I am Ardeanur Smith Hart. Daughter of Addie McNeely Smith husband (deceased) no children senior citizen. Alone.” (Emphasis hers. Oh, Ardeanur.)

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Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, North Carolina, Other Documents

Name of your spouse, if any.

The new tenant wants access to the shed, so I trudged over to clean it out this morning. On the floor, behind a bicycle and some galvanized pails, I found two dusty three-ring binders. The papers in them were beginning to yellow and were foxing on the outer leaves, but basically in good shape. One contained notes and articles related to my graduate thesis — fodder for http://www.ncfpc.net — and the other contained copies of some of my earliest genealogical research, stuff I’d long thought lost.

Among other things, there was a stack of the questionnaires distributed at the 1986 Colvert-McNeely family reunion in Statesville. That was the reunion at which I snapped this photo of Cousin Ardeanur S. Hart. Had she …?

Ha! Yes, she had:

IMG_5141 copy

And just like that, her husband’s name — Frank W. Hart.

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Education, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Vocation

Bright lady teacher.

For the better part of a year, the doings of Jonah Williams‘ daughter Clarissa regularly made the society columns of the African-American Raleigh Gazette:

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Raleigh Gazette, 30 January 1897.

Raleigh_Gazette_6_19_1897_C_Wms_teacher

Raleigh Gazette, 19 June 1897.

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Raleigh Gazette, 26 June 1897.

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Raleigh Gazette, 18 September 1897.

And then the paper folded.

More than 20 years passed before Clarissa next appeared in print. The “bright lady teacher” had fulfilled her promise and was elected principal of the Colored Graded School. Her tenure was not long, however. Clarissa Williams died of kidney disease on 26 October 1922, at the age of 51.

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Wilson Daily Times, 24 September 1918.

 

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Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Migration, North Carolina

Soprano.

Speaking of Ardeanur … Here’s what I know about her.

Ardeanur R. Smith was born 8 February 1903 in Statesville, North Carolina, to Daniel and Addie Lucinda McNeely Smith. Her brother James Garfield Smith was born four years later. I have not found the family in the 1910 federal population schedule, and the family had fallen apart before the census taker next came round. As revealed in the estate file of Ardeanur’s great-uncle Julius McNeely, Addie McNeely Smith died in early 1917. Her mother’s family, and in particular, her younger sister Minnie B. McNeely, took responsibility for the children.

McNEELY -- Bert_Minnie_Ardeanur 001

A Murphy, Bertha Hart, Alonzo Lord, Minnie McNeely, Ardeanur Smith, Statesville, mid-1920s.

But not for long. By 1920, Ardeanur had struck out on her own. She appears as “Ardenia” Smith in the 1920 census in Salisbury, 25 miles west of Statesville in Rowan County, her mother’s birthplace. At 17, she is the youngest of eight young African-Americans, men and women, occupying a boarding house at 319 South Lee Street. She reported no occupation, though it seems likely that she was engaged in domestic work. How long she remained in Salisbury is not clear, and on 13 February 1923, she stood as a witness at the marriage of her aunt Janie Caroline McNeely, 24, to James Martin Taylor, 21, by Reverend Zander A. Dockery, a Presbyterian minister. (The other witness was Archie Weaver, husband of Elethea McNeely.)

Whether in Salisbury or Statesville, Ardeanur did not have much longer for small town North Carolina. Sometime mid-decade, she joined the tide of black Southerners flowing North, setting her bags ashore in Bayonne, New Jersey. Though many McNeelys would follow, at that time only her aunt Emma McNeely Houser was there, and it is likely that Ardeanur lived initially with her family. She joined the Housers’ church, Wallace Temple A.M.E. Zion, and began to develop her gifts. By June 1928, she was taking elocution lessons in New York City and in 1929 sang in a program in honor of United States Congressman Oscar DePriest.

Even as she dreamed, though, Ardeanur had to make a living. In 1928, she lived at 115 Davis Avenue in the West New Brighton neighborhood of Staten Island, just across the Kill Van Kull from Bayonne. She undoubtedly worked as a live-in servant to William G. Willcox, a Tuskegee Institute board member whose wife Mary Gay Willcox was descended from a prominent abolitionist family. (In fact, the Gay house at 115 Davis is believed to have been an important station on the Underground Railroad.) By 1930, when the census taker came around, Ardeanur Smith, 25, shared a $50/month  apartment with Mary Snowden at at 2014 Seventh Avenue (now Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard) in Harlem. Both worked as housemaids for private families, and both were reported as South Carolina-born. Ardeanur seems still to have been living in New York three years later when she, her aunt Minnie and first cousin Charles McNeely accompanied the body of Charles’ brother Irving McNeely Weaver to Iredell County for burial.

I’m not sure where Ardeanur was in 1940. Her name does not appear in enumerations of New Jersey or New York. Ninety miles south, however, a census taker in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recorded North Carolina-born “Ardinia” Smith, age 40, living in a boarding house at 1710 West Fontain (just west of Temple University) and performing domestic work. Was this Ardeanur?

Sometime, probably in the early 1940s, Ardeanur Smith married. I have not found a marriage license for her, and no one I know knows her husband’s full name, much less where he was from. He was a Hart, a common name in Iredell County, but a common enough name everywhere that he is not necessarily someone she knew from “home.”** I only know for certain that the wedding took place before 2 October 1947, when the Bayonne Times printed an obituary for John McNeely that listed niece Ardeanur Hart among his survivors. (Three years later, when the Times ran the obit of Edward McNeely, another uncle, she was Ardeanur S. Hart.)

When James G. Smith died in 1960 in High Point, North Carolina, Ardeanur, living in Jersey City, New Jersey, provided personal information for his death certificate. We get another glimpse of her in May 1961, when a brief entry in the church calendar feature of the Jersey Journal noted a recital at Lafayette Presbyterian Church, Summit Avenue and Ivy Place in Jersey City, featuring Mrs. Ardeanur Hart, soprano, and Mrs. James Spaights, pianist.

I have no record of any job Ardeanur held other than domestic, though such her style and bearing do not square with my naive (and classist) vision of what service workers look like. In the 1970s or so, she moved out to Columbus, Ohio, to live with and look after the last of her aunts, Minnie McNeely Hargrove.

IMG_5133 copy

Cousin Ardeanur, Newport News, Virginia, July 1986.  She was 83 at the time. (I cannot begin to tell you why I used to cut out photos before mounting them in those terrible adhesive photo albums.)

Ardeanur Smith Hart died 14 January 1996 in Columbus.

**30 August 2015: Mystery no more: Ardeanur married Frank Wellington Hart of Jamaica.

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