Free People of Color, Letters, Migration, Paternal Kin, Virginia

An Artis founding story.

A cousin sent me this undated letter a few days ago, asking if I knew anything about it. She is descended from my great-great-great-grandfather Adam Artis‘ brother Richard Artis. Her Richard is not one of the Richards listed to in the document. (There were several contemporaneous Richard Artises just in the Wayne-Greene-Wilson County corner, none of whom I can link to one another.) The family history recounted in the letter smacks of the apocryphal, but it is interesting, and I will try to follow up on it.


Letters, Other Documents, Paternal Kin

By all means Ward should have the Spingarn Medal.

DuBois Ward Spingarn

Du Bois, W. E. B. (William Edward Burghardt), 1868-1963. Memorandum from W. E. B. Du Bois to Spingarn Medal Award Committee, January 2, 1933. W. E. B. Du Bois Papers (MS 312). Special Collections and University Archives, University of Massachusetts Amherst Libraries.

Uncle Joe Ward

Iconic photograph of Major (later Colonel) Joseph H. Ward during his World War I service, from Emmett J. Scott’s The American Negro in the World War (1919).




Journal of the National Medical Association, volume 21, April-June 1929.

Though it’s hard to imagine a more resounding endorsement than one emanating from Dr. W.E.B. DuBois (himself a winner), the NAACP’s 1933 Spingarn Medal in fact went to YMCA secretary Max Yergan for his missionary work in South Africa.

[For a earlier bit of correspondence from Dr. DuBois to the Wards, see here.]

Hat tip to cousin A.W.P., Dr. Joseph H. Ward‘s granddaughter, who alerted me to this document.

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 purported 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. In hindsight though, I believe the portrait was actually Jasper Holmes, as it seems to have dated to a period after Joseph’s death.)

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.)

Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Letters, North Carolina, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Your friend and great-aunt by marriage.

After Rev. Joseph Silver died, my grandmother received a letter from his widow:

MC SIlver to H Henderson 2 2 1958_Page_1

MC SIlver to H Henderson 2 2 1958_Page_2

Martha C. Silver is a bit of a mystery. She was born about 1873 in Halifax County to William Hilliard Hawkins (born 1833 to Ambrose and China Harwell Hawkins) and his wife Mary E. Hulin Hawkins (born 1840 to Hilliard and Tabitha Locklear Hulin), both born free. I have found her with her birth family in the 1880 census of Enfield, Halifax County. I lose sight of her, though, until 5 August 1912 when she is listed as Cary Hawkins Henderson in her father’s Halifax County will and then until 16 December 1925, when as “Martha C. Henderson” she married Joseph Aldridge (born 1869), my great-great-great-grandfather John W. Aldridge‘s younger brother.  (I cannot find a marriage license for Martha and any Henderson (much less one related to me).) In the 1930 census of Goldsboro, Wayne County, “Carry” Aldridge is listed with Joseph and his children by his deceased first wife, Louberta Manley. Joseph died in 1934, and I lose Martha again until 8 September 1943 when she married Joseph Silver in Wayne County. He was 86 (and widowed five years previously by the death of my great-great-great-aunt Sarah Henderson Jacobs Silver), and she was 70. Martha returned to Halifax County and remained there at least until Rev. Silver died in 1958. Past that, though, I know little, for I have not found her death certificate.


A few years ago, I obtained a copy of a photo of family group from someone who knew only that they were Aldridges. Last year, a cousin confirmed what I had suspected. Eight of the nine people pictured above are Joseph and Louberta M. Aldridge’s children. The ninth? Martha Cary Hawkins Henderson Aldridge Silver, with whom they remained close even after their father’s death. My cousin told me that Martha had children of her own when she married Joseph Aldridge and had gone to live with a son in Washington DC in her latter years. My cousin and her father, Joseph’s son George, visited her regularly until her death at age 100 or older. [Update: on 27 May 2014, Martha’s grandson contacted me and advised that, while she had a son named Charles who lived in New York, Martha had spent her final years with her daughter in DC.]

(By the way, the “Johnnie Aldridge of Dudley” referred to in the letter was Joseph’s nephew, and my great-great-uncle, John J. Aldridge. “Reka” was Reka Aldridge Ashford Morrisey, daughter of Joseph’s brother George W. Aldridge. Luke Morrisey was her husband.)

Hat tip to Patricia Aldridge Polack for her identification of William J.B. Aldridge, Milford Aldridge, Lillie Mae Aldridge, George Mitchell Aldridge and Joseph Leon Aldridge (top) and Daniel W. Aldridge, Allen Aldridge and Mary Eliza Aldridge Sawyer (below).

Births Deaths Marriages, Letters, Migration, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

I guess this is what I was going to hear.

Sunday Jan. 9. 38

My Dear Hattie

I received your telegram to-day.  1 P.M.  it was certainly a shock to me you & family certainly have my deepest sympathy & also from my family.

I did not know your mother was sick you must write later and let me know about her illness.

It is so strange I have been dreaming of my husband Caswell so much for the past two weeks he always tells me that has something to tell me & that he feels so well so I guess this is what I was going to hear about your mother.

I wish it was so that I could come to you & family but times are so different now seems as if we cannot be prepared to meet emergencies any more but you must know that my heart & love is with you & family.

I am just writing to you a short note now will write you again.  Let me hear from you when you get time to write


Your aunt in law

Carrie L. Borrero

322 E. 100th St.  N. Y City


There is no envelope with this letter, which I found after my grandmother’s death in 2001. Carrie Borrero was Caswell C. Henderson’s second wife.  My grandmother never mentioned Carrie traveling to Wilson when Caswell visited, though she seems to have met her at least once during a visit to New York.

Letters, Migration, Paternal Kin

Where we lived: Caswell C. Henderson’s New York City.

It’s not clear when Caswell Henderson arrived in New York, but 1890 is a good guess. In the 35 or so years that he lived in the city, Caswell claimed at least eight addresses in two boroughs and Westchester County, most during a decade in which he and his wife seemed to move almost yearly.

This is Caswell’s New York:


1. 326 West 37th Street. When Caswell married Emma Bentley in 1893, he reported this address. He is listed there in 1896 in Trow’s New York City Directory. It’s a bit south of the 1 on the map, between 8th and 9th Avenues in the overlap between Hell’s Kitchen and the Garment District, and is now a parking deck.

2. 47 West 66th Street. By the 1900 census, Caswell and Emma had moved north to an address just outside the notorous San Juan Hill neighborhood. Caswell was still living here when he married his second wife, Carrie Lowe, in 1907.  Address located in the block off Central Park West, now occupied by ABC headquarters.

3. 247 West 143rd Street. By 1909, Caswell and Carrie had moved way uptown to Harlem. Block between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass Boulevards, now the site of basketball courts in the Drew-Hamilton housing project.

4. 901 Grant Avenue. Per the 1910 city directory, Caswell and Carrie lived in Morrisania in the Bronx, a few blocks west of current Yankee Stadium, now the site of the Bronx School for Law, Government and Justice.

5. 527 East 167th Street. In 1912, a little deeper into the Bronx, a few blocks from Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center, now a parking lot.

6. 446 West 163rd Street. By 1915, the Hendersons were back in Manhattan at an address they held for the next ten years. Washington Heights, between Edgecombe and Amsterdam Avenues near Highbridge Park and the Harlem River, a few blocks southeast of Columbia University Medical Center.

7. 3777 Third Avenue. In 1926, they returned to the heart of the Bronx to an address that is now Gouverneur Playground. (Or did they? Caswell wrote his sister a letter from this address, but his widow was living on West 163rd when he died. Were they separated? He mentions the health benefits of living in “the country” — what did Third Avenue look like in the early 1920s?)

8. 6 Belknap Avenue. Caswell died at this home in Yonkers in 1927, though his death certificate lists his wife’s address as 446 West 163rd. It’s not clear who owned the Belknap Avenue house, but in 1930, it is occupied by French West Indian chef Marshall Mingo and family.

Enslaved People, Letters, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Some of that set.

“Dear Lisa,” he wrote. “I read with interest your letter of October 31….”


I was new at research and utterly clueless about where to start looking for information about slave forebears when I reached out to the late, great Hugh B. Johnston, Wilson County’s pre-eminent historian and genealogist. I was thrilled to receive his prompt reply. The letter was brief, but encouraging, and though I’d hoped for a complete and annotated report that left no end loose, I was confident that a breakthrough loomed just around the bend.

Unfortunately, here I am, nearly 27 years later, with the same fundamental questions burning:

  1. Was Rachel Barnes the daughter of Willis Barnes, or his step-daughter as the 1880 census indicates?  If the latter, who was her father?
  2. Did Willis Barnes belong to Joshua Barnes?
  3. Was Toney Eatman, a free man of color from Nash County, Willis’ father? Was Annie Barnes Eatman his mother?
  4. Was Cherry Battle‘s first name actually Charity?
  5. Did she belong to Amos J. Battle?