Business, Migration, Newspaper Articles, Paternal Kin, Photographs, Virginia, Vocation

Home-cooking a specialty.

I’ve written of Cousin Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney here and here. Her restaurant in Norfolk, the Strand Cafe, made a deep impression on my grandmother, who laughingly recalled waiting tables there on childhood visits and being dazzled by Cousin Tilithia’s menu offerings.

Thanks to B.J., great-granddaughter of Tilithia’s sister Mattie Brewington Braswell, who found these Norfolk Journal & Guide articles, we now know more about the cafe:

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12 March 1921.

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9 December 1922.

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28 May 1927.

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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.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Migration, Photographs

Jay’s brothers.

My grandmother: I had another cousin that died. A man named Jay. He was Aunt Elethea’s boy. She died when I was about 12 years old, I think. Anyway, she died, and she had three sons.

Me: That was Jay and Charles and William.

Another time:

My grandmother, looking at a photo: Now, who is that?

Me: That’s William, isn’t it? Elethea’s son?

My grandmother: Ah, yeah. Yeah. Bill.

Me: Bill.

My grandmother: No — that’s Charles. Boy, they were crazy about us. I mean, no man bed’ not even look at us. Bed’ not even look at us. You know how men can say things about women when they walk by? Child, they bed’ not say one thing about us. …

——

In 1942, Charles Edward McNeely filed for a delayed birth certificate in Iredell County. The document issued by the Register of Deeds reported that he was born 15 Jun 1904 to Eleather B. McNeely. No father is named. I have not found a birth certificate for Charles’ brother William “Bill” McNeely.

In the 1910 census of Statesville, Iredell County, on Salisbury, three little boys surnamed McNeeley were listed in the household of their grandparents, Sam and Mary Steelman. William was five, James was three, and Charlie was two. I once was pretty sure that these were Elethea’s boys, but I’m pulling back. Charles and Bill appear nowhere else in the census, but the ages of these boys are off. And who is James? (He’s not Jay/J.T. — Irving McNeely Weaver — whose father was Archie Weaver and who was not born until 1911 or 1912.)

I’ve found none of Elethea’s sons in the 1920 census, though they were probably living in their grandmother Martha McNeely‘s house in Statesville with their mother and aunts Minnie and Janie McNeely:

MM1920

On 23 May 1926, Charles Edward McNeely, 22, married Willie Ann Davidson, 18, before witnesses Mary Louise Colvert, Levi Moss and Bertha Mae Hart. Louise, my grandmother’s older sister, was his first cousin. Bertha was the half-sister of my grandmother’s father. Charles listed his parents as Ed Stockton (living) and Letha McNeely (dead.) John Edward Stockton (1881-1955) was born in Iredell County to Alfred and Caroline Kerr Stockton. He was working as a bellhop at the Hotel Iredell at the time of Charles’ birth. I don’t know whether he was also Bill McNeely’s father.

CE McNeely Mrr

Charles and Willie Ann’s marriage apparently did not take. In the 1930 census of Manhattan, New York County, New York, Charles M. McNeely, 26, and Willy M. McNeely, 22, were listed as boarders in household headed by Lucy R. Reid.  Both were North Carolina-born and reported being married, though their wives were not enumerated with them. Charles worked as a machine operator in a mayonnaise factory and Willy as an elevator operator in a private house.

In 1940, Charles McNeely was still in Manhattan, but I lose sight of Bill.  Thirty-six year-old Charles lived at 308 W. 127th Street, a lodging house run by Lillie Collins. He gave his occupation as steamship laborer.

On 29 September 1950, William and Charles McNeely are listed as nephews in the death notice of Edward McNeely of 454 Avenue C on September 28, 1950.  Other survivors included wife Delphine (nee Peterson), sisters Emma Hauser [sic], Carrie Taylor and Minnie McNeely, nieces Ardeanur S. Hart and Lonnie [sic] Mae Jones, and nephews Henry and Erving Hauser [sic].

Charles McNeely, resident of north Harlem, died 1 Apr 1968.  Four and a half months later, on 15 August, Bloomfield, New Jersey, resident William M. McNeely passed away. This William, however, was not Bill, but a son of William E. and Sarah L. McNeely. I have no evidence that either Charles or Bill had children.

McNEELY -- Charles McNeely

“No — that’s Charles.”

Interviews of Margaret C. Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; photographs in the collection of Lisa Y. Henderson.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Free People of Color, Migration, Newspaper Articles, North Carolina, Paternal Kin

Anna J. Henderson Simmons.

Something brings me back to Anna J. Henderson Simmons. At no more than 20 years old, she left all the family she knew to follow her new husband 800 miles to Canada, where his Wayne County family had settled decades earlier.   It is hard to get a sense of Anna’s life. Her husband Montreville Simmons achieved a measure of success as a farmer in central Indiana, but evidence suggests that he was a difficult man to live with. Did she ever see her birth family again? Probably not, and evidence suggests that her children had an uncertain grasp on the facts of her early years.

Here’s what I know of my great-great-great-grandfather Lewis Henderson‘s sister:

In the 1860 census of Westbrooks, Sampson County, North Carolina, appear James Henderson, mulatto carpenter; wife Eliza; and four children, Anna J., Susan, Hepsie, and Alexander. Eliza (or Louisa) Armwood, daughter of John and Susan Armwood, was James’ second wife.

Ten years later, the family had moved about 20 miles east-southeast and appear in the 1870 census of Faisons, Duplin County: James Henderson, 52, mulatto farmer; wife Eliza; and children Ann, 17, Susan, 16, Hepsey, 14, Aleck, 13, John H., 11, Nancy, 6, and Betty, 3, plus James’ son James, 27, and boarders James Ammons and Thomas Cox. (Were the latter two relatives of either James or, more likely, Eliza/Louisa?)

The following spring, on 3 March 1871, Anna Henderson married Montraville Simmons, 19, son of Calvin and Hepsie Whitley Simmons, in Duplin County. The license lists Anna’s parents as James Henderson and Louisa Armwood. Montraville had been born in Wayne or Duplin County and migrated to Chatham, Kent County, Ontario, Canada with his family in the 1850s. After the death of his first wife, Victoria Brown, whom he married in Chatham in 1865, Montraville returned to North Carolina for a new spouse. (There’s a suspicious marriage on 16 April 1848 in Oakland, Michigan, between 23 year-old Montreville Simmons of North Carolina and Harriet Lucas of Richmond, Ohio. Was this yet another early marriage for Anna’s Montraville?)

Henderson Simmons

Duplin County, North Carolina, Marriage Register.

The family was captured in the 1881 census of Chatham, Kent County, Ontario, Canada: Montreville Simmons, 40, farmer; wife Annie, 29; and children Elizabeth, 8, Doctor T., 7, Susan M., 4, and Montreville, 2. All were born in the United States except Doctor and Montreville jr., who were born in Ontario, and all were Baptist. [Where in the U.S. was Susan born? Had Anna gone back to North Carolina? Or had the family lived some short period across the nearby border?]

Sometime in the next twenty years, the Simmonses cast their lot permanently as Americans. For reasons unknown, they settled near Logansport, Indiana, in rural Cass County north of Indianapolis. In the 1900 census of Eel township, on Park Avenue in Logansport, the census taker recorded farmer “Montville” Simmons, born April 1850, wife Anna, born March 1861, and sons James R., December 1879, Montville, June 1882, and Dock, December 1879. Montville and Anna were recorded as born in North Carolina; their sons in Canada. Montraville and Anna had been married 28 years and reported five of five children living. The family was described as black. [The evidence concerning the Simmons children is confusing. Census records name Elizabeth (born circa 1872), Doctor/Dock (born circa 1874), Susan M. (born circa 1877), James R. (born circa 1879), Montraville Jr. (born circa 1880) and Edward (born 1881.) However, records in Indiana indicate another daughter, Moncy, who died in 1942.]

Montraville Simmons was a successful farmer, but a life of material (if heavily mortgaged) comfort did not necessarily spell ease for Anna. Montraville’s name peppered the local paper regularly, as Pharos-Tribune reporters gleefully chronicled his clashes with neighbors and his personal peccadilloes.

Anna herself managed to stay out of print until 1905, when the ailing woman parachuted into a spat between her husband and his creditors. Headlines blared her surprising intervention, and it’s hard not to see Montraville’s hand as a puppet master in this 11th hour shenanigan.

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Logansport Pharos Tribune, 22 December 1905. 

Sadly (she was only about 50 years old) but perhaps mercifully, within six months, Anna Henderson Simmons was dead. Her death certificate, which contains some curious errors, reported that Annie Simmons, married, died 16 Jun 1906 in Cass County, of Basedow’s disease [now known as Graves’, a disease of the thyroid]. She was born 2 February 1856 in North Carolina and was buried at Free Union Baptist in Irvin township, Howard County, Indiana, by Kroeger & Strain, funeral directors. The informant for the certificate was Montraville Simmons. The father or the son? I don’t know, but it’s hard to believe that either reported Anna as white, though that’s what the certificate notes. It’s less hard to believe that Montraville Jr. might have misreported his mother’s parents as James Harrison and Eliza Henderson. He, after all, had surely never met them. (And when he married Jessie Winslow in Cass County in 1903, he cited his mother’s maiden name as Anna Harrison.)

On 18 June, the Pharos Tribune ran a brief obituary:

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——

Who were Anna Henderson Simmons’ legacies? Is there a lost branch of Hendersons in middle Indiana?

  • Elizabeth Simmons (circa 1872-??) probably died before adulthood. Or she is the same person as Moncy Simmons.
  • Moncy A. Simmons (1872-1942) married first Daniel Bassett, then Newton Palmer; no known children.
  • Doctor R. Simmons (27 November 1874-after 1951) married Fannie Gibson; no children.
  • Susan M. Simmons (circa 1877-1937) married Britton Bassett; two children, who died in infancy. She helped rear her brother Montraville’s son Harold.
  • James R. Simmons (circa 1879-aft. 1900) probably did in young adulthood; no children. Or, he is the same person as Edward Simmons.
  • Montraville Simmons Jr. (circa 1880-31 March 1910) married Jessie Winslow in 1903. His son Harold Simmons was born about 1904. On 7 October 1911, Jessie gave birth to Helen Elizabeth Simmons in Chicago and listed Montraville on Helen’s birth certificate, but he could not have been the child’s father. Similarly, in the 1920 census, Jessie Winslow Simmons, remarried to Earnest W. Griggs, attributes by inference two additional children to Montraville Jr., Frances (born 1913) and Alma (born 1916). Neither were his. Harold is mentioned in his aunt Moncy’s obituary, but does not regularly appear in census records.
  • Edward Simmons (24 November 1883-1936) married only after his parents’ deaths, but married four times in 20 years. He had no children.

In other words, improbable as it seems, Anna’s seven children produced a single grandchild, and he seems not to have any children. There are not, it seems, any Kokomo cousins.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Migration, Other Documents

Frank, found.

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My first question: why have I just found this 1940 census entry today?

My second: Cousin Ardeanur married a Jamaican????

Her age is way off — Ardeanur was 37, not 47 — but this is definitely my great-great-aunt Minnie McNeely, my grandmother’s first cousin Ardeanur Smith Hart, and Ardeanur’s mysterious husband Frank living right in Jersey City, the city next door to Bayonne (where Martha Miller McNeely and most of her children lived for greater or lesser stretches of time.) The address was 359 Pacific Avenue. A family of McKoys rented one apartment in the building, and the Harts, Aunt Minnie, and a William Macklin shared another, splitting the $30/month rent. Frank Hart, a naturalized citizen, worked as a butler in a private home and reported earning $500 in 1939. Ardeanur and Minnie were housekeepers in private homes earning $400 and $360 respectively. Macklin, an insurance agent, earned more than everybody else in the flat combined — $1700.

I still don’t know when Ardeanur married Frank Hart, but they reported that they’d been living at the same address five years before. This suggests they were married before 1935.

I don’t see Frank in earlier census records, but is this his arrival in the U.S. in 1922?

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If so, did he leave his first wife back in Jamaica, or maybe Cuba?

This World War II draft registration card is definitely Ardeanur’s Frank:

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The back of the card, dated 27 April 1942, described him as Negro, 5’8″ and 165 lbs., with a light brown complexion, brown eyes and black hair. It’s the last record I’ve found for Frank W. Hart.

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359 Pacific Avenue, Jersey City, as seen from Google Street View. Per Zillow, the building was built in 1901.

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

The baby boy, found. (Sort of.)

When you’re not looking for something, there it is.

The story I’d heard was that Adam T. Artis‘ youngest child, Pinkney Alphonso Artis, had run away to Baltimore as a young man (or maybe even teenager) and refused to return. I believed it; I certainly had not been able to find much trace of him. He was listed as a child with his parents in the 1910 census, then disappeared from that set of records. I found his Social Security application, filed in Washington DC on 29 May 1939, which told me that “Alfonso Artis” lived at 70 Eye Street, SW; was married to Essie Moore; was employed by WPA; and had been born 16 Apr 1903, Goldsboro, North Carolina, to Adam Artis and Katie Pettiford.

AP Artis SSN App

Just over a year later, in June 1940, his mother died, and “Pinkney Artis” of Washington DC was listed as the informant on her death certificate. And that was it. That was all I knew about Pinkney.

Until the other day, when I stumbled upon this, hidden in plain sight:

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The 1940 census, Nahunta township, Wayne County: Adam’s notorious last wife, the remarried Katie A. “Cain” (her death certificate says “King”), son “Pinkny” A. Artis and daughter-in-law Ester Artis. Pinkney reported that he had been living in the same place five years earlier. (His wife had been in DC in 1935. What a transition that must have been.) They were surrounded on all sides by Artises. At #28, Richard Baker, his wife Odessa (daughter of Pinkney’s half-brother Henry J.B. Artis) and their daughter Daisy; at #29, Simon Exum (son of Simon Exum and Pinkney’s aunt Delilah Williams Exum) and his family; and at #31, J.B. Artis himself with wife Laurina and two children.

So, then, not only have I found no trace of Pinkney in Baltimore in his early years, but there is evidence that he was in Wayne County during at least the mid-1930s. He did come home. But where was he all that time?

I still have not found Pinkney in the 1920 or 1920 censuses, but here he is in the 1932 city directory of Richmond, Virginia:

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Did he and Essie marry in Richmond? In DC? I don’t know. How long did they live there? I don’t know that either. But these finds add some texture and definition to Pinkney’s life, and I’ll continue to search.

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Education, Migration, Oral History, Paternal Kin, Photographs

Back to school.

Atlanta has begun its new school year, and my Facebook timeline feed is dotted with pictures of beaming children. Just about a hundred years ago, my grandmothers started school for the first time. I have no photos of my father’s mother at that age, but she spoke to me of her anxious first days at an elementary school in New York City. She’d gone there with her great-aunt and adoptive mother, Sarah Henderson Jacobs, who occasionally traveled North for short stints of domestic work:

The first day I ever went to school, Frances [Aldridge Newsome, her paternal aunt] took me and her son Edward to school. And the building – I don’t remember what the building looked like inside – but I know we went in, and they had little benches, at least it was built around in the room. And you could stand there by it and mark on your paper if you wanted to or whatever. I didn’t see no seats in there. You sit on the same thing you were writing on.   It’s in that, it seem like, from what I remember, it was down in the basement. You had to go down there, and the benches was all the way ‘round the room. And the teacher’s desk — and she had a desk in there. And the children sat on the desk, or you stand there by it, or kneel down if you want to mark on it. First grade, you ain’t know nothing ‘bout no writing no how. And I went in, and I just looked. I just, I didn’t do nothing. I just sit there on top of the desk. And I was crying. I went back to Frances’ house, and then after they come picked us up, I said, well, “Frances, I want to go home.” Go where Mama was. So Frances said, “We’ll go tomorrow.” I said, “How come we can’t go today?”   She said, “Well, it’s too far to go now.” I said, “Well, can you call her?” And she said, “I don’t know the phone number, and I don’t know the name it’s in.” And so that kind of threw me; I finally went on to bed. But anyway before long they all took me back over to Brooklyn.

My mother’s mother also spoke of her early school days:

I never shall forget, we went to Golar’s school when there was a flu epidemic at home, and the schools were closed for months, you know. I don’t know how or why they closed them like that, but anyway, they were closed. And the county schools were open. And Papa used to take us down there to [her sister] Golar’s school. She had a school down there below Belmont. It wasn’t called Belmont. What’s the other one called? She had a little school in Williams Grove. And taught me so much more than them city schools. Girl, I’m telling you, I was in second grade, I never shall forget, she taught me how to crochet. She taught me how to crochet. She taught me how to do divisions. She taught me how to do fractions.

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Margaret Colvert Allen, seated far right, third row. Circa 1915, Statesville.

Morningside School 3

Margaret C. Allen, second from right, second row from top. Her sister Launie Mae Colvert Jones, at left, first row of middle section. Circa 1916, Statesville.

Interviews of Hattie Henderson Ricks and Margaret Colvert Allen by Lisa Y. Henderson; all rights reserved.

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Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Migration, North Carolina, Oral History, Other Documents, Photographs, Vocation

His name was Golar, and we called him “Doc.”

My grandmother:  He had a brother that was a barber. His name was Golar, and we called him “Doc.” Papa had him in there. Papa had a chair, and Doc had the second chair, and Walker had the third chair. 

Harvey Golar Tomlin was the only one of Harriet Nicholson Tomlin Hart‘s second set of children to see the twentieth century. Harriet and Abner Tomlin had as many as six children together, but I only know the names of three — Milas, Lena and Harvey Golar.

After Ab’s death about 1899, and perhaps Lena’s around that time, too, Harriet packed up her youngest son and took him to Charlotte, where they are found in the 1900 census living at 611 East Stonewall with Harriet’s half-brother William H. Nicholson. This photo may have been taken there:

NICHOLSON -- Doc Tomlin

They did not stay long. In 1902, Harriet gave birth to Bertha Mae Hart, whose father Alonzo she married in 1904. By 1910, Harvey Golar, called “Doc,” had left his mother and stepfather’s household and was living in the Wallacetown neighborhood of Statesville with his half-brother and family: Lon W. Colvert, a barber, wife Caroline, and children Mattie, Gola, Walker, Louise, and Margaret (my grandmother). He trained under Lon and went to work in his shop. In the photo below, which can be dated to 1917 by another taken at the same time and showing a calendar, Doc appears with Lon’s son Walker and a client.

COLVERT -- Barbershop 1

On 11 Jan 1917, H.G. Tomlin sold a parcel of land to L.W. Colvert and wife Carrie Colvert for $10.  In a deed filed at Iredell County Courthouse, the land was described as “Beginning at a stake at a post oak, Ramsour’s old corner, running North 88 W. 16 1/2 poles to a stake on road East of the track of the A.T. & O. R.R.; thence S. 8 W. 9 1/2 poles to a stake Pearson’s corner; thence S. 88 E. 16 1/2 poles to a stake; thence N. 8 E. 9 1/2 poles to the beginning, containing one acre more or less and being the identical lands conveyed by William Pearson and wife to Abb. Tomlin by deed, dated 19th day of June, 1891 and recorded in deed Book No. 17 at page 101 of the Records of Deeds of Iredell County.”  Doc apparently had inherited the property from his deceased father, though I’ve found no estate file.

Doc was possibly liquidating his assets as he pulled up stakes in Iredell County. Five months later, he registered for the World War I draft in Middlesboro, Bell County, Kentucky. (Middlesboro, Kentucky? What was the pull? The push?) Though he was prime age and had no infirmities, I have no evidence that he ever served in the military.

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In any case, Doc seems not to have stayed gone for long. On 7 September 1918, Harvey Golar Tomlin applied for a marriage license for himself, of Iredell County, age 24, colored, son of Ab Tomlin (dead) and Hattie Hart (living), and Flossie M. Stockton of Iredell County, age 24, colored, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Stockton, both dead.  L.W. Colvert witnessed the application, and W.O. Carrington, minister of the A.M.E. Zion Church, married the parties on 8 September 1918 before L.W. Colvert, N.S. Allison, and Eugene Stockton.  (Flossie was the sister of Dillard and Eugene Stockton, both of whom married Lon Colvert’s half-sister Ida Mae Colvert.)

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The couple’s only child, Annie Lavaughn Tomlin, was born 9 August 1919 in Statesville. At least part of that year, however, Doc was in Louisville, Kentucky, as shown in the city’s 1919 directory:

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The 1920 census shows the family in the north Statesville suburbs: Jessie Stockton, age 28; his sister Flossie Tomlin, age 25, a public school teacher; niece Anna L. Tomlin, 4 month; and brother-in-law Havey Tomlin, age 26, barber. Doc’s last-place listing in the household is telling. Was he really there? Or tacked on as an afterthought because, after all, he was Flossie’s husband?

There are clues. Both Flossie and Doc were enumerated twice in the 1920 census. On Garfield Street in Statesville, public schoolteacher Flossie Tomlin and her daughter Annie L. appear in the household of Flossie’s brother Eugene Stockton, his sister-in-law (technically, but in reality his common law wife) Ida M., and their four children. The enumerator recorded this household in January 6, 1920. Seven or eight days later, however, 200 miles away in Lynch, Harlan County, Kentucky, another censustaker recorded 26 year-old North Carolina-born barber Harvie Tomlin as a roomer in the household of barbershop manager Alex R. Simpson and his wife, Lina. Then on March 3, Flossie and Annie were recorded in Jesse’s house, above. I’d bet money that Doc was actually in Kentucky.

I don’t know where Doc spent the 1920s, but it was more likely that he drifted around the Appalachian Plateau than returned to Statesville. There are glimpses.

For example, in the 1925 Dayton, Ohio, city directory:

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And then the 1926 Portsmouth, Ohio, city directory:

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Doc did not stay long at the Play House. On 19 May 1927, the barbershop ran an ad in an announcement of the grand re-opening of the Play House building and its businesses. Harvey G. Tomlin is not among the barbers listed:

Portsmouth_Daily_Times_Thu__May_19__1927_

The 1930 census found barber Harvey Tomlin in Carnegie, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, living at 205 Broadway in the household of Sabry Goldsmith, a 35 year-old Florida-born barbershop proprietor. He was described as single.

Perhaps he was.

The 1932 city directory of Cincinnati, Ohio, shows Doc living in a boarding house on Wade Street:

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However, on 6 July 1933, in Newport, Campbell County, Kentucky, Harvy G. Tomlin, 40, colored, divorced, born in North Carolina to Ab and Harriett Tomlin and a resident of “Cin. O.” married Lena R. Simpson, 49, colored, widowed, born in Kentucky to John and Elizabeth [no last name reported]. Thomas Hanly, J.P., performed the ceremony before Helen Peddiford and Helen Byers. The couple had applied for the license in neighboring Kenyon County, Kentucky. Lena Simpson, you may recall, was married to Doc’s employer and landlord at the time of the 1920 census.

The 1936 Cincinnati city directory shows Doc living in a house, presumably having found SROs unsuitable to married life:

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In the 1940 census of Cincinnati, Hamilton township, in a rented two-family house at 943 Monastery Road, the census taker encountered Harvey G. Tomlin, 48, and Lena R. Tomlin, 58. Harvey apparently had put down his barbering tools and worked as a butler for a private family. The couple are erroneously described as white, and their birthplaces are reversed. (Harvey’s is listed as Kentucky; Lena’s, as North Carolina.)

Two years later, despite a negligible chance of being called up, Harvey Golar Tomlin registered for the World War II draft in Cincinnati.

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The back of the card noted that he was 5’4″ tall and weighed 198 pounds and that he had brown eyes, black hair and dark skin.

The following year, Doc returned to Statesville to obtain a so-called delayed birth certificate. It was filed on 31 July 1943, showing that Harvey Golar Tomlin was born 12 May 1894 in Statesville, that his birth was attended by Dr. Long, and that his parents were Abb Tomlin, colored, born 1852 in Iredell County, and Harriet Nicholson, colored, born 1862 in Iredell County NC.

I lose sight of Doc for more than a decade until the Statesville Record & Landmark posted a brief article on 8 June 1955 mentioning that Bertha Hart Murdock had left half-interests in a lot to her brother “Harry” G. Tomlin and niece LaVaughn Schuyler.

Lena Tomlin died 17 July 1959 in Cincinnati. Doc did not grieve long for he was back in Statesville getting married six months later. In another small-world, keep-it-in-the-family moment, Doc’s third wife, Mary Bell Frink, was the widow of William Luther McNeely, whose sister Caroline married Doc’s brother Lon Colvert.

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It was a short-lived union. On 8 May 1961, Harvey G. Tomlin, son of Abbe Tomlin and Harriet last-name-unknown, died in Statesville of coronary thrombosis. He had been living at 229 Garfield Street (Ida Colvert Stockton lived at 214 Garfield) and working as a butler.

I’ve been able to find very little about Doc’s only child. Social Security records indicate that Lavaughn Tomlin married a Scruggs in about 1943 and a Schuyler about 1953. She lived in Jamestown, New York, in the 1940s and died 30 May 1997 in Salisbury, North Carolina. An abstract of her death certificate reveals that she had worked as a registered nurse. She was my grandmother’s first cousin. Did she know her at all?

[Follow-up, 5 August 2015: I just found this snippet in which my grandmother mentions Doc being in the Midwest:

My grandmother: And he [her brother Walker Colvert] got a girl pregnant, and Papa sent him to Kentucky rather – so that he wouldn’t have to marry that girl.

Me: Really?

Grandma: Yes, he did.

Me: What did he do in Kentucky?

Grandma: He was a barber out there.

Me: Oh, okay.

Grandma: And I had, I had an uncle. Uncle – I don’t know if you’ve seen Doc or not. … Doc was out there. In Louisville. And he sent for Walker. And Papa sent him out there ….]

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

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Births Deaths Marriages, Migration, Other Documents, Paternal Kin, Virginia

Never too late.

As I’ve written about here, visits to Norfolk, Virginia, to spend time with cousin Tilithia at her cafe were highlights of my grandmother’s childhood. They later lost contact, however, and it was not until I connected with B.J., a descendant of Tilithia’s sister Mattie Brewington Braswell, that I learned that Tilithia lived until 1965. I wish Mother Dear had known that.

In my earlier post, I mentioned that Tilithia was married to railroad fireman Walter Godbold during the years after World War I that my grandmother visited. “Her marriage to Godbold did not last,” I noted, “and the 1930 census found him back in Rocky Mount NC (described as divorced) and her still in Norfolk, holding herself out to be a widow while maintaining the little restaurant at 426 Brambleton Avenue.”

Ancestry.com’s Virginia Divorce Records database shed some light on this fractured set-up:

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Yes. Apparently, Tilithia and Walter — married in 1921 and separated in early 1926 — stayed married for nearly 40 more years. Only in 1963 did Tilithia receive the divorce she finally filed for (and Walter contested.) Grounds: desertion. Walter was not new to that game, though he turned the tables in his go-round with Tilithia. Here’s the divorce record noting the dissolution of a previous marriage to a woman from his hometown, granted seven months before he married Tilithia:

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And what could have led an 84 year-old woman to seek a divorce from a man she probably had not seen in decades? A third shot at love. Less than a month after her marriage to Godbold was dissolved, Tilithia married John Carter Dabney, a retiree nearly twenty years her junior.

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This union, if happy, did not last long. A year and-a-half later, on 21 November 1965, Tilithia Brewington King Godbold Dabney passed away. Her heart failed, but presumably did not break.

TBKG Dabney Death Cert

 

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Births Deaths Marriages, Maternal Kin, Migration, North Carolina

The Boston branch.

I’ve written about Angeline McConnaughey Reeves and her family — particularly her daughter Carrie Reeves Williams. But what of her other children?

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A short notice appeared in the 14 March 1895 edition of the Charlotte Observer:

Frank Eccles and Ada Reeves, colored, were married Tuesday night. The groom is Farrior’s man “Friday.” He is a good citizen and deserves happiness and prosperity.

Five years later, the census taker trudging through Charlotte’s Fourth Ward knocked at the door of 413 Eighth Street. Forty-two year-old Angeline Reeves likely answered the door. In response to the enumerator’s queries, she identified her husband Fletcher as the head of household and detailed the three children remaining at home — 18 year-old Frank, 16 year-old Edna, and 12 year-old John. Daughter Ada, her husband Frank and 4 year-old son Harry were probably living in Charlotte, but seem to have given the enumerator the slip.

Frank married Kate Smith in Charlotte in 1902; their ill-fated story is told here. Edna was next to wed. In 1905, at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Charlotte, William H. Kiner applied for a marriage license for himself, age 25, of Boston, Massachusetts, colored, son of Anderson and Agnes Kiner, and Edna Reeves, age 20, of Charlotte, colored, daughter of Fletcher Reeves and Angeline Reeves.  Robert B. Bruce, minister of the AME Zion Church, united them in matrimony on 5 April 1905 at the bride’s residence. According to Kiner family researcher Peggy Jorde, William Henry Kiner, actually a native of Staunton, Augusta County, Virginia, had come to Charlotte to study theology at Biddle University.

William and Edna’s first son, Addison F., was born in Charlotte in 1906, but by the following summer, when son Carroll Milton arrived, the Kiners were permanent residents of Massachusetts. Carroll has two birth records, one listing his birth place as Oak Bluffs, and a second listing Cambridge. On the first, William’s occupation was described as theological student.

Edna Reeves Kiner was not the only one of Fletcher and Angeline’s children to pack up and move north to the Bay State. The 1910 census of Cambridge, Middlesex County, shows William H. Kiner, wife Edna E., children Addison F., 4, and Carroll M., 2, sister-in-law Ada Ecles, and brother-in-law John H. Reeves living at 8 Rockwell Street. William worked as a clothes presser in a tailor shop, Ada as a servant, and John as a hotel waiter. Ada’s husband Frank (and son Harry) are nowhere to be seen, but “Aida” Eccles appears a second time in Cambridge as a servant in the household of George W. Clapp, a self-employed chemist.

John Reeves’ stay in New England did not last long. In April of 1915, at the age of 26, he died of tuberculosis in a state hospital.

John H Reeves Death Cert

Meanwhile, it’s not clear that William Kiner was ever able to respond to his religious calling. When he registered for the World War I draft in 1918, he was working as a chipper in a foundry at Hunt-Spiller Corporation.

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Two years later, when the 1920 census of Cambridge was recorded, William was described as a chipper in a shipyard. His family, still at 8 Rockwell Street, included wife Edna E. and children Addison F., Carroll M., and Evelyn C. Kiner.  Ada Eccles and her 23 year-old son Harry Eccles, a laundry janitor, had found their own lodging and appear in the 7th Ward at 65 Grigg Street.

I have found no death certificate for William H. Kiner, but assume that he died between 1923, when he last appears in a Cambridge city directory, and 1930. In the latter year, the census taker listed his widow widow Edna M. Kiner, her children Addison F., Carrell M., and Evelyn C., plus aunt (sister, actually) Ada M. Eccles living on Essex Street in Cambridge in the household of Joseph S. Blackburn, a black Kentucky-born railroad porter, and his wife Cynthia, a beauty shop manicurist born in Maine.  Addison worked as a department store elevator operator and Carrell as a shoestore porter.

The Kiners emerged from the Great Depression decentralized. In 1940 census, Edna Kiner was over the river in Boston, Suffolk County, living in an apartment or shared house at 361 Massachusetts Avenue. Her son Carroll Kiner, a 32 year-old shoe store porter, lived in Cambridge with his Virginia-born wife Ella and three year-old daughter Caroline at 27 Pleasant Street. Addison Kiner was not captured in the census, but he seems to have remained in Massachusetts and was active in Cambridge’s small African-American social scene.

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The Afro-American, 20 June 1942.

Daughter Evelyn C. Kiner had completely escaped the Bay State orbit, however, having moved to New York City and begun work as a social worker with the Department of Welfare. She was living in the heart of Harlem at 172 West 127th Street, between Lenox Avenue and what was then Seventh Avenue. She quickly integrated into the Harlem world and over the next ten or years or so appears half-a-dozen times in the social columns of the New York Age. Evelyn’s primary social activities swirled around her membership in the National Urban League Guild, but she was also actively involved in civic outreach through the Church of the Master, a Presbyterian congregation at West 122nd and Morningside.

City directories show that Edna’s sons remained in the Boston area the remainder of their lives. She, however, moved to New York to live with Evelyn in her declining years and died there in August 1969. I don’t know exactly when Carroll died, but I’m a little haunted by how closely my path crossed with Addison and Evelyn. In the fall of 1986, I arrived in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for my first semester of law school. My residence hall, a graceless, L-shaped brick hulk, was at the campus’ far northwest corner, at Massachusetts Avenue and Everett Street. (I lived on the fourth floor of Wyeth Hall that year. Michelle Robinson Obama lived in the suite one floor above.) Unbeknownst to me, if I had walked a mile straight up Mass Ave, turned left on Walden Street, and knocked at  No. 28, Addison Kiner would have answered the door. As far I can tell, he lived there for the three years that I was in Cambridge. He died 7 May 1990. After law school, I enrolled in graduate school at Columbia University. For the two years I was there, I lived in an apartment building on 121st Street, at the crest of the hill between Broadway and Amsterdam. Walking west down 121st led me to the edge of Morningside Park. Had I descended through it — and I didn’t in that era, which was crazy, crack-ravaged Manhattan at its nadir — I’d have landed on the plain of central Harlem just a block or two from Evelyn Kiner’s beloved Church of the Master. She died in February 2003, and the church was demolished six years later.

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